Archive for September 2007

If You Did This, May You Rot in Hell!, Can’t See the Forest for the Trees and Spraypainting Dead Animals on the Road.

September 28, 2007

May he rot in hell!”  That’s not something you normally hear from a news person on the TV or the radio.  But that’s basically what was proclaimed by a news type in St. Louis who was reporting on a local crime.  Here’s the story from St. Louis.  Granted, the crime was horrendous.   A six year old girl was murdered and a 24 year old guy has since admitted guilt to first-degree murder, kidnapping, armed criminal action and attempted forcible rape.  But it was final words of the reporter on the newscast who said

And of course we cannot convict Johnson without a trial — he’s innocent until proven guilty — but can I just say,” as he put his right hand over his heart and then extended his arm outward, “editorializing, which I can’t do –whoever committed the crime, this horrible, terrible crime, may he rot in hell.”

Well, let’s not sugar-coat it or hide our feelings here.  Go ahead and tell us what you really think.  The comment prompted a lot of response from viewers, most of it in support of the reporter and only a handful opposed to the supposedly unplanned comment.  Now the general rule of thumb is that news people are supposed to be unbiased when it comes to reporting.  They’re supposed to do the Sargent  Joe Friday thing and go with “just the facts ma’am, just the facts.”  But as a growing number of people have found, just the facts can be boring and don’t prompt much response from viewers.  Go ahead and put your personal spin on it.  After all, some news people are on a mission of self promotion and if you can figure an angle, then do it.  The sad thing is that this may boost viewer ship for that station but I think it also causes a bit more undermining of the supposedly unbiased mission of the news business.  Truly give just the facts and let the viewers decide.  Personally I think the perp of the crime SHOULD rot in hell.  But I don’t think I’d ever actually say that on TV if I was reporting on the crime.

DJ sent me a blurb on a go-get-’em reporter in L-A (the city, not Lower Alabama) covering a crime story.  It’s easier to post the link here than to tell the story.  After you read the story, I think your reaction will probably be the same as mine.  “She’s headed for the networks!”

And finally on this Friday morning,  Ken S. shared a link with me on a story by a former reporter/anchor at WMC who is now in the Windy City.   It’s kind of a funny story and Ken wanted to know if perhaps something like this has ever happened in Memphis.  Ken, I can only say that if it hasn’t yet, give it time and it will.

Do You Know When You’re Watching a VNR on TeeVee News?

September 26, 2007

I would venture a guess that most people outside the TV news business DON’T know what a VNR is.  VNR stands for Video News Release.  Some are pretty straight forward and you have a really good idea of who it’s from and what they are pushing.  Others are more subtle and could pass for a legitimate news package.  However the subject matter is couched, the FCC is serious about news outlets identifying VNRs if they use them.  The FCC hit Comcast cable with a four thousand dollar fine (I’m sure it will be appealed) for running a VNR that aired in about 20-markets.  Here’s the story.  The product: Nelson’s Rescue Sleep, a herbal alternative to sleeping pills.   Trust me, VNRs are used more often than viewers might think.  I’ve been handed a VNR and told to pull some sound from it for a VO/Sot  (voice over/soundbite ) in a broadcast.  We did live satellite shots with people who pushed products when I was working mornings at WREG.  It might be a dentist or doctor who was talking about oral health and at the very end they’d mention how “Acme Health” products can improve your oral health.  I hated doing these because you knew that whoever was being interviewed would make their pitch toward the end.  When I would question producers on it, they said they didn’t have a problem and besides, it filled a requirement of having anchors do live Q & A with somebody in addition to filling several minutes of airtime.  Some say there is a fine line between what constitutes a VNR and legitimate news or even promotion.  If someone talks about how to prevent diabetes, they may dispense solid information at the beginning before mentioning they product they are pushing.  If you do a live satellite interview with the star of a show on your network, is that a VNR or legitimate promotion?  Does that have to be identified as a VNR?  It’s contrived and they even provide you with questions.

Getting back to my original point, when I was working in news, did we identify in any form or fashion that what we aired was a VNR?  Nope.  Will they in the future?  I would imagine the threat of a fine would add some incentive.  Will news operations stop using VNRs?  I think that remains to be seen.  I think you’ll still see it in smaller markets where a manpower shortage means a scramble to fill air time.  In larger markets, I think you’ll see them more likely to be used when they have the least amount of manpower and a large news hole to fill (i.e.) early mornings, weekend mornings.  But those who DO use them had better be careful and make sure they identify to the viewers what they are seeing.  A fine can be tough on anyone’s bottom line.

Now I Know Where to Go for My Breaking News in Memphis

September 25, 2007

Anyone who knows me knows I do a fair job of keeping up with what’s going on in the news locally and nationally. Oh, I still have trouble saying the name of the president of Iran but I know his name and what he’s about. When news breaks and I’m around a computer, I generally know where to go for my info. That picture is even more clear now. I was working on a project on my computer when my wife tells me that MSNBC is reporting that Memphis International Airport is shutdown because of a communications systems failure. My first move was to go to WMC’s website since they are the NBC affiliate. I see they have a blurb at the top of their page and I click on it and seconds later I’m watching what appears to be a live feed from their chopper (it may have been video recorded earlier) which is over Memphis International. Still it had the moving pictures. It looked good. Then, I figured I’d switch to see the view from the other chopper in town. I went to WREG’s website and surfed and surfed and didn’t find anything. No mention of the story and no video. If it was there, they made it hard to find. I then went to WHBQ Fox 13 and they had information but no video at least that I saw. I then slipped over to WPTY and they had information but no video. I then went back to WREG thinking maybe I just hadn’t looked hard enough. I still didn’t find it. The Red Chopper may have been in the air and on TV but it wasn’t on my computer. Maybe that communications outage was spreading. I better sign off this post before it hits my computer.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

September 24, 2007

So I’m listening to a report on MSNBC with Mika Brzezinki about the president of Iran and his visit to the U-S.  She was talking with Joe Scarborough (no this wasn’t on the Morning Joe show) about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and how it appears that the U-S is on the path to war with Iran. 

Some pretty heady stuff in my opinion.  Some good observations were made by both and they referenced the 60-Minutes interview with M-A by Scott Pelley.  So Mika wraps up the segment with Joe and I’m not sure who was more disgusted with what came out of her mouth next: her or me.  She started to read a lead-in to a Brittney Spears story and she stopped with a look of disgust.   I will put this squarely on the shoulders of a producer and executive producer who apparently have no idea of what constitutes news or perhaps has his or her head so far up the posterior that the lack of oxygen prompted this story placement.  Mika, who earned applause after refusing to read a Paris Hilton story a few months back, was not a happy camper.  Joe Scarborough offered to read the B-S story and did and they both commented about how Brittney and the possibility of yet another war in the Middle East were basically on the same level news-wise.  My question is this:  Is it just me?  If they are doing this crap at the cable-network level,  why should we expect to see much better at the local level.  And yes, local TV news follows the example of cable news way too often.  Where do you think that ticker idea came from.  The thinking seems to be “if it’s good enough for CNN, it’s okay for us too.”  My biggest concern?  I’m running out of places to get my information about the world.  Thank goodness for the BBC.

News Channel 3’s Andy Wise Ends up On HIS Side!

September 16, 2007

Man, I leave town early for a weekend in Nashville and it turns out I missed all of the fireworks in Memphis.  It turns out that WREG’s Andy Wise whose aggressive reporting and bulldog tactics helped establish the station’s “On-Your-Side