KTVT Begins New Concept AM News Shaped By Viewer Survey With A Hurricane

 

By Paul Greeley, 817-578-6324, Paul@NewsBlues.com

Yesterday, Monday, July 8th, KTVT, the CBS-owned affiliate in Dallas, branded as CBS Texas, began its restyled morning news that incorporates what viewers want to see in their morning newscast.

Additionally, a handful of those viewers who participated in the survey attended the morning show as part of a one-time-only live in-studio audience, another first for CBS Texas.

Of course, the day you’re set to debut something new, your market is hit by Hurricane Beryl. But that’s how local TV news is, unpredictable and always changing.

Raquel Amparo
Meagan Harris

A few days ago, I spoke to Raquel Amparo, KTVT’s general manager and Meagan Harris, VP of news and creative content at KTVT, to see how the idea came about, what viewers said, and how the station is responding.

“It started just like any other good idea starts, with a brainstorm,” Harris says.

She says the management team was sitting around a table talking about redesigning the CBS News Texas Mornings newscasts which run 5 to 7 a.m.

“Someone said why don’t we just ask people what they want and let them in on the process,” Harris says.

The station has always done surveys and research, “but we’ve never actually let the viewer in on how the show is designed and being a part of it,” she says.

The station combined a viewer survey using a QR code with a formal research study.

Participants in the viewer survey were asked open-ended questions about what they wanted in the CBS News Texas Mornings newscast.

KTVT promoted the survey on-air and on social media. The hope was somewhere between 500 and 1,000 participants.

“We had a huge response, way, way bigger response than we ever even imagined,” Harris says.

More than 7,000 people responded to the survey.

“Which to me says viewers want to be heard,” Harris says.

In addition, the station created a street team made up of the new morning news on-air talent, show producers and members of creative services to do man-on-street interviews in strategic location across the metro, says Raquel Amparo, KTVT’s general manager.

“We spanned the geographic area to talk to people in person,” Amparo says. “This was an opportunity for us to make it a two-way conversation. We can collect data and we can get input and then build what we think the viewer is asking us for.”

What do you think viewers would say they want to see in the morning news?

“Overwhelmingly they ranked education as either first or second,” Harris says. “I think that says a lot.”

Harris says to cover education on a regular basis, they assigned a reporter to that beat on the morning show.

“The other thing they asked for, more good news,” she says. “We’ve heard that our whole careers, right? We saw that in the survey as well. Everything’s so negative.”

In response, every single morning there will be a good news segment, Harris says.

Viewers also asked for investigative stories in the morning. A traditional investigative piece can often be several minutes long, not a good fit for a morning audience.

So how do you make an investigative story work in a morning newscast?

“This gives us an opportunity to find ways to get that content in front of a wider group by treating it differently,” Amparo says.

Amparo says the investigative team will be on the CBS News Texas Mornings newscasts twice a week, even if they’re only answering questions about how and why they’re working on an investigation.

Of course, weather and traffic were top-of-mind topics for viewers in the survey.

Given that there are more weather hits in the morning news than any other newscast, KTVT moved Scott Padgett, the chief meteorologist, to mornings.

“If you’re waking up in the morning and trying to plan your day, what better way to do it than with the trust, authenticity and authority of your chief meteorologist,” Amparo says.

The Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex is almost 10,000 square miles, so providing traffic information can be a challenge.

What viewers said about traffic in the morning reinforced what Harris and Amparo had been thinking.

“They were looking for more context-rich, impactful traffic storytelling.” Amparo says.

Amparo says evolving that traffic treatment is underway.

Another topic of interest to viewers was crime. It ranked high for people who wanted crime coverage, or it ranked really low, Harris says.

“I thought that was interesting, finding the balance,” she says. “What kind of crime stories are we telling? How are we telling them? We try to be responsible when it comes to that kind of reporting.”

A quicker pace in the morning news allows for more news overall, so KTVT is adapting a new concept, The Desk, from KCBS in Los Angeles, that puts assignment editors on camera to follow breaking stories as information comes into the newsroom, according to a 2023 article on TVNewsCheck.

The assignment desk is nerve central for the entire newsroom, Harris says.

Ashley Moss

The Desk at KTVT is fronted by Ashley Moss, a former reporter and a veteran on the assignment desk.

“You’ll see her frequently in the show,” Harris says. “Anytime there’s breaking news, we’ll be going to her for what’s breaking, what’s confirmed, here’s what we’re making calls on, things like that.”

Moss, a newcomer to KTVT, is another new face to the CBS News Texas Mornings newscasts.

Scott Padgett, Carmen Blackwell and Madison Sawyer

 

Carmen Blackwell, hired from WKYC in Cleveland, will co-anchor with morning show veteran, Madison Sawyer, who joined the station in 2016.

Of course, Scott Padgett, the chief meteorologist, is a familiar face to KTVT viewers, but he will be a new face to morning viewers.

“We did ask people what they thought anchors should wear,” Harris says. “They want professional attire, but they don’t want suits.”

Amparo says viewers watching KTVT’s restyled morning news “should be able to see their wants and needs on television.

“But at the end of the day, we’re still producing a hardcore journalism-based newscast.”


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