Say Goodbye to the Outdoor Show in Memphis, and I hope You Aren’t TOO Attached to that News Chopper Either.

Occasionally something crosses my desk that really gets my attention.  This morning was one of those times.  I was asked if I knew that WREG had canceled its long-running News Channel 3 Outdoors Show.  I had not heard that.  Word has it that the axe was dropped Monday afternoon.  The two man crew who made the show happen each week, Jeff Woods and Dan Patton, will go back into the videographer pool for news.  The show, first known as MidSouth Outdoors and also known by some insiders as “The Redneck Roundup” and the “Huntin’ and Killin’ Show” first went on the air back in 1995.  It was based on an extremely popular  show at sister-station WNEP called Pennsylvania Outdoors and was the only locally produced outdoor show in the Memphis area.  Unlike many outdoor shows, this one involved creating a new 30-minute show about 48 weeks of the year.  Those shows were only canceled because of sporting events such as basketball during March Madness.  When the show started, I was actively involved, more so than in the last years where I mainly co-hosted it.  When it first started, Jeff Woods was the videographer, Mark Wright (now an attorney in Memphis) was the producer,  I was the host and we had guests hosts of the show rotate in.  Also the show was shot in the extra studio at WREG.  When Mark Wright left, Jeff Woods took over the role of producer/co-host and Dan Patton was hired as videographer/editor.  We started shooting all the segments including the “Ins” and “Outs”  in the field as well.  The show developed a following and had about as many viewers on the replay at 5:30 Saturday morning as it did in the original time slot of 6:30 Saturday night.  They must still air reruns with me because I still have people telling me that they really enjoy me on “that outdoor show”.

No reason was shared for me as to why the plug was pulled but I’m sure that one will be forthcoming.   I’m also told that two videographers were let go Monday at WREG including Ron Guidry (who had been there since the late 90s and shot sports when I was there).   Not sure if they did that to make room for Dan and Jeff or not.  Anyway, I have a lot of fond memories from the Outdoor Show including two segments I shot with my dad.  One includes the “jumping fish” which I still have people asking about.  Fortunately for Jeff Woods and Dan Patton, they have skills the station can use.  Jeff knows the area inside and out and could still sling a camera on his shoulder when needed.  Dan is a great shooter (perhaps one of the top ones at WREG) but he is an even better editor.  News used to press him in service when they needed special “opens” for their newscasts.   They will do well.  They may not enjoy life as much in news rotation as they did covering the outdoors but “hey”, at least they have jobs.  I think the Outdoor Show will be missed. Moving on.

Times are definitely tough at the Station Down On The River.  I hear rumors that the Big Red News Chopper 3 could find itself on the chopping block.  Yes, choppers are high profile newsgathering tools and they can really make a difference in a big story.  But they are also expensive to fly and maintain.  Apparently we shouldn’t be surprised to see NC3 fly off in the sunset anytime soon.  This comes as WREG’s sister station WNEP announced it is selling its news helicopter.  WNEP, located in the mountains of Pennsylvania and serves the market of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, has had a news helicopter since I first started at WREG.  It actually owns its chopper unlike WREG which leases theirs.  I think having that chopper at WNEP helped make it the dominant news station in that part of the country.  It will be interesting to see how it fares after that whirlybird has flown the coop.

Yes sir, these are tough times…tough times indeed.

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24 Comments on “Say Goodbye to the Outdoor Show in Memphis, and I hope You Aren’t TOO Attached to that News Chopper Either.”

  1. Doug Johnson Says:

    I was under the impression that MSO was nearly, if not completely self-sustaining, advertising-wise. The only reason I could imagine dropping it was if someone truly believes more money can be made by dropping in some type of syndicated programming… That way, any ad revenue past the purchase price of the new show is gravy.

    It’s a shame, really. Outside of news, local stations do very little local production anymore. That seems to indicate a huge disconnect from the communities these stations “serve.” Not that we didn’t already know that most ownership is just in it for the money.

  2. The GM Says:

    It is interesting that the prevailing wisdom is that local programming is the competitive advantage TV stations have on its competitor, yet, stations are cancelling local programs. Short-sighted in my opinion.

    This business will continue to transform. It is important for local stations to understand their brand and deliver that brand over whatever delivery platform is being utilized by the consumer.

    As far as helicopters — waste of money 99% of the time.

    One man bands/VJs/Mojos — check this out. Creativitiy is spawned from dire situations.

