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New York Digital Newsroom Strikes Deal With Erie TV Station

Gould recently sat down with Barrett News Media to discuss the partnership with WICU and his own journey to own the all-digital newsgathering operation, WNY News Now.

Ryan Hedrick

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Five years ago, Justin Gould was attending St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York when he made a decision that would alter his future forever. Rather than face another semester confined to a campus where his tweets and thoughts would be censored, he decided to leave the liberal arts college and return to his hometown of Falconer, New York to expand a dream that he had been pursuing since he was 11.  

Gould, 24, had been sketching the outline of what is now considered one of the fastest-growing independent digital newsrooms in the Northeast. WNY News Now is a fully functioning 24/7 operation with a robust social media following, a popular app, and the latest technology that produces daily newscasts for the Western New York Community.

As a high school student, Gould excelled in the classroom and was beloved by his classmates. He made morning announcements each day and even scored a job at a local radio station at the age of 16. A year later, he began to network with seasoned journalists who would take him along on major news stories. As he began to gain more confidence with his productions and writing skills, Gould’s vision was coming into focus.

At the end of the week, he used the B-Roll he collected from those stories to construct his own newscasts. His friends would assist him in creating these shows. The cast included a co-anchor, a producer, and a gaffer. He rearranged his mother’s house to resemble the news studio, culminating in the production of the Justin Show. The show aired on his “network” YouTube channel. That channel would later play a key role in the launch of his own news company, WNY News Now.

As newspapers around the country fold and local television stations struggle to get eyes on its local news products, more entities are collaborating to accommodate the changing face of local news dissemination. WNY News Now operates out of Jamestown, New York which has been celebrated as Lucille Ball’s hometown. The city’s proximity to Buffalo and Erie, Pennsylvania makes for an interesting set-up. As the city struggles to come to grips with higher than usual poverty rate and a surge in cartel-funded drug distribution, Gould’s newsroom is pumping out stories around the clock.

Gould’s newsgathering and production skills have captured the attention of WICU-TV in Erie, Pennsylvania. Starting Monday, WICU and WNY News Now will enter into a unique content-sharing agreement that may prove to be a blueprint for digital startups and television newsrooms around the country.

Gould recently sat down with Barrett News Media to discuss the partnership with WICU and his own journey to own the all-digital newsgathering operation, WNY News Now.

Ryan Hedrick: Why did you decide to start WNY News Now?  

Justin Gould: I felt there was a gap in television news coverage in my hometown. Jamestown, NY is lucky to get a 2-minute mention on evening newscasts in the Buffalo market. My company fills that void, providing a hyper-local alternative for news consumers, and advertisers looking to take advantage of the ever-growing viewership 

RH: Describe your market and who your competitors are?  

JG: Jamestown, and Chautauqua County, has about a half-a-dozen news media outlets, most ranging from small to medium scale newspapers and three main radio station groups, however, as a television news provider, we rule the roost providing exclusive video content for most stories that we only share with our media partners.  

RH: Describe your experience in college and how it shaped the way you deliver news?

JG: College is an excellent place for budding journalists to learn skills, however, it is not the be-all and end-all. For me, I found I have learned more in the field than in the classroom. With that said, college is a great place for young reporters to make mistakes and learn from them. For me, I’m grateful for my time in school. It taught me the value for writing, yet I had to distinguish the difference from academic writing and news writing, something I truly learned when working in my first newsroom.  

RH: Talk about some of the big mistakes you have made running your company.  

JG: For starters, when we first launched WNY News Now we were so video-focused, we did not provide written reports with our stories. I feel that providing both written and video content is key to a balanced platform, my only wish is we started sooner. On the business side, when we first launched WNY News Now our company had too much overhead, subscriptions, utilities, and rent. From a business standpoint my message to anyone, whether you are a newsroom and a coffee shop, keep your overhead low and only expand operations when needed. Sure, we grew into our space, however, I feel I could have made better investments from day one.  

RH: How is news dissemination changing?  

JG: Our news team carries a digital-first mindset, which I believe is one of the keys to success in today’s world. Unfortunately, very few people are tuning to traditional radio and TV these days, so to adapt to the times, content will not only have to be streamed online but make online their focus. In many cases, those traditional platforms can, and are being simulcasted, which I feel is key. In fact, one day we may only see programs online, we are already seeing it with web-exclusive content.  

RH: Describe your partnership with Erie News Now….How will you benefit?  

JG: I am super excited for what’s to come with our new partnership. Erie News Now will help WNY News Now take our product to the next level, sure there is a value for what we do now, however airing our reports on traditional television only expands the eyeballs. Additionally, Erie News Now is connecting us with additional resources that will improve our news product. For example, we are now able to access their Washington D.C. bureau, providing additional coverage of our local representatives and what they are doing in the nation’s capital. In the end, hyper-local journalism is just that, local. 

