Bob Papper is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Journalism at Hofstra University. Papper has been producing the annual RTDNA/Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra Newsroom Survey for 25 years. His latest study is out and we spoke to him about his findings.
Radio Ink: From your research it appears radio listeners will have to rely mainly on public radio for local news.
Papper: I think where listeners can go for radio news depends on the market. In the biggest markets, there’s likely to be pretty good public radio and commercial radio as well. In many of the very smallest markets, when there’s no university (and no university-based public radio), then local news comes from commercial stations. That may even be the audience’s only available local news. In between, public radio is probably the primary supplier of local news … with some commercial alternatives here and there. At the same time, a lot of public radio stations do little or no local news. That’s even true in some pretty large markets.
Radio Ink: What are your general conclusions about where radio is headed with local news (excluding public radio)?
Papper: Excluding public radio …. I think a local commercial radio group in a small market that isn’t doing local news is missing the boat. At least some of those stations should be making strong bets on local news. Beyond that, it’s more complicated and probably depends heavily on a lot of variables in the market. Clearly, local radio news isn’t a growth industry.
Radio Ink: Did you get the impression that commercial stations are losing money in the news format?
Papper: My impression is that a lot of commercial stations don’t see news as a moneymaker, and they don’t even break down money from news versus other programming. I really think that most stations have no idea if news makes them money.
Radio Ink: What role is social media playing in how radio stations deliver news to listeners?
Papper: Outside of the very smallest markets, social media appears to be a critical part of reaching the audience. It isn’t necessarily where major news is delivered, but it’s certainly where stations tell people that they have important news to listen to.
Radio Ink: – What do you think the impact of further deregulation by The FCC would have on local news?
Papper: It’s hard to see where any further deregulation will have a lot of impact on local radio news. When stations no longer had to run local news, everything changed. When the EEO rules were thrown out, the complexion of radio changed. I’m not sure there’s a big downside available.
Get more about the study HERE