Staging The News and Can Anybody Give Me An Idea What the Ratings Numbers Look Like in the Bluff City?

In Wednesday’s  Shoptalk, the newspaper in Orlando takes to task the TV stations in that Florida city for staging  the news.  Here’s an excerpt: All the stations in town picked up on the story about a 9-year-old boy who called 911 when his mother fell unconscious on the floor. But when area stations showed the “first meeting” between the Alex Swee and 911 dispatcher Matt Nicotra — it was actually staged for two local stations who showed up late.According to the Orlando Sentinel, “crews from WESH-Channel 2 and WFTV-Channel 9 were on time to film the exchange of hugs when Alex and his mom met Nicotra for the first time. But WOFL-Channel 35 showed up late and asked the three to do it all over again so they could tape it. Then in the middle of the second ‘first’ meeting, a WKMG-Channel 6 crew arrived and asked the three, ‘Can you do it one more time?’ “

When I first got into the news business back in the day when I was brimming over with youthful enthusiasm and idealism, I was determined I would never, ever stage anything for a news story.  I had read a policy guideline from ABC News about what reporters and videographers could and could not do and if it was good enough for ABC News, it was good enough for me.  Then the realities of covering local TV news became evident.  Due to scheduling problems, crews would arrive late or have to leave early.  Later, when those in charge decided that reporters should be turning multiple packages, one news director told me to get the people to re-enact when necessary, get what we needed and move on.  It was at that point I realized that news had evolved from an important public service to a business.
As more newscasts were created to generate more dollars, more product was needed to fill those newscasts.  Quality was good if you could get it but quantity was the bottom line.  Some might argue about what constitutes staging.  Others don’t care especially if doing some so-called staging speeds up the story so they can grab lunch before the desk calls them again to see if they can cover the daily fire or auto accident.  When you watch news, one can generally tell if something has been staged.  Not always, but generally speaking you can.  Is it a bad thing?  Not to me, not anymore.  I’ve been there and dealt with what the field crews have to deal with and if it means having something to fill a slot in a newscast and not having those at the office bitching and moaning at you, that’s the way it is.  In the newsroom, they generally don’t care how you got the pictures as long as you got them and that nobody is going to sue you for getting the the video.  Heck, for all I know they may have “staging” classes in college along with the other things they teach those aspiring to be on TV.  In the meantime, just go back to the office down the hallway, wait five seconds, walk out again and walk toward the camera and go past it and please, don’t look at the camera as you go by.

I think I’ve become something of a leper.  I used to have folks contacting me with updates on the ratings numbers from the Memphis market.  I’d get the breakdown of how things have been looking and made it a point to never reveal any sources.  By now, I fully expected to hear how close the book was for WHBQ, WMC and WREG, especially in the morning battles and those in the evening.  So far, Zip, Nada, Nothing.  I know we’re still a few weeks out before the official numbers are released but if anyone has anything to share, please do.  I know the numbers between WMC and WREG were really tight back in February and some at AN5 thought they might retake the lead this book, especially with new managers in place.  We’ll see.

And one additional note.  I got a question in  the previous post about some reporters leaving WREG.  I haven’t heard anything.  Anyone got the scoop on that?

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18 Comments on “Staging The News and Can Anybody Give Me An Idea What the Ratings Numbers Look Like in the Bluff City?”

  1. journalist4life Says:

    WMC will be the overall number one after Wednesday barring something crazy. It comes down to the 10pm and right now WMC has a comfortable lead with two rating shares ahead and .9 rating points ahead. WREG still has the mornings and noon but WMC has the early and late evening and is the overall number one for the first time in almost two years.

  2. joelarkins Says:

    Thanks for filling me in on the numbers.

  3. Richard Says:

    I myself prefer WMC to WREG, especially the morning slots. WREG is bad about showing you clips of upcoming news at the beginning of a segment, before going to the morning weather, which they do quite a bit, and then not showing that particular news segment up unit 20 to 25 minutes later! They must do this to keep you watching but it makes me change the channel.

    You know news is business because all stations are quick to point out that they have an exclusive on certain news and you can only see it on their station!
    Give it time and WMC will pull ahead in the mornings.

  4. Jeff Says:

    I really prefer WMC also,,Wreg is way too tabloid for me.

