Las Vegas, home to show girls and slot machines, will become local-news central this month when execs arrive for the annual Radio Television News Directors Association event. For the fourth year, the RTNDA, slated for April 18-20, is being held in conjunction with the National Association of Broadcasters' convention, which can draw 100,000 attendees.
The gathering comes at a critical time. News directors are struggling to stretch budgets. Stations want the latest equipment and coolest weather and traffic gadgets. Newsrooms are on the alert for video news releases and suspicious product placements.
The agenda for RTNDA@NAB addresses such topics. On April 18, there are also sessions on better health reporting and meteorology. That same day, reporters and producers can get critiqued by seasoned vets. And CBS News anchor Charles Osgood will receive the group's Paul White Award that evening.
Day two highlights include the unveiling of the RTNDA's “Ultimate Newscast Makeover,” at which little WCYB Bristol, Va., gets a new set, graphics and music. “People will get ideas they might want to adapt to their newsrooms,” says RTNDA President Barbara Cochran.
Still, the RTNDA convention has struggled to find its footing in recent years. The 2001 show, slated to start Sept. 12 in Nashville, Tenn., was cancelled because of the 9/11 attacks.
After that, the group decided to join with the NAB. That show is loaded with cutting-edge technology and is a must-attend for engineers and business-side executives. Now news directors get a look, too.
“You get exposed to equipment and technology, which might not happen in another venue,” says Angie Kucharski, the former news director for CBS-owned KCNC Denver who recently joined CBS' WBZ Boston as VP/station manager.
With the combined show, news directors also rub elbows with station-group executives and Washington policy makers. Several station groups, notably Gannett, hold group meetings at the joint show. The RTNDA portion, however, is a smaller affair, averaging about 1,200 attendees, about half of its previous tally as a stand-alone. Organizers expect a similar turnout this year. Most stations opt to send only their news director.
News directors say they benefit from the networking opportunities. Says Coleen Marren, news director for WCVB Boston, “I like to know what works for other stations.”