Editor's Note: Introducing WCCO's Second Look

Jared Goyette
May 24, 2018 - 3:44 pm

Every day, WCCO Radio covers a wide gamut of news stories — we produce more than 20 newscasts a day, including an hour dedicated to news at 5 am, and a half hour long newscast at 6:30 pm.

The team of seasoned journalists in our newsroom work hard to have new stories and fresh sound for each one of those newscasts — and on most days, they do pretty well, which is a big part of the reason why the station won two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards this year, including one for overall excellence, despite facing competition from larger outfits just across the river.

Producing all that news comes with structural challenges, however. Sometimes, we are so focused on chasing the “news of the day,” that it makes it difficult for us to take deeper dives or cover more complex issues.

I’m the digital editor here, and one of the more important tasks I’m faced with is figuring out how our (new) online operation can both complement and supplement our news coverage. It’s with all this in mind that we’re trying an experiment called WCCO Radio’s Second Look.

The idea is this: When a news story highlights a problem, and community members call on public officials or someone in a position of authority to address the problem, we’ll keep returning to the story online until action is taken. Then we’ll stick with it long enough to evaluate the outcome. All the resulting stories will be tagged “Second Look” and be part of the on-going series.

The recent case of a bicyclist killed in an accident involving a bus (police haven’t released the details of exactly how it happened) in St. Paul is a good example. After the crash, a planning commissioner said the road had a history of being dangerous for cyclists and called on St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and the city’s Public Works department to make specific changes, like adding a protected bike lane. Carter said his office would look at the issue and work with the planning commissioner (among others) to fix the problem.

Ok, now what? Well, a month from now, we’ll check back in with the mayor’s office, and see what progress they’ve made or what conclusions they’ve reached. And if they haven’t announced anything by then, we'll check back a month after that, and so on and so on. During the process, we’ll keep online updates going until we have something to report on air.

That’s the first “Second Look” story,  and there will be others in the months ahead. Of course, there are limitations to this approach — it doesn’t work as well for more intractable problems, like the opioid epidemic or affordable the housing crisis. And this is hardly revolutionary stuff.  “Guys, I invited this thing, it’s going transform the news business. I’m going to call it a 'follow-up.'”

But real-world impact in this industry doesn’t always come about via a shiny new app, some new form of automation or data crunching. More often than not, it comes as the result of reporters doing the basics well, day in and day out.

That’s the kind of tool I hope the Second Look series becomes — a way for us to tie loose ends, hold public officials accountable for their promises, and just do a little more of this thing called journalism to the best of our ability, both on air and online.