RH: Is local TV news valuable anymore? What can TV learn from digital newsrooms?

JG: I believe it is still valuable, however, the landscape is changing. In the future, newsrooms will need to focus more on digital, and some, like our partners at Erie News Now, see the value of digital and push to expand it every day. With that said, traditional advertising will also have to adapt or find new ways to promote their message. I feel as more entities realize the power of digital, the emerging industry will only grow stronger.  

RH: What mistakes did college journalism make in teaching young reporters?  

JG: A lot of time college journalism classes, especially at schools not tailored for the industry, teach a more public relations approach to the craft, rather than the skills students really need, like question-and-answer prep, how to properly focus on the story, and sort through the propaganda often provided. Furthermore, many schools do not clearly explain the difference between a reporter’s opinion and facts for stories. I often find myself restructuring our school interns, to better fit our operations.  

RH: What is the vision for WNY News Now?

JG: I feel the limit of this company is our own imagination. I am blessed that I found success over the past five years, and I can’t imagine what the next five will entail. I do plan to continue expansion. So far, we primarily have covered the Jamestown, NY area and Chautauqua County. I plan to expand coverage east to serve more underserved communities with local news in New York State. Additionally, the partnership with Erie News Now will allow us to expand south to PA, covering the City of Warren and surrounding communities.  

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News Media Should Have Thrown Shade at Eclipse Hysteria

Just stop it. You know better.

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A photo of an eclipse

The news media coverage of the eclipse this week was borderline ridiculous.

“In the cozy corners of our homes, where the laughter of our children should resonate
with joy and curiosity, a shadow has been cast—not by the celestial ballet of the sun and moon during a total eclipse, but by the media’s relentless frenzy surrounding these celestial events. As a parent watching this unfold, I can’t help but feel a mix of frustration and concern.”

Those aren’t my words. They were posted earlier this week on LinkedIn by a man named Chuck Leblo. He continues: “. . . the media’s approach to covering total eclipses has shifted from educational and awe-inspiring to sensational and anxiety-inducing.”

I’ve never met Mr. Leblo. He describes himself as a strategist and professional problem
solver. More to the point, he’s a family man with uncommonly common sense.

“Gone are the days when an eclipse was a chance for families to gather, armed with nothing but protective glasses and a sense of wonder, to watch the moon dance with the sun. Instead, we’re bombarded with headlines screaming about potential disasters, the dangers of improper viewing, and an array of eclipse-induced calamities waiting to befall the unprepared.”

Chuck – (I sense a kinship, I believe he’ll allow me to address him by his first name) was blessed to be in the path of totality for Monday’s stellar phenomenon, as was I. Because of that, we were probably dosed with more frenzied hyperbole than most Americans suffered. Weeks ago we were warned that half of the planet’s population would surely descend on our neighborhoods, throwing our lives into chaos.

Headlines:
“The April total solar eclipse could snarl traffic for hours across thousands of miles” – USA Today, April 7

‘Plan now’: Dallas leaders urge residents to prepare for crowds, congestion during solar eclipse” – NBC-DFW, April 2

“Large crowds in the path of the total solar eclipse April 8th could put a strain on cell service” – TheWeatherNetwork.com, April 5

The governors of Arkansas and Indiana issued proactive states of emergency. Cities and counties from Texas to Toronto did too. This all hit home for me around two weeks ago when my wife ordered me to stock up on food and tp as we did during the COVID-19 crisis.

S—’s getting real.

As I write this on Tuesday, April 9, the day after the eclipse, I can’t find a single reported case of hotel and car rental madness anywhere in the U.S. Traffic snarls? I was out and about yesterday before totality. Traffic actually seemed less than usual, as it has been this morning.

I’ve heard some radio reports (aka rumors) suggesting that fear of traffic congestion has people holing up in bars and drinking heavily. Allegedly. No sign of that, either, officially
or anecdotally.

Zebras, ostriches and people huddled at Dallas Zoo as solar eclipse darkened the grounds – Dallas Morning News, April 9

That’s the biggest morning-after headline here in the largest city in the path of totality.

Chuck and I think the news media has jumped the shark. We’d be laughing about it over a beer if we ever met and it wasn’t so maddening.

“What message does this send to our children,” Chuck asks. “Instead of marveling at the wonders of the universe and the scientific principles behind such events, they’re left wringing their hands in worry. The media’s penchant for dramatizing natural phenomena has transformed a teaching moment into a source of stress. Our children, who look to us for understanding and reassurance, are met with our own concerns, magnified by sensationalist reports.”

