Archive for April 2007

Where Was the Defense Going with a Local TV Reporter’s connection to the John Ford Case?

April 29, 2007

I have to admit I was up to my ears in alligators this past week so I missed testimony during the final week of the John Ford trial.  JT tells me I missed the fact that the defense attorney brought up the name of a Memphis TV reporter in the defense attorney’s grilling of a government witness.  According to the blog by the Commercial Appeal,  it was asked ifWREG TV reporter/anchor Omari Fleming was on board the yacht with Ford and a few others down in Miami.  According to the CA blogger, Omari and the station management said he was not.  There are few things worse than a member of the local news media ending up in the news as opposed to reporting it.  However, I guess the only place this information appeared was in the CA blog.  If someone else reported it, I was not aware of it.  Other than perhaps a few raised eyebrows, I guess there was nothing to it.  After all, people in the news are  allowed to have a life and can socialize with  anybody they want.  I know there have been a couple of times when  I  was anchoring that  I asked  NOT to have to write or read  a particular story because  of my relationship with the person involved in the story.  It happens sometimes.  In this situation, Mike Matthews was the lead reporter on the Ford trial and according to the CA Omari  reported on  the case  at least once although I’m not sure if it was during this trial.  I haven’t talked to Omari  so I’m not sure if it was by design or just a scheduling thing since he works weekends and wouldn’t have been available to be in court every day during the week.  I’m curious as to whether he knew his name was going to come up in court.  I cannot think of many more uncomfortable situations than to be sitting in court during a high profile trial and suddenly hear one of the lawyers mention my name.  My reaction: I think first I would “say it” and then I would “do it”.


Best Interviewer on TV?

April 27, 2007

A good interviewer on TV makes the job look easy.  It’s not.  A bad interviewer can take  a good subject and turn it into a trip to the dentist office. On the other hand, a good interviewer can take a mundane topic and keep you glued to the set.  The good interviewer controls where the interview is going and can hold the guest’s feet to the fire if the interviewee starts going off on some tangent.  One of the best interviewers I’ve seen in recent years is Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart.  I love to see him interview politicians on his show.  Politicians as a rule just want face time so they can sell their particular message.  Time after time I’ve seen JS allow the guests to state their bullet points and then instead of accepting their statements and moving on, he challenges them.  JS will often times mix humor with his challenges and he can be a bulldog if he thinks someone is pounding sound up his rear.  And Stewart appears to be well read or extremely well briefed on his subject matter.  (I think he’s well read).   One of the things I like about Jon Stewart’s interviewing style is that he generally is not pandering to guests (okay, sometimes he does) like Larry King appears to do many times.  Yah, Larry King has a whole lot of time to fill and Stewart doesn’t.  But that’s something else I like about Stewart.  He can cut to the heart of the matter quickly and generally does and doesn’t mind putting his guest on the spot if need be.  He also can’t be drowned out and some people have tried to talk over him and it just doesn’t work.  And while JS may be more liberal, he appears to be as fair of an interviewer as I’ve seen.  People who want to learn the craft should watch what he does.

The Countdown for Katie, A Weatherguy in TN Leaves TV for the Pulpit, and A Former Producer DOTR Removes Any Doubt He’s a Weather Guy

April 23, 2007

It appears the suits at CBS have discovered what a number of viewers have known since late last summer: Katie ain’t cutting it. Thanks for DJ for sharing this tidbit from NewsBlues about Ms. Couric.

CBS denies it, but there’s a growing sense within the network that Katie Couric has turned out to be an expensive, unfixable mistake.In fact, Gail Shister reports in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer that Couric may leave the CBS Evening News, perhaps after the 2008 presidential elections, to assume another role at the network.

Shister spoke with seven correspondents, producers, and executives at CBS who agreed to talk on condition of anonymity. Couric and CBS were a bad fit from the start, they say.

“From the moment she walked in here, she held herself above everybody else,” says a CBS staffer. “We had to live up to her standards. CBS has never dealt in this realm of celebrity before.”

It’s a disaster,” admitted a veteran CBS correspondent. “Everybody knows it’s not working. CBS may not cut her loose, but I guarantee you, somebody’s thinking about it. We’re all hunkered down, waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

I’ve never met KC. I’m sure she is a very nice person but I never found the appeal I’m told she had on the Today show. I thought it was just me. Then my wife said she didn’t get it either. My brother-in-law’s wife adored KC on the Today show but she declined to watch her at night too after she switched over to CBS. The numbers on the CBS Evening news just haven’t been good for KC. Oh, there are those who will say that she’s just not been given a fair chance or that the cards were stacked against her from the beginning. That may be true. But the reality is she didn’t deliver the numbers after the “new” wore off. Are heads going to roll for this 15-million dollar blunder? Yah, somebody will get kicked to a higher office. What a punishment. I just know that I need to get my resume in to CBS. I know I’m not national material by a long shot. But at 15-million dollars a year, I only need to hang around for about six months or so. Heck, I’d even do mornings again.

