Process Journalism: A Key to Success/Survival

In an effort to meet the ever-changing needs of News Consumers in a fast-paced, high-tech world, Local TV News (among others) has embraced a different kind of Journalism.  The first use of the term “Process Journalism” is credited to Jeff Jarvis a former newspaper journalist turned professor in New York.  

The terms Process Storytelling and Process Journalism are often confused.  They have very different origins and very different definitions:


  1. Process Storytelling: Used for years (pre-internet) to describe the practice of reporters writing more about the details of a meeting than the story viewers would find impactful.  Reporters diving into this kind of process storytelling interview officials as the key sources instead of hearing from “real people” affected by the content of the meeting.
  2. Process Journalism: Phrase made common by digital journalists.  It refers to telling the story as it happens; not necessarily waiting for “a complete” story.  For Local TV journalists, Process Journalism will span different platforms.  The storytelling may start in the social space, move to a dot-com page and on to TV.  Process Journalism can be thought of as “News in Real Time”. 

Process Storytelling should be avoided.  The story about the process or “inside baseball” rarely has any Viewer Impact.

Process Journalism should be embraced but with this a BIG warning:  “It’s better to be right than first.”  Verifying sources and understanding the story often takes time.  Some stories are so complex trusted news organizations “get it wrong” unintentionally. News Mistakes on SCOTUS Ruling

Using unverified sources from Social Media can also lead to “getting it wrong” during the Process Journalism process:

Despite the dangers, modern-day journalists MUST USE Process Journalism.  News Consumers demand new information and yes they expect that we are getting it right  Accuracy of information (news and weather) scores very high in research.  Using Process Journalism we hit the sweet spot for News Consumers…the intersection of Urgency & Impact.

All TV newscasts should constantly update stories emphasizing “new information” or “what’s to come” with the writing in the first few words of the copy.  SmithGeiger consultants have often used the phrase New, Now or Next.  Producers can emphasize the freshness of the story if it fit into the Right Now, New This Morning and Happening in Just Minutes buckets.  If the story doesn’t still have the New, Now, Next legs we run the risk of repeating stories and losing viewers who have already accessed this information in our other newscasts, online or through social media.

In addition to telling viewers the most up-to-the-minute information we must also include Viewer Impact in the lead sentences.  Just because something “just happened” doesn’t mean viewers will necessarily care about the story.  

The combination of Urgency and Impact is a powerful way of grabbing viewers’ attention in headlines or holding them through a commercial break as well.  In the 1980’s teasing “the best video” was often a Best Practice of TV news producers.  Today many digitally connected TV viewers (which is almost everyone in the 18-54 demo) have probably already seen what news producers consider to be “the best video of the day”.  If you tease viewers with previously seen video, we should update the story.  “You may have seen this video on Facebook, but when we return we’ll tell you how this accident is still affecting your drive to work”. 

Local TV station build trust with viewers by consistently delivering news with Urgency and Viewer Impact.  Trust leads to increased engagement on all platforms.