CNN additions answer need for local news

CNN'S decision to officially add "all-platform journalists" to its 10 new US bureaus, alongside general assignment reporters, marks the need for network news outlets to operate as nimbly as local citizen journalists in order to survive.

CNN'S decision to officially add “all-platform journalists” to its 10 new US bureaus, alongside general assignment reporters, marks the need for network news outlets to operate as nimbly as local citizen journalists in order to survive.

The cable news network recently broadened its reach by reassigning reporters to markets typically underserved in national news, such as Houston; Columbus, OH; and Raleigh-Durham, NC, where there will be greater opportunities to break local stories.

The bureaus will include reassigned general assignment reporters, and the new position of all-platform journalists, who will report for broadcast and digital mediums with lightweight kits, including wi-fi-enabled laptops, cameras, and editing tools.

“[These new bureaus are] a way for us to retain show-based correspondents and add a new level [of reporters] whose job will be to be on the front line, and support those teams and generate content,” Nigel Pritchard, VP of PR for CNN International, told PRWeek.

Recently, CNN opened its first of these bureaus in Minneapolis, based out of its affiliate, in tandem with the announcement of the news network's expansion on August 12, according to Pritchard.

The other markets, slated to be up and running by the first quarter of next year at the latest, could also be based out of various affiliates, universities, radio stations, or independent locations.

Pritchard declined to state the amount of money the news network spent on these expansions, which will add to the CNN “mosaic” of different platforms, but did note it was a sizable investment.

“CNN is a growing business,” Pritchard says. “Good journalism is good business.”

While many networks have installed one-reporter “bureaus” internationally, The New York Times reports that ABC plans to install its own brand of “multi-platform journalists” stateside, and NBC will also train journalists for this need.

With the rise of citizen journalists and ability of consumers to access news from a variety of outlets, the need for CNN to expand and add multi-platform journalists has become necessary, says David Bartlett, SVP at Levick Strategic Communications.

“There is no such thing as new media anymore. These days, it's media or old media,” Bartlett says. “The familiar line between print, broadcast, and online are blurring. Any news organization that fails to reorganize to meet [and exceed] the changing expectations of consumers is going to be left behind.”

Lloyd Trufelman, president and CEO of Trylon SMR, agrees, noting that “since thousands of citizen journalists have flip cams, CNN needs to do something to protect themselves, and can't rely on big national news desks if they want proper news coverage.”

CNN will be able to effectively compete against local TV and individual citizen bloggers with less reliance on affiliates, Trufelman says.

CNN's regional bureaus will also increase its ability not only to tap more audiences who have previously not been represented, but also PR pros who might not have the ability to successfully pitch trend pieces, according to Bettie DeBruhl, SVP and general manager of Stevens/FKM PR, who anticipates the opening of the Houston bureau.

“Often, media concentration is centered on the East or West Coast, with other [regions] forgotten,” DeBruhl says. “Having a local bureau, like Houston, makes for a great opportunity to contribute.”

CNN can also further distance itself from competing networks and directly impact ratings and advertising dollars by owning more content and showing the audience located in the bases of these bureaus that they are represented, according to David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision.

“A lot of people have felt alienated from networks in Middle America, [but] spreading out can have more stories [about people all across the country],” he says.

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