Meanwhile I got a note from a former co-worker named Joe (now living in Arizona) about a former co-worker of mine named Joe who has left TV weather for the pulpit. The Weather Joe (Joe Case) and I worked together briefly in Jackson, TN. And in what makes this an even smaller world, my lovely and talented bride Bethany who worked at WBBJ-TV in Jackson prior to my arrival, had interviewed Joe Case during a story when Elvis died. Joe Case was a DJ at the time and was spinning plenty of Elvis tunes that day he was interviewed. I saw the video recently and Joe Case had one serious ‘disco” haircut working for him at the time. Anyway, Joe left the Fox affiliate in Nashville where he was trying to predict what the Good Lord was doing with the weather to predicting what will happen to those who don’t believe in the Good Lord. Joe Case isn’t the first person I’ve known or heard of working in TV news who has considered a life in the ministry. Seems to me a former news director from Nashville who became a GM went on to become an ordained minister. A former co-worker who is now an anchor in Las Vegas said he considered becoming a member of the clergy and may harbor such thoughts to this day. I also worked with a guy in Jackson who was an ordained minister BEFORE he was on the air and eventually left TV to pursue his ministry. Maybe it’s what reporters and videographers see as they cover news on a daily basis that prompts consideration of such a move. Some cynics might say that some former TV people switch to the church because they like an audience. I hope not and I would hope the switch is to answer a true calling. After all, as ministers these folks will have more influence over others than they did when they were involved in the news business.

And finally, a Tip of the Hat to Robert  Stevenson, a former producer at WREG.  Robert tried several times to get an on-air gig DOTR.  He had been pigeon-holed as a producer and the managers didn’t think being on-air was in his future.  Robert cast about and landed a producer/weather anchor gig down at WVUA in Alabama.  It appears Robert had the last laugh.   In the 2006 Alabama AP Broadcaster Awards, Mr. Stevenson won honors as Best Weather Anchor.  Congrats to Robert.  He’s a good guy and I’m glad to see he won this honor.  It was probably shaving the goatee that made the difference.  It just goes to show you need to follow your dream.  Anyway, if you want to see the other winners, you can check them out here.


WPTY/WLMT Gets a New Daddy and the Big Trial is History and If You Haven’t Read It, It’s Still News

April 20, 2007

It appears ownership of yet another broadcast television group will change hands this year.  I saw in NewsBlues that Clear Channel has been sold and NOT to the group buying the NYTimes stations.  I also got an email from a former  co-worker alerting me to the information with a link.  Thanks Jose.  So folks on Union Extended won’t be enjoying the view from DOTR afterall and speculation that Brian Tiegland could be returning for a broadcast stint from the bluff for a third time has been quashed.  (Brian had left WREG once for another market before sliding back in the saddle DOTR for a second stint in the late 80s and early 90s before saying farewell for good to the NYTimes company.)   I don’t know much about the new owners of the ClearChannel group other than the fact they will take over in the 4th quarter.

The Winkler trial is now history and don’t you know the folks in Selmer, TN are happy about that.  Locally,  this trial opened up some new avenues for broadcasters that I predict will be used on a regular basis from here on out on big trials.  The blogging from the courtroom (which I will admit I’ve not checked on as often as I thought because I’ve been out of the office after the first few days of the trial) and the streaming video.  I’d be curious as to the reaction you have about the bloggers.  Did it work for you and was it worth it? Would you rather see just streaming video so you could make your own observations?  As usual, the streaming video is a technology that is a doubled edged sword.  It’s great for those who want to view it but for those who don’t, it’s a pain when it’s broadcast.  One woman told me earlier this week that she was in a high-state of pissivity (my translation of her mood) because WREG had interrupted her story (soap-opera) when Winkler was on the stand and they put the video on the air.  I learned a long time ago that if you want to hear little old ladies swear like sailors just interrupt their favorite soap.  You wonder if they eat with that same mouth after some of the venom they can spew.  So now everyone can concentrate on the John Ford trial.  It was interesting to hear some of the folks from the outlying communities talk about the Ford trial.  Some folks I ran into in a coffee shop early one morning earlier this week  are speculating that he will get off with a slap on the wrist.    These same people also wanted to know if I could get them a job as a politician in Memphis.  They seem to think the benefits are great.

