This article, highlighting the importance for local news organizations of building relationships with community figures, first appeared on Kellerman's blog and is republished here with permission.
One Wednesday night last month, news spread quickly on social media that Democrat Beto O’Rourke was running for president. That didn’t surprise many people…
What may have caught you off guard: major media outlets were sourcing the NBC affiliate in El Paso, Texas.
It's official. Beto O'Rourke is running for President. https://t.co/8teLFGj76Y— KTSM 9 News (@KTSMtv) March 13, 2019
O’Rourke planned on making the announcement public on Thursday. But a text message to Nexstar’s KTSM allowed them to break a story that would control the national news cycle for the next 24 hours. Their secret to success? Strong relationships, according to News Director Victor Venegas.
Beto O'Rourke texts El Paso TV station KTSM that he’s in for 2020 run: “I'm really proud of what El Paso did and what El Paso represents It's a big part of why I'm running. This city is the best example of this country at its best." https://t.co/RPRCzwzCb8— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 14, 2019
Multiple people in KTSM’s newsroom formed relationships with O’Rourke over the years. In some cases, it was through business partnerships. In other situations, it was working with O’Rourke when he served on El Paso’s city council.
Those bonds led to the text message showcased above. After a second confirmation, Venegas felt comfortable breaking the story on KTSM.com.
“We were able to confirm (the news) without having to embargo the story as everyone else did,” Venegas said. “As I mentioned to the staff in an email, this goes to prove that you never give up on a story.”
After pushing the news, KTSM alerted sister stations across Nexstar Media Group. In many cases, they repurposed the story collecting thousands of views on their websites and tons of engagement on their social channels.
“Despite others getting the embargoed exclusive, we beat everyone with the confirmation,” Venegas added. In every aspect, a win.”
Props to #NexstarNation’s @KTSMtv for breaking #Beto2020 last night!— Austin Kellerman (@AustinKellerman) March 14, 2019
No surprise: they topped the company leaderboard for Twitter engagements Wednesday.
cc: @nexstarcberg @Jerry_Walsh pic.twitter.com/OpBzMPO9cg