works like a newspaper… but in video….
Two years ago this week we started the conversion of KRON4 in San Francisco to the VJ model.
Many uninformed bloggers like to refer to KRON as a ‘failure’, but this is not the case. Despite Young Broadcasting’s financial woes, KRON has been a successful if painful transformation. Early adapters often endure the hardest times as they learn their way through.
GM Mark Antonitis has, however, done a masterful job of managing a very tough situation and has made it a great success.
Antonitis wrote to me on the anniversary of the 2nd year, and below I excerpt from his email with his permission. Let him tell the story in his own words:
I noted this morning that we’ve hit the two-year mark on our VJ announcement. Given the anniversary date, I thought I’d give you a sense of what is happening here.
When we embarked on this my expectation was that it would take one year to substantively integrate the system, two to fully integrate and three to have any real impact in the ratings. I’d say at this point we’re actually ahead of schedule. It took about a year from the end of your training sessions to fully integrate the system. As of now, there is no debate in the ranks about VJ. It simply “is”. It’s very interesting to go down to the newsroom and see how well the new system works and how accepted it is. If not universally popular, it is universally accepted. No one, and I mean no one, has any expectation that we would go back to doing things the way we did.
Your training program was, I believe, the key to success. The training allowed everyone to see VJ as something more than a harebrain scheme born of desperation and doomed to failure. During and after the training people thought it might actually work and it had the potential to be fun.
The surprise to many people is how well the photographers have done in the transition. As a former photographer, it was not unexpected, but it shocked a lot of traditionalists. The best new people, and I dare say stars of the future, have all come from the ranks of former photographers.
We’re covering more stories than any other station, by far. That’s with fewer people, but many more cameras on the street. We have long ago transitioned from feature-driven material. We’re hard news. But there is a definite difference about how stories are told and approached, I think your training had much to do with that.
The real boon has been in breaking news stories. I’ve never understood the presumption by many in the industry that VJs somehow could not cover breaking news. Our VJs have dominated virtually every breaking news event over the last year. The latest was theLake Tahoe wildfire. We had people everywhere. The live shots we did included six or seven people at times. We did two solid days of primetime coverage. We were nimble, versatile, everywhere, extremely productive, comprehensive, dominant. KRON received dozens of emails from viewers praising our coverage. No one else came close.
We’ve had several other examples of breaking news successes. I’m sure it will be years, if ever, before the traditionalists concede that VJs can cover breaking news. It’s no longer an issue here. We not only cover breaking news, we’re exceptionally good at it.
The “quality” issue has simply not come up – at least not in the audience. Absolutely no one has noticed, nor cares who shot a story. I’ve stressed the “quality of content” argument from the beginning and I believe it still applies. We’re covering more news with fewer people than the other stations.
VJ is without question the superior system. You must, however, have the right training and the right people. We had the former, we’ve acquired or are acquiring the latter.
That’s your brief update for now.