Archive for June 2006

Reporters from around the World are converging on Graceland and it’s not even August.

June 29, 2006

Seasoned news people and Evis fans know there are two times during the year that the home of the King will be in the news. His birthday in January and the day of his death in August. The rest of the time the crowds are pretty steady and the horde of national media generally stays away. Friday will be the exception to the rule as the POTUS and the PMOJ converge on Graceland for a tour before heading off to eat barbecue at the Rendezvous downtown. I personally think if they really wanted some great barbecue that they should swing by Interstate BBQ on Third. It’s closer, the food is better and parking is never a problem (although parking is never a problem for the First Limo.) I know the folks at Graceland love the attention that facility will be getting but I know the logisitics of having two of the most powerful men in the world swinging by for a visit has to have more than a few folks practically eating aspirin hand over fist.
When I was down on the river, it was usually the new kid on the block who had to go cover DEW (Dead Elvis Week), but this time around those still wet behind the ears probably won’t be able to get near Graceland. That assignment will be given to the seasoned reporters. Still everyone will manage to get a piece of the reporting pie as there will be “themed-Team” coverage with folks falling all over themselves trying to get that different angle. The only people probably not able to do their regular jobs will be the chopper pilots from Union and down on the river since they’ll be grounded during the visit. At some point someone will have to ask the question if the POTUS and PMOJ prefer ribs wet or dry. I guarantee someone, somewhere locally will ask the question.
Shifting gears, Friday will be the last day of reporting for one of the folks down on the river. Christine Connolly decided to pull the plug on herself and is moving out west to spend some time with her family. CC was always quiet but fun to be around and I thought she did a great job reporting. She will be missed in the newsroom and around Memphis.
And congrats to Amy Spears/Speropoulos. She and her hubby Scott are the proud parents of a baby girl, now about two weeks old. I would bet that she’s already discovered that whoever coined the phrase “Sleeps like a baby”, never had one.


Where are our manners?

June 25, 2006

Somewhere along the way, we seem to have become a less polite society and I’m not sure where the trend started or what caused it. You know what I’m talking about. We’ve had bad drivers for years, weaving in and out of traffic, cutting people off. But the incidents of road rage appear to be growing or perhaps they’rejust getting more publicity. I’ve been driving since the early 70s and I don’t remember too many reports back then of people getting revenge on someone else with a vehicle. Oh, don’t think I don’t get P-Od about some of the driving I’ve encountered and I’ve probably made a few folks mad as well. I’d like to think most of mine are unintentional and I’ve waved sheepishly at someone and attempted to voice an apology when I’ve inched over into their lane when I didn’t see them.
Once when I was trying to find my way around Tampa about 20 years ago I pulled out from a parking lot onto a street. I didn’t see the car coming from my right and when we stopped at the traffic light a half block down the road, the young guy driving, got out of his car, came over and started screaming outside my window. I tried to tell him I was sorry but he ended up spitting on the car window. I think it’s safe to say he had some issues before I showed up in his life.
People in the news business can be rude as well, although for the most part everyone gets along. Sometimes the pressure to get an interview can make the newsies forget their manners. I’ve been there and I know it can happen. I’ve done my share of apologizing for the toes I’ve stepped on. Generally speaking, while news folks are competitive, they get along and don’t intentionally do things to screw up someone else’s shot or interview. Oh, their are exceptions to every rule and there’s always someone out there who thinks the world revolves around him or her. They get a particular delight in being able to say they “busted” someone else’s shot or interview.
In my early days of working down on the river, there was a videographer from the competition who loved to step into everyone else’s shot. He thought he was pretty cool and even hung a large pair of blue fuzzy dice on the back of camera. I heard more than one shooter complain about this guy and they had asked him not to do it. He told them he was just doing his job. One shooter finally taught this guy a lesson at the federal building during a “perp walk” off an elevator. All of the shooters started rolling when the elevator door opened and the “perp” started toward the metal detector. The photogs are all walking backward through the metal detector with the perp walking toward them. When the guy with the fuzzy dice on his camera got into the metal detector, he found his way was blocked by the other shooters behind him and anyone who has ever shot video knows that the metal detector with screw up your video.
It didn’t have to be that way and if the guy had just played nice, everyone could have gotten what they needed and everybody would have been happy.
Yes, you can be competitive without being in someone else’s face. We seem to have forgotten that you can win and be gracious in winning. Of course, that sounds old fashioned and it’s not as much fun as getting into someone’s face. But just remember, even the best of folks and organizations don’t always win. And crow is pretty hard to choke down when its cold.

Was the New York Times considering selling its Broadcast Division?

