Responding to Viewer Complaints

Guest Post from:

Andrew Marden: Sports Director at the CBS/NBC duopoly in Fresno, CA. He has 12 years of experience in sports broadcasting and is a 2003 graduate of Syracuse University.



You’re in the newsroom. The phone at the assignment desk rings. You answer it.

“Hello, (insert station name)

Perhaps the person at the other end is calling with a news tip. Or calling to ask where he or she can find last night’s sweeps story on your website. Or calling to compliment the job your new chief meteorologist is doing.

That does happen.

More often than not, though, what you’ll hear is this:

“I can’t believe you guys aren’t showing the Raiders game right now. You deserve to be fired!”

“I saw your high school football show last night. Why was no one at my son’s game? He scored three touchdowns!”

“I was driving behind one of your station vehicles earlier today and the person behind the wheel was talking on the phone. That’s against the law. I just want you to know!”

We’ve all been there.

And trust me, we’ve all thought about telling those viewers exactly what’s on our minds.

We can’t, obviously, and we don’t. But we also shouldn’t be rude.

I’ve been in this business for 13 years and it didn’t take me long to discover that most viewers have absolutely no idea what it’s like to be in a newsroom. (I actually took a phone call once from someone asking to speak directly to Katie Couric!)

So the best thing we can do? Educate them!

Tell them that you have no control over which NFL game CBS decides to air in your market because the decision isn’t made locally. 

Tell them the reason their kid’s football game didn’t get covered is because you don’t have unlimited resources and of the three photographers you were given, one called in sick and you sent the other two to cities X, Y and Z instead.

Tell them the reason the driver was talking on the phone is because there was major breaking news. He or she didn’t have time to pull over into the nearest Starbucks and write everything down because the new destination was 30 miles in the opposite direction.

I’ve found that if you actually take the time to let people know what is going on, they are more receptive to the situation:

“Oh, there is an issue at your transmitter and that’s why there is a power outage? And you have someone working on it? Okay, thanks for letting me know.”

Whenever I respond to viewer complaints I always end by saying (or emailing), “Thanks for watching.” Like with feedback from your news director, you have to have a thick skin. You can’t please everybody, but you can try your best to be kind to everybody…even when you don’t want to.

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