Next With Kyle Clark Hopes to Move Past Soundbites, "Caricature" Local TV News

On Tuesday during a Facebook Live, Kyle Clark, everyone's favorite snowy-patio-furniture-dissing, colorful-sports-jacket-wearing 9News anchor, announced a new project months in the making. Debuting August 5, Next With Kyle Clark will air at 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, after NBC Nightly News at 5:30 p.m. 

It's a departure for 9News — or any traditional local news station, for that matter. In thirty minutes, Clark, who's known for his matter-of-factness, will converse with a guest about the news of the day and dig a little deeper, he hopes, than the one- or two-minute story that's standard in TV news. While Next will surely consume much of his time, he will continue to co-anchor the 9 and 10 p.m. newscasts. 

(Full disclosure: Before Westword, I worked briefly at 9News, where I saw Clark in action. Yes, he is that sassy IRL, and, yes, he does own a lot of sport coats.)

Westword: Tell us about the show. What do you hope your conversation with guests will offer your audience?

Kyle Clark: Because we are booking on news of the day, my goal is to hear from people who don't always have their voices elevated to the center of the conversation, and then to take the people who are frequently at the center of the conversation and to ask them some different types of questions. That's something I've always tried to do at Channel 9. 

We need to get away from soundbite culture. We need to understand that a soundbite is a great place to start, but then if you really want to have a conversation about what's going on in our community, we have to move past that – beyond the soundbite, beyond the press conference, beyond the press release, and have some honest, sometimes difficult or awkward conversations about what's going on and why, and what we're going to do about it.

So no cat videos. 

You chose to announce the show via Facebook Live. What does that say about your target demographic?

I think what it says is that we take our job seriously, but we don't necessarily take ourselves seriously. We didn't announce the show with big graphics and some deep-voice-announcer guy. We announced it with a conversation with people who've been asking about this for years; to go beyond headlines, to offer deeper analysis and commentary, and to make it more of a dialogue with people who are passionate about our communities. And if we're asking people for their time, we'd better be giving them something of great value. Sometimes local news hits that mark, and sometimes it doesn't. 

So is it fair to say that this is a departure from bread-and-butter TV journalism? 

I don't think so. This show strives to highlight and do more of what local news does best, and to part ways with some of what's made local news a caricature. If you look at some of the most successful programming out there in recent years, it has been a caricature of local news. That should cause us to re-examine what we're doing. There's so much great work being done, but if we're known for the stuff that's not fantastic – and that, honestly, those of us in the business are tired of, as well – it's time to start doing less of that and doing more of what matters and what viewers are connected with. 

While newspapers across the country are cutting their staff, 9News is creating a new show. What does TV know that print journalism doesn't? 

I've never thought about it in those terms. Honestly, if I had the means and the ability, I would go out and hire twenty print journalists to work for the show tomorrow, because they have the knowledge and they have the experience in our community that is desperately needed. When print journalism suffers, we all suffer.

We are at a point where we can move past our traditional concept of competition. I would rather someone watch a competitor than not watch or read any news. Our competition these days is anything people can be doing with their valuable time other than consuming great journalism. 

But it seems like local TV stations – and networks in general – are also competing with online-only streaming services like Netflix and HBO Go. How do you keep up with consumers' taste when they seem to be moving away from television?

It seems like a good first step would be getting people what they tell us they want. Again, our competition is anything people can be doing with their time. We need to respond to peoples' desire for more analysis, more thoughtful commentary, more explainer journalism. People are absolutely still interested in news. We have to evolve to meet their needs. 

We're also moving past the age where we need to be all things to all people. There are going to be people who really don't like Next, and that's okay. But the idea that local TV news should never offend or turn off anyone and therefore attract anyone, well, we know that's not true. What if we can just try to meet the needs and desires of people in our community and see if that can develop and sustain a following? 
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Ana Campbell has been Westword's managing editor since 2016. She has worked at magazines and newspapers around the country, picking up a few awards along the way for her writing and editing. She grew up in south Texas.
Contact: Ana Campbell