Archive for July 2007

Another Local TV Newsperson is Shown the Door

July 31, 2007

Thanks to DJ for the first word on this from NewsBlues.  They had posted an item that another TV reporter in Memphis was given the boot Monday in the continuing shake-up  in that shop.  That reporter is George Brown and he’s been at WMC for several years.  He emailed me about his departure:

Basically I was told that the new management was forming a new team and I wasn’t part of that team. I think I’m solid on air but sometimes things just don’t mesh as we all know. I had a great six years (well, two weeks shy) at WMC and worked with some great people.

George says he is trying to decide what he will do next; whether to stay in TV news or try something else.  Apparently they are NOT going to enforce his non-compete so that means he’s available locally.  Actually that is the decent thing to do by the managers over at Union.  Sometimes managers will cut someone loose and still enforce the non-compete which in my opinion is like a dog in the manger.  So, will George be showing up at the competition?  We’ll have to wait and see.    I did share with him that “a kick in the ass is still a step forward”.  Sometimes that’s the best thing that a manager can do for someone.  There are some great success stories out there from people who got the boot.

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Okay, Is It Time To End the Coverage of the Big Chase?

July 30, 2007

I’ve been puzzling over whether to post about the crash of the news choppers over Phoenix and my friend Jack Church helped sway me to speak up.  Folks, if you’re looking for a time to collectively pull the plug on coverage of car chases, now is the time.  For those not up to speed on this story, four people died when two news choppers collided over Phoenix while covering a car chase!!!!!!.  Granted, these four people were killed while covering things they are supposed to cover but at what point in time do you say it is time to “Stop the Madness”.   I can’t tell you the number of times I have turned on some cable news network and they break away to show live coverage of the law chasing some yahoo.  It’s not like this is some celebrity such as Paris or Brittney leading the law on a trip around the city.  These are usually some no-name idiots who fail to understand that in 99.99% of the chases, THE LAW WINS!!!!!!!.  Have these pinheads not figured out that you “can’t outrun a Motorola” and you sure as heck can’t outrun a chopper.  I know, I know, everyone likes to rubber neck at a traffic accident and these chases are wrecks waiting to happen.  But at what point in time do you say “Hey, this just ain’t worth it.  I don’t want to put our people at risk for something so stupid as a car chase.  Have we no better use for a million dollar chopper with the sooper-dooper zoomer ultra-stabilized camera than to follow a car-chase?”  Maybe they don’t have anything better to do with a chopper.  Maybe it’s either that or hover over the scene of a fire that was extinguished hours ago where the reporter had time to put together a piece on the ground, get it edited and then go get in the chopper for the live shot.  Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the need for a chopper at all.  Perhaps the time used to promote the chopper could be used instead to sell commercial time.   I think the chopper crash was something that was inevitable, especially in larger markets where everyone has a news helicopter and when everyone is in the air, it can be like a swarm of bees.  Yes, I know Air Traffic Control can help keep people separated but in any Visual Flight Rules or VFR environment, it is up to the pilot to maintain separation and to be aware of other traffic in the vicinity. The Bottom Line: It’s a tragedy that the crash happened and my heart goes out to the folks who were killed along with their surviving families.  While crews died doing their jobs, IMHO,  it was such a waste that they died in this manner chasing such a worthless story.  Chasing the car chases is right up there with having some reporter/videographer crew standing out in a hurricane for the live shot.  It will take somebody getting impaled by a flying 2×4 while standing out there for the “money-shot” or getting decapitated by a stop sign that was propelled by the hurricane force winds to get management to reconsider how they do the news in these situations.  Hey, how many IEDs and car bombs did it take to prompt news operations to scale back their crews in Iraq?  It all comes down to risk assessment and the question one has to ask himself (or herself):  Do you feel lucky or is this supposedly simple assignment going to be your last one?

The Call Letters to Your Station are WHATTTTT?????

July 27, 2007

Okay, I have NOW seen it all.  Unless this is a hoax that somehow got by the good folks from the government (who by the way are here to help us) this is beyond stupid.  In fact, if this was April 1st, I would think this HAS to be an urban myth.  Nobody, even in government circles is this stupid.   What is causing me to have such a conniption. The article listed below was in Shoptalk and comes from Hawaii.

Unbuilt Maui TV station lands questionable call letters…from Erika Engle at the Star Bulletin:

THE call letters KUNT have landed at a yet-unbuilt low-power digital television station in Wailuku, Maui. Alarmingly similar to a word the dictionary says is obscene, the call letters were among a 15-page list of new call letters issued by the Federal Communications Commission and released this week.

The same station owner also received KWTF for a station in Arizona.

From Skokie, Ill., comes a sincere apology “to anyone that was offended,” said Kevin Bae, vice president of KM Communications Inc., who requested and received KUNT and KWTF. It is “extremely embarrassing for me and my company and we will file to change those call letters immediately.”

