How many local TV stations have reporters whose primary responsibility is the Web? It’s an idea whose has come at WPRI, the LIN-owned station in Providence, R.I., which now has two digital beat reporters, one covering economics and business and the other, politics.
“I don’t know of any other television station in the country that has created a job like mine, which is to be the market’s Ezra Klein,” says WPRI.com reporter Ted Nesi. He not only blogs on the station’s website but also hosts a local business show on the air and helps to produce in-depth stories for TV.
Part of how it works is that day-to-day I have the freedom to pursue various topics on my blog and in story form, and that lets me find stories and get to know the details of a topic in a way that pays off on-air once a story is big enough to warrant television coverage.
Here’s an example: a story about a town in Rhode Island where officials were washing their hands of responsibility for one of their employee pension plans. Nesi researched the story for the better part of a year, then collaborated with the station’s investigative reporter on an in-depth Web story and TV package.
Nesi pitched his job to WPRI three years ago, when he was working for the Providence Business Journal. He didn’t know much about TV but he knew the beat and the Web. The station hired him immediately. Nesi’s timing was good. The local newspaper, the Providence Journal, had killed its business section the year before and was about to put up a rigid paywall, creating an opening for the competition.
How did a print guy make the transition to TV? Slowly. He started as a guest panelist on the station’s Sunday political talk show, then became a regular. The newscasts bring him on set for Q-and-As on topics that he covers, and once in a great while he’ll do a package.
I’ve learned more about how to speak and write in a way that works for TV, which of course is different from newspapers, and how to present myself. But it’s gone pretty smoothly and the station has been very supportive; I got to be in our prime-time debates last year, as well. The biggest change has been wearing makeup!
As newspapers continue to suffer from declining readership and revenue, Nesi believes TV can fill the gap by creating jobs like his. “I’d love to see more stations try the same thing, so that more jobs would be created all over the country for writers to do solid reporting.”