Q&A: Dave Strickland, news director of Channel 2 (Houston)

Name: Dave Strickland

Title: News Director/Channel 2, Houston

Tell us a little about your career?

I am a native Houstonian who started over 35 years ago in radio and newspapers before starting my career in Television as a sports producer. Over the years I migrated into news then left for the east coast to become a News Director in 1996. In 2000, I returned to Houston to run KTRK before retiring in 2014. 2 years later, I received a phone call from Jerry Martin here at KPRC. And here I am running one of the best news operations in Texas. I am very fortunate.

You covered some huge news in 2017 from Harvey to the World Series? Was it one of the most memorable years of your career? Anything compare to it?

Oh Yes. It was an incredible year. It started with the Super Bowl here at NRG Stadium. We went all out in covering that event. We wanted the viewer to experience the week leading into Super Bowl Sunday as well as the game. The staff really did a fantastic job. Then Harvey took place as the Astros made their Historic run. The only other time that really sticks out in my mind was the summer of 2001.  We had the floods of Allison, the Andrea Yates murders and 9-11. A busy news time.

Any big lessons learned during your coverage of Harvey?

Two big lessons when it comes to covering a storm.  The first was you can never be prepared enough. We did a great job of getting our station and staff prepped with food, hotel rooms, gasoline and redundancy scenarios. But you can only prepare so much. We still had trouble getting staff in and out of the building and equipment failed under the stress of the weather. I had to use our airwaves to ask for people with monster trucks to come help us ride through the floodwaters to pick up employees.

The second lesson learned was the broadcast news business has completed its migration to a wireless platform. During Hurricane Ike, wireless remote transmission was a young platform. We relied on fixed microwave and satellites for live remote shots. That limited mobility and was useless in high winds as antennas would sway. Now the wireless technology has matured and I was able to deploy a dozen LiveU cellular units into the field which provided tremendous mobility with the ability to go live in any weather. We utilized microwave and satellite for areas where there was no cellular service.

Your station has put a big focus on digital lately, tell me a little about your efforts?

We have a heavy emphasis in digital news gathering. Our staff is growing and we are looking at starting Podcasts and dramatically increasing our social media presence. The hard part is trying to get a traditional broadcast staff to adjust their news gathering and think and report for digital consumers. I needed to diagnose what they were doing wrong then figure out how to motivate them in a manageable way. At the same time, we are being tasked with keeping our Broadcast efforts successful and growing.

Has the transition from just telling tv stories to telling tv and digital been challenging? What’s helping make the transition successful?

As you know, different media platforms means different ways to consume the product.  We had a tough time just getting people to communicate on the same page so we could discuss how to treat a specific story differently between digital and broadcast platforms. I needed outside help to pinpoint areas that would be effective areas to start. The best area to begin was at the start of our day during our editorial meeting. We revamped that meeting and incorporated an all-access platform (Google Docs) for communication that integrated digital and broadcast news gathering for every journalist to see no matter where they were located. That was a great base for us to grow from. Our work is far from done but we are on the right path and will continue to grow digitally.

Any story or project you are particularly proud of in the last year at Channel 2 you’d like to share?

I would go back to Harvey. The staff here at KPRC was incredible. They poured their heart and soul into covering the people of southeast Texas. While most were home dealing with the rising water, my staff was working on covering the storm while worrying about their own families and residences. Our digital coverage was seen around the world and for broadcast we stayed on the air for over a hundred hours during the height of the crisis. There was an endless supply of stories. We were there to answer the phone when a scared elderly woman called for help from her attic trying to avoid rising waters. And we helped first responders rescue residents from their flooded homes. After the rain stopped, coverage of the recovery began and continues to this day. I am grateful for the work of my staff and I am extremely proud of their efforts and the efforts of the other wonderful employees here at KPRC.