Saturday, January 31, 2009

WMAQ Move to Multi Platform

When the Chicago Tribune published an article this week about WMAQ (NBC5 Chicago) restructuring their newsroom to incorporate more multi-platform positions, I was not surprised. I interned at NBC 5 this past summer, when plans for changes were still whispers. I returned to the station during my Thanksgiving (November) break only to hear news of buy outs and cut positions. The place seemed a bit somber. 
I have mixed feelings regarding the new plan to unleash multi-faceted positions. For myself and my colleagues, this is great news. But for the veterans, I am fearful. First we heard about cutting high paid anchors in places like KLAS TV (Las Vegas) and now new demands for those who have been in the television industry for years. The idea of incorporating new mediums for local news to be viewed via the web, mobile phones and other emerging platforms is wonderful. I really loved the quote from WMAQ news director Frank Whittaker, "The big picture is we're trying to become a newsroom that provides content for a number of different platforms, including the growth areas, which could be Web, could be mobile...a lot of different places where our content may play now or may play someday. That's how we're going to grow as a traditional business stays flat or declines or whatever happens in our future." Mr. Whittaker couldn't be more accurate about the need to change.
My main concerns still lies in the overall quality of the programming. Another quote by Whittaker stood out to me. He said, "Now if they are editors and they are learning to write, are they going to be Hemmingways? Probably not. But as long as they can write a basic script, they have met the basic qualifications." Should the number three market have stories with basic, unclean scripts? I think not. 
I decided to e-mail Whittaker (since he knew me from my internship days) and because I was curious about the switch over. He replied, "Thanks (for the e-mail) Sarah, a lot of change, but necessary for the future." I also e-mailed reported Art Norman whom I shadowed this summer. He responded with a link to the longer version of Phil Rosenthal's story via the Chicago Tribune blog. He did not comment on his thoughts about the switch.
Overall, I am in support of these changes and I very much look forward to what this will mean for WMAQ's future. Will this improve or worsen their coverage? The changeover should be completely implemented within six months. 

To read the Chicago Tribune blog I reference in this post, visit:,0,6303254.story

Hello blog readers,

My name is Sarah Hollenbeck. I'm a senior broadcast journalism major at the University of Missouri-Columbia. I am creating this blog as an asset to the Advanced Internet Applications capstone at Mizzou. Here's to purposeful blogging.