How The Bakersfield Californian's morning show demonstrates 'newspapers can do good video'

The Bakersfield Californian lost its conference room, but it gained Carly Rae Jepsen. The "Call Me Maybe" singer is scheduled to perform Tuesday night in the newspaper's studio, a room that until recently was a place for less high-profile meetings.

Louis Amestoy, the Californian's digital convergence manager, convinced the paper to give up its conference room based on one brave belief: "I'm a huge believer that newspapers can do good video," he said in a phone call with Poynter.

Amestoy put the studio together cheaply, using consumer-grade cameras, inexpensive software and a high-definition camera switcher he bought for about $2,500. But most important to his vision, local AM radio station KERN signed on to partner with the paper on a morning show.

"First Look With Scott Cox" started broadcasting from the newspaper's studio on March 18, and while the paper carries the video of the show live on its site for three hours every morning, Amestoy said he's not trying compete with morning television.

"First Look," he said, is simply "news talk." Cox and news announcer Jeff Lemucchi "don’t read off teleprompters, they read off pieces of paper," he said. Guests gather around a conference table with TVs behind them and talk about stories in the paper and elsewhere.

The production crew is similarly econo. Besides Amestoy, Web Editor Christine Peterson, Community Engagement Coordinator Jamie Butow and video production intern Chris McCullah represent the Californian each morning; KERN sends producer J.R. Flores in addition to Cox and Lemucchi. Peterson will turn some segments into stories for the paper's website, he said.

Local politicians have come in, and U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who represents part of Bakersfield, has phoned the show. Members of the paper's staff have appeared -- editorial page editor Robert Price interviewed the head of the Kern County Democratic Party Monday.

Most mornings a few thousand people tune in to the "First Look" Web stream, and "we’ve got two significant advertisers already for this thing," Amestoy said.

"My message to everybody is, You can do this," Amestoy said. "Papers should always be looking for opportunities to do this. I firmly believe the monetization is gonna come."

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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