Archive for November 2006

A Former Employee from Down On The River is Back on the Air and a Viewer Speaks Out About These News Choppers

November 30, 2006

It’s deja vu all over again in Memphis with a guy who used to work at WREG getting back on the airwaves. Joey Hadley signed on this morning with WPTY to do traffic updates. I chatted with the former deputy Joe Wednesday night and he was excited to be back in the traffic saddle. He’s doing this gig in addition to his boxing/fitness training program in East Memphis. (A word of caution here. Turn down your speakers a bit if you go to his website.) I tuned in this morning to see how Joey did. He appeared to be a little nervous around the 7:25 cut-in but give him a few days and he’ll be fitting right in. They even decided to let him wear his signature loud patterned shirts. For those not familiar with Joey’s attire, when worked in radio he used the moniker “Deputy Joe with your traffic info”. This flowed well since he worked for the Shelby County Sheriff’s department at the time. He wore his uniform minus the sidearm when he first started doing traffic DOTR. It was his involvement in local politics that prompted calls for him to switch over to civilian attire. Somehow Joey wearing a coat and tie didn’t look right as he did traffic and he was encouraged to switch to casual shirts which later evolved into outlandish and bold prints. Eventually the powers that rule DOTR told him to can the loud shirts and they got him some NewsChannel 3 shirts. By that time JH was falling out of favor with the GM and ND and they were looking for reasons to can him. He finally left and I can tell you I missed working with him on the air and we had a number of viewers who missed him as well. Good to see him back in the traffic seat.

And speaking of traffic, I got an email last week from a person who lives in East Memphis and was commenting about WREG and WMC using their newschoppers early in the morning for traffic. This woman said and I’m quoting now, “I pray it’s only for the sweeps. I find myself waiting until daylight to venture outside and feed the dog. Being a Memphian for 20+ years I know that choppers in the air means the MPD is looking for a ne’er-do-well. Unfortunately I live west of I-40/240 junction out east, a very popular traffic reporting spot.”
I don’t know if the two stations were only flying the choppers during sweeps or if this is a full time thing. With the cost of flying running about 500 bucks an hour, I can see that burning through the budget pretty quickly. Perhaps since it’s close to the end of the year the folks in charge found they had a little extra that needed to be spent and decided to do so, especially since it gets dark earlier in the evening and those chopper shots aren’t as spectacular in the fall and winter as they are in the spring and summer.

I can appreciate what the emailer was thinking. The Friday after Thanksgiving, my lovely and talented bride and I were driving out to Collierville to visit her stepmother and we saw a news chopper hovering over the Nonconnah/Houston Levee interchange. My first thought was, ” Oh great, something really bad has happened out here. It’s either a bad wreck or some kind of road-block”. Then as we got closer we figured that it was during the Noon hour and the chopper was hovering over that huge shopping center. IT WAS THE FIRST DAY OF THE HOLIDAY SHOPPING SEASON! Man, how quickly one forgets what gets reported EVERY YEAR right after Thanksgiving.

And finally, it appears Peggy Phillip will be staying in the Memphis area to pursue something in the TV/news business. That information came from the Commercial Appeal. Perhaps she will restart her blog again.

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ROLL THE BREAKING NEWS OPEN!!! The Pegster Pulls the Plug on Herself at WMC

November 28, 2006

Peggy Phillip is officially leaving as News Director at WMC. PP told me by phone she is stepping down at the end of the year. For those who have been around the market, Peggy was one of the first of the female NDs in the market and at one time during her tenure at least three of the TV newsrooms in Memphis had a woman at the helm calling the shots. When Peggy arrived, she didn’t speak softly and she carried a big stick, making a lot of waves and in the process, stepping on a lot of toes. She always had her opinion about a lot of things and if you were in doubt, all you had to do was ask and she would share. I know the former female ND DOTR absolutely hated her. Not just dislike her but hated her and was incensed that some of us in the NC3 newsroom admitted that we read Peggy’s blog. On the topic of her blog, Peggy laid it out there on a regular basis. It always made for interesting reading. I never found out her source in the NC3 newsroom but I swear there were times it seemed they had Peggy on a conference call. She found out things almost as soon as it happened.
Predictions immediately started last summer when Howard Meagle resigned as GM that Peggy was right behind him. As usual, Peggy didn’t do what people predicted. And Peggy says she still loves the news business so I expect to see her pop up somewhere else. In the meantime, the big question is: who will replace her. Perhaps the GM (who has a news background) has somebody in mind. Now the folks on Union get to play the waiting and guessing game that the folks DOTR did last December when Michele Gors called it quits.
I’m not sure just how many years you were in the saddle at the station on Union but it sure was longer than the 18-24 months that most news directors last. Plus, the competition always knew you were there.
So Good Luck and So Long Peggy. People will be talking about you for years to come.

Could One of the Marquee Reporters from Down on the River be Planning to Leave and The Issue of VJs Really Gets Things Stirred Up.