He thanked your columnist for bringing the matter to his attention and pledged to, “make sure I don’t fall asleep on the job when selecting call signs again.”

One might understand how Bae’s eyes could glaze over during selection, as KM has some 80 sets of call letters and alpha-numeric callsigns for TV and radio stations in several states.

No KM station is yet on the air in Hawaii but its mainland TV stations carry programming from America One Network, My Network TV and the CW.

The call letter snafu was a source of great mirth for Bae’s attorney.

“I can’t tell you how long he laughed at me when he learned of my gaffe,” Bae said.

Broadcasters for generations have joked among themselves about call letters resembling off-color words or acronyms knowing the FCC would never approve their assignment — but that was before computerization.

KCUF-FM near Aspen, Colo. got its F-word-in-reverse call letters in August of 2005 and has been on the air since December, “Keeping Colorado Uniquely Free,” its Web site says. Uh, yeah.

Station officials could not be reached, but the automated pop-music slinger has been written about twice in the Aspen Daily News. The paper said radio regulators “blessed the call letters.”

However, assignment of call letters actually is an automated process, according to Mary Diamond of the FCC’s Office of Media Relations. Broadcasters use the FCC Web site to request and receive call letters with no oversight from Beavis, his partner, or any FCC regulator.

Dude, seriously. Even after years of concerns over broadcast indecency and the debate about fines for fleeting profanities that hit the air.

The Code of Federal Regulations allows applicants to request call letters of their choice as long as the combination is available. Further, “objections to the assignment of requested call signs will not be entertained at the FCC,” it states.

A couple of things come to mind when I saw this.  Would the GM proudly sport a vanity license plate with these call letters on his or her car.  Perhaps all the station news vehicles (if they have a news department) will proudly sport vanity plates as well.  I know this is somehow going to prove to be a joke.  If not, welcome to the world of weird.

Has Memphis Lost Yet Another Long-Time D-J and Help for the Text-Challenged!

July 26, 2007

I got an email from a person wondering if I had heard where long-time FM-100 DJ Tom Prestigiacomo is.  TP has been off the air in Memphis and his bio is not on the station website these days.  I’m not sure where he is but it has some long-time listeners upset and worried that he has been shown the road much like his former co-worker Steve Conley who was let go after many years at WMC-radio.  (At last word SC was working with one of the casinos in their marketing/PR department.  I’ve also heard we should not be surprised to see SC showing up on local radio again).  A source tells me that TP has been in contract talks recently and that is why he hasn’t been on the air. I ran into Tom a couple of months ago at a midtown eatery.  A really friendly guy, we chatted for a couple of minutes before he climbed into his yellow T-bird and left for work.  If anyone has the skinny on what happened to Tom, please share.  If he left, I hope it was on his terms and not some silly budget cutting thing.  Class deserves better than that and Tom has always been a classy guy.  I will also say he has one of the most mis-spelled and most mispronounced names in the business.

Speaking of spelling, I’ve used the text message function on my cell phone maybe a half dozen times in the dozen years that I’ve had a phone.  It’s too hard to write with my thumbs on that little keyboard.  I prefer to send emails from my home computer. That action apparently makes my a certified, 100-percent dyed-in-the-wool old fogey who is as far from being hip and as far from being on the cutting edge as I can be and still understand technology in some form or fashion.  Well, I’m not alone.  An item I ran across on Yahoo says a great deal of young people only use email for business purposes.  Most of their communication takes place by text messaging.  And get this, according to CTIA, the wireless phone association, carriers are only happy to accommodate.  Wow, who would have thought that.  It’s estimated that in 2005,  158-million text messages were sent which is almost double that from 2005.  The Washington Post mentions one teenager who sent more than 68-hundred text messages in one month which at 15-cents a piece created a tab that ran more than 11-hundred bucks.  I don’t know enough people to want to send that many messages!  I’ve seen some of this high-speed, electronic shorthand and was able to understand a fraction of what I saw.   Oh, I can get the basics.  But some of the shorthand escaped me.  Until now.  If U nEd txt hlp U cn go to Transl8it, type in your text, emoticons, and slang and hit transl8it and it will convert to regular English or vice versa.  Lingo2word has a nice feature that allows you to hover over the text-message translation words with your cursor to see what they mean.  Noslang.com translates into English only.   So if you are trying to come up to speed on the text message stuff, go to these websites.  The line forms behind me.