    And of course WMC has Dave Brown’s “Super Dooper Nuclear Reactor Powered Billion Megawatt 3D Doppler Radar”.lol

  5. anonymous Says:

    one reporter is leaving 3. Can’t remember her name, the one who started a blog only to have it pulled by the news director after a couple of lame posts about eating popcorn at a Grizzlies game and shopping at wal-mart.
    pretty forgettable. she’s going to orlando

  6. joelarkins Says:

    I think the reporter in question is Daralene Jones. I didn’t work with her and don’t know anything about her other than what I read on her WREG bio. My source says there was a pissing match between DJ and another on-air person DOTR. I’m not sure if another reporter is leaving or not.
    I’ve also been told that the Local TV head honchos came to town to talk to and rally the troops and they want to hire some folks. One person observes there was a real positive feeling after the pep rally and that these two honchos were practically doing stand-up routines while addressing the employees. The observation was also that there would be whole lot less bureaucracy and fewer layers in getting stuff done around the station.

  7. anonymous Says:

    who was the other reporter that DJ got into it with DOTR?

  8. Richard Says:

    As a “dummy” here, can someone please tell me what DOTR stands for?

  9. joelarkins Says:

    DOTR and the occasional SDOTR are just shorthand for Down On The River and Station Down On The River. And to answer the previous poster’s question, I’m told the other reporter involved is Mike Matthews.

  10. Newzgrl Says:

    Here are the final numbers:

    5am: WREG 4.1 WMC 3.3 WHBQ 3.8
    6am: WREG 6.7 WMC 6.0 WHBQ 5.5
    Noon: WREG 7.9 WMC 5.0
    5pm: WREG 8.4 WMC 9.7
    6pm: WREG 9.0 WMC 10.4
    10pm WREG 10.8* WMC 11.8

    There’s an asterik next to the WREG 10pm number because the station retitled the second 15 minutes of at least 5 newscasts. It was a very tight book.


    I’m trying to stop laughing here. Newzgrl wants to put an asterisk by WREG’s number because they retitled 5 newscasts.. when for 5 weeks WMC has been giving away $200 worth of free gas in every newscast at 10:20??? Do you and Willie Herenton go the same eye doctor for your version of reality? I didn’t even mention WMC’s Justin Timberlake and Beyonce concert suite ticket giveaways. WMC is a pathetic case — bribing viewers to watch. And what a sad statement about their morning newscast that the bribery worked in every newscast but that one.

  12. Newzgrl Says:

    I added the asterik because that’s how Neilsen listed it. My explanation of the asterik was not intended as an opinion.

  13. chris tenstall Says:

    I don’t think ANY station should be allowed to retitle a newscast unless that newscast did not air to cisumstances beyond their control. I don’t think the free gas helped us that much BUT i also don’t think we should have offered it because it gives people the right to question. Also, if I was an ad buyer I would point that out and use it as a bargaining tool.

  14. Les Nessman Says:

    Gee, imagine that, Mike Matthews in a pissing match with a fellow employee. He gives off that he is a jolly ole man but he really has a bad temper, even has been sent to anger management class. But, of course, Daralene Jones is no angel. Those two are a match made in heaven.


    Nwsgirl.. there’s also an asterisk by WMC because of the gas giveaway. And Chris, for you not to see how the numbers jumped immediately after the $200/per newscast giveaway started is naive. This is a blue collar town that’s always looking for something free and your station knew it would have a huge effect because it wasn’t winning on its content and talent. For your ND to play it down like “hey, we always do that” was a flat-out lie. No station has ever given away that much cash, every day, in every newscast in the history of this market. Congratulations on your “win.”

  16. Did you know? Says:

    JUSTTHEFACTS, the final trends that were distributed to the stations did not have an asterisk by WMC’s 10pm show.

    This is not to say the final numbers in June will not have one. But the trends did not. At least, not the ones I saw.

    Also, WMC did not give away cash in EVERY newscast. They did so in three broadcasts per day. One in the 2 and 1/2 hour morning show, usually near the end, one in either the 5p or 6p, and one in the 10p.

    I do not offer this post as an opinion. I am not defending WMC. You are spreading misinformation, something I think somone who dubbs themself “JUSTTHEFACTS” would not want to do.

  17. Les Nessman Says:

    Maybe we oughta get the “Watchdog” on this. arf! arf!

  18. Nes Lessman Says:

    Hey Joe, I thought you didn’t allow personal attacks on this site. Les needs to back off on his or her feelings about Daralene and Matthews. Sounds like Les doesn’t have much o do either….with all these postings about tv stations. Did you used to work at Channel 3 Les? You do seem to have a lot of the inside knowledge wabout whats going on.

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