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

“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”.

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7 Comments on “So, Will Anyone Be Wearing Red on TV This Wednesday?”

  1. Nathan Manning Says:

    As a former television employee, I will also watch to see if anyone from our humble Knoxville market is “mad as hell.”

    In fact, I believe I will wear red while WATCHING the news on Wednesdays! C’mon, Joe… Join me in this silent form of protest! Ha!

    GREAT blog, by the way. I agree with basically EVERY observation you present. Have a great day.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    tried that at the printed version of the red-light district years ago with “peon pink” wednesdays. needless to say, not a very effective way of making a point.
    it’s better to let one’s feet do the talking.

  3. Tommy Stafford Says:

    Like you Joe, I don’t have much faith this will do much of anything. First of all I find that most people in television news never have a Plan-B. They get boxed in and fooled into believing that it’s the only thing they can do. It’s not. But ND’s love having their staff believe there is no life beyond television, don’t believe it. And yes, many times the best thing is to leave and create your own business. I would never go back. Not that I was ever under thumb with the arrangement I had. I had a very loose arrangement and that gave me the flexibility to take on many jobs at my price, or say no.

    I loved the business when I was in it, but about the time I entered in the late 80’s early 90’s I saw the changes coming even then. The guy who taught me everything about TV news saw it coming even before that, in the early 80’s, thanks for the insight Doug!

    Sadly, there is a never ending line of pretty and perky folks these days who will work for next to nothing just to “Be on TV.” And managemnent is more than ready to let them in because they can pay three of them for the price of one that’s been around for a few years.

    I personally don’t see much changing that for a long, long time. Local television news has become anything but. Consultants have convinced local news they should be doing international or national, crime, education, religion, whatever the research says, blah, blah, = (let’s fill some time with stuff already seen 25 times earlier on cable or internet) And in many newsrooms sniffing out a story has become nothing more than looking over all of the newspapers, gee, that’s original. Again, management won’t let the reporters take the time to develop sources or leads anymore, visit with them or heck even take them to lunch and make relationships. That’s how you build trust with sources and really find out about what’s going on. I know, I know – I’ll hear the old budget thing, that’s the proble and why many stations are where they now are. They have gotten away from the basics and now look …

    But then again, what do I know, I am just an old country boy turned mountain boy now.

  4. Doug Johnson Says:

    Me, I’m going naked! Watch for X-rated bump shots on CNN Wednesday afternoon. Okay, maybe the sound of that much laughing would be too depressing. Never mind.

  5. Tommy Stafford Says:

    OK Doug, I am scared, and I am scared for you.

  6. Joan Carr Says:

    I am convinced that before the end of the decade we’ll have anchors delivering the news naked somewhere in the United States. The only question is, where do they clip the microphone?

  7. Anonymous Says:


    You must not be familier with!!

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