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

B&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.”