Archive for January 2007

Musings on a Monday Morning

January 29, 2007

I love Memphis! It seems like at least a couple times a week that some article is written in the Commercial Appeal about thieves stealing copper. Usually it involves destroying an air conditioning unit at some church or some other place of business. Some enterprising thieves have found (at least in my neighbhorhood) that while money doesn’t grow on trees, it does grow on utility poles. Just about every utility pole has running up the side of it, a ground wire made of copper. I noticed a couple of months ago as a walked the dogs that someone had clipped the ground wires on many of the poles in our alley as high as one could reach (about seven feet) and then cut the wire off at ground level and made off with the goods. Then a few weeks ago MLG&W crews came back and spliced a new shiny section of copper back on the pole. I figure the thieves are waiting for the work crews to get caught up before they (the ner-do-wells) start their second round of harvesting copper. Nothing like seeing your utility dollars at work.

I haven’t heard much from folks at local stations these days. Has a News Director been named at WMC? Are things humming along nicely these days? Will the battle plan to reclaim the top spot be made with the existing troops or will they bring in someone from out of town? I’m not sure of the dates of the February book but I would think that it’s started already.

I do know of one announcement from DOTR. Apparently during a conference call a couple of weeks ago, the head of the Broadcast Group told the GMs of the group that he was retiring when the sale of the group goes through. Wow, what a surprise. That sale is expected to be completed around May or June. Not sure if that means construction on the big vacation house in the mountains of North Carolina is finished or not. No word on what happens to everyone else, especially the corporate folks with the Broadcast Group.

And I just read a thread on ShopTalk’s Watercooler section about changing one’s name to reflect an ethnicity that may or may not exist. The original poster was wanting reaction on what others thought about the idea of changing one’s last name from something very whitebread such as Jones or Smith to something Hispanic. Some claim they can do this because a grandmother or mother was from (you fill in the country) to justify this move. An interesting read on the responses. Apparently it serves a growing number of people well to do that. Afterall, what’s a little white lie from the people who are supposed to bring you the truth about what goes on in the world.

The State of the Union, The State of Local Television News, The State of the VJ Revolution

January 24, 2007

I watched the State of the Union address with my lovely and talented bride who is an admitted political junkie. That means we watched it all including rebuttal and analysis. That’s a good thing. We all need to know the State of the Union. And no, I’m not going into the politics of what was said but rather what I was witnessing on screen. Some news/information shows have started using so-called body language experts to determine what someone on camera is thinking or feeling. I’m not an expert but so I can only tell you what I saw and my personal interpretation.
First, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. What was going on with the eyes. Maybe her contacts were dry or the bright lights in the Chamber were bothering her. All I know is that I found her constant and rapid blinking to be extremely distracting. I guess the camera shot was such that they wanted to keep both Pelosi and Vice President Dick Cheney framed in the background with President Bush. Pelosi appeared to be nervous, and during the first few minutes appeared to be swallowing hard and licking her teeth a lot. Maybe it was a mint or candy or something.
Vice President Cheney didn’t blink much at all. In fact he seemed to stare a lot. Once, when the President started talking about reducing gasoline consumption, Mr. Cheney looked off to someone to his left, actually smiled and winked at someone. I don’t know if he was acknowledging someone in the audience or perhaps sharing his thoughts on what the President was suggesting.
The camera caught Secretary of State Rice listening so intently that she appeared to be trying to “will” President Bush to say something or do something. It was a laser beam stare.
There were several shots of Sen. Clinton sitting there watching and listening with a frozen smile on her face. Interestingly enough, almost all of the camera shots showed Sen. Obama in front of her. No close ups of the Senator from Illinois. The one shot I saw of Sen. Kerry, caught him looking rather dis-interested in the whole thing.
The one shot of I remember of Sen. McCain made him look like he was asleep although he could have been reading his copy of the SotU address that so many people had with them.
As for the President, Mr. Bush seemed to have a good presence. As was later pointed out by pundits, he started strong being quite gracious to the House Speaker and did not appear to smirk as he has in a few of his past SotU speeches.
Now before anyone accuses me of some kind of bias, I’m merely pointing out what I saw as a viewer. Enough said there.

