I hope it’s cool with you, dear reader, that I’m publishing this letter in this space this week. It is formally addressed to brass at NBC Boston and New England Cable News (NECN).
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to lament the cancellation of The Take with Sue O’Connell. As I imagine several others have as well, since the program was more than merely a nightly talk show for a lot of us.
Admittedly, the loss is a significant personal blow to my newspaper, DigBoston, and nonprofit, the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, since our contributors have appeared as guests on multiple occasions. With that said, I’m not simply concerned about face time for us, but rather about the impact on exposure for the communities and people who are typically ignored by major media but who were able to get a word in on Sue’s show, both directly and via the kind of stories our long-form reporters do. Just last month, for example, Sue and her producers had on one of our journalists who had been facing threats for a piece she wrote about racism in local law enforcement. Others were afraid to cover the story; The Take featured it front and center.
I was happy to learn that Sue still has a job at NBC/NECN, and that she will continue to impact the news cycle in this region at a level that only someone with a television platform can. That is to say your stations and the content their reporters break on social media reach people with power and influence in suburbs far beyond the cities where my paper is distributed. For that and other reasons, I hope you seriously consider Sue’s role moving forward. For if you’re simply making judgments based on ratings, you may be missing an important metric. As a co-publisher of an alternative weekly in this market, I often have to explain to my advertisers that while we may not have the reach of Boston.com, for example, we nevertheless connect with groups that set the tone of conversations in the community at large. Influencers, trendsetters, whatever marketers are calling creatures of the counterculture these days. It’s because we are an open platform, and the same could be said of The Take, which more than all the other programs on NECN combined offered an equitable bullhorn for individuals from groups that are rarely portrayed on their own terms on the evening news.
The unique viewership that Sue managed to wrestle in such a competitive time slot should count for something. I hope your strategists consider the importance of not only occasionally finding but actually retaining the sort of diverse swath that regularly watched and appeared on The Take. I would argue that such reach, whatever its size, is priceless, a whole new loop on the Venn diagram of NECN viewership, even if it’s not always apparent on the balance sheet.
CHRIS FARAONE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF