Decline in local TV news focus of Journalism Director's Forum

Paula Madison speaking at a Journalism Director's Forum.

Chairman and CEO of Madison Media Management LLC Paula Madison, who recently retired from NBCUniversal, spoke about the decline in local TV news at Tuesday's Journalism Director's Forum.

Madison said the issue isn't a lack of journalistic skill, but a focus on stories that are not vital to the community and do not provide valuable knowledge to the public. She also pointed out that local news stories are chosen based on great pictures and are usually less than a minute and a half, barely enough time to scratch the surface.

"For me, it's like every second of airtime is an opportunity to tell someone's story, a story that resonates and that should matter to the citizens," Madison said. "Short of that...you are a waste, you're not adding anything to the quality of life. What's the point?"

Journalism has become a commodity, Madison said, and that perspective has shifted the focus away from public service to profit.

"Journalism is not a business, it's a profession, it's a calling," she said.

Madison warns a high salary should not be a recent journalism school student's motive for becoming a journalist.

"You can make a lot of money in this business depending upon what role you're in, but it's like going into the NBA," Madison said. "There are a few people who are going to make a lot of money and a lot of people who are going to make very little."

She said journalism requires "crusaders" who are willing to uncover conflicts and help generate change, and without them local TV will be filled with entertainment and fluff stories.