Media coverage stretches staffsAt WDAY-TV, they’ve got an area set up for quick naps. At KFGO 790 AM, the news director is starting to lose his voice. At The Forum, reporters and editors are pulling midnight to 9 a.m. shifts.
By: Dave Roepke, INFORUM
At WDAY-TV, they’ve got an area set up for quick naps. At KFGO 790 AM, the news director is starting to lose his voice. At The Forum, reporters and editors are pulling midnight to 9 a.m. shifts.
Their work hasn’t been as physical as that of flood-fighting sandbaggers or as urgent as truckers hauling clay, but local news staffs have been forced by major flooding to become all-day, all-night operations. It’s a grind area journalists don’t mind enduring.
“It’s been long days, and people are exhausted,” said Jerimiah Moerke, the news director for Valley News Live TV stations KVLY and KXJB, “but we also feel like we’re playing our role in the community.”
The incentive to gladly go for days on end is simple, as WDAY News Director Jeff Nelson sees it.
“This is the biggest event a lot of these people are ever going to cover. It’s the biggest event I’ve ever covered, and I’ve been doing this for 15 years,” he said. “I’ve got some people going on seven, eight, nine days straight.”
That work has been noticed. Managers of news organizations, The Forum included, say they’ve seen increased traffic on their Web sites, not to mention wide national interest.
“Hopefully, those efforts pay off in the long term,” said Matt Von Pinnon, editor of The Forum, which also oversees the WDAY 970 AM news operation.
Paul Jurgens, the KGFO news director starting to lose his voice, said the need to go to 24/7 has KFGO using on-air talent from its co-owned FM station for overnight shifts. National press touring the station are blown away by the 24/7 media blitz, Jurgens said.
“People I’ve talked to have never seen this kind of continuous cycle of coverage,” he said.
Around-the-clock staffing hasn’t been the only media ramp-up. Television newscasts have run long, and special newscasts have been added, news conferences have been carried live, and WDAY-TV has been running live footage from WDAY-AM’s radio studios overnight.
At KFGO, afternoon host and operations manager Joel Heitkamp stepped in for Ed Schultz as host of morning talk show “News and Views” because Heitkamp is more up-to-date on flooding news than Schultz, who also has a daily political show in the afternoon, said owner Jim Ingstad. Schultz will return by next week at the latest, he said.
News managers say they will slide back to standard procedures when the threat has passed enough to do so, which they will play by ear. But unless something drastic changes, the stand-down should be soon.
“Realistically, I’d think we’d be done with this by the end of the week,” Von Pinnon said of increased staffing.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535