Newsroom innovation’s ‘greatest hits’ of 2021 — so far

Our most popular stories reflect new challenges and opportunities

Every year at this time, just before the July 4th holiday, we take a minute to look back at the stories that resonated most with you, our readership of local TV news professionals, in the first half of the year. Even with the pandemic still shaping our lives inside and outside the newsroom, stations are innovating on multiple fronts, taking on the challenges of a rapidly changing media, business and social environment.

Here’s the Top 10 list — just click on each title to read the story. 

Innovation begins at home, Part 1
When longtime WBAY sports director Chris Roth walked in to pitch an unusual format for the new 4:30 p.m. newscast on Gray’s Green Bay station, news director Matt Kummer listened — and he’s glad he did.

The realities of ‘engagement’

Laura Kraegel’s story focused on two new works of scholarly research: Andrea Wenzel writes about the new skills stations need to strengthen community ties, and the Cronkite School’s own Jacob Nelson explores whether there’s really a direct connection between engagement and profits.

(Courtesy of Andrea Wenzel and Jacob Nelson)

The power of collaboration and community service

Gray Television won a Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge Grant for this ambitious project called Bridging the Health Divide, focused on health inequity in Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta. Gray’s 25 stations in the region will work with the company’s national resources in a collaboration that could involve more than 100 people.


The rewards of original reporting

No, you’re not seeing triple: NPG’s El Paso station KVIA went to an unconventional three-anchor format on its late news to build on the street chops of Saul Saenz, and now all three anchors are in on the experiment — a big bet on the appeal of in-depth reporting.

Coming back to a new normal

No surprise to see this on the list: every newsroom in the country is wrestling with the new expectations of its employees post-COVID. We checked in on TEGNA’s WKYC in Cleveland to explore what has to change for good. If you thought leaving the newsroom was hard, coming back presents its own unique challenges.

Innovation begins at home, Part 2

Hyperlocal sports, hyperlocal news, and a “digital desk” that turns anchors into one-person control rooms fuel a new channel at Gray’s WMC in Memphis that combines the linear experience of broadcast and the on-demand appeal of OTT — another example of new ideas grown from the grassroots.

Breaking the mold at 6

This innovative solo-anchor 6 p.m. newscast on TEGNA’s Portland, Oregon station KGW launched into the teeth of the pandemic in early 2020. A year later, we checked back to see how a program built on in-depth reporting, listening to its audience, and the anchor’s signature style was doing. In the words of anchor Dan Haggerty, “I’m surprised it’s gone as well as it has.”


Univision’s Albert Martinez believes that TV meteorologists have to go well beyond the conventional forecast to compete with what’s on every smartphone. As Kylie Cochrane and Alicia Barrón report, he puts himself and his viewers in the picture with dramatic interactive explainers that hit close to home.

Martinez building his own AR graphics on Univision’s weather computer


Finding younger news consumers where they live

Speaking of close to home, this popular story comes right out of our own Cronkite newsroom, where a talented “innovation squad” is leading some bold experiments on younger-skewing platforms. The team set out to do 30 TikToks in 30 days — and ended up doing 65! We share the lessons learned.

The climate may change, but some things don’t

This story, along with the Albert Martinez profile sitting at #8, is part of our ongoing series, Changing Weather. Climate change has made the role of the TV meteorologist more important than ever, but credibility still starts with getting the forecast right — good old-fashioned accuracy. One company tries to get beyond the hype to measure who’s really the best in town.

WISC general manager Lyle Banks and his weather team, led by chief meteorologist Gary Cannalte

All of us at the Knight-Cronkite News Lab hope your forecast is for a festive July 4th holiday. We’ll see you next week!

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