I waited too late to see who wore red among local newscasters. By the time I remember, WREG and WMC had gone to national news. I switched over to Fox 13 and saw at least two people wearing red and that may have been by accident. For those not up to speed, someone in the Watercooler section of ShopTalk suggested that local newscasters wear red every Wednesday in a silent protest pertaining to the direction that TV news is going. I posted on this previously if you want to read more.

And finally, I’ve been trying to find out more on the State of the Video Journalist. Some recent postings on ShopTalk suggested that WKRN in Nashville was abandoning the effort. According to the GM there and some insiders, that is NOT the case though some might wish it were. What fueled this speculation was that WKRN was hiring reporters not to become VJs but to work with a videographer as a team. According to the GM there, WKRN is very much committed to the VJ concept realizing that the VJ situation isn’t right for every news story. I’ve heard the same from those who practice the art of VJing on a regular basis. Sometimes you just need more on a story. And I can understand how the VJ thing can be difficult if you are trying to work a beat AND have to turn a story EVERY day. As I understand the VJ concept, you have time to set up a beat, work your sources and produce 3 to 4 stories a week. I would be none too happy trying to crank hard news every day by myself.
Having said that, I hear that a growing number of stations are moving forward with the VJ concept in their local newsrooms. And they have people interested in filling those positions. I still think you will VJs filling many slots in the coming year alone. Speaking of which, WMC had posted a VJ position last fall. Did it ever get filled?

Lest we forget, one VJ operated in this market for years and worked at several stations here in the market. That would be Tommy Stafford, now calling the mountains of Virgiinia his home.

So, Will Anyone Be Wearing Red on TV This Wednesday?

January 22, 2007

“There are two jobs whose practitioners are working with when the red light is lit and not much separates them.”
That’s a quote from a recent thread in the Watercooler section of ShopTalk about local news. The original poster laments how he or she feels like what they used to call in the old West a “soiled dove” because of the direction the TV news business is going. The person admitted not having skills to do anything else and still needing to pay the bills says he or she will stay in the business for now but wants to create an insider’s protest. I’ve cut and pasted here so if funky characters or symbols appear, (they don’t on my side ofthe blog) attempt to decipher the meaning.
If you hate the sensationalized Breaking News stories, if you lament the “hook and hold” formula of A section, say nothing live shots followed by B section “caught on tape” video from 1000 miles away; if you disapprove of newsrooms populated with shallow, ex-cheerleaders and self promoting prom kings who can’t/won’t write and have little knowledge of history, politics or economics; if you feel like you’re drowning in unnecessary anxiety which is endemic to TV news and contributes to burn out and health issues; and if you despise the spineless person you’ve become because you know its wrong and bad for the nation but you just can’t seem summon the integrity to stand up, make your case, organize like minded people and DO something about it… if some of that sounds like you, then might I suggest the following. On Wednesdays, wear something red. Yeah, it’s that simple. It’s someplace to start. Wednesdays seem to be the day everybody works, weekend people, the M-F long timers, everybody. It won’t cost you a cent and if enough people pick up on this idea we’ll be able to gage what kind of support there is for systemic change from the inside.
So wear red on Wednesdays to protest the shallowness and sensationalism of our once proud industry. Talk about it with your colleagues at the other stations. The down time when you cover the same story is a good time to spread the word to the reporters and photogs at your competition. Look around the newsroom and see who else is wearing Wednesday red and use it as an opportunity to start a conversation about the lamentable ethics of local TV news. Let’s see what happens.
An interesting concept but I think it will have as much impact as those proposals to teach oil companies a lesson by not buying gasoline on one day to protest high prices.
Part of the problem is that the TV news business has been marching down this road for a while and using non-verbal communication to say “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” generally only works in the movies if at all. And if you really don’t like what is going on and start making noise you will find that the schools have cranked out dozens of people ready to take your place and the managers will be happy to replace you paying someone a fraction of your current salary. Still, the protest is an interesting idea and some will take the idea and run with it. Some may indeed wear some item of red intentionally and others will do it inadvertently having never heard of this grass roots effort to change the direction of TV news.
I might just tune in for a change to see if I see red and see if anyone is indeed “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore”.