Delaying News Stories, Reporters Helping Law Enforcement, and How the Race for Memphis Mayor is good news for a Local Company

July 23, 2007

Some folks apparently are a little upset that the news of the death of former televangelist Tammy Faye Messner was delayed until after she had been cremated and that CNN’s Larry King  agreed to make the announcement about 36 hours after the event.  I say big deal.  The family says they asked for the delay so family members could have time to gather.  It’s their call.  Besides, it wouldn’t be the first time that a new organization sat on a big, exclusive story so they could milk it for all it’s worth.  Local stations do this all the time and their biggest concern is that somehow, while they’re sitting on the story, that word will get out and that the competition will steal their thunder.  Then the station that had the original exclusive will be forced to promote the fact that their story is better.

The story of the Chicago TV reporter who got the boot after video surfaced of her in a swimsuit at the house of a guy whose wife had mysteriously disappeared is still swirling about.  One of the concerns that has come out of this is that it was revealed that this reporter was working to some degree as an informant for police.  Some have seen this as the end of journalism as we know it and therefore the end of the world.  Others see this as a way to curry favor with investigators.  Some argue that by cooperating with authorities, the reporter  compromised Journalistic Integrity while others contend J-I is right up there with Military Intelligence on the list of oxymorons.  I can see how the TV reporter in question figured she could work with investigators.  I think her big mistake was in not letting management know about it.  That way she covers her bases in case things go south as they did in her case.   The reality is, reporters work with the law on a regular basis in some capacity.  News types do everything from stopping by with cookies or donuts to sharing some information.  And more times than not, they are encouraged to do this by managers.  They’re not doing this for any reason other than hoping that when the big story is ready to break, their contact in the police department will call them with the tip.  The big question is, how far do you take it.  Some aggressive and ambitious reporters will do just about anything to get the “big” story.  And once they get the reputation as being the person who will get the “big” story, they have pressure on them to make it happen again and again.  Some find that getting the “big” story is addictive and like any addiction they have to keep getting the “get”.  Where do you draw the line?  That question is still being debated in newsrooms around the country.

And finally, the announcement by Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton that he is not going to run for the post of Mayor of Memphis is good news for the incumbent and for one local company.  I’ve mentioned that company here before when they came out with a line of T-shirts and coffee mugs that were inspired by the local political shenanigans.   That company is SnappyGreetings  .  I was talking to one of the owners, Norm Adcox who was telling me about their newest products called The Snappy Speakeasy.  In addition to featuring one with the vocal likeness of George W. Bush and Al Gore, there is one that honors Hizzonner, Willie Herenton.  By pushing one of the half dozen buttons on the device, you hear a variety of statements.  Now according to some political pundits, if AC Wharton had gotten into the the race for Memphis Mayor, he would have won.  There is speculation that Mayor WW will now win re-election.  And that is good for Snappy Greetings because between now and Christmas time, I would expect they will sell a fair number of these Speakeasy devices for stocking stuffers and gag gifts.  I will bet that a number of folks fleeing the city for Desoto County, MS, Crittenden County, AR and Fayette and Tipton Counties in Tennessee will want these for their friends at the coffee shop.  It’s one of those ideas that I wished I had thought of.  Maybe next time.

Memphis Shenanigans Prompt Some Funnies at Fox and A TV Interview Clip That Made My Jaw Drop

July 19, 2007

I got an email a few days ago with a link to a humorous site and I’d been planning to blog on it. Then I got another email last night that says the site is now open for business. The location is foxfunnies.com and by clicking on it, you will be transported to some stuff that should make you chuckle. What I want to know is, where does this camera-smart rodent hail from. I’ve seen it several times on pieces put together on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. If someone has the story of this rodent, even what kind it is, please share. I will have to say that while foxfunnies did make me laugh, I’m not sure who is actually producing it.  I  went to the Fox 13 website and quickly went through their webpage and couldn’t find a foxfunnies link, at least one that stood out enough to catch my eye. I think they’re missing a bet by not making this real obvious as it would probably create a big, non-news draw to the website. Having something that makes your website stand out from the others who have the same news, sports, weather and weather radar is important and could help drive up viewership. I did find that Fox 13 has a “Faith” forum page, which I didn’t know they had. Does anyone else in the market have something like that?

Speaking of Faith, I was working on my computer last night when I heard a shriek from my wife elsewhere in the house. It seems she had been listening to CNN on the tube and was watching Andy Cooper when they previewed tonight’s Larry King interview with Tammy Faye Messner. I had heard that Messner had been battling cancer and I had heard that she was down to an incredible 65 pounds. Still when I saw the clip promoting tonight’s interview, I was still stunned at how someone could still be alive at that weight. As I understand, she has quit receiving treatment for the lung cancer that has ravaged her body and is now just waiting for death.tammy-faye-now.jpg