November 27, 2006

I got a post during the long Thanksgiving weekend suggesting that maybe Andy Wise was unhappy at the station Down On The River and was thinking about leaving. That was the first I had heard of it and perhaps its true, I don’t know. I do know this about Andy: You pretty much always know where Andy stands because he’s not afraid about telling you. If Andy responds to something like the postings on my blog, he is willing to put his name to what he writes. Not everyone has the intestinal fortitude to do that. Granted, that has sometimes backfired on AW but again you always know or have a pretty good idea where he stands on something. Some say it’s confidence, while others say its arrogance and still others say its belief in his convictions. I say perhaps it’s a combination of all three. But like him or not, he’s probably one of the best known TV reporters in the market and his work is easy to promote. I can tell you the other stations probably wish he would leave and unless they’re cutting salaries DOTR, the management should hope he doesn’t.

If you really want to stir up a hornets nest among those in TeeVee Nooze, mention your shop is considering going to a VJ operation. In the Watercooler section of TVSpy, the topic of VJ= OMB has generated 387 posts as of Monday morning. Granted there are some folks who post five or six times but that is still a lot of postings on one topic. I know Jamey Tucker, Faith and Ethics reporter for WKRN in Nashville loves the Video Journalist gig. He’s told me it works well with the type of topic he covers and has even declined a videographer at least once when offered one on a big out of town story. He will tell you that the VJ concept doesn’t neccesarily work as well on breaking news coverage and that ‘s when his station often puts a traditional two man crew on a story anyway. JT is a supporter of VJs and likes the freedom it offers and how the concept is applied at his station in Nashville. Now if the management at a TV station uses the VJ concept to only save money and replaces ALL two man crews with OMBs (one man bands) and tells them like it or leave it, that’s a different story altogether and I think that is shortsighted. Some stories just need a two person crew.

So, are we any closer to seeing the VJ concept put into place here in Memphis? Earlier this year I had heard some rumblings that Raycom was thinking about it. I still think the VJ thing will enter this market and to some degree it already has. Two long-time videographers/producers at the station DOTR have done something akin to this for years. Mike Suriani has put together some outstanding news pieces and long-form videos by himself. Yes, he will get some on-air folks to voice things on occasion but in the past has done the voice work himself too. Then there is Dan Patton, videographer, editor and producer for the outdoor show. He’s proven he is quite capable of putting together a couple of five to seven minute pieces for that weekly half hour show and does that 50 weeks of the year. Granted neither of these are remotely considered “breaking news” pieces but then, in my opinion, the VJ type concept is not for breaking news either.

Something to Be Thankful for this Thanksgiving!

November 21, 2006

I used to think there was no such thing as truly bad publicity. As a former ND down on the river once said, “I don’t care what someone says or writes as long as they get the call letters right.” Well I’m not so sure the initial decision by News Corp (Fox) to air this OJ Simpson interview prior to the release of his new book was anywhere close to a smart decision. For those who have somehow missed it, The Juice was hypothetically explaining how HE would have whacked his wife and her boyfriend IF he had done it. I won’t and don’t make any bones about it. I think he did it and it was only by throwing a huge amount of money at lawyers that OJ was acquitted. Let me say I always liked OJ. I watched him play pro football and loved watching him in the Police Squad movies. Heck, I even liked him in the old rental car commercials. Now, I just wish he’d go away and play golf or do whatever and stay below the radar screen. I feel the same way about Robert Blake. I always enjoyed Blake as an actor as well but now, just go away.
I don’t know who came up with the idea of the book and/or interview for Simpson. It was a bad idea and I don’t know that anyone could really say it was a good idea. Oh, don’t think for a minute that some folks out there wouldn’t tune in. It’s kind of like a car wreck on the road. Morbid curiosity prompts drivers to rubberneck. Thank goodness this mess got cleaned up in time.
My faith (to some degree) has been restored when it comes to what passes as programming on television. It’s something to be thankful on this week of Thanksgiving.

The MidSouth Emmy Nominations are IN

November 20, 2006

Congratualtions to the folks here in the Memphis area who are up for Regional Emmy awards. WHBQ’s Fox 13 News is up for eleven awards including News Excellence, and Newscast/Daytime category. Fox 13 also has nominations in the General Assignment Reporting category, Promo/Spot News, Promo Campaign/News, Promo Campaign Program, Audio, Director/Short Form, Editor Short form, Writer/Short Form , Graphic Arts and Photography/Short Form.
WPTY is up for four: Weekend Newscast, Human Interest, Investigative Reporting and Community Service.
WREG has nominations in the Specialty Assignment and Community Service. Running Pony, made up of a number of former WMC news folks is up for four Emmys: Sports Programming/Series, Public Affairs, Special Event/Edited, and Commercial Spot. Congratulations to those up for an award.