We Now Know Who Will Head the Soon to Be Former NYTimes Broadcast Group

January 18, 2007

The folks within the NYTimes Broadcast Group now know who will be handling the reins when the new owners take over. Here’s a hint: They have a Clear Channel background.
In a press release from Oak Hill Capital Partners which is buying the group, it was announced that Randy Michaels will be CEO and Bobby Lawrence will be President and COO of Local TV, LLC as it will be called. The release says the two, who have worked together before, plan to “build a broader media platform under their leadership.” Randy was called a visionary and great motivator with a strong track record of outstanding broadcast management, content development and engineering.
A Google search of Michaels and Lawrence turned up this bit of information.
From Wikipedia:
Randy Michaels (born Benjamin Homel) is an American broadcaster and entrepreneur. Although he began his career as an on-air personality (where he received the name “Randy Michaels”), he is principally known for building the Jacor radio station group, and later becoming the head of Clear Channel Communications‘ radio group after it merged with Jacor. After leaving Clear Channel in 2002, he again became involved in the radio business, acquiring syndication rights to a number of talk radio programs including The Ed Schultz Show, and participating in Federal Communications Commission spectrum auctions for new commercial FM radio stations in a number of small communities.

In addition to broadcasting, Michaels is also involved in the restaurant business in the Cincinnati, Ohio area, his long-time home.

I Googled Lawrence and found this brief posting from 2000.

Bobby Lawrence, an executive vice president with Clear Channel Radio, announced he will be leaving the company June 30. Formerly president and chief operating officer at Jacor Communications Inc., Lawrence joined Clear Channel when the two companies merged last year. Lawrence said he is exploring opportunities in radio outside of Clear Channel, but would not elaborate.

I guess now Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Michaels can now elaborate on future plans.


The Cold, Cliches and My New Favorite TV Show

January 17, 2007

I’ve been reminded the past few days why Videographers are not paid enough. For the past couple of days I’ve been shooting some video for a project I’ve been working on and the temperatures have not been cooperating. Having once been pressed into service as a One-Man-Band or VJ, I’ve had experience slinging a camera. I’d forgotten the enjoyment that comes with it and the headaches that come with it. Yes there are advantages to working as a team and there are advantages to working by yourself. I think too often reporters take shooters for granted, especially when the weather is not cooperating. It can be difficult manipulating the controls of a camera when it’s cold. Gloves can be too bulky to handle the small buttons, so they (the gloves) have to come off. When the weather is hovering around freezing, it doesn’t take long for the fingers to get numb. I once was on a one-man shoot in Cape Girardeau, Missouri where I was sent out for a night shoot of people skating on a frozen lake at a city park. It was close to Zero Degrees Farenheit and the old two-piece Thompson camera I was shooting actually shut down because of the cold. So reporters, if you’re out on a cold weather story, do your photog a favor and buy him or her a cup of coffee while your out. It fosters goodwill and the shooters deserve it. It sure doesn’t hurt to grease the skids there either.
It’s not very often that I blog about a network television show. That’s because I really don’t watch anything from the Big Networks anymore. That is until this past fall when I finally bit the bullet and watched the show Boston Legal. My wife and I now are so hooked on this show that I’m ready to buy the first two seasons on DVD. It’s a combination of outrageous situations and very good writing. When it comes to legal arguments by the good guys (viewers will know who I’m talking about) they are second to none. I wish I could write like the writers on that show. And the writing is fairly topical with part of a show last week focusing on the delimma faced by a doctor in New Orleans who euthanized several bedridded patients in the aftermath of Katrina to this week people on the “Do Not Fly” list who do not belong there. Check it out if you can. In reality, the show would be a nightmare for any person in HR.
And speaking of clever writing or the lack thereof. I ran across a list of cliches’ the other day on Shoptalk. It seems a producer from a Chicago television station put a ban on cliches’ . Looking over the list I think it’s safe to say that if you banned these from local TV stations, you’d never get a newscast on the air. I ran across some of my favorites and as I read them I almost slipped into a coniption as I remember the times I encountered them in copy. I’m guilty of using some of them as well and even the esteemed guru of broadcast writing Mervin Block will tell you some cliches’ are okay. But too often it’s just lazy writing. I’m pasting the article from Word (where I saved them. Pasting them here always puts a bunch of funky symbols in there. I’m sorry but I’m way too lazy to retype them. Enjoy them and then count the number of times you see them in a local newscast over the next week.

