While increased layoffs may be on the minds of many this summer because of the slumping economy; radio newsrooms will also have cause for a similar concern – cutbacks. A recent survey conducted of radio newsrooms in the top-50 markets reveals that 66% of radio stations report that their station has been affected by the economic downturn. And of those experiencing the impact of the tough economy, nearly 70% say they have to layoff workers, cut their staff size, while more than 15% of stations say they have to do more with less.

Along with the cutback trend, more than 88% of stations report that they no longer have reporters dedicated to covering specific beats. In fact, of the six stations reporting that they still have beat reporters, half of those reporters are business/economic reporters who are undoubtedly covering the current economic turmoil.

The consolidation of station management, coupled with industry trends toward local news and streamlined program decision making, means a very small number of newsrooms have time to hunt for stories. With cutbacks becoming more common, 42% of newsrooms say they are more reliant on outside sources to get news on the air. This provides both an opportunity and a challenge for someone pitching a story. However, focusing on the core messages, and delivering what listeners want most, they can achieve remarkable results by tailoring the pitch.

With reporters increasingly relying on outside sources and doing more with less, those with strong storylines to pitch may have more opportunity to get their news on the air, but that doesn’t mean that stations have become less discriminating. Since reporters are serving more as general assignment reporters and not covering particular beats, it’s more important than ever to speak in layman’s terms and bring them information that’s important the average radio listener. And these days, that means pocketbook issues.

When asked what other elements newsrooms look for in stories, local angles and local spokespeople for interviews were mentioned by more than half of stations as being very important to getting a story on the air, followed by the impact of economic issues in their local community as the second most relevant element of a story. Further, the survey indicates that 28% of stations said their stations no longer have time for features, with their stations covering hard-hitting, current news stories.

The lesson here for everyone is that by carefully watching radio market trends, you must be willing to rethink your strategy for pitching and receiving news. So, if you have a timely story or spokesperson that speaks to the current economic situation and your story speaks to the average radio listener, your local radio would be a perfect fit!

Posted by Lynn Harris Medcalf