And just when you think it couldn’t get much stranger here in the Memphis area, someone manages to up the ante.  Earlier this week, perhaps Tuesday afternoon, I really can’t remember but I saw a news chopper in the air over Midtown and Overton Park (the street) was blocked off between Dickinson and Evergreen.  News crews had set up shop and were interviewing anybody they can interview about the situation.  It seems somebody was cutting the grass in their backyard and found a hand-grenade.  That’s right, a hand-grenade.  I missed the local TV broadcasts to see what was going on and figured I would just wait and see what the Commercial Appeal reported on it the next morning.  What did I find? Nothing. Nada. Zip.  Okay.  It must have been nothing.  Finally this Friday morning, a small blurb was buried in the local section of the CA.    This is the newspaper that considers itself the paper of record here in the MidSouth.  Oh, I forgot.  They used to have a campaign that announced “If you haven’t read it, it’s still news.”  Maybe they should switch to “If it happens in the MidSouth, It’s News to Us.”  A cheap shot.  Yah.  But it’s Friday so what the heck.

Multiple Deaths of U-S Civilians…Where is the Outrage? Plus, here’s something else that’s Snappy!

April 19, 2007

Imagine that some yahoos killed Americans and there’s no mention of it in the news.  It happened Wednesday.  In Iraq.  My wife and I watched an hours worth of news on MSNBC and not a mention was made of Iraq. Not one word.  Oh, they had wall-to-wall coverage of VT massacre which is a horrible and, up until this week, an almost unimaginable event.   My heart goes out to those victims, their families and friends.  Still, what about those victims in Iraq, their families and friends.  They’re facing death every day in Iraq and their friends and families know they can get “the phone call” any day.  And those in the military are doing their job for everyone of us back here in the states.  All of that and not a single mention of what went on over there in the course of a one hour newscast.

Back to the VT tragedy, it still boggles my mind to think that such a thing could happen.  What amazes me even more is that the media has set in motion the machine for some border-line psycho to get into a mind-set of “one-upmanship”.  This guy didn’t get just 15-minutes of fame.  He’s now in the record books and has received hours and hours of coverage.  His name has reverberated from coast to coast and even around the world.  In these days of people just wanting to be famous for being famous, he’s achieved it.  And the media has helped fuel it all.  The problem is, there’s no way around it.  In such a horrific event, people want to know details and they will turn to the source that provides those details.  If you want viewers, you will provide them with the information or lose your audience.  So, you provide it or lose out in the long run.  If by chance you are “fortunate” enough that the murderer takes time to send your organization video clips and photos of you before you murder more people and then “off” yourself, then you really have no choice but to run with what you got.  After all, an exclusive is an exclusive.  The big problem is that someone out there is already trying to figure out a way to put the one-day-death-toll even higher and have HIS or HER name known across the country and around the world.  I’m surprised a made-for-TV movie hasn’t been announced although you can bet the farm that one is in the works.

And one other point on this particular rant.  It was suggested to me that if Don Imus had made his racist/sexist comments this past Monday morning, he would still have a job this morning.  It was suggested that while someone might have gotten upset over his comments, the tragedy at VT would have so over-shadowed anybody’s outrage that the I-Mess would not even have been given a second thought.  Some might say that is a cynical view on my part.  No, I just know how the media works.

And because I started out on a serious topic, let me end on something that will make you smile.  Those folks at have stepped up to the plate again and I think they’ve again knocked it out of the ballpark.  On page A-8 of the Commercial Appeal they feature their new Memphis Corruption BBQ Aprons just in time for the Memphis in May BBQ fest.  They even have a thong for those who want to be more discreet.  Back to the aprons, the ad says “nothing sticks to them” and that “one size fits all corruption”.  They also advertise a used Rolex for 55-thousand dollars OBO and suggest that you use their NEW MLGW payment plan which offers up to 16-thousand dollars credit with NO payment for years.  These folks will be laughing all the way to the bank.  ( a point of disclosure, I’ve received a “Don’t make me your punk” coffee mug and T-shirt from them.   No I did not get the thong and the thought of me in one has painted a picture I’m now trying to erase .)

Are WREG and WPTY About to Become Sister Stations?

April 17, 2007

It appears the folks buying the New York Times Broadcast group have an appetite for TV stations. An article in TVNewsday forwarded to me by SP indicates that the Oak Hill Capital partners have joined forces with another group in a bid to purchase the Clear Channel TV group. The bid is exceeding one billion dollars at this point. The question SP raised is this: Can a private equity group that just bought one television group but has never run a TV station before, handle another major group too? If their bid is successful I guess that question will be answered. I wonder what kind of learning curve there might be? What about duopoly issues and what would happen with WLMT? Would the newsrooms of WPTY and WREG be combined? Where would the operations be located? Would the weather operations grow by two more? Who would anchor the newscasts? Can you sell a used One Million Watt Sooper-Dooper Gonad Wax-Your-Car Twice Nexrad Storm Seeker Radar since they wouldn’t need two of those puppies? A number of questions and we’ll have to wait for answers.