It was back in the mid to late 80s that Tammy Faye and her (then) husband Jim Bakker ran into problems with their “ministry” near Charlotte, NC.   My wife and I were living in Charlotte in late 1988 and early 1989 when all of this was going on.  There was also a popular T-Shirt with what looked like smeared make-up all over it and it sported the caption “I ran into Tammy Faye at the mall.  I was in a little shop in Charlotte at the now defunct and torn down “Cityfair”  shopping area which was at the time much like Peabody Place in Memphis.  This little shop sold those T-shirts and as I looked up from where I had been browsing the T-shirts, I saw Tammy Faye in all of her make-up wearing glory standing just outside the door looking in at the display of shirts.  She didn’t say anything but  just stood there looking for about a minute or so and then walked on to window shop in the mall.  I will say I don’t know anything about TFM except for what I saw the few times I caught her act on TV with her husband and then comments later when their religious empire went down the tubes and the legal battles ensued.  And say what you will, this woman has been a survivor and despite what people said or what tragedies occurred in her life, she’s managed to bounce right back.  I just don’t see how she can recover from this latest round.  She says she is in constant pain. I hope she doesn’t have to suffer too long.

CBS Decides On a New Approach to Beef Up Its Morning Show and It’s Sure to Tick Off Some Local Affiliates

July 16, 2007

Poor CBS. You name it and they’ve done it in an effort to make their Morning Show competitive with NBC and ABC. They’ve had some great combinations of people in the morning and even tried to bring over folks from the competition. Nothing has worked. Now, according to an item sent to me from RS down in Alabama, CBS is going to try a move that they hope will help them go head to head with the big dogs. They’re going to reclaim the 7-o’clock hour (Central time). Here’s the item as sent to me.

CBS Pushes to Compete With `Early Show’

NEW YORK – CBS News is looking to make its perennially last-place morning program more competitive in the ratings by abandoning the format that allows stations to air mostly local news between 7 and 8 a.m.

The new format and other “significant changes” on “The Early Show,” will debut Jan. 1, 2008, CBS News President Sean McManus said.

NBC’S “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” both feature national news and segments for most of their program, and two five-minute inserts for local news during the 7 a.m. hour. For most of the country that watches “The Early Show,” the format is the same.

But that relationship is flipped at 43 stations covering 20 percent of the CBS audience. Two brief national inserts air during the 7 a.m. hour (the first at 7:18) with “The Early Show” only being seen for an hour at 8 a.m.

“It’s hard to get any kind of national image for the program with the format the way it is,” McManus told The Associated Press.

The format also frustrates producers and affects the 80 percent of the country that uses the full program. They say there is little flexibility to let a strong interview run longer, or cut a bad one short, under rules that require commercials just before those breaks.

“It’s almost impossible to explain to any rational person,” said Steve Friedman, the show’s executive producer.

The Early Show” is a distant third in the ratings, as all CBS morning news shows have been for decades. But the network senses vulnerability in its rivals. “The Early Show” ratings this year are up 1 percent, while “Today” is down 8 percent and “GMA” down 3 percent in the same period, according to Nielsen Media Research.

While “Today” routinely doubles “The Early Show” audience, the NBC powerhouse recorded its smallest average audience last week in 11 years.

The change, however, will be a hardship for many of the affiliates that use the blended format, which is done in such cities as Baltimore and Las Vegas. The local news there gets higher ratings than any national CBS morning show has ever received; the format was devised a decade ago to help these stations earn more money.

Some affiliates are upset that CBS News, a division of CBS Corp., announced this change without negotiating a deal to soften the financial blow, said Scott Blumenthal, chairman of the CBS affiliate board and an executive at Lin Television, which owns seven CBS stations.

“I would hope that CBS sees the value of keeping these relationships strong,” he said.

Besides the financial considerations, the affiliates are still not clear what the new format will be, he said. It’s also not clear how many – if any – of the affiliates will be able to resist if it doesn’t want the new format.

McManus said CBS would work with the affected affiliates to give them more commercial revenue. “For most stations, this will be a better deal,” he said.

For Friedman, the change can’t come soon enough.

“It’s really no way to do a show,” he said.

I would imagine that some affiliates, which have managed to do well in the mornings in spite of what CBS offers, have to be fuming. After building an audience over the years, they’re being told they have to give up the ground they’ve fought for. I’m not sure how all of this works (perhaps The GM can weigh in on this) and what obligations the locals have to the network. I’m sure the reaction for some will be along the lines the NBC affiliates had when the Today show announced they were planning to add a fourth hour in the morning. On one hand, this move could help the CBS morning show if the network is able to build on the success of a powerful local morning broadcast. And it will free up the staff of local affiliates an hour earlier so they can begin planning for the next day’s show or the anchors will now have time to go out and turn a news piece for the day, start writing for the next show or more realistically, go out and pick up breakfast for everybody. After all, you only need one anchor to do the local cut-ins that CBS will provide. On the other hand, the local affiliates may have some long-term sponsor agreements that will have to be changed and that could mean less money. I’m not sure what recourse the affiliates have when it comes to bucking what the network wants but you can bet that there are going to be some unhappy campers somewhere.