Some will tell you that Regional Emmys are a lot like the way the Office of the Vice President of the United States was once described: Not worth a bucket of warm spit. I’m not sure that I would agree with that. First, I never won an Emmy and I wanted to. I thought the Outdoor Show I worked on at the Station DOTR had a good shot on three different occasions. We didn’t win. I was later told by a former news director DOTR who had won several awards in Nashville and in Tampa that the key to winning an Emmy had a lot to do with how you set up your presentation to the nomination committee. Also, having sat in on judging these awards I discovered that the luck of the draw was important and if a nomination was viewed early or late by judges. My judging expereince worked like this: The ND asked for volunteers to look over the nominees and help judge them. The ND promised to provide pizza and this would take place after the six o’clock news. Understand the first entries were being viewed by people who had already worked a full day and now were gorged on pizza. The first entries got more viewing time and by the time the last entries were viewed, we were all tired and ready to go home so we just started rushing through the entries. It may not sound fair, but that’s the way it happened. Don’t know if that kind of thing happens everytwhere but it did DOTR.
The other thing about winning Emmys is the promotional aspect, especially in the “News Excellence” category. We won that honor one year DOTR and I swear the promo ran in every other commercial break. Even viewers began to complain about it.
So yes, winning an Emmy is a big deal unless you didn’t. Then it’s not that big of a deal. But who hasn’t seen that nice little award sitting on somebody’s desk and not thought “Man, wouldn’t that be nice sitting on MY desk”. Good luck to everyone in the running.

A Return To the Golden Age of Television…I Don’t Think So.

November 16, 2006

Wow, Nothing worse than getting your blog knocked off for a couple of days and then some big news erupts in the broadcasting business.
First things first, the news from Clear Channel. CC announced plans to sell 448 radio stations (those outside the top 100 markets: it has 1150 radio stations) and all 42 of its TV stations located in what it calls 24 small and mid-sized markets. To give you an idea of how big this company is, the corporate mouthpiece says these properties contributed less than 10-percent of the company’s revenues last year.
Anyway you cut it, that’s a whole lot of broadcasting property going on the market. I would think it’s become something of a buyer’s market with a glut of stations hitting the block. And while I admit I don’t know the subtleties of buying a station, I would imagine that having a lot of stations to choose from might help drive down the premium prices that some are asking for in other broadcast groups. Mr. GM, perhaps you could weigh in on that for me.
The news from CC had some posters on a TV chat site talking about how the day of the bean counters is over and that we’re about to enter a new Golden age of television. I hate to be the bearer of bad news because I don’t think that will happen. First, defining the so-called Golden Age of TV really depends on who you ask. Some will say it was in the 50’s and 60’s while others will say it was 70’s and 80’s. Ask a dozen people and you’ll get a dozen answers. The point is, at one time a TV station and even radio stations were considered a license to print money. That’s why corporations began buying them up in the first place. Then, in the early 80s, cable and satellite started scratching for a foothold and creating competition along the way. We went from three channels to a whole bunch over the next 26 years and stations that once had their pick of advertisers now are willing to do whatever they need to do so a client gets “added value” for their media buy. That’s one of the reasons TV stations are forming alliances with newspapers these days. They’re doing anything to get an edge on the competition.
Some say they can’t wait to have local ownership again. I say “Be careful what you ask for”. I think there will be some stations snapped up by local groups and then you will really see the budget axe fall on some of the big dollar folks in the newsroom and management. I think it will become a bloodletting of biblical proportions if and when a coporate group without deep pockets buys a few stations. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there will be a handful of stations out there bought by some kindly person who likes to throw out the money. It can be done if you’ve got a good manager who keeps spending in check. But then, isn’t that what the beancounters have been doing all along?
And now to the potential buyers of the Station DOTR and its sister stations.
According to Jamey Tucker, who always has a great source of information, three groups are apparently showing interest in the NYTimes broadcast group. Gray Television, LIN TV Corp. and Gannett. I know several folks had kept their fingers crossed that Hearst-Argyle would show an interest. To my knowledge, they haven’t. If I were still DOTR, Gannett would be the one I would root for. LIN and Gray would follow in that order. Regardless of which one it is, one of the toughest parts is just waiting. Most of the worker bees know they don’t have the option of a golden parachute like a few of the manager types within the broadcast group.
Christmas might be a bit on the lean side this year as some worry if they’ll have a job after the first of the year.

Joe, Where Did You Go With That Blog in Your Hand!

November 16, 2006

Great Jumping Jehosaphat!
Boy, did I ever learn a lesson. I was preparing to post Tuesday night and was all set to go when I decided to go ahead and upgrade to the Beta version of Blogger. My blog disappeared along with no way to sign on or retrieve anything. It’s taken me this long to get that resolved. It was a lot like hitting my thumb with a hammer. I learned a big lesson and won’t be doing that again. My lovely and talented bride will tell you my mood has improved tremendously.
My good friend Jamey Tucker tells me a few folks were asking about me and it’s nice to know someone actually cares.
It feels good to be back in the saddle. A new post should be coming your way soon.