Here’s the article as forwarded to me.

Bids top $1 billion


TVNEWSDAY, Apr. 16, 8:36 AM ET

Nexstar and three entites backed by private-equity funds are vying for the 42 stations in 24 markets, sources say. Equity bidders are Kelso, Oak Hill/Diamond Castle and Providence, each in partnership with established broadcast manager.

By Harry A. Jessell

With the bidding past the $1 billion mark, four companies are vying for Clear Channel Television, the division of Clear Channel Communications that operates 42 TV stations in 24 small- and mid-sized markets, and a winner could be named with the next two weeks, according to industry sources.

The four bidders include Nexstar Broadcasting Group, a publicly traded broadcast group headed by Perry Sook , along with three entities backed by private equity firms that have been active in the station trading marketplace over the past year.

The private equity bidders:

The next round of bids is due Wednesday, and parent Clear Channel Communications is expected to pick a winner within a week of those bids, one source close to the dealmaking said.

The same source said the price tag is currently around $1.1 billion and that all the bidders are within $75 million of each others.

Representatives of the bidders declined to comment on the record.

Assuming Clear Channel TV has annual revenue of about $350 million and a cash-flow multiple of 30 percent, $1.1 billion would represent a price with a cash-flow multiple of just over10.

According to the BIA Financial Network, the group ranks 18th among TV station groups in annual revenue and 17th in audience reach. Its stations cover about 12.5% of all TV homes in the nation.

The group operates stations in markets ranging from San Francisco (DMA 6) to Fairbanks , Alaska . (DMA 203), but the San Francisco is an independent station on the fringe of the market. It’s most important station is WKRC, the CBS affiliate in Cincinnati.

Clear Channel Communications announced its decision to sell its TV group and 448 of its 1,150 radio stations last November at the same time it agreed to a takeover by private equity groups led by Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital Partners for $18.7 billion and the assumption of $8 billion in liabilities.

A shareholder vote on the takeover has been scheduled for April 19, the day after the final TV bids are due.

One source said that the parent company intends to proceed with the sale of the TV division, regardless of what happen with the takeover.

Odds and Ends on a Monday Morning

April 16, 2007

If you tune in to CNN on this Monday, expect to see folks showing off their suspenders, gallouses or braces.  I thought it was just an anomaly when I tuned in to CNN’s morning news and saw John Roberts with his coat off talking to Wolf Blitzer who also had his coat off and they were both wearing suspenders.  It turns out that a memo went out from the CNN honchos to the on-air people to show off their braces in honor of Larry King’s 50 years on the air.  I almost expected the female anchors to show a bra strap or camisole strap to show they too had something “over the shoulder”.   Someone should tell John Roberts that he can take off his ID badge (it was clipped to his belt loop) when he’s on the air.  Most people probably know who he is by now at CNN.

Is something going on at the Station Down On the River?  I haven’t heard much from anyone down there as we inch closer to the change-over in management and new owners.  I did get an email from one person asking about whether it’s true that employees are having to “reapply” for their jobs.  At first blush it sounds a little far fetched but these days, who knows.  This could very well be just an urban myth getting cranked up.  If anyone has the skinny, please share.

I saw in Shoptalk that a veteran CBS reporter has started blogging in an attempt to bring a little perspective to what passes as news and how much airplay something gets.  Allen Pizzey, a 60-year old war correspondent blogs that he’s amazed that the contaminated pet food story has gotten so much play.  His bone of contention is that a dozen animals have died while in Iraq a dozen people die every day and it’s almost business as usual when it comes to information in the American media.  Check out the story on the above mentioned link.  It’s an interesting read.

I thought I was pretty much done with the I-Mess story about Don Imus until I got a You-Tube link  from a new blogger in town.  Steven Russell is a shooter at WMC and shared this tid-bit from Tucker Carlson at MSNBC.  I was not familiar with the particular guest but my wife said she saw him as he made the rounds late last week.  He had a particular take on the whole issue that made him stand out from the pack of those bashing Imus.  This man, who is black, really was dogging Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton in particular and the reaction in general.

And as I mentioned above, there’s a new blogger to check out in the Memphis area.  Steven Russell of WMC says he does all of his blogging from his cell phone.  I’m impressed.  I can barely do that from my computer.  Anyway, check him out.