WEIRTON - The Weirton Heights Rotary Club celebrated its 20th anniversary with its charter night dinner at Williams Country Club Thursday.
Dino Orsatti, WCDK-FM morning radio show host and West Liberty University adjunct professor, was the guest speaker for the evening. Orsatti, who grew up in Pittsburgh and attended Central Catholic High School there; has 40 years of experience in television and radio journalism and is formerly an anchor for WTOV-TV and WTRF-TV. He also was an adjunct professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville and worked in Pittsburgh television and as play-by-play announcer.
Orsatti spoke about his passion for community-based journalism, his admiration for Golden Age television newcasters such as Walter Cronkite and the changing news industry.
GUEST SPEAKER — Dino Orsatti, WCDK-FM morning radio host, was the guest speaker at the Weirton Heights Rotary 20th anniversary charter night dinner Thursday at Williams Country Club. - Summer Wallace-Minger
He has had the opportunity to meet a variety of people, including presidents, political candidates, sports figures and Nobel Prize winners and has had a front seat during many watershed moments in local history, most recently covering the Steubenville High School rape case, he said.
The changes in the business during his 40-year career have been drastic.
"In radio, when I started it, they were spinning discs," he said, also noting most radio stations were owned locally and there was greater competition and more local involvement. "When I started in the '70s, radio was a lot bigger than it is now. Clear Channel didn't own 10 stations in a single market."
Many journalists are now required to do photography and editing and utilize social media, in addition to reporting and doing more work with less resources, he said.
Orsatti spoke about the emerging role of social media in journalism, observing it can be a double-edged sword - that many news agencies are utilizing it to reach a larger audience, but also noting a misstep or ill-considered tweet or blog post could come back to haunt journalists.
"I don't know that news organizations know what's going on with it, really, because it's so new," he said.
Social media can be a powerful critic, as when Doug Gottlieb, a CBS sports analyst, was heavily criticized for racially insensitive comments during the network's NCAA coverage, Orsatti observed.
"Anyone can do a blog," he said. "It doesn't make you a journalist. If a journalist does a blog, there are very strict procedures."
Orsatti said he enjoys greater freedom in expressing opinions and commentary on radio and of play-by-play radio's demand for creativity and descriptiveness.
"You're under a microscope," he said. "I didn't always care about my appearance as much as the directors and managers did."
Most television stations employ consultants who research markets that study what stories are in the greatest demand, and Orsatti noted the top three are crime, consumer reports and health tips.
"People do want to hear about crime," he said. "People are fascinated by crime. People are fascinated by arrests. People are fascinated by shootings. People don't really care about government."
Orsatti said he personally prefers a mixture of hard news stories, human interest stories and investigative stories.
The growth of social media and the Internet has encouraged the convergence of media, with television stations having longer, more detailed stories on their websites and newspapers employing video stories on their sites.
"Whatever you're doing, you have to find a way to use the web," he said.
Media outlets also are partnering with one another to share content. While some outlets offer their content free and place advertising on their websites, others are experimenting with paywalls - a subscription to web-based content.
Local newscasts are one of the more lucrative advertising time slots, because producing a local news broadcast is less costly than purchasing syndicated programming and stations have more advertising time during local programming. Orsatti noted most network programming included national advertising and a local station would get perhaps two minutes of advertising time for a 30-minute show.
These factors are behind the expanding morning and evening news broadcasts. Orsatti added when he started as a morning anchor in 1995, the morning news was a 30-minute program, but has now expanded to two-and-a-half hours.
Orsatti also spoke about dwindling objectivity in national news organizations, stating he believes many watch such outlets because they affirm what their audiences already believe and want to hear, adding such bias is less likely to occur at local levels.
"They want to watch it, because they like to confirm their own beliefs," he said.