Chicago News Producer Hunts Down Clichés
By Mervin Block
merblo@aol.com | Jan. 11, 2007 | More Writing Tips

The Windy City has become a little less windy. The reason: a Chicago station, WLS-TV, presents a 10 p.m. newscast that’s cracking down on the use of a batch of bad words. Not nasty words, but clichés, bromides, redundancies and words that are otherwise objectionable.

The creator of the watch list is the newscast’s producer, Lisa McGonigle. As the list’s custodian, she encourages writers, reporters and anchors at WLS-TV to steer clear of words and phrases on the list. And she also encourages them to contribute bad words to the list, so it keeps growing.

Lisa keeps the list at her desk, and she makes it available to staff members. When scripts for the Ten are submitted for approval, Lisa reviews them. If she comes across any word or phrase on the list, she deletes it. And, if necessary, she replaces it with language that’s acceptable. The list is intended to raise the standard of writing by discouraging what Lisa calls “lazy and formulaic kinds of writing.”

The news director of the ABC-owned station, Jennifer Graves, says her goal is to have the staff produce clear, crisp, conversational writing without clichés or clutter.

When newsrooms elsewhere hear about Lisa ’s treatment of the scorned words, let’s hope they heed that biblical injunction: “Go, and do thou likewise.”

Words on Lisa’s Watch List

The comments in parentheses are Lisa’s. Those in brackets are mine.

adding insult to injury [cliché]

adult’s having sex with a minor (Sounds consensual. It’s not. It’s rape, abuse or assault.)

alarming (It may not be to the viewer.)

also making news (lazy transition) [Everyone mentioned in a newscast is “making” news.]

amazingly (Just give me the facts.)

around the clock (overused)

arson fire (redundant)

as expected [A news-appetite depressant. When I hear it, I wonder who’s doing the expecting.]

as predicted [by whom?]

ATM machine (redundant) [ATM = automated teller machine]

backs to the wall [Cliché. That phrase was used by Sir Douglas Haig, who commanded British troops in France in World War I. He told them, in 1918, “With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on to the end.” But so many people have used the phrase since then that it has earned retirement. So has handwriting on the wall. If walls could speak, they’d probably say, “Please stop talking about us.” Remember, walls have ears.]

bad news (Let the viewer be the judge; bad news for some may be good news for others.) [What’s good for Luke Skywalker can be bad for Lucy Streetwalker. Don’t characterize news as alarming, disturbing, shocking, unbelievable—or good or bad.]

batten down the hatches [cliché—unless you’re at sea in a storm]

beef up (trite)

behind bars (overused)

behind closed doors (cliché)

bird’s-eye view (timeworn)

blaze (It’s a fire, period!)

bombshell (for whom?)

brace yourself (Don’t tell me what to do.)

bracing for the worst (Couldn’t it always be worse?)

braving the elements [Going out in the rain or snow doesn’t require bravery.]

breaking their silence (overused)

brutal murder (aren’t they all?) [Ever hear of a gentle murder?]

business is booming (commonplace)

calm before the storm [cliché]

campaign trail [cliché]

canine dogs (redundant) [How about a feline cat? Drat!]

canvassing the area (What’s wrong with “looking for clues”?)

can you hear me now? (If I hear this one more time, I’m going to tune you out.)

caught on tape (Way overused. In this age, almost everything is caught on tape.)

cautiously optimistic [cliché]

child prodigy (A prodigy is a child.) [Not to be confused with protégé.]

clinging to life (banal)

close call (timeworn)

closed up or down (It’s just closed.)

closure (Overused when talking about families of victims. Unless the families say something is bringing them closure, who are we to say what will help them heal?)

combing the neighborhood (Again, what’s wrong with “looking for clues”?)

