Reinventing Local TV News

Local TV news legends reflect on past, look to future

Local TV news trailblazers Natalie Jacobson and Liz Walker both stepped away from their respective anchor desks more than a decade ago, but they remain two of the most recognizable television news personalities in the Boston area. Jacobson and Walker competed head-to-head through the 80s, 90s, and 2000s in a news race between WCVB-TV and WBZ-TV, as the stations fought to become the dominant local TV news source in what is now the tenth largest television market in the country.

Jacobson anchored at WCVB-TV from 1972 to 2007 and was the first female anchor of a Boston evening newscast, while Walker anchored at WBZ-TV from 1981 to 2005 as the first African American weeknight anchor. Now they are reflecting on the challenges facing the industry that made them household names as part of Northeastern University’s Reinventing Local TV News Project.

There are actually promising signs for local TV news. It remains the way most Americans get their news, but viewership has declined, even for the most-watched stations. Jacobson and Walker offered their advice on how TV news operations can grow their audience.



“It’s a different time. You can’t go back to 1975. We live in 2018. So people do get headlines. They get a smattering of headlines all day long. You’re inundated with it,” said Jacobson. “Don’t give me 22 headline stories that I already know. Why would I need you? Tell me what I don’t know.”



“Local TV stations will have to break the traditional storytelling models that have been around for decades and try something new because of the times,” said Walker. “It’s a perilous time. Could be the end of journalism as we know it, but it’s a time of great potential because that’s when change happens, right? When change has to happen.”

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In-depth with Natalie Jacobson and Liz Walker


(Watch on YouTube here)

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