Extended Interview: Patti Pettite
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TERENCE SMITH: Do you go out and shoot interviews and do things outside of the newsroom?
PATTI PETTITE: Today, we did. We ran around. And then there’s days when I’m not. I’m in here basically, you know, with a hundred reporters.
TERENCE SMITH: Right, right.
PATTI PETTITE: So, I have to wait on them.
TERENCE SMITH: How many?
PATTI PETTITE: I think there’s 100.
TERENCE SMITH: Patti, tell me a little bit about yourself, such as where you’ve worked before.
PATTI PETTITE: OK. Let’s see, my first job was in Clarksburg, West Virginia, WBOY. I was a reporter and fill-in anchor there. And then I went on to Lynchburg, Virginia, WSET-TV, which is an ABC affiliate. And I worked same thing, reporter and then fill-in anchor.
TERENCE SMITH: And what appealed to you about this as something different from the local television you had already done?
PATTI PETTITE: Well, I was looking for a job. Let’s start with that. And then it made sense just to have news at your fingertips at your convenience and to have it immediately.
And I think that’s what this world has come to, especially with everything that’s going on. I think people are concerned what’s happening in their backyard.
TERENCE SMITH: Right.
PATTI PETTITE: And if you can have that immediately, people are going to take advantage of it.
TERENCE SMITH: Are you getting reaction from people who have seen the Webcast?
PATTI PETTITE: From people I don’t know and then from former colleagues of mine at other stations that I’ve worked with. Everyone thinks it’s a great thing. No one has, you know, said anything bad about it.
TERENCE SMITH: Um-hum.
PATTI PETTITE: People watch it and people not only in Delaware. I’ve gotten e-mails and phone calls from people who used to live in Delaware, who now live in a different state, but they’re still wondering what’s going on back in their old stomping ground. So, they go ahead and log on to Delaware Online and they can find out in three-and-a-half minutes what’s happening.
TERENCE SMITH: And yet, that’s the point. Is it three-and-a-half minutes?
PATTI PETTITE: And we’re trying to get it shorter. (Laughter)
TERENCE SMITH: You are? How much shorter?
PATTI PETTITE: Three minutes.
TERENCE SMITH: What about that time constraint? You’re, in essence, trying to give the headlines of the day’s news that the newspaper will take many pages to cover.
PATTI PETTITE: It’s tough, because you don’t want it to sound like a press release or a police report. You want to hit home to the person who cares. So, to personalize a story, a lot of times, it takes longer than 30 seconds, which you’re only given 30 seconds.
You have to make it work and we try the best to do it, because we want people to keep watching. But it’s tough; it’s really tough.
TERENCE SMITH: Do you get a sense that the people who are watching also read the newspaper, also get their news from television stations, perhaps, in Philadelphia? What can you tell me about the people who are watching?
PATTI PETTITE: I think that they’re reading the newspaper. But you know what? I think a lot of people today are lazy also and I don’t think that they’re reading as much (since) other things can be a convenience to them.
So, if they can find a shortcut, they might take it in today’s busy world. And I think that’s what they’re doing. So, I think you’ve got people reading and I think the younger generation is more inclined with technology.
So, I think that they would be more apt to get their news from technology more so than newspapers, because that’s what they’re using.
TERENCE SMITH: Have you found any resistance from the people in the newsroom who are, perhaps, traditional print reporters to this notion?
TERENCE SMITH: Yes, I think it’s a transition. I think that people have to understand and have to learn why this is happening. And sometimes, a lot of people are traditional — but if you want to make it work and you want to sell a product, you have to change with the times.
TERENCE SMITH: Do you imagine that more papers will be doing this?
PATTI PETTITE: Absolutely. I’m surprised that it hasn’t happened before now, to be honest with you.
TERENCE SMITH: Because it is doable, because you can draw on the resources, because it can be done technologically?
PATTI PETTITE: Right and a lot of people don’t like change.
So, I think it’s a matter of not only changing traditional ways and ways of news, but also the money has to be available.
A lot of media markets and places do not have the financial stability maybe that they had years ago, because of the economy or whatever the reason might be. So, I think you have to have the support. I think you have to have the money and you have to make yourself available to an audience.
TERENCE SMITH: Um-hum. And do you get any sort of interactivity with that audience, other than the people you might run into on the street? I mean, do you hear back or get suggestions or tips or anything else that suggests a two-way street?
PATTI PETTITE: No. I would like to hear that. I don’t really get, you know, you should be doing this or I’d like to hear that.
I’ve heard, well, why aren’t you live, you know, because television is live and everything is happening right then. And then, as I said and you know, we tape this. So, I don’t know what to say when people ask me that. But not any, there’s not any criticism, especially from my own peers in the business.
TERENCE SMITH: How much difference would it make to be live?
PATTI PETTITE: I think in certain circumstances, if something is going on, that immediacy is important. And, you know, of course, bring up 9/11. You can bring up a tornado or hurricane weather.
You know, any emergency situation, I think, the faster you can get information to the public the better.
Now, this being taped is a luxury to people’s time, because they can go on whenever they feel like it and they can watch the news of the day and it works for them.
TERENCE SMITH: Um-hum. Well, that’s great. Thank you, Patti.
PATTI PETTITE: You’re welcome.