Anchoring three newscasts per night, Shawn Yancy has been a regular in WTTG Washington viewers’ homes for the last 15 years.
But it wasn’t until early September that Yancy used the station’s new podcast, I Still Have a Keycard, to let her fans in on a piece of her past that she had kept quiet—that she had her first child while in college.
Since then, Yancy has been contacted by women who had similar experiences, or are going through them now, as well as “people who said ‘thank you for sharing. It’s great to know that I can achieve my dreams or my goals despite whatever obstacles come my way,’” Yancy told B&C.
She added, “Viewers see us every day but they don’t get to know us personally. I think it’s important for people to see that we are human, and live life, and have the experiences that they have.”
Television itself used to have a unique ability to traffic in “up close and personal.” But with video content now so ubiquitous, Keycard has intentionally veered into more intimate territory since its August launch, aiming for community bonding opportunities. Consumers can find the podcast on iTunes and Google Play, as well as the station’s website and app.
Each episode of the weekly podcast features an uncensored conversation between a WTTG news staffer—from star anchors to engineers—and host Sarah Fraser, a veteran podcaster and newsroom contributor.
Patrick Paolini, the station’s general manager, says the podcast is built around offerings that aren’t traditionally embraced by local TV news operations—“long-form content and direct access, in essence, to news talent’s personal lives.
“It creates a direct relationship and provides unfiltered engaging content in a…method that’s difficult to do over the air,” he says.
Paolini says he expected his news crew to be apprehensive about participating in such an endeavor, but that hasn’t been the case.
In fact, it’s been quite the contrary. Air talent, in particular, are using the forum for fairly big reveals.
Morning anchor Holly Morris, for example, shares the nitty-gritty of her divorce 10 years ago from Tom Sater, the CNN meteorologist who worked at WTTG at the time. Morris details Sater’s affair with a coworker.
Anchor Tony Perkins talks about why he left his gig on Good Morning America. He says it wasn’t a pleasant place to work—especially after he says he lost Diane Sawyer’s support.
I Still Have a Keycard is gaining a following among consumers as well, Paolini says.
The first eight episodes have been streamed more than 100,000 times, he says. Fox says the podcast typically ranks No. 3 in the news and politics category, according to Podomatic, a podcast distribution and tracking site.
Yet host Fraser says there is some lingering skepticism, primarily because the idea of such a personal show is a big departure for a TV news operation.
“I think there is still some debate in the newsroom over whether we are opening up ourselves to criticism or feedback or going places we shouldn’t go as journalists,” she says.
Nonetheless, people like Yancy and Morris who went all-in received tremendous response and support from listeners who empathized with their experiences, Fraser says, adding that building those kind of off-air relationship with viewers is critical to local TV news’ success.
“If you don’t have an emotional connection with your audience, I don’t think people care,” she says.
NO HOLDS BARRED ON KEYCARD
Here are some highlights from recent episodes of the WTTG podcast I Still Have a Keycard:
Anchor Tony Perkins on leaving Good Morning America: “It was not as pleasant a place to work, for me, as people think it was. And I got tired of that.… Diane [Sawyer] is the best in the business. She really is. But, she knows how to play that backstage politics better than anybody and she was running that show.…At some point, five years into it, five-and-a-half years into it…I lost the support of Diane Sawyer.”
Anchor Shawn Yancy on having a child in college: “It was obviously not planned. I did have him when I was in college. And my parents, as you might imagine, were like, ‘Oh my gosh. What in the world? Do you want to come home?’”
Anchor Holly Morris on her split from CNN (and from former WTTG) meteorologist Tom Sater: “This is as crazy as it gets. So I’m married, my husband’s having an affair. A shock jock lives down the street. He’s our neighbor. He’s talking about me on the radio. All of this is just coming down on me.”