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KOMU-TV in Columbia, Missouri, does something unique for a local station every Friday during its 6 p.m. newscast. The NBC affiliate produces a segment called Your View, where the people in charge of the station — including the news director and executive producer — address viewer concerns about local coverage. The station is owned by the University of Missouri and operated by its Missouri School of Journalism. Most of the reporting and producing staff members are students.

Fostering this kind of interactivity between a local news station and its audience might seem commonplace now, especially with Facebook comments and Twitter feeds. But when Your View started in 2005, only newspapers’ letters to the editor played a similar role. Today, Your View not only explains KOMU’s decision-making, but it serves as a low-cost tool to encourage engagement with its viewers.

The segment, which lasts a couple of minutes, explores a question or criticism that a viewer posted on the station’s social media platforms, or called in or sent by email. Reporters and producers also solicit questions on the station’s Facebook page, or set up polls to gauge popular opinion on certain topics.

Segment producers then interview the people behind the story, such as the journalist who reported it or the manager who assigned it. These interviews, along with comments from journalism scholars, communication law professors and other experts, are cut together into the segments that go on air.

“Your View is a chance to be transparent, to open ourselves up to our audience,” said News Director Randy Reeves. While he admitted some complaints weren’t worth pursuing, he says Your View lets reporters and producers  know “their work is not done in a vacuum. … People are watching and they’re evaluating, sometimes literally every single word in the story.”

Angie Bailey is an adjunct faculty member at the Missouri School of Journalism who anchors the Your View segments. Your View “is where you can tell us you don’t agree with what we did, or this is where you can tell us that maybe there’s a different angle that you see,” she said.

As social media becomes a more prominent platform for news consumption, the kind of engagement Your View offers can be crucial for maintaining viewership. For example, in a story about ABC News’ social media strategy incorporating viewer tweets on air, the Poynter Institute reported  ABCNews.com was able to boost its referrals from Facebook by 111 percent, and by 163 percent from Twitter.

“Quite honestly our viewers don’t necessarily expect that we’re really reading these comments,” Bailey said. “It’s a service for them to know we’re actually paying attention.” In this regard, Your View can play the dual role of boosting social media interactivity and perceived transparency and viewer trust. The engagement can help build a following for the station’s online presence, which opens it up to a younger audience that doesn’t consume news in traditional ways.

Kent Collins, Radio-Television faculty chair and a 2012-2013 RJI Fellow, who conceived Your View, believes the Your View model is one that other stations could adopt to help improve credibility. “I think television stations ought to find more ways to connect with their viewers and to say so on air,” he said. At a time when trust in television news is at historic lows, such credibility is vital. Reeves agreed: “Overall the end impact of that exchange of ideas, in directly talking with your audience, is a good thing.”

Sebastian Martinez is a graduate student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.



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