June 21, 2006

At the end of the day, I like to check on the stock activity to see how much more my NYT stock has tanked. These days it’s like hitting my thumb with a hammer. However I was surprised today in that the stock prices finished UP $1.11. Great news. Perhaps it’s a trend. I hope so but I’ll reserve judgment at this point.
My point in mentioning this is that on the Smith Barney page there was a news item from the Dow Jones Wire Service on NYT. It quoted the Chief Financial Officer Leonard Forman who spoke before a newspaper group. He said that NYT is NOT considering selling its broadcast assets. This leads me to think that perhaps there was speculation that such a move was being considered althought I can’t imagine why. Forman said the Broadcast group provides a solid cash flow and is important to earnings before taxes and interest.
Part of the boost may be attributed to a focus on repositioning for growth by the newspaper and attempts to reinvent itself in the world of information. RSS technology is expected to come into serious play at the newspaper which wants to push itself more on the IT landscape.
So, it looks like the broadcast division is safe for now and I hope that’s good news for NYT stock prices.
Come on stock, baby needs a new pair of shoes!

You gotta love the Memphis political scene.

June 20, 2006

My mother-in-law has been involved in the political and real estate scene in Memphis for decades. She tells me that her associates from Middle and East Tennessee have chided her for years about whacky politics in Memphis. She says she responds that politics in Middle and East Tennessee are boring and that you never know what to expect next from the local yokels in the Bluff City.
The latest federal indictment indicates the acorn apparently doesn’t fall from the tree. Yah, it’s only an indictment but his dad was indicted last year in the same sting. I would guess that MHJr saw this one coming last fall and decided to step down to start making preparations on what was to come. I had heard rumblings on this a while back but had actually forgotten about it until I heard the news on the radio at my mother-in-law’s house.
Let’s see, that makes eleven people indicted with the count standing at two convictions and three guilty pleas. You have to get a scorecard to keep up with things around Memphis.
Thank goodness the mayor of our fine city hasn’t embarrassed us with the latest revelations about his annointment and appointment from God. Oh wait, he’s going to do that boxing match thing with Smokin’ Joe Frazier. I hope hizzoner doesn’t take too many shots to the head. He might start doing some really crazy things if that happens. Don’t get me wrong. I like WW and he’s nice to me on the occasions that our paths cross. Now that he’s set the record as the longest serving mayor of Memphis, I wish he would step down. Where are term limits when we need them.
Yah, things are never boring when it comes to politics in the Bluff City. It’s like the weather. Give it 15 minutes and something different will be going on and you’ll have the folks on TV and radio breathlessly telling you about it as breaking news. You gotta love this town and the shennagins and hijinx the politicians get involved in. The local universities and colleges should have nationally recognized political science courses here. The experts could study local politics for years and not get a handle on what’s going on. It would be a great training ground for folks wanting to wheel and deal in Washington, D.C.

Neither Dan Rather nor CBS gets it.

June 19, 2006

There’s nothing like a divorce to bring out the worst in someone. You can go into it thinking it will work out one way and before you know it, things get ugly and people don’t do what one would expect them to do.
That’s the case with CBS divorcing Dan Rather. Yah, it came to a head over the Bush/National Guard story but it had been building long before that. The bizarre sign-offs (Courage), the bizarre incidents (what’s the frequency Kenneth?) and the bizarre behavior (stepping off set after the tennis tournament ran over). Personally, I found Dan to be stiff and hard to watch on the air. I grew tired of his homespun country witticisms during election coverage. But he was a good reporter and did some great work. He wanted to make it 25 years on the anchor desk at CBS before he stepped down. I could see what he wanted to do. The problem is, he just didn’t know when to quit or step down gracefully after that National Guard debacle.
On the other hand, CBS didn’t do itself any favors either. They had been looking for an excuse to give him the boot. The local affiliates had been screaming for years that Rather was killing them. Fortunately for the network, Rather was given enough rope to finally hang himself or at least trip himself up publicly. But then it seemed like the irresistible force and the immoveable object clashed. IMHO, CBS handled the whole thing in a rather ham-handed fashion. They made a smart move with Bob Shieffer replacing Dan, but it looked like they never had really looked down the road at a possible replacement. Nobody was being groomed to take over. There was no Brian Williams ready to step in. Yah, there was John Roberts and Scott Pelley trying for the job but in the end, it was decided they didn’t have what it took. Maybe the plan all along was to get Katie (Katherine) Couric, but that’s not the way it played out in the public eye. CBS is bragging how KC has already paid for her first year’s salary with a bump in the ratings and the publicity she’s generated and she’s not even on the air yet. But CBS almost appears to have backed into this even if in reality they were marching toward this goal.
Rather who can’t seem to figure out he’s not wanted, won’t fade into the sunset and CBS isn’t helping him much. They’ve made no bones about it that there’s no where to go and would he please leave before KC actually goes on the air.
I have no doubt that Dan wanted to go out with grace like Tom Brokaw did. But it’s too late for that, thanks to CBS and Dan Rather. The divorce is done. CBS has its trophy wife now and Dan has his memories. Neither side has that much to brag about these days.

