Now This Is What Television Does Best!

I got an email over the weekend asking me what my take was on the coverage of the big fires in downtown Memphis. For those of you outside the viewing area, a historic church in the downtown area caught fire and the embers from it were spread by the wind to several other places in the downtown area. The Memphis Fire Department had its hands full fighting the blazes which destroyed the church and caused a lot of damage elsewhere.
The TV stations had their hands full trying to make sense of what was going on for those tuning in 6:30 as I did around 6:30.
I skipped through the channels to see what everyone was doing and I can say that the news choppers finally earned their keep on this one. There’s nothing like seeing it up close and personal from the air and they gave a great perspective. The stations without helicopters used tower cams to help their coverage but there’s nothing like a chopper view. I admit there was some initial confusion on my part as to what was going on but some on-air folks familiar with the downtown area helped clarify things by saying this building housed this business and that building is where so-and-so was located.
The bottom line: I ended up with more details the next day from the newspaper but TV had the pictures during the fire that made me stop and stare at the screen. The overall coverage in the morning is what TV does best and Memphis TV folks should pat themselves on the back. From what I saw, everyone did a good job of doing what they are supposed to do with breaking news.

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15 Comments on “Now This Is What Television Does Best!”

  1. John Says:

    I agree, Joe, for once Memphis TV did a great job in covering what was a truly historic event in our city. Both 3’s and 5’s chopper shots were great, though 13 had an awesome perspective too from their downtown tower cam. They had some breathtaking live shots of their own around 5:30 or 5:45. The morning shows really lost some ad revenue though I’d imagine, all were doing uninterrupted coverage from about 5 until a little after 7:00 (8:00 in 3’s and 13’s case). In Memphis that kind of coverage is rare except for severe weather. 24/30 got a good rehearsal for their morning show as well. All of the area stations definitely deserve some kudos for Friday Morning. And speaking of the newspaper, Saturday’s CA was a keeper.

    I must ask Joe, is it mornings like Friday that make you wish you were back in the morning anchor chair, or make you glad you’re away from it?

  2. Joe Larkins Says:

    I was actually pondering your question when I first saw the fire coverage Friday morning. I think the breaking news coverage of the morning made me miss it. The later coverage of the day(which I didn’t see but can guess what it was about) I did NOT miss. This was the stuff I’m sure was labeled TEAM coverage where crews were sent out to the point they were falling all over themselves trying for an exclusive. Too often there is the effort to provide something indepth and there is no time available to do it justice. That part I do not miss.

  3. John Says:

    Thanks for the response, Joe. It really would have been nice to see you on Friday morning (not bashing 3’s coverage at all fwiw)

    And yes, you hit it on the head about the coverage during the afternoon and evening. “Team Coverage” was used ad-nauseum of course. And everybody had to brand the coverage in their own unique and dramatic way with special openings and all. “Downtown in Flames” and “Downtown Destruction” were two of the coverage brandings I saw. Some of the late day coverage was good but most had become overkill and repetition by that time. I didn’t see any major exclusives but I’m sure they were trying, especially Mr. Birch and Mr. Ransom who were dispatched to anchor on-location.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    joe,
    choppers made that story. 13 did have some good shots but choppers were all over it. our anchors were weak but five did a good job. andy did well and george brown was all over it. that was live tv at its best no matter what station you’re at. ck

  5. Anonymous Says:

    One thing they were slow to do that would have been helpful to those who work downtown is ‘splain how traffic was going to be screwed up, put up a map for instance locating the various burning structures. Nobody put up a map, and only 5 bothered to mention street closures and that wasn’t until way late in the rush hour….I had to spend precious a.m. time looking up maps online to figure out an alternate route as my coffee-deprived brain could not visualize where things were burning.

  6. newsboyarizona Says:

    The helicopter shots definitely made that story. The station DOTR’s 10-year investment finally paid off big time.

    I, for one, thought the initial images were amazing and creepy at the same time. They almost invoked a feeling similar to the live coverage on the morning of 9/11. It was almost as if downtown Memphis had been bombed.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Baloney on the chopper shots. Did they look good? Of course. But were the real stories and the real people on the ground? Of course. Local TV seems to think we “grunts” are blinded by technology. However, the best storytelling this day did NOT come from the stations with “choppers”. They came from the bodies on the ground. But, the arrogance of some stations abounds and will never change.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    we’re talking about the initial coverage of the fire as it was breaking. then ground crews provided info and choppers the best vid. later it was all about the people on the ground, no doubt!

  9. Anonymous Says:

    joe,
    check out 5 at noon Tuesday

  10. Joe Larkins Says:

    Now that’s a tease if there ever was one. I will TIVO it since you have piqued my interest.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Gee Willickers Joe, look what you started……”Breaking News” lead in on just about every channel. Anna Nicole Smith, Lost Dog, Major Drug Bust, Old People Rousted By Police By Mistake.

    Cut it out big guy, you are influencing these local stations. They read your blog too!
    ………..JD

  12. John Says:

    So, what was the big deal about 5’s noon newscast Today? Unless I missed something, and I might possibly have, I didn’t see anything special worth watching it for. Certainly no debut of their new look supposedly in the works.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    john said…

    So, what was the big deal about 5’s noon newscast Today? Unless I missed something, and I might possibly have, I didn’t see anything special worth watching it for. Certainly no debut of their new look supposedly in the works.

    1:18 PM

    (sniggering) LOL!!!!!!

  14. John Says:

    Anonymous, I think I misunderstood your original post asking Joe to watch 5s noon news. Were you pointing out the fact that the anchors would be anchoring the news in an obvious temporary setting, in front of a nighttime skyline of Memphis, during NOON news?? I thought perhaps you might have been hinting that the new set and graphics would debut Noon Tuesday. They’ve been in that setup they were in today at noon (and all other newscasts) since the last week in September. As Joe’s latest post says, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s going on there despite having not heard a peep from them about any changes.

    Hopefully I got it this time and there is no more misunderstanding, lol. Sorry about that. If I’m still misunderstanding, then just ignore me from here on out! 😉 At any rate there was no obvious change to me from previous Noon newscasts the last several weeks, unless I really missed something somewhere (I did miss the first half hour of it).

  15. Anonymous Says:

    please don’t post this direct message but the set reveal was delayed.


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