Charles Gray: Setting a National Stage for Local News
He’s the man behind Raycom’s digital news operation—and the group’s versatility in reporting
By Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/20/2012 12:01:00 AMB&C's 2012 Digital All-Stars
While the majority of the television station business is thinking about getting more local, Charles Gray, digital content director at Raycom Media, has his eyes on national stories. This fall marks the two-year anniversary of Raycom’s innovative national news desk, which supplies comprehensive, and interactive, coverage of national stories for its stations— and some from outside the Raycom group too.
Gray’s brainchild, called the Raycom News Network, has grown to a 15-journalist operation and provides members with an alternative to the feeds from the cable and broadcast news nets. “It’s original reporting, so we control our own destiny,” Gray says. “This way, we don’t get caught if a source proves to be inaccurate.”
From its base at Raycom headquarters in Montgomery, Ala., the national desk can publish immediately to its network of station sites. That means coverage on a big story— such as when the Aurora, Colo., shootings happened in the overnight— allows the local station staffs to decide where the reports fit in terms of news value in their market. And with the digital hub handling the national stories, stations’ content producers are freed up to chase news in their own backyards. “The reclaimed time is a benefit for [Raycom],” says Gray.
The Meredith-owned stations subscribe to the market-exclusive service, and Raycom is in talks with other broadcast groups about getting on board.
Gray is also working doggedly to get the various Raycom news vendors, including BitCentral and WorldNow, to integrate their technologies into the group’s ENPS production system so staffers can more easily locate and access files in one program. Gray is reluctant to talk specifics about the project, as particulars are still being worked out. But his bosses give him full credit for—true to character—streamlining Raycom’s newsgathering operation.
“The whole mission is to empower our local journalists,” the Raycom digital chief says, “to make sure they are taking advantage of our great stuff.”
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