One of the frustrating things about working in television is the ratings system. For those that don' know, ratings represent the number of TV households in your market tuned to you at a given time. They are frustrating, because they are not always an accurate measure of a quality product. Some stations have maintained huge ratings simply because they are the oldest station in a market or were dominant years ago. The obvious downside is that stations with those big leads often get rather comfortable. As a result, their viewers may not get the coverage they deserve. I think that' what happened here in Wilmington last night with Tropical Storm Ernesto.
As you may know, NewsChannel 3 is No. 2 in the market behind a competitor that, from what I am told, built a big lead over the years, though it is slowly eroding as we make progress. Yesterday, last night and this morning, with a fraction of the staff and budget as our competition, due to the fact that they own both the Fox and the NBC
affiliates in town and have access to two fully staffed news departments to our one, WWAY NewsChannel 3 clearly won the day covering Ernesto.
We had reporters all over the area during the storm, including live shots on a couple of local beaches as the storm made landfall just a few miles away. The competition, on the other hand, ran stories shot early in the day or from other markets, including a "dramatic" water rescue from Ft. Mill, SC. That's between Rock Hill, SC, and Charlotte. In other words, it's no where near the coast, and probably had nothing to do with Ernesto, but rather a round of storms that had moved through that area earlier in the day. Their only live presence as the strongest part of the storm moved into our area was a reporter calling in on a cell phone. No new video. Just a graphic with her
I don't know how much of a difference it will make in the ratings, in large part because November is the next ratings period, and it's tough to hold a bounce for that long. But hopefully we'll have gained some viewers who found us simply because they wanted to know what was going on.
For the most part, our staff is young, and most of them have never been through anything like this before. But they gave the people of southeast North Carolina the information they needed most. We won the day without a doubt. Ratings are important because they pay the bills, including our salaries, in this business. But the past 24 hours was all about doing your job for the right reasons around here. And everyone, from management to the production staff, stepped up and produced.