community alert (not conversational)

complete surprise (Save a word; you’ll get the same effect with just surprise.)

completely abolish (completely redundant)

completely demolished (redundant)

completely destroyed [If something is destroyed, it’s destroyed–completely.]

completely engulfed (Completely is superfluous.)

completely independent (redundant)

completely silent (redundant)

completely submerged (redundant)

continues (If nothing’s new, why should I keep watching?)

controversial (overused) [Many writers use it in the belief that it’ll punch up a script. But so many writers have used it so often that it has lost its punch.]

death and destruction (overused)

death toll (not conversational) [but useful]

desperate search (trite)

disappointing (it may not be to the viewer)

dog days of summer (Overused, unless you live in Antarctica.) [Or in a kennel.]

do or die [cliché]

dramatic (Just give me the facts.)

dream come true [cliché]

electrocuted to death (Electrocuted is dead.) [So are asphyxiated, strangled and suffocated.]

elsewhere (lazy transition)

end of an era [Often used on the death of a prominent person; advice against using it seems to go in one era and out the other.]

exact replica [redundant]

extradited back (Back is superfluous.)

fall from grace [cliché]

fighting for his life [cliché]

final farewell (trite)

final goodbye (overused)

first annual (If it’s the first, it can’t be annual–yet.)

freak accident (unless it really is freaky)

friendly confines (overused)

friends, family and (fill in the blank) are mourning the loss of… (timeworn)

full extent of the law [cliché]

funeral service (redundant) [A funeral is a service.]

gift of life (overused)

good news (Let the viewer be the judge.)

heartfelt condolences (How do we know whether they’re heartfelt?)

heartwarming [and heartbreaking; usually corny]

hometown hero (overused)

hope springs eternal [cliché]

in a family way [cliché] [The word needed is pregnant.]

indeed (superfluous)

in the dark (unnecessary)

in the wake of (overused) [When you mean after, say after.]

king of pop (banal)

lawyer believes (How do we know what anyone believes? A lot of people say one thing and believe another. But c’mon, a lawyer? if a lawyer said only what he or she believed, a lot of clients would be in big trouble.)

literally (too often used in an illiterate way)

little children (some are big; there’s an obesity epidemic)

little Mary, little Johnny, etc. (If referring to children, little is unnecessary.)

local or area hospital (Obviously, someone wouldn’t be taken to a distant or remote hospital.)

lucky to be alive (Trite. Aren’t we all?)

major milestone (overused) [and redundant; a milestone is major]

makeshift memorial (worn out)

making the grade (overused)

manhunt [Try search.]

meantime (lazy transition)

meanwhile (lazy transition)

middle of a streak (How do we know it’s not near the end?)

minor miracle (Either it is a miracle or it isn’t.) [Leave miracles to ministers—and mayonnaise makers.]

mixed bag [cliché]

more questions than answers [cliché]

Mother Nature [Shopworn personification. Also sexist: how about father? Nature alone is all right.]

mourning the death of (timeworn)

mourning the loss of (ditto)

near miss (If it almost missed, doesn’t that mean it hit?) [Isn’t a near miss a bride who was almost jilted at the altar?]

new hope (trite)

new lease on life [cliché]

not your father’s/mother’s/grandmother’s (fill in the blank): auto show, roller derby, you name it

old man winter [shopworn personification]

one-two punch [cliché]

only one death (It trivializes the death; even one death is a great loss to that person’s family)

on the run (cliché)

opening salvo (Who talks like that?) [And salvo is almost always misused.]

pack some patience if you’re traveling today (overused in stories about airport delays)

parent’s worst nightmare (How do we know what every parent’s worst nightmare is?)

path of destruction (overused)

pick up the pieces [another cliché]

pickup truck (a pickup is a truck)

PIN number [redundant; PIN = personal identification number]

political bombshell [cliché]

press the flesh (Who thought of this one?)

remains to be seen [First cousin of time will tell.]

return back (redundant) [so is refer back]

ringing off the hook [cliché]

routine traffic stop (it’s never routine)

safe and sound [cliché]

search for answers [cliché]

senseless crime (do any make sense?)

shocking (Just give me the facts.)

