Archive for February 2006

H-D T-V spells bad news for A-N-C-H-O-R-S

February 27, 2006

I’ve been chatting with some folks recently about HDTV and how soon local news in the Bluff City might be converting. Yah, the stations are broadcasting some programs in High Def but as I understand it, we shouldn’t expect to see local news in HD just yet. Those who have HDTV already tell me the difference is incredible. Those who have seen network news anchors in High Def say it’s more than a little surprising. Apparently viewers are able to see every pore and poorly done make-up job that’s out there. It’s apparently redefining what kind of make-up is used and how it’s applied. Back in the day, I used to apply some pancake to cover my beard and on the advice of a consultant put some light colored stuff called “erase” around my eyes. I was told I had deep set eyes and this would bring them out. I never noticed any difference.
But some are now suggesting that anchors get a good look at themselves on camera in the studio before they go on the air. Quickly slapping on some makeup apparently won’t cut it on HDTV. It’s a bigger deal in the studio than in the field where the lighting is usually neither as good nor intense and news people aren’t on camera as long. Knowing the vanity of some on camera folks, a pimple or a hangover might end up being a reason to call in sick.
When arrives locally, viewers will find that news people have flaws afterall. Who knows, maybe more on-air people will be slathering on “Preparation H” around their eyes to shrink the bags or using teeth-whiteners to make those pearly whites really glow.
But, I think we’re still a few years away from worrying about that.

Non-competes: You either love em or hate em.

February 26, 2006

(If you see extraneous symbols in this posting, please let me know. Thanks in advance)

I see in Shoptalk www.tvspy.com that an anchor in Rochester, NY is going to court to challenge her non-compete clause with her former employer. In a story in the Rochester City News, the former reporter who is a native of the city, wants to stay in the area to work. Her non-compete doesn’t allow her to work in the market for a specific period of time. Legislation has been introduced in the state to make such non-compete clauses illegal. So far, four other states; Arizona, Illinois, Maine, and Massachusetts, have taken such efforts. It seems to me that a measure was proposed in Tennessee and in North Carolinaa few years ago, but both were basically shot down.
In some cases, non-competes have been waived. Such was the case here in the Bluff City when a couple of folks were let go from one station in recent years. They hired on at the competition not long after.
However, if the anchor or reporter decides to NOT work anymore at a particular station, that station tends to enforce the non-compete. If another station really wanted somebody, they’d pay off the non-compete. I think we’ve come close to seeing that a couple of times in the Bluff City, but it’s never happened. If you qualify as talent, most stations require you to sign a contract which includes a non-compete clause. In some cases, producers and videographers in Memphis have been required to sign non-competes. You don’t sign, they don’t hire. In my limited experience, non-competes are generally not negotiable. Some attorneys will tell you the non-compete can’t be enforced. But those who would challenge it are generally jobless with no way of paying the legal bills and I think it’s safe to say the station involved would love to make an example of someone as a warning to otherswho would dare to challenge them. Stations also tend to have deeper pockets and are ready and willing to throw a pack of attorneys on the case.
Hey, if you sign it, you should honor it unless it goes overboard and some of them do.
Both sides can present good arguments. The station will argue that they have invested a lot of money in a person in the way of promotion and salary. They say they don’t want to do that if that person can waltz across town to the competition. They also contend they didn’t force anyone to sign a contract with a non-compete clause. The talent on the other hand will argue that they should be free to shop their skills around and that not being able to do so stifles competition in the labor market. But I will have to say the most interesting argument against the non-compete comes from union lobbyist Tom Carpenter of New York who was quoted in the Rochester City News as saying, “It really does compress wages in the industry. With a non-compete clause, reporters and anchors can’t really negotiate to find out what the market will bear for their services.” Carpenter, director of legislative affairs for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists by the way is a primary person behind the pending legislation.
It will be interesting to see what happens to this case in New York. Will It have a ripple effect this far south? I’d really be surprised if it does. I expect to see non-competes enforced for a long time in this neck of the woods.

Hey, s**t happens and I think we’ve become desensitized!

February 23, 2006

I got a call this week from a former co-worker residing in Nashville where he works as a religion reporter for the ABC affiliate. He asked me what I thought about saying the S-word on a piece he was planning to air as early as Sunday night at 10pm. I laughed at first and then he told me the context of how it would be used and why it was being used. It’s a great story. Apparently he and the ND and GM at the station had a spirited debate about this and he’s moving forward with the story. The word WILL be bleeped, especially in light of the fact that the FCC now says “the word s**t will be reason for a crackdown. Jamey tells me he also got a call from the Howard Stern radio show about the story and that he was interviewed for a segment that I assume will be aired Friday morning. If you listen to Stern and hear the interview, please tell me how it went.
I don’t want to steal any of his thunder on this thought provoking story. I hope it is posted on the WKRN website after it airs. If you want to read about the discussion, go to his blog at www.faithandethics.com or that of his GM at www.wkrngm.com/ .
Along those lines, I will admit it. I have a dirty mouth. Perhaps it was so many years in the newsroom where people used to smoke and swear almost as often as they took a breath. Yah, the smoking went by the wayside, but generally speaking, the language around a newsroom is not something to be proud of. And it’s not just a guy thing either. I know of a few females around the newsrooms who could make a sailor blush with their language. I once asked one woman if she ate with that mouth. It was pretty bad. Down on the river, we had one person in the newsroom no one ever wanted to be caught swearing around. Her name is Ms. Rachel. She’s a kind and sweet hearted woman and it took a lot of effort on her part just to say “oh poop!” I admit I let a few things slip around her but generally it was like saying a dirty word in front of your mom. You just didn’t do it.
But it’s not just around newsrooms that the language is bad. You hear it on music videos, you hear it on adult programming, you hear it at ballgames. I once had to ask a college student sitting next to me at a football game to please watch his mouth. I thought he was going to give me some lip about it, but he apologized and said he would.
Maybe the language thing is just part of our culture. It seems we don’t care about the other person we may be offending or maybe we think its impressive. It’s not. I once got caught uttering a few dirty words in front of my grade school basketball coach, Mr. Sullivan. He told me a person who has to resort to swearing in conversation doesn’t have much of a vocabulary.
You know, he’s right.

