Hey – anchors, reporters and news directors – I want to talk to you for a moment about Rhoda Young. You may not have heard of her or you may have dismissed her – either way – big mistake! She and other “vigilante” journalists are capturing compelling breaking news stories right there in your own backyards – stories that the local affiliates are either skipping or missing. More importantly, they’re capturing an audience (1.1 million views and counting). When was the last time you had one million people watching your house fire package?

The two key words every news director uses over and over again in these times is “authenticity” and “storytelling”. Rhoda embodies both of those – brilliantly. Rhoda is a personality all her own.  If you haven’t seen her work, better buckle that seat belt!

Rhoda’s breaking news report aired “live” in segments on Facebook.  I’ve covered countless house fires – returning to the station smelling like a campfire. I’ve written countless more VO’s and packages on house fires. Let me state here and now: this is the single most compelling breaking news report – on a nickel & dime house fire – that I’ve seen in my career. I got caught up in the story.  In fact, dare I say, Rhoda WAS the story. And if every reporter reading this right now isn’t squirming, you should be.  Because Rhoda is beating you at your own game.

True, there are several things she needs to work on. The cussing has to go, she needs to hold her smartphone sideways to get the widescreen shot of the action, and she probably doesn’t need to be barking out orders at the firemen on the scene – although I found that quite endearing. The way she goads WAVY-TV is priceless. She is her own MMJ. And let’s be honest, she got the story – she identified the (alleged) bad guy before the police did – and she brought the story home. Her unique storytelling style (“the house is fully engorged”) was only enhanced by her authenticity (“That’s your house? Oh, God bless you!”).

Had I been a news director in Norfolk, Virginia and Rhoda handed me this package, I would have seriously, seriously considered running this piece – with a few edits and after verifying facts and identities – in my newscast. And I’d get some product placement cash from Pabst Blue Ribbon!

I can hear some of you – thinking I’m at the edge of insanity ready to fall into the abyss. Perhaps. And perhaps you think this report is akin to a really bad SNL skit parodying local news. You can disagree with me all you want – but when citizen journalist reports start showing up over on your competition’s stations, better have your resume updated.

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