On December 16, 1982, I was anchoring the news at KGNR, Sacramento, when a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber crashed shortly after takeoff from nearby Mather AFB. Rumors of nuclear weapons on board flashed through the community.

My boss, WGN of California G.M. Robert Henley, came into the studio and reminded me to keep our audience calm and reassure them that we’re still looking for facts. I knew that, he was just reminding me. We didn’t add any conjecture or speculation. We never said things like, “We’ve heard…” or, “What if…”. All we said was, “Here’s what we know right now…”

In that case, nine crew members died in the crash but there were no nukes on board. Local and national media handled the story with the proper, professional perspective that was beyond question in those days.

Professional news reports beyond question, just the facts, no hype. Just imagine.

If that bomber was to crash locally now I shudder to imagine the shock wave produced by local media following the lead of social media lies and hysteria.

“In a world where information is at our fingertips, it’s disappointing to see fear used as a
tactic to grab attention. The total eclipse should be a moment of unity, wonder, and learning, not a cause for anxiety.” – Chuck Leblo

Yesterday afternoon I stood in my driveway with my officially approved protective lenses and watched the total eclipse. Pushing 73, it’s nothing I’ve ever seen before and will never see again. I shared the thrill with Chris, my teenage neighbor. We usually only howdy at the mail box but we shared some real neighborly excitement yesterday.

Chuck, his wife, and their eight-year-old son watched the eclipse with a picnic blanket in their front yard.

Chuck and I want to end the hype. Stop the bulls—. Just stop it. You know better.

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Kristina Koppeser Takes Pride in Leading Community Service at KYW Newsradio

We’re really proud of the Crystal Award nomination. I’m going to be there on Tuesday. So I hope I’m accepting and I’m accepting it.

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A photo of the KYW logo and Kristina Koppeser
(Photo: Kristina Koppeser)

As many in the industry head to Las Vegas for NAB, Barrett News Media was able to catch up with some of the speakers this year, including, KYW Newsradio Brand Manager Kristina Koppeser.

Not only will she be speaking on recruiting and talent retention she will be representing station as they are nominated for a Crystal Award.

Krystina Alarcon Carroll: How did you get into the industry?

Kristina Koppeser: I have been working in news media in some fashion for over a decade. Radio I kind of got into a few years ago. I’m actually new-ish. I worked in television before [radio] and before [TV] I work in traditional digital media. I worked at Twitter, now X, for a while, and [Twitter] is where I sank my teeth into breaking news for the first time in my career, and I really enjoyed it.

So that kind of parlayed a job into a Hearst Television role. Then the pandemic hit, my husband and I were living in New York City but the space was just not doing it for us anymore. So we started looking at other cities we could live in and I saw this opening for a digital managing editor got that job. Now I’m here and I’m running the station, two years later.

KC: So what are you going to be talking about at NAB?

KK: So I am doing a talk on recruiting, talent retention, which is something I think we’re all thinking about constantly in this industry. Radio is one of the oldest mediums, but I think as we move into the next generation and the 21st century, we’re kind of thinking about ways that we can diversify, not only what people are doing, but what audio is. Radio is still the bulk of our business, but people are on their phones now. So, that digital aspect is important.

Finding people who can learn both do both and are not afraid of trying new things is a really important part of what I’m doing.

We have a very diverse newsroom that I’m very proud of. It’s very reflective of Philadelphia, and I think that’s really important in our storytelling and making sure that we have people in our newsroom who know and understand the city in a way that I think less diverse newsrooms don’t have that kind of breadth of knowledge. So I’ll talk a little bit on that, but really, it’s about how to find the right people and how to kind of look for diamonds in the rough.

I’ve always in any job tried to go off the beaten path to find somebody who I think might not be a shoo-in on paper, but there’s something about them that I’m like, ‘I think that I can make this work,’ and I think I can find something about their background or whatever that might not be. I think I speak to that, too. I’m not a traditional radio person in that I’m running a radio station.

KC: Your station was nominated for a Crystal Award this year. Is volunteering something you look for in your team? And why is that so important?

KK: Not actively, because it’s one of those things where we have — the brand kind of attracts people who naturally are inclined to volunteer. We’re really proud of the Crystal Award nomination. I’m going to be there on Tuesday. So I hope I’m accepting and I’m accepting it.

But I think that people who do spend their time — their free time — giving back to the community is very much what it’s about. In our work and our personal lives, our community always comes first. I like to think of us as public servants. What we’re doing is we’re providing a public service through information to this city under the collar counties and South Jersey. So while it’s not something that I think is an absolute must, it comes up naturally in interviews.