Black History Month revisited

February 23, 2006

A while back I posted about Black History Month and whether it was really needed. I appreciate the folks who responded as they offered some interesting observations. I also posted about how I wished someone would do something different than listing the same old, same old on the obvious black leaders we all know about. Well, somebody has and I’ve been meaning to post on it. If you watch Spike TV, you will see vignettes featuring black men and women talking about people who have made a difference in his or her life. One guy talked about the man who cut his hair who taught him things about life, even how to run a business. Another man was a dentist who talked about who mentored him. Great stuff. I wish something like this had been done locally. The spots are well done and it brings it home in a way that it really means something. Local heroes if you will who’ve made a difference.

I actually watched some of the Olympics, alert the media!

February 23, 2006

Wow, I finally saw some of the Winter Olympics. It was part of the curling competition. Why was I watching? Because I mis-punched the remote control trying to get to the Weather Channel. I will admit, curling ranks right up there with watching ice melt, but there’s something about seeing four grown people doing what they do in curling that just captured my attention. One person slides the curling stone down the ice toward the target area while two others sweep in front of the stone to speed it up and turn it if necessary. I bet they sell a lot of beer at these competitions. Okay, the reason I kept watching was because it involved the USA against the Canadians. I only saw about ten minutes of the competition and had to leave.
From what I’m hearing, a lot of people are NOT watching the Winter Olympics and that’s costing NBC and its affiliates in a big way. I remember back in the 1980 Winter Olympics when the Team U-S-A Hockey Team won everything. I had never even seen hockey until the “Miracle on Ice”. It was “must see” TV. It helped draw me in to watch several of the other competitions as well. They used to have catchy theme music and it was fun to watch. Maybe it was when they started staggering the Winter and Summer games. Whatever the reason, the Olympics just don’t inspire me anymore.
One final note on Winter Olympics. Back when I was down on the river working the morning show, we used to record a daily promo to run during 10 o’clock news. I got permission from the ND at the time to write a promo that would run all month during the Winter Olympics taking place in Nagano, Japan. I wrote the promo, and called a person at the University of Memphis who translated into Japanese for me and helped me spell it out phonetically. Then I put it into the prompter and had English subtitles made. The morning team (made up of Marybeth Conley, Todd Demers, Joey Hadley and me) then spoke Japanese during the promo with the subtitles displayed underneath. I’ve still got a copy of it and if I could figure out how to post it and link to it, I’d show it to you. I will admit it’s funny to hear Japanese in a Southern accent.

The new ND down on the river gets a thumbs up from some of the troops!

February 20, 2006

The guy at the helm of the news department down on the river gets some good reviews from some of the folks who work for him. Bruce Moore, formerly of WVEC in Norfolk has been at the helm of WREG since the last week of January. He’s described by his former co-workers as a real journalist who worked his way up through the ranks in his former newsroom. Word on the street in the Bluff City is that he’s actually trusting his people to go out and do news. This contrasts with the past couple of NDs who spelled out exactly how they wanted reporters to cover things. I’m hearing that instead of micro-managing the product from the office, Moore is allowing reporters and videographers to go forth and cover things, trusting their judgement in the field. What a concept. I’m hearing it’s a welcome change. On top of that, I’m hearing he TALKS to his people and acts like he’s actually been in the field. That’s making for some happy campers down on the river who appreciate it. And as you well know, a happy newsroom is a more productive newsroom, especially in the long run.

The Weather folks are two for two and I didn’t win the Powerball lottery again.

February 19, 2006

The luck of the Irish hasn’t been with me this weekend. First, I really wanted the weather folks to be wrong about the winter storm in Memphis and the MidSouth over the weekend. My reason was not so I could rag on them. I wished they hadn’t been right merely because it kept me from getting outside to travel. But they nailed it and I tip my hat to those who sold it as it was and didn’t over-hype it. You know what I’m talking about. Those who would try to scare the bejeezus out of the good folks here in the MidSouth. It was winter storm, plain and simple. It could have been a lot worse.
That’s all I have to say about that.
I will admit I bought one lottery ticket over the weekend. One dollar is all I spent. This after reading not too long ago that when the stakes get as high as they did, buying more than one chance really doesn’t improve your odds if winning that much more. Some might say it’s still a shot in the dark, but hey, if you don’t buy at least one ticket, you have NO chance of winning. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.