Would you live in Memphis if you had things to do over again?

June 12, 2006

I was reading on a thread on Shoptalk about what some folks consider to be a good place to live in the U-S besides the two coasts and it made me wonder: Would folks in the TV news business here in the MidSouth move to the Memphis area if they had things to do over again.
There are some folks in the Memphis TV market who grew up here but many more who are transplants. I grew up three hours north of here and if somebody had told me that 30-years later I would live in Memphis I would not only have called that person a liar but a damn liar. In the early and mid 70’s, Memphis was not considered a place to move to. I will admit, even in January 1989, my wife and I were living in Charlotte, NC and we both wanted to go to Nashville and she grew up in Memphis. She went to college in Nashville and I went to school just north of there in Bowling Green, KY. We liked the hills and it seemed like it was slightly cooler in climate and culture.
I have since softened on Memphis. Yah, it has a bad reputation when it comes to crime and rightly so and I have never been in a place where race figures into everything. I remember thinking not long after I got here that politicians on both sides (black and white) played the race card in some form or fashion. The recent federal trial of a former state legislator brought forth the latest allegations. Was racism involved? It’s not for me to say and my opinion really doesn’t matter anyway. In my opinion, the divisive issue of race has hurt the city and kept it from being as great as it could be.
A former ND down on the river told me that not only did the ND not like Memphis, this particular ND said “I would not walk across the street to piss on this city if it were on fire”. I’ve thought about this on occasion since that ND left and another from out of town stepped in to fill that office.
I know there are better places to live and I know there are worse places to live. Memphis has a miriad of problems but so do other cities. But my question remains: Knowing what you know about the city of Memphis, if you had to do things all over again, would you move to the Bluff City area again or would you say no way? I’m just looking for opinions.

Producers are burning out! Alert the media!

June 7, 2006

Wow, the tidbits you can find on the internet.
I ran across a research article about producrs a few days ago in Shoptalk. The research is Angele Anderfuren from the Schieffer School of Journalism at Texas Christian University.
The research says one in five news producers surveyed in Texas at network affiliates is at risk of burnout or is experiencing burnout. It went on to say that almost half of those surveyed scored high on exhaustion and almost two thirds of the participating producers scored high on cynicism with both factors indicating potential burnout problems.
The study found producers who reported feelings of burnout also reported unsatisfactory resources to adequately do their jobs, heavy workloads and a desire to leave their jobs or professions. Women producers (60-percent) were found to be feeling more burned out then male producers.
Younger producers were at higher risk of feeling burnout than older ones. No paticipating producers age 40 or over scored burnout or at risk of burnout. Seventy percent of those in the burned out, at high risk or at some risk categories were in the 20-29 age group. Thirty percent were in the 30-39 age range.
Producers who scored high on “job-engaged, the opposite of burned out, had several common characteristics. All of them said they loved their jobs. They all reported to be at least satisfied with their station’s ethical standards. Eighty percent said they just re-signed their contracts and 60-percent said they produced their station’s late shows (9pm or 10pm newscasts).
The study went on to say stations can manage burnout or burnout risks by offering educational and training opportunties, having satisfactory daily schedules and offering enough vacation time. producers can help manage burnout by seeking additional education and training on their own, as well as paying adequate attention to their life outside of work.

I find that research interesting on a couple of points. It says the older producers are happier but it doesn’t say how many of them there are. I would estimate that their numbers are few. I generally find that news producers in the markets I’ve worked in (Memphis is the largest market) skew toward the 20 to 35 year old range which would also mean they are in the higher burnout category.
It says burnout can be prevented with additional training and education opportunities but again in the markets I’ve worked, most producers rarely leave their desks except for a smoke break or a restroom break. They eat at their desks. I don’t know that they have time for educational or training opportunities.
Besides, there are plenty of people who want to be in the glamorous and high paying world of TV news. If you don’t want to do your job, they’ve got twenty people fresh out of school or in some small market ready to take your place and they don’t have to pay them as much.
Now, stop reading this stupid blog and get back to producing your two shows. Who knows, somebody else may call in sick and you’ll have to help on that show too.