    [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TO356cp9tKE ]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TO356cp9tKE

    The GM

  3. joelarkins Says:

    Doug, I too was under the impression that the Outdoor show was self sustaining. Still, in these tough economic times, one should not be surprised at anything that happens. And I think The GM has a good point. This was a source of local programming/local connection that helped the station stand apart from the competition. So much for that effort. And as for OMB/BJ/ that is one clever audition tape that you linked to. This guy is extremely creative. It’s worth checking out.

  4. Sudsy Says:

    Joe Little does have a creative style….with HIMSELF as the centerpiece. I’ve seen reporters (and photogs) with massive egos, but this guy eats AW’s lunch. Too bad he doesn’t have like real people in his resume tape. He ruins an otherwise very technically creative tape. Yawn.

    Although I do agree that VJing will demand a new style of producing the daily package(s). No more cart cut, bite, cart, bite, SU, cart, sig out (script writing by formula); especially for photogs who can’t write and reporters who can’t shoot.

  5. Tom Stocker Says:

    I too am disappointed in learning of the end of MidSouth Outdoors. Still a 14-year run is quite an accomplishment given the state of the local television business now (I now get my local news out of Duluth, MN, yikes.)

    In 1986, my first year away from the station DOTR, I produced a 30-minute fishing show that focused on area lakes. My “star” was Carl Graham. I like to think it was a critical success while it was a tremendous financial flop. I would also like to think that it planted a small seed of an idea at the station to produce its own show.

    Hats off to you, Mark, Jeff & Dan for a job well done. MidSouth Outdoors was major league in every way.

    TS
    Hayward, Wis.

  6. Lead pipe Says:

    Um, I think he was like, “selling himself?” isn’t that what you are supposed to do in a resume tape? I think it shows what “can be done” with a OMB, this kid won’t have trouble moving up the ranks. Sudsy, please share with everyone where we can find samples of your work. I for one, am impressed.

  7. SirBroiler Says:

    Now in Memphis, but I grew up in PA – and indeed WNEP ruled the S/W market. SkyCam16 was their brand in a lot of ways – so it will be interesting to see how they evolve without their beloved chopper. I remember as a kid, they used to hand out snap-together models of the bird – great promotion.

    I think this is just the state of TV news these days – smaller budgets – helicopters are the first to go. It’s also probable that the recent FAA investigations into the Phoenix news choppers mid-air collision and other mishaps have many stations re-thinking the financial and legal ramifications of having their own choppers in the air. Not worth the risk – especially when ratings are going down.

  8. Mike Lawhead Says:

    It is rough times everywhere, folks, from my perspective in the bloodied real estate market! Pleased to learn that my rumored illegitimate son, Bubba Woods, is being retained in the videographer pool. Back in the day (pre-1986!), I remember Bubba foreshadowing his becoming a one-man band, but we thought it would happen much sooner than two decades hence! Break out that clip-on tie, Bubba!

  9. Chris in Brasil Says:

    Joe,

    I’ve got a question, though a bit off topic perhaps. The so-called “Fairness Doctrine.” I can’t find anyone who supports this, besides politicians. Alan Colmes from the former “Hannity & Colmes” show has even spoken openly against this rule coming back.

    My question is this, speaking of locally produced shows in relation to the Fairness Doctrine, will we see a return to shows such as what I remember on WHBQ, “Press Conference” or “The Other Side” as I’m sure there were others on other stations?

    Thanks for keeping the blog, by the way.

  10. Ready camera one. Take two. Says:

    Here’s a can of worms to open up.
    How many female OMBs (OWBs) are there out there?

  11. Doc Pepper Says:

    I was watching Joe Elmore’s ennessee Crossroads the other day. Couldn’t NC# Outdoors be given a new name (Mid-America Outdoors or Hearlands Outdoors) and made a little more regional re-packaged as a show for local stations to use as a Saturday or Sunday filler around the stations in the greater region?

    I mean I can see it filling a gap in a couple of small rural PBS Stations that would draw viewers.

    The show was very well done and I can only think of a couple of shows in the 500 mile radius that approach the entertainment and information of the show.

    I guess my question goes more to is this a managment moment and decision where the baby goes out with the bathwater. I means other than eliminating a videoographer or two to cover other things, the decision really does not make sense. That is if the show pays for itself.

  12. the tall tv guy Says:

    Chris,
    Liberals want the Fairness Doctrine to equal out the radio air time of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and others. A liberal radio network (Air America??) was tried a few years ago, (Al Franken was one of their hosts) and it didn’t last very long. This would drive listeners away and would cause more financial difficulties on talk show radio stations.

