It all started with the chopper.
About a month ago, WTVF-Channel 5 surprised its rivals by announcing with great promotional fanfare that it had become the first station in the Nashville market to have its own helicopter, suitable for zipping around to hard-to-reach news events and shooting tornado devastation and high-speed chases from the air—but more importantly, good for bragging rights over its rivals.
Competitive retaliation from other stations wasn’t long in coming—this week, WSMV-Channel 4 announced the purchase of a submarine. Sources say the news sub will be christened “Dive 4” and sold with the tagline “We’ll sink to any depth to get the story!”
“Nashville is surrounded by lakes and rivers, and we are going to take viewers into whatever body of water where news is breaking,” says a source at WSMV. “We will be able to cover drownings, boating accidents and other aquatic news events like nobody else. And we’re not limited to breaking news either—I’ll bet nobody has ever seen a Fourth of July fireworks display from under the river, or seen what comes over the side of the General Jackson during a party cruise. That’s a real sweeps-month eye-opener.”
Several months ago, WKRN-Channel 2 shook up its newsroom by issuing lightweight cameras to all news personnel, calling them all “video journalists” and announcing that its approach would allow its reporting to be broader and more in touch with the common person. Now, in a transportation version of the same kind of thinking, Channel 2 is getting rid of its fleet of SUVs and putting all of its reporters on bicycles.
“Gas prices were eating us alive, so we called a meeting and told all our VJs we were giving them shiny new Schwinns and turning them loose to bring back the news,” says general manager Mike Sechrist. “With our bikes and lightweight cameras, we’re the most mobile news organization in town.”
Sechrist also hails the health benefits of the move. “With our people biking all over Middle Tennessee, we all will also be in great physical shape, which cuts down on our health insurance premiums. I can’t wait to see the thighs on some of these VJs after they bike to and from Murfreesboro or Springfield a few times to cover stories.”