In the end, the issue for local television is similar to that for newspapers. It is such a robust business that declining viewership has not hurt revenues. Yet even more than newspapers, local television news invests little in improving the product. Most of the investment going on is technological and has been mandated by the government in exchange for bandwidth.
Yet the product is getting thinner, and newsrooms are clearly being stretched. Now that local television news is losing viewers as fast as the networks, that basic business approach seems questionable. Television, moreover, appears to be hurt more by the Internet than print, and clearly the potential of local news Internet sites raises that threat even more. The Internet will allow a print outlet in a town to challenge the greatest assets of the local television station -immediacy, availability and the ability to update.
The answer would seem to be convergence and improving the product. The industry seems disposed to do the convergence, but there is too little evidence that it is committed to improvements. Indeed, most of the evidence would seem to suggest the opposite.