    Seems like seniority is now less of a factor when choosing which employees to keep. Pay, personalities, and office politics can factor into the decision. Been there…

    I’m surprised the stations here haven’t used more of the video journalist approach like Jamey Tucker has been doing in Nashville since he left Ch.3. (Some may be, and I haven’t noticed.)

    Looks like the station DOTR is going in more of a basic approach to operate. What show will fill in during that time slot?

  13. Chris in Brasil Says:

    Didn’t mean to hijack the blog. I get the Fairness Doctrine when it comes to radio but wondered if that would bring back shows on television like I mentioned. I realized after I had posted, that I was comparing apples to oranges. Back to your regularly scheduled blog and your host, Joe Larkins…

  14. Lew Says:

    They decided to keep 2 good, longtime, experienced people who were familiar with the area? That’s surely against the current trend in local TV!

    They decided to cut local original programming? That’s more like the current trend, and in my opinion, like the GM, I think that’s a big mistake.

    Stations had better start giving viewers something they can’t get from cable/satellite because if not, there’s no reason to watch. Am I the only one who thinks we’ll eventually see the return of locally produced Dance Party and Romper Room shows? Is Cousin Tuney still available?

  15. Patrick Says:

    Hate to see Midsouth Outdoors go but I guess it is the nature of the beast in this kind of time and place. Have enjoyed it over the years. I remember, Joe, when you did some hunting stories on Saturday morning prior to MSO. You came down to our farm and went duck hunting with my dad and uncle. I think you and Jeff came a couple more times over the years once MSO started.

  16. Paul Says:

    I share Lew’s hope that when all is said and done we’ll see a return to truly local station operations and programming. I’m not optimistic though.

    Most stations back in the day supplemented their advertising income with a full service production department. When not producing local programming, they were producing local commercials at rates affordable to most local businesses. When I started in TV, we produced 90 minutes of live local programming every day before noon. We also produced at least 4 hours of local programming that aired weekly. It all added up to over 11 hours of local programming weekly that was at least 90% local advertiser supported. I believe that all but a rare few stations have all but abandoned the business of local production and have given all of the local production business to outside production companies via expensive ad agencies. We produced local spots at far cheaper prices than the agencies and in many cases the production time came as a throw in with certain levels of time buys. It was a great stimulator of the local economy as most small businesses couldn’t afford big time agencies to produce their spots. That being said, very few stations have hung onto their large studio space needed to produce local spots and shows.

    I agree with Lew in that now would be a really good time for stations to go back to their local roots and give their viewers the one thing that only they can do….local productions. It made stations a lot of money in the past and it can again.

  17. JD Says:

    Hey LEW: An idea! Let’s bring back Bill Anthony and “The Big Beat” on Channel 5!

    Hey don’t forget that Mr. Chuck could go commercial! He could even go back to being “Bugs” Scruggs spinning the records again! (Channel 3 never has had a program like that for the kiddies by the way!)

    Sorry Joe…the nostalgia kicked in :)


  18. We became so fed up with television as a whole, we canceled sat tv here in VA on New Year’s Day 2009, for the very reasons mentioned above. (We can’t get locals here in the mountains) Networks nor local affiliates have a thing to offer anymore. Other than internet, Netflix is all we view these days. We use ITunes to purchase any specific show we might want to see (24 on Fox is the only one BTW)
    Networks & stations have totally lost connection with their viewers and killing shows like MSO confirms it even more.
    -T-

  19. Doc Pepper Says:

    There seems to be a conundrum in TV for the question of how to hold on to viewers.

    Mr Magic (5), Happy Hal (13), Bill Killebrew (13), Looney Zoo (5), The Johnny Scott Show (3), Good Morning from Memphis (3), Wrestling (at various times on 4 diffeerent channels 5-13-24-30), Fantastic Features (13), Lice at 9 (3)Top Ten Dance Party, NC3 Outdoors (3), and Talent Party (13) are examples of local programming in Memphis. The only show outside of news today that is on any station is wrestling on 30 and Live at 9 on NC3.

    I see the networks evolving from a prescribed set schedule into developing and selling local stations new shows independently for a two hour slot nightly. News will be also sold in packages and formats (Today/Good Morning/60 minutes/Fox and CNN reports).

    If stations want to survive and attract local viewers, they are going to have to offer local shows. to fill in the hours in order to make a profit. There has got to me more than local News and local Weather entertainment out there.

  20. Doc Pepper Says:

    I saw Lew (I think it is the same one) at Fancy Farm Picnic. Lew, your misic is great!

