Recap of April meeting with Geoffrey Roth

Geoff Roth picGeoffrey Roth, the vice president of local content at Fox 46 Carolinas, joined the Greater Charlotte Chapter of SPJ on April 9 at Dilworth Neighborhood Grille to talk about television news gathering in the digital age.

Roth, who has worked at television stations across the U.S. and also taught at Hofstra University, talked for more than an hour about the challenges and opportunities that come with starting a news station from scratch.

Fox 46 Carolinas was created when Fox acquired WJZY in 2013. WJZY didn’t have a news department at the time. “We’re the grand experiment,” Roth said.

Roth said that Fox 46 doesn’t have any live trucks. Most of the reporters are shooting — and editing — stories with iPhones. The station also uses GoPros, Google Glass, and a small JVC camera that can connect to WiFi.

Most reporters do stories without a photographer, he said. That allows the station to have one-person “bureaus” in Hickory, Rock Hill, Shelby, Concord and Monroe.

Not all of the reporters they hired have television news experience.

“It’s harder to teach someone to be a good journalist,” Roth said. “… We’re rankling people a little bit, but I love that. It’s a good thing.”

Right now, the station does just one nightly newscast. Roth hopes to add a morning show and an evening newscast to that lineup later this year. The station has hired 45 people and is expecting to hire at least 30 more by June.

Roth said that he has been told by his bosses not to worry about ratings or making money. Instead, he should focus on experimentation.

“It’s going to take us a couple of years to get where we want to be,” Roth said. “… We’re trying to map out a blueprint of how local TV news is going to work in the future.”

Some other highlights from the meeting:

  • Roth said that with the capabilities of new technology, news photographers should be “sweating bullets” about their jobs. News stations will be hiring reporters that can do it all, he said.
  • Roth said he also shoots one story a week in addition to doing a show about restaurants.
  • Fox 46 Carolinas doesn’t use the term “reporters.” The station prefers “digital journalists” or “DJs.”
  • WCNC’s Stuart Watson and Roth had an at times heated discussion about the lack of television experience of some of the reporters. Watson brought up an incident when a Fox 46 reporter was assigned to be the pool camera in a Union County courtroom. According to Watson, the reporter wasn’t prepared. The TV crews were eventually asked to leave the courtroom, he said. Roth saw it as a learning experience. Watson called it unprofessional.

— Corey Inscoe, Greater Charlotte SPJ treasurer

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