Air Check by Diana Marszalek

Cox Ohio Media Share Space, But Not Scoops

While working together on a 14-acre Media Center, WHIO Dayton, three radio stations, four daily and four weekly papers plus digital properties cooperate on some stories, “we are staying away like the plague from the homogenization of news,” says Alex Taylor, the Cox VP for Dayton. “Reporters are still going to compete against each other.”
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Now operating in fancy new digs, WHIO, Cox Media Group’s CBS affiliate in Dayton, Ohio (DMA 62), has all kinds of new tools to improve its newscasts — state-of-the-art studios, a high-def weather center inside and a Sky Deck to show what the weather actually looks like outside.

But in making the physical move into the Ohio Media Center late last year, WHIO staffers are also getting used to some significant cultural and operational changes as well.

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Located on a 14-acre campus, the Media Center is also home to Cox’s other Dayton area properties, including the Dayton Daily News and three other daily papers, four weekly papers, three radio stations and array of digital properties. Cox completed a $13-million renovation in December.

Cox calls the facility — which houses 633 employees in 250,000 square feet of office space — a “catalyst for an improved work culture through greater collaboration, customer focus, innovation and opportunity.”

“Having everyone in one room is a very powerful thing,” says Julia Wallace, who oversees news for all the media. But Wallace and other Cox leaders want to take the collaboration only so far. While news staffer will cooperate on some stories, they say, they will continue to work on their own stories for their own media.

“We are staying away like the plague from the homogenization of news,” says Alex Taylor, the Cox VP for Dayton. “Reporters are still going to compete against each other.”

Brand Connections

When it comes to sharing content between entities like, say, WHIO and the Dayton Daily News, “We only do it when it makes sense,” Taylor says.

By encouraging competition and different content for different properties, Cox is not only preserving the integrity of each property, but also keeping the reporters and other staffers happy, they say.

“It’s not easy,” says Doug Franklin, EVP for Atlanta and Dayton. “It has been most challenging to get the TV station [staff] around it because they are so competitive around the newspaper.”

The company also plans to keep the websites separate, Taylor says, particularly with daytondailynews.com and whiotv.com consistently ranking No. 1 and No. 2 in the market.

The media will work together mostly on breaking news — accidents, fires and severe weather.

Staffed from 6 a.m. to midnight, the Media Center’s assignment desk is the “breaking news hub,” where news directors and editors from the various platforms coordinate news coverage, pooling resources when possible, Wallace says.

The area is equipped for live newsroom newscasts, and assignments are tracked on monitors rather than hand-written on whiteboards as they used to be.

Each property holds its own editorial meetings, although representatives from other platforms may sit in on them, Wallace says.

Reporters who break stories get first dibs on airing or printing them. If those stories are repurposed for other platforms, they are done so at an appropriate time and credited to the original reporter and outlet, Wallace says.

Although pooling reporters can bring tremendous strength to news coverage, not everyone is cut out to do the work of their counterparts in other media, Taylor says. A print reporter, say, may simply not have what it takes to shine on TV. “You don’t want to force something that’s not natural,” he says. “But when we find little diamonds in the rough we put them to work.”

Although the Media Center has been up and running only since December, the collaborations it is designed to foster have been brewing since August 2009, when Cox reorganized its media properties along regional lines rather than by media. At that time, the GM positions at WHIO and the radio stations were eliminated, as were publishers of Cox’s newspaper. In their places, Cox created four new Ohio group SVP positions overseeing content (news and programming); sales; marketing and client solutions; and operations.

One of the hallmarks of the collaboration was the coverage of a small plane crash in Dayton last year when reporters from the papers and stations turned out in full force, pooling information for deep coverage otherwise not possible, Taylor says. “They probably produced more content about that event in the first day then any of them individually would have done over two or three days,” he says.

Just how those relationships, both inside and outside the newsroom, ultimately take shape is still anyone’s guess, as people like Wallace and Taylor say it is still a work in progress.

And while they search for a new model for local media, the Cox executives are determined not to destroy the best of the old. “We are not doing stupid stuff,” Wallace promises."As we live together, we'll learn what makes sense."

 


 

Diana Marszalek writes about local TV news every other week in her Air Check column. You can reach her for comment on this column or with ideas for upcoming ones at diana.marszalek@verizon.net. For other Air Check stories, click here.

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Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 25, 2016
  • 1.
    5.5/18
  • 2.
    2.6/8
  • 3.
    1.2/4
  • 4.
    0.9/3
  • 5.
    0.5/2
  • 6.
    0.2/1
Source: Nielsen

Reviews

  • Rob Owen

    Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.

  • Maureen Ryan

    Pitch has swagger, for good reason. It gets the big things right; the Fox drama about the first female baseball player in the Major Leagues is one of the year’s most assured and exciting debuts. But part of what impresses about the pilot is also the way it confidently strings together so many small but telling details. Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) is the first woman to be called up from the minors to the big leagues, and no show since Friday Night Lights has done a better job of portraying the internal and external pressures that weigh heavily on young athletes asked to do much more than merely succeed on the field. Pitch will likely do a good job of getting viewers to root for it. The hope is that the show won’t be an impressive, short-lived curiosity, but rather a long-term phenomenon.

  • Kevin Fallon

    In a fall TV season that’s already making a splash for championing diverse, distinctive voices in an array of projects that they created, wrote, and starred in, Better Things on FX stands out. The show is created by, written by, and starsPamela Adlon. She plays Sam Fox, the single mother of three daughters modeled after her own reality-show-ready experience raising three girls in Los Angeles following a divorce. Sam is also, like Adlon, a working actress — on shows both raunchy, a la Californication, and animated for children, like her role on Recess. It’s a refreshingly blunt take on single motherhood without sacrificing the warmth of parental love, portraying the dance between selfishness and selflessness that’s at the heart of being a parent — especially one weathering the hormonal fireworks of a household of four women at different ages.

  • David Wiegand

    The fall TV season doesn’t count as much as it used to — we already know that. But no matter how many retreads the broadcast networks throw at viewers in the next few months, this fall will be memorable because of the premiere of Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 6, on FX. The half-hour comedy created by and starring Donald Glover (Community), simply and brilliantly recalibrates our expectations of what a TV comedy is and how black lives are portrayed on the medium.

  • Louisa Ada Seltzer

    The second reboot of the 1980s John Candy movie Uncle Buck, bumped by ABC from midseason, has the same tired jokes you'll find on any second-rate sitcom. Too bad, because Mike Epps is appealing and ABC would be wise to keep him around for future shows, but there’s just not enough to this show to suggest it will last past summer. It also airs against NBC’s America’s Got Talent, summer’s No. 1 program on broadcast, which may make it even harder to find an audience.

  • Neil Genzlinger

    Bryan Cranston brings his Tony Award-winning interpretation of President Lyndon B. Johnson to television in an adaptation of the Robert Schenkkan play All the Way, and it’s still quite a sight to behold, just as it was on Broadway in 2014. Nothing beats witnessing this kind of larger-than-life portrayal onstage, of course. But the television version, presented by HBO, offers plenty of rewards, allowing Cranston to work the close-ups and liberating him from the confines of a theater set. Cranston’s performance is a gem — in his hands, this accidental president comes across as an amazing bundle of contradictions, someone who seems at once too vulgar for the job and just right for it.

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