Archive for April 2006

New York Times asking for help & you gotta love this country!

April 27, 2006

My lovely and talented bride keeps a close eye on the stock market and I get a daily report of how the NYT stock is tanking. It’s down about 50-percent since 2002. We bought into it for many years through the employee stock purchase plan. I should have dumped it when I left but foolishly figured it couldn’t go much lower. I was wrong. Now I read where the NYTimes, facing what is called “shareholder dissent and getting flak for bloated executive pay deals” is searching for a “crisis public relations experts.” Apparently the folks at NYT have contacted Knight-Ridder for suggestions on what to do. You may remember Knight-Ridder was recently sold. I guess having leadership able to offer solid direction isn’t an option, so Art and company will attempt to PR their way out of this mess. I hope it works. I’m ready to get out and push it to get it back up the hill so I don’t get left holding the bag if this trend continues.
Meanwhile, with the immigation issue at the forefront these days, I heard something that made me proud to be an American. I was walking the pups and rounded the block in Midtown Memphis where somebody was testing a new house alarm system that was being installed. (The alarm company vans were out front.) Instead of the “whoop-whoop” produced by the sirens, this one spoke amidst the wailing. It warned something like, “intruder alert, intruder alert, intruder please leave immediately”. That was followed a few seconds later by what I believed was the same wording in Spanish. The cycle continued until I was out of earshot. It almost brought a tear to my eye knowing that when it comes to someone breaking into your abode, they will get fair warning and that they can’t say they didn’t understand or forgot that it was illegal to break into someone’s home. You really gotta love this country.

Newby the Weather Dog and Happy Belated Earthday

April 25, 2006

I’ve read that animals can detect earthquakes well before they happen. We’ve got a dog that alerts us to tornado warnings. Newby, one of the Scottish Terriers we rescued and who is the official guard dog at stately Larksmith Manor, started howling Tuesday night around 8:45. Seconds later we started hearing the tornado warning sirens. Newby howls whenever he hears an ambulance or fire truck in the midtown area which means he howls on a frequent basis. But he attempts to do harmony with the wailing of the constant sound of the siren while Mac, our auxillary Scotty, yelps along. We had to call them both in to the house while my wife tuned into the local stations for details on this particular “weathergasm”. As I type this, I hear her complain that the radar pictures have gotten so complicated, she can’t figured out what’s going on. That’s what happens when you’re watching Super-duper Gonad, Viper 3-D Go Get-um multi-color ga-jillion watt radar. I hope we make it through this without any serious damage. I’m sure we will have video at 10pm, but unless the storm hits my house, I plan to be fast asleep.
I also wanted to apologize for not offering any Earthday celebrations over the weekend. I’ve been so swamped with a project that I forgot about Earthday even though my lovely and talented bride manned the booth for Memphis City Beautiful at the Earth Day celebration at Lictherman. She said it was very well attended. Perhaps those who drove up in their gas guzzlers were considering watching out for the planet.
I used to be a stickler about celebrating Earthday. Then I got slammed by a previous news director. I had posted briefly about this several months ago about how a news director down on the river back around 1990 teamed up with the sales department and agreed that the news department would put together a 21 PART SERIES THAT WOULD BE SPONSORED AND WOULD RUN IN THE 6 and 10 NEWSCASTS. I have witnessed births that took less time than it takes for a 21-part series. On top of everything else, the ND resigned a few days after he assigned me to the series. He didn’t give me any direction other than the fact that it should be related to the environment and that I had five weeks to get it done. I started hustling to put together ideas and start shooting. You name it and I probably covered it. It was called Earthwatch. Fortunately for me, a new news director came in about three weeks later and managed to get the whole thing shaved down to 15 parts. That may not sound like a big difference, but it was. You try writing a 21 part series and see if you don’t agree.
I’ve been indebted to that ND ever since.
So Happy Belated Earthday everybody.

Could the clock be ticking already on the ND down on the river?

April 24, 2006

Anybody who has been around the station down on the river in Memphis knows that the ND’s post is considered by many there to be the fast track to a GM spot. Many folks don’t realize that the station on the river is the “flagship” station and many broadcast corporate honcos have offices there. It means the NDs usually go through a cycle after they are hired. First, they have the simple title of ND. Then, if they prove they can play the game and support those higher up the food chain, then they earn the title of Vice President of News for NYT where they learn the secret handshake and get to go to other stations and meet with other corporate types. If they continue to play the game, they get the opportunity to move up to one of the smaller stations as GM where they earn their chops and then get sent on to the other properties. Prior to the current ND, two of the previous four people who held that ND spot got the nod and moved up the ladder with one of those having done quite well. Another proved to be too ambitious and between not being patient and having run afoul of the politics, is now a GM out west at a non-NYT station. Of the two NDs who didn’t make it, both got sideways with the GM in charge down on the river at time. One eventually said it was the best thing to ever happen and has what I consider to be a dream job in the Washington area and the other moved out to the Midwest to be ND at some city in one of those rectangular states.
Having said that, I ran across an interesting read in the Watercooler section of Shoptalk www.tvspy.com that focused on a new anchor in Norfolk, VA. The conversation touched on the various stations and the problems at each and then one mentioned the current ND in Memphis who just arrived in January from the Belo owned station in Norfolk where he was Assistant ND and was well liked.
The poster said “it was very smart of the NYT to hire him and put him at one of their other properties. From what I understand at a well placed source, NYT had and does have a grand plan for Mr. Moore to return to HR after a year or so in Memphis.”
So, for those producers who are lamenting the fact that you’re still short of warm bodies to put shows together and you’re still doubling up on shows, hang in there. You may only have a couple more years to go. In the meantime remember, “death to the evil doers” at whichever station they’re now targeting.

