State DOTs Find Audiences with Local News Programs

Local television news continues to be Americans’ most popular source for news, according to the annual Pew State of the News Media report. While the overall local TV news audience declined last year, still more than 3.4 million viewers tuned in nightly to watch the evening and late news programs, far outpacing other sources for local news including newspapers and radio.

Most state DOTs use video regularly, but a handful are producing videos that replicate the look and feel of local TV news broadcasts. These news updates typically feature a regular host, or at least a consistent lineup of hosts. And the programs focus on stories about the state DOTs that may not otherwise garner coverage in more traditional media outlets. These state DOTs are reporting their own news in a professional, hosted format that is credible and compelling.

The state DOTs in California, Idaho, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah and West Virginia each has produced some kind of regular, hosted programming.

Ohio DOT’s The Loop, a slickly produced weekly program featuring Matt Bruning and Erin Fryz.

The programs run roughly 4 minutes and weekly viewership ranges from 800 views to more than 1,400 views for the Oct. 18 edition. The pair have a great chemistry as they stand in front of a green screen and read stories, and sometimes introduce correspondents, who go more in depth on specific issues. One episode featured a reporter who happened to be on scene when a truck left the roadway and crashed into an Ohio DOT maintenance building.

Utah’s Media Update hosted by John Gleeson is a regular program that is featured on department’s intranet, YouDOT. The updates discuss recent media coverage of the department, letting the Utah DOT employees in on the talking points and strategy behind how and why the department engages with local reporters.

Caltrans’ News Flash takes a slightly different approach. Rather than studio hosted programming, each News Flash features DOT public information officers throughout the state contributing stories on a range of topics such as Camp Fire recovery work or how to use bike paths on the Bay Bridge. A recent News Flash focused on how regional public power shut offs affects traffic signals (and drivers) has garnered more than 3,000 views in just a few weeks.

It’s no secret that viewers are turning to streaming media for their television entertainment. But the appetite for local news remains strong, as evidenced by the continued success of local TV news programming. State DOTs have learned that there also is an audience for well-produced compelling local news video.

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