All four local television news outlets have failed to find a Louisville connection to former Olympian and current celebrity Bruce Jenner. Jenner, the former gold-medal decathlete, has made headlines lately as he begins his transformation from man to woman through several operations and hormone treatments. His interview with Diane Sawyer last week generated near-record ratings, with over 14 million viewers tuning in to the ABC special.
WHAS news director Hank Goodman said that finding a local connection to national news is an important part of his channel’s strategy. “Nothing brings in viewers like a local tie-in (to a national story). For example, when those storms hit the east coast really hard, we found a couple from Jeffersonville that was stuck in the Boston airport overnight, and we got them to call in to our live broadcast. What an exciting night that was for me as a journalist and a news director. Making our viewers feel that Kentuckiana was part of a story that took place 800 miles away, that’s what local news is all about”.
Goodman said he was especially disappointed as the Jenner ABC special was the “lead-in” for the WHAS News at 11 on Friday night. “We really could have cashed in with some great ratings and advertising revenue, but we just couldn’t find that local tie-in. Believe me, we exhausted all of our resources looking. We thought we hit the jackpot when a guy from Mount Washington called us saying he went to summer camp with (Jenner) as a teenager in Tennessee. We looked into it, and it turns out Bruce Jenner never went to summer camp in Tennessee. That was a punch in the stomach for our entire news team”.
Other local news outlets declined to comment for this story, but a reporter for WLKY, who wished to remain anonymous, told this reporter that finding local tie-ins is a big part of the station’s strategy.
“Oh my God, like every meeting we have (local tie-ins) come up”, said the reporter. “Just last week some dog in Boston barfed up a leather watch strap, and it turns out it had three whole watches in its stomach. So, the rest of my day I was researching and driving all over Louisville and Southern Indiana (the reporter told me she refuses to use the term ‘Kentuckiana’, because it’s ‘so stupid’) looking for anyone who owned a dog that had ever swallowed a watch. I ended up blowing it off and going to a matinee of ‘Ex Machina’, which is really good by the way”.
Despite the recent disappointment, Goodman says that local tie-ins will remain an important part of WHAS strategy. “You bet we’ll continue with that approach. Like, right now, I guess there’s something going on with Hillary Clinton and emails being hacked or something? I’ve got my best young reporter on the hunt for anyone local who knows Hillary Clinton and / or has had their email hacked”.
“I’ll publish , right or wrong: Fools are my theme, let satire be my song” – Rochdale, 1809