Reality check on the Gulf Coast

April 20, 2006

I just got back from the Gulf Coast where I had a major reality check about the progress since Katrina. It’s like building a castle one grain of sand at a time. I will admit it’s a situation that has been out of sight and out of mind since about December. If you travel around the Waveland/Bay St. Louis area of Mississippi where the hurricane eye came ashore, you will find everything leveled. Everything! I have seen families of five people (a father, mother and three small children) living in a FEMA trailer that has less space than a 10 x 10 room. Debris is piled up high along side the road.
In New Orleans, the houses may be standing but either have to be gutted or torn down after standing in water for weeks. Look around where you live and imagine how much you might be able to salvage from your home if six feet of water stood in your home for several weeks. FEMA trailers can be seen everywhere but there is a Catch 22. They deliver the trailers but will not let anyone live in them until they’ve been hooked to electrical service up by a contractor. Some trailers have been sitting on-site, locked and unoccuppied for six weeks and longer because there is a shortage of licensed contractors. I’m told that if every contractor in the country converged on N-O at one time, it would still take years to get things anywhere back to normal. It’s hard to find restaurants that are open later than mid-evening along the gulf because they can’t find people to hire. Everyone is still working to rebuild their lives.
It’s overwhelming. It’s mind-boggling. If you want a great series for sweeps in May, go to the Gulf Coast where churches are trying to rally volunteers from around the country to help.
They’ll be glad to see you.

More competition on the horizon for local news

April 13, 2006

Nothing like competition to shake things up in TV newsrooms and it appears things will be shaken up in the not-too-distant future. I’ve been told that WPTY is advertising for morning show producers and a photographer to get things working by early August. It’s supposed to be a show with real news and no fluff.
I can remember when Fox 13 cranked up their morning show a decade ago. I think there were a few nervous folks down on the river and I would imagine on Union as well. I think Val and Ron and the rest of the team have established themselves in the morning and probably helped put the competition on their toes. I think a morning show on Union Extended will do the same.

I just can’t listen to the cockpit voice recordings from that hijacked plane on 9/11

April 12, 2006

The big news of the day has been the playing of the cockpit voice recording from that hijacked plane that crashed into a field before it could get to its apparent destination of Washington, DC. I just can’t listen to it. I have muted the TV whenever that segment of the news has come on. It’s not just the flights into the Pentagon or the WTC. I tried to watch the specials that immediately followed the terrorist attacks on 9/11 but I just couldn’t do it. I thought maybe at the time it was because the incident was so fresh in my mind, but even now, I can’t bear to listen to the recordings from the emergency crews inside the WTC or those communications from the doomed aircraft themselves. A feeling of helplessness just washes over me when I’ve heard the brief snippets of communications. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way and maybe one day I’ll get over it. That time is not right now.
Speaking of flying, I flew to Gallatin, TN earlier this week on business and had a chance to look over a small section of the tornado damage from last week. The folks in that area were really quite lucky, even though the death toll reached almost one dozen. The twister left a path of destruction just south of the runway. If the twister have traveled to the north of the runway, a distance of about one mile, the death toll could have been much higher as there are more homes on the northside. Witnesses say it was bearing down on the airport and then veered more to the east at the last minute. It’s all about timing.
One other thing. My postings these days are a little more sporadic than usual. Since April 1st, I’ve been attempting to rid certain areas of West Tennessee of marauding bands of wild turkeys which have been know to use “fowl” talk on a regular basis. We can’t have that. So far, I’ve been unsuccessful at “converting” any turkeys but it’s not for lack of trying. Also, next week, I’m supposed to be out of town for a few days on business, so my postings may be few and far between until I’m back in the saddle full time.

"Perhaps in no other type of news programming is on-air chemistry as important as morning television."

April 11, 2006

“Perhaps in no other type of news programming is on-air chemistry as important as morning television.”
That was the quote from a Los Angeles Times article on the pairing of Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira on the Today Show. The article went on to say that the Today show built its huge winning streak largely on the repartee of Lauer and the departing Couric. When Couric decided to leave, the network brass placed a priority on finding someone who would have that chemistry with ML. They think they’ve found that person. Wow. What a concept. When bringing in somebody to replace an on-air person who is departing, find someone who has chemistry with the current anchors/hosts. Too many times those who do the hiring want to bring in a face for the least amount of money and then tell everybody to deal with it because that’s the way it’s going to be. Hey, people at home aren’t stupid. They see what works and what doesn’t. You can only fake the sincerity for so long before the viewers catch on, especially if the on-air people are together for two to three hours at a time. The article went on to say that people like to see a little good natured ribbing and teasing among the hosts/anchors. It shows the viewers those folks on TV are indeed real people after all.