shock waves [cliché]

sigh of relief [cliché]

sign of the times [cliché]

slippery slope [cliché]

sneak peek [cliché]

something went horribly wrong or terribly wrong [cliché]

sounded like a freight train [cliché]

speaking of _________ (mindless transition)

speaking out (overused)

special ceremony (Aren’t they all special?)

struggling to survive [Aren’t we all?]

stunning (Just give me the facts.)

suspect (If police have no suspect, it should be thief, robber, killer, whatever, instead.)

switching gears (lazy transition)

sworn affidavit and sworn deposition (redundant) [If it’s not sworn, it’s not an affidavit or a deposition.]

tense moments (overused)

terrible accident (There aren’t many good ones.)

things (which things? be specific)

this was the scene (lazy)

tie the knot (when referring to marriage)

totally complete (redundant)

traffic nightmare (shopworn)

traffic troubles (troubling overuse)

tragic (Just give me the facts.) [Tragedy, too, is a good word to avoid.]

transplant operation (redundant)

troubling (It may not be to the viewer.)

under fire (overused)

under the knife (trite)

uneasy truths (cliché)

up for grabs (cliché)

upper hand (cliché)

U.S. soil [overused]

very first (very redundant)

very latest (redundant, overused, unnecessary, lazy)

very rare (redundant)

very unique [Unique is an absolute; nothing can be more unique, quite unique, rather unique or very unique.]

very unprecedented (redundant) [It’s worse than that; something that’s unprecedented is a first. Isn’t that good enough?]

wardrobe malfunction (unless writing about Janet Jackson)

war of words [cliché]

weather woes (silly)

welcome news (trite)

went missing (not on my watch)

what a difference a day makes [cliché]

white stuff (It’s called snow.) [Could be dandruff.]

winter wallop (overused and shopworn)

with child [dainty or quaint. The word for that condition: pregnant.]

working feverishly [cliché]

wrong place at the wrong time [cliché]

xx years young [patronizing]

young baby (Believe it or not, it has been used.) [Same for new bride; there are no old brides—except the newly wed in nursing homes.]

your children (Not everyone has children.)

your pet (Not everyone has a pet.)

Even if the words you’re using are not on Lisa McGonigle’s list, keep an eye out–and an ear, too–for words that you think should be on her list.

Although the grampa of good grammar, Henry W. Fowler, condemned clichés, he said writers would be needlessly handicapped if they were never allowed to use, among others, white elephant, feathering his nest and had his tongue in his cheek. Yes, a cliché may be O.K. once in a great while. May be. But good writers pass up clichés and say what they need to say in their own words.

And finally, at the end of the day, this is the bottom line. Oops. Three clichés in one sentence. Sorry. What we all need to do is think for ourselves and not fall back on words and phrases that have been used so often and for so long that they’ve outlasted their use-by date and gone stale.

© Mervin Block 2007

Observations on a Monday Morning!

