Broadcasting & Cable reported this week that Dr. Max Gomez, the Health and Science reporter for NBC’s flagship station in New York, will be among those losing jobs as part of the network’s cost-cutting.
If this is true, it is perhaps the ultimate expression of a trend we’ve seen in local TV news for some time. Many TV stations formerly had physician journalists who would provide news and medically informed commentary, while others would have reporters regularly assigned to the health care beat. The Association of Health Care Journalists and others (PDF of journal article) have produced reports highlighting concerns about medical news coverage on local TV stations. One of those concerns is that many if not most stations treat medical news as a general assignment beat, which doesn’t allow reporters to develop the savvy and expertise they need to cover this highly technical subject matter.
The trend is toward the networks producing more health and medical news and features, and feeding it to the local affiliates. That’s been happening for a long time, but when a major network station in the biggest market no longer has a physician reporter, apparently for budgetary reasons, how many stations can or will continue to afford a regular on-air physician?
From my reading of Jeff Jarvis, I’m pretty sure he would say this is a good thing…or at least it is a reality TV stations should embrace. He’s big on local stations and newspapers getting more local in their news focus in terms of what their reporters (aided by the community) produce, and leave a few bigger organizations (networks and wire services) to do the truly national stories. He sees it as vanity, for instance, that compels local media to send reporters to the Super Bowl or to national political conventions. There really isn’t a local angle to these national events, at least one that needs to be covered on site, but the local media feel more important by having a correspondent there.
I think Jeff would say, for example, that this week’s FDA approval of Herceptin for a type of early-stage breast cancer is a national story that can be very well covered by the networks and the wires, and that for the most part local outlets should mainly be conduits.
What do you think?