THE BLOG

News Flash: Olympic Viewers Are Not Idiots

08/02/2012 01:57 pm ET | Updated Oct 02, 2012
  • Caryn Ward Assistant Professor, Medill, Northwestern University

This is a plea to the people who produce the local television news after the London Olympics air here -- I am begging you to give me the pertinent local news and weather, not a recap of what I just spent hours watching.

Sunday night I had to shut it off. First there was the reporter in London who reported the results of the day -- which I just watched. Then there was the anchor who recapped the medal count -- just as Bob Costas did only minutes ago. HELLO! If I didn't know better I'd think they produced this newscast not knowing what had preceded it.

The producers, executive producers and news directors want to keep the huge audience that tuned in for the games. Friday night 40.7 million viewers watched the opening ceremony, a new record, according to Nielsen. NBC spent $1.3 billion for the exclusive rights to the games and the local station spent big bucks to send reporters, producers and photographers to London. But telling us what we already know is ridiculous and insulting.

We are watching the newscast to see what's happening locally and what the weather will be like in the morning when we wake up.

I was a local television news producer and executive producer for nearly 30 years. I have five local Emmy awards for shows I was involved with. I know there's pressure to keep the momentum (and by that I mean audience) from that big event. And it's not just NBC stations following the Olympics that are susceptible. It happens every year with newscasts that follow the Super Bowl (although networks steal most of that thunder by programming a new or hit show and delaying the late news even further), the Academy Awards, or any big programming event.

But really, cut it out. For our sake and yours.

Here in Chicago and elsewhere around the nation late news ratings are on the decline. According to Lewis Lazare who writes for ReelChicago.com, there was ratings erosion for all stations in the January Nielsen ratings. And Robert Feder, a former television/radio columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times who now blogs for TimeoutChicago.com said after the February ratings period, "Viewership for all local news continues to age and shrink."

So producers, give your audience more credit. Viewers will stick around for the news but they might just go away in frustration if you waste their time with something they've just seen.

No producer would follow an episode of The Bachelor with a recap of what just happened on The Bachelor. So why do it during the Olympics?

The NBC station here in Chicago is not my top choice for local news. The Olympics is a chance for the news team to change that. I am watching them because the Olympics runs past 10 o'clock and I've missed the other newscasts. This is a chance to convert me and the many other viewers just like me. So here's a novel idea: step up, show some common sense and don't patronize me.

Do what you do best -- local news, weather and sports. Go for the gold in that and I guarantee you will hold the audience from the Olympics -- maybe even beyond the closing ceremonies.