  21. joelarkins Says:

    Wow, I’m really impressed at the number of responses that the cancellation of the Outdoor show on WREG has prompted.
    I agree that the loss of the Outdoor show was a big blow and that cutting it is rather short-sighted (IMHO).If a station wants to stand out, it needs something to help it stand out. We can find so much of the canned crap that passes for programming on the internet. But what is there that offers local flavor. Yes, it is NOT cheap but it doesn’t have to be overly expensive either.
    I had suggested before I left of changing the format of the outdoor show so that it had more of regional flavor and could be shown in the other markets covered by the then NYTimes Broadcast group. I thought it was a way to recover out meager production costs and to give the other stations a stab at local programming. That idea was pooh-poohed by the GM at WREG at the time.
    I still think we (they) could have made money on the syndication of the outdoor show.
    And one other thing. Doc Pepper mentioned The Fancy Farm Picnic. Doc, are you from Western Kentucky. Most people have never heard of the FF Picnic, which at one time was a “must stop” place for any politician running for state-wide office in KY. For those not familiar with Fancy Farm, it is a little town of about 300 people in Graves Co. about ten miles west of Mayfield. One of my older brothers used to play there with his band at the picnic and now I find that Lew played there too. Wow, it is a small world. By the way Lew, I mentioned your name to my mother and she said “Oh, I remember him from TV”. She lives about 15 miles west of Fancy Farm so she would have seen you on the tube back in the day. I just wanted to share.
    Regards

  22. Doc Pepper Says:

    Joe,

    The Fancy Farm Picnic is the ultimate gathering! Its like the St Peter’s Picnic in Memphis times 1,000 in size.

    Most churches inthe region have picnics. Most have mutton as a major item. Non have an event as big as Fancy Farm Picnic.

    There is no way to describe the crowd. I could say 10,000 people in the park across from St Jerome. As we were going there, cars were bumper to bumper with us.

    I live south in the Jackson TN regional area, and I never miss one. Best food on the planet, biggest gathering anywhere. I loaded up on Mutton, fresh corn and fresh tomatoes. Anyone reading your blog would love it.

    The closest rival of a big event in that area is the DuQuoin County Illinois State Fair and I guess Paducah’s Barbecue on the River festival.

    We had the country rite of passage routine lunch there: BBQ Mutton, Black pepper (BBQ) Sauce, Corn, Tomatoes, beans, and cornbread on a plate in the Bingo hall with many hundreds eating and many more in line.

    Help me in this, Joe. Mutton is an older ewe or a castrated male sheep. Lamb is usally graded as less than one year of age.

    This year the local population was hazing the seated Republican govenor and senator. There was a rumor Sen Obama was going to show up, but he elected to go that same day to the Urban League meeting instead. There were Obama Signs everywhere in this very rural area. Sen Bunning said (in relation to the conduct of the crowd hazing) he would never go back to the picnic. Of course, we know he has to go back, if he wants to win an election in KY in the future. If there was a barometer of mood of the people, the mood was grade A anger toward the republicans.

    My 85 year old dad wanted me to ask you, are there any restaurants in the Paducah/Mayfield area that serve BBQ Mutton? He wants some mutton. I know it is everywhere in restaurants up in the Owensboro-Morgantown area, but I wondered if the Purchase area had any places that sold Mutton.

    Lew has a blues band. He played the picnic. He had to come onstage after the politicking. Lew is very talented. I hope he gets to the Beale street Music fest one of these days.

  23. joelarkins Says:

    Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever written about castrated sheep on this blog but then there is a first for everything. Contrary what some might say, I have limited experience with sheep. According to the definition:Mutton — a female (ewe) or castrated male (wether) sheep having more than two permanent incisors in wear.
    I really don’t think I’ve had BBQed mutton. I’ve seen it on menus but the way I was raised in Western Kentucky, BBQ is pork. Period. I can tell you I have seen mutton on menus but no place immediately comes to mind. I will check into this and get back to you.
    I used to attend the Fancy Farm picnic. I was not there when George Wallace showed up to politic. This was after he had been shot and had lost a lot of his “vim and vinegar”. But as mentioned, few politicians would consider skipping this, especially if they really needed votes in Kentucky. I guess Obama considered KY a lost cause.
    As for Lew, yes, he’s got talent and I’m glad to see that he isn’t wasting it in TV biz. I look forward to attending one of appearances.
    Regards

  24. Briancraig Says:

    “The only show outside of news today that is on any station is wrestling on 30 and Live at 9 on NC3.”

    Doesn’t channel 3 still produce Knowledge Bowl?


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