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When Mona Morrow joined the Scripps Cincinnati flagship WCPO in 2000 to run community affairs, she brought a simple idea with her — an idea that was way ahead of its time but two decades later is finally gaining widespread support as an important tool for local newsrooms.
Morrow’s successful pitch to her new general manager: Establish a community advisory board, made up of a mix of local citizens who would provide feedback and ideas to the station. “Honestly, I thought other people were doing it,” Morrow says. “I knew they weren’t doing it locally. But I thought surely people are doing this. It only makes all the sense in the world. And then I realized that really they don’t.”
Morrow’s idea had some basis in local TV news history. Some readers may recall that years ago, news directors were required as part of the station’s license agreements to do regular “ascertainments” — visits with community leaders. “Remember those? They were a pain in the butt. I was always a procrastinator,” admits Scripps VP of News Sean McLaughlin. I do remember those, and he’s right: Most executives considered the meetings a chore rather than an opportunity.
What a difference today makes. Most Scripps stations now have community advisory boards, and the company’s more recent acquisitions will soon — at McLaughlin’s urging. “It’s a powerful tool,” he says. “At the end of the day, it’s about listening to our consumers and being more engaged and in touch with our