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The Changing Relationships between Media Outlets and the Communities They Serve

IN THE July 6 ISSUE

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by Tom Sims

The Changing Relationships between Media Outlets and the Communities They Serve
How KSEE 24, Faith Sidlow, and Pamela Prado are Facilitating that Discussion

Has social networking changed the relationship between a television station and its news viewers? The outpouring of support for Faith Sidlow and Pamela Prado who were fired by Nextstar Leadership Group, Inc., owners of KSEE 24 this week might indicate that is true.

Tom Sims

In fact, it looks a lot like outrage, not so much for the changing of staff as much as the way the transition was announced … or not announced.Faith Sidlow and Pamela Prado seem to have held their heads high and behaved very professionally in this process They have let their listeners do the complaining. Online, they have been gracious, not speaking negatively about their former employers.

Likewise, the company has spoken no ill of these two and was quick to contact me. We hope to include their comments either in the body of this article or in a prominent addendum.

The nagging question is: Could not the women have been trusted to behave graciously on the air after all their years of service? In fact, they might have saved the company a number of complaints and lost viewers.

No one I talk to is happy about this and I think it reflects a systemic business attitude and failure to understand the community that gathers around the relationships between listener and broadcaster in a small city like Fresno.

It is no longer just about professionalism. People like to do business with people they like. That is a function of affect.

Contrast this with the long goodbye on Talk of the Nation this past week on NPR where callers were given the opportunity to celebrate the show and its host. I have been a listener for the entire 36 years they have been on the air and, for some time, moderated the live online discussion group on CompuServe that paralleled the broadcast. It was a sense of loss to me, but it was a good goodbye!

Note that we were warned in advance of this transition and then allowed multiple opportunities to grieve together, culminating in a celebration.

Here is the letter I wrote to the executives of Nextstar Leadership Group, Inc., for what it is worth. The problem is that I cannot find the email address on their website to allow me to send it. I will keep looking, I will forward it to their local Operating Officer who is quite engaged in the community and has made some great strides in the realm of community building between viewers and deliverers of the news.

Executive Leadership, Nextsar Leadership Group, Inc.

We, in Fresno, understand that broadcasting is a business and that businesses must make business decisions.

That being said, in a community, such as Fresno, where the media cultivates relationships and trust, it really is, also, about those relationships.

KSEE 24 has done a good job building reciprocal community relationships. Faith Sidlow and Pamela Prado have been a big part of that. They have reached out to their listeners, responded to their comments, and interacted with the public. They have been a valuable part of your team.

Your page on Facebook has been a step in the direction of creating that kind of dialogue as well.

You have made business decisions. I realize that in some circles, there is a philosophy of terminating people immediately and giving them no opportunity to say goodbye or process the decision. I assume that is because decisions are removed from the relationships on the ground where trust can develop and be honored.

That may be appropriate in some settings, but not in a community of trust, a neighborhood of relationships, with professionals who desire no harm to your business and keep their resentments, if they have any, to themselves. These two have behaved very professionally on their Facebook pages and have not spoken ill of your company.

You would have shown far more respect to your viewers, THEIR viewers, and to this community you serve by understanding the importance of relationships and allowing closure.

I think you made a strategic error in Fresno. I am not sure how you might recover. I hope you do, but you will have to rebuild the relationships and I hope that in the future you will remember the word I keep repeating: relationships.

It will serve you well. I wish you complete success and believe that you can be a leader in this new world of connectivity which is far more than a technological reality; it is emotional and relational.

It is your business. It is our community.

Thank you for reading and considering.

Respectfully,

Tom Sims

I realize this is an opinion piece, but it is more than a comment on how one company treated its employees and viewers. Frankly, that is very common. Perhaps they were treated quite well privately. The lingering loss is the broken relationship. It is about recognizing that, in the changing world of social media, communication is a two-way street. That is not accomplished by simply setting up a website or Facebook page. It is about decision makers engaging the community the way these women have and realizing that the delivery of news is more than just passing on facts, being efficient, or presenting high-gloss reporting. It is about building community.

Everything is these days.

This is not about complaints against KSEE 24 or Nextstar. It is about recognizing some new, positive trends that respect and engage the entire community as partners in process.

I would like to start a broad dialogue about these changes, because I do not believe they have to spell the end to good reporting, but the beginning. Navigating new waters is challenging and media is a process, an ongoing process.

Tom Sims is a local pastor (and Grandpa!), writer, and blogger. His congregation, “The Fellowship of Joy,” is part of a larger collaborative called “4141 Ministries,” of which he is Executive Director & he is an active Toastmaster. You can also find him on Facebook.

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