If you look at the nominees, when I was talking to our staff about all the things that they did I was humbled and floored. We’ve got people who volunteer in anything from community theater, volunteer firefighting, the Boy Scouts, Gift of Life, American Cancer Society and National Brain Tumor Society, coaching youth sports, food programs, historical societies, and more.

We have all sorts of people from all different walks of life just donating their time, which I think is great. I can talk about it forever because I’m so proud of everybody and we have such an amazing group of people who are just really selfless. On top of everything else.

KC: What’s the advice you have for young people who are looking to follow in your footsteps?

KK: Oh, that’s a really good question. One piece of advice I have just in general is I say yes to everything that excites you, right? I talk to young students who are trying to go into broadcast and be an on-air talent. I say it’s great to have a goal but I think that it’s important to know that there are many paths to get there and that it’s not it might not be the first thing you do, and your career is going to be long.

It’s hard sometimes to communicate that to people who their professional life is only one year, right? So, I tell them to say yes. To look at every interview as a learning experience, to like the interview process can be rigorous and sometimes really, disheartening if you’re going to know if you’re not going to return back.

Another piece of advice I have for young people wanting to get started in the industry is focus on being versatile. Media is not just one thing anymore — social media skills, as well as broadcast skills — are essential to reporting and journalism. So learning early to be adaptable, and to find ways to become a newsroom “Swiss army knife” as I like to call it, puts you in a better position to learn and succeed.

All of those things are going to make sense one day and it’s hard to kind of find that faith, but I can look at my resume and I have said yes to a lot of very different types of roles over the years. But the reason I did that is because I knew that if I could try something different or new, challenge myself, I’d come out the other side more knowledgeable and a better candidate for whatever came next.

Lastly, be comfortable with chaos. Someone once told me that in an interview, and I was like, ‘I think I could do that.’ Everybody should be comfortable with chaos.

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Why News/Talk Radio Should Champion Debates in 2024 And Beyond

We should want them to get on stage because if not, it will only encourage those all the way down to our local level not to step on the debate stage.

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A photo of the 2024 Republican Presidential candidates
(Photo: Fox News)

This week, news broke that the major TV networks were working on sending letters to the Donald Trump and Joe Biden campaigns, essentially pleading with both men to commit to Presidential debates later this fall. And it should be of concern to each and every news/talk radio host in the country.

The letter, which included NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox News, and CNN and has not been finalized, notes that general election debates have “played a vital role in every presidential election of the past 50 years, dating to 1976,” with “tens of millions” tuning in to watch a competition of ideas for the votes of American citizens.

“Though it is too early for invitations to be extended to any candidates, it is not too early for candidates who expect to meet the eligibility criteria to publicly state their support for – and their intention to participate in – the Commission’s debates planned for this fall,” the letter states.

Biden has not publicly committed to debating Trump, although he has not ruled it out.

“It depends on his behavior,” Biden said in early March.

Trump has posted on social media that he will debate “anytime, anywhere, anyplace.”

I have seen many in the News/Talk radio space opine that the debates are overrated, don’t matter, and we should not care whether or not these two take the stage. But we should care. And we should want them to get on stage because if not, it will only encourage those all the way down to our local level not to step on the debate stage.

I can speak firsthand about how difficult it has been to get even our most local candidates, like mayors, to debate in recent election cycles. Candidates don’t want to do it, partly because the quality and depth of candidates get weaker by the cycle and because their consultants and advisors tell them not to debate. They perceive the downside to exceed the upside. No one will remember the good things you say, but if you have a massive blunder, it may sink your campaign.

It’s fecklessness from the candidate and control from the consulting class. And in the end, the biggest loser is the voter. They get bombarded with TV, radio, and digital ads while not really knowing how a candidate handles anything of substance, thinks on one’s feet, what their presence is like in the public arena, and so much more that allows voters to gauge the quality of a candidate beyond their political party identification and talking points.

If Donald Trump and Joe Biden never step on the debate stage this fall, you can likely kiss most debates goodbye. They’re already falling by the wayside in federal, state, and local races, and if the two Presidential candidates opt out, you will only see more of that down the ballot.

“If there is one thing Americans can agree on during this polarized time, it is that the stakes of this election are exceptionally high,” the TV networks stated in the letter. “Amidst that backdrop, there is simply no substitute for the candidates debating with each other, and before the American people, their visions for the future of our nation.”

This is the pitch that local TV and radio stations should also make to their area’s Senate, Congressional, Gubernatorial, and Mayoral candidates. Given the partisan nature of our politics, the voter may not need it, but they certainly do deserve it.

Selfishly, these are content generators, and can be revenue generators for TV and radio, but two things can be true at once. Yes, they’re good for our business, but they’re also beneficial for the voter.

Without them, it’s another barrier being put up between our candidates and the electorate. And nothing about that is American.

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