January 15, 2007

I know there are some weather folks on the verge of a major conniption because the Memphis area didn’t get the nasty winter stuff they got in Missouri. That’s okay with me. I can handle rain and I can handle snow. Freezing rain is not welcome here. It makes life way too miserable. I wish it hadn’t hit the areas that it did, but I’m content that it didn’t hit here. We’ve “been there and done that” often enough in the Midsouth. Enough said there.
I received a YouTube posting featuring the good mayor of Memphis who spoke at the big national media conference taking place in the city. The mayor was taking potshots at the local media for what he feels is some sort of bias. Listening to his rant I think he feels he’s targeted because of race. He’s probably lucky the local media isn’t tougher on him and race has nothing to do with it. Anyway, I thought his comments (and I only heard the portion posted on YouTube) were a cheap shot on his part. He blasted the local media and their coverage suggesting they pick on black men and women in power. Maybe that is the perception in the black community. I don’t know. I don’t get that feeling overall when I’m out and about. I’ve met the mayor on a number of occasions over the years and chatted with him, usually at public gatherings. He’s a nice enough guy but some of the things he says have started to worry me over the years. The reality is he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so unless he decides to step down or a tremendous candidates comes along, this is what we got.
My wife and I talked about swinging by the big media gig to see some folks speak but we didn’t. I would have liked to heard Helen Thomas speak. She reminds me of the Energizer Bunny in that this little 86 year old woman just keeps going and going and going. I’m sure Bill Moyers had some interesting insights as well. While these folks might have lit a fire under journalists from across the country and here in Memphis, the reality is this: The news business has changed, evolving into something completely different than it was even ten years ago, at least in the TV game. It ain’t going back no matter how much some would like it to. Those in the business talk about how it used to be. Some in the business have found there’s money to be made if you present news with a slant. Tthe news game is a business and if you aren’t making money then you need to do something about it so you will. You have to do something to make your operation stand out from the crowd.
There was a time when news was considered part of the public service a television station pursued. Then someone realized you could make a lot of money in TV news. They found it was cheaper to put on additional news shows at various times of the day than to buy syndicated programming. They ended up diluting the news product but at least they got more mileage out of their news folks. The schools cranked out of the students who had visions of making Katie Couric salaries AND getting to be in front of the camera at the same time. That helped the schools grow. The shift in the news business created the need for a consultant as stations tried to figure out how to get better ratings. The stations probably could have figured it out for themselves but now if they didn’t they could always blame the consultant.
Something most people don’t realize is that if a station thought it could make a lot of money doing it, they would put a chicken playing a piano in front of the camera and let it go at that. Sure, there is that pesky public file where people can write out their complaints and there is the fact that you have to have a federal license to operate a TV or radio station. Still, I would bet that if one station found it was “pushing the wheelbarrow to the bank” by having a piano playing chicken on the air 24 hours a day, the station would do it. Then you would see that station imitated in other markets as others scrambled for the same cheap success.
Just before Christmas, I stopped on Union to get the oil changed in my old Pathfinder and saw an older gentleman sitting in the business waiting for his car. He looked familiar to me and when I asked him he said yes, his name was Fred Cook. For those not familiar with Mr. Cook, he started in radio at WREC and later expanded his duties to include the nightly newscast on WREC-TV for 3-dollars per 15-minute newscast. For the record he did NOT know who I was and was surprised that I had been on the air in Memphis for 16-years at his old station. He told me really didn’t watch that much local television anyway. Most of his comments focused on how much the business had changed and how it had become such a business. He said he remembered his reaction when he learned that former local anchor Jerry Tate was making more than 100-thousand dollars a number of years ago. Mr. Cook also told me that back in the good old days when stations cared more about their employees that he was given the boot when the radio station he worked for as a manager was sold. He says he won’t be surprised to see it happen again to some folks as the station DOTR is sold. It’s not personal. It’s just business.

Nothing Like Hummer and a Bottle of Wine to Get My Attention!

January 10, 2007

These days, it takes some special doing to set yourself apart in the local news business. It’s all about getting your name out there where ever and however you can do it. Fox 13 in Memphis has managed to get my attention and they did it twice within the span of 10 minutes and in what I consider an unusual way.
I had stopped by the very popular adult beverage store located near the corner of Highland and Poplar. I was searching for a particular item in the wine section when lo and behold I saw a Fox 13 sign behind a bottle of wine. It wasn’t a big sign mind you. Just a little one that hovered behind one particular case of wine and I think it either said it was recommended or was the Fox 13 Pick of the Week. Other than the fact it was a bottle of red ( I didn’t buy it) I don’t remember much about the wine, but I do remember seeing the Fox 13 logo. I was not able to find infomration about the wine when I went to the Fox 13 website so I’m hoping somebody will fill in the blanks here for me.)
I was still thinking about it as I made my purchase and walked out to my vehicle and there traveling north on Highland was something that caught my eye. I actually did a double take because of the bright colors. It was a Hummer vehicle, covered with logos and adorned with a live truck mast. It definitely stood out from the rest of the traffic. I’m not sure how much room there was inside for the live truck operator to take care of his or her business but “Hey”. These folks are selling both the steak and the sizzle. It stands out the way that red helicopter does from the station DOTR. I don’t know if all the live trucks from the station on Highland are being converted but it’s a good look for sure. I guess it’s just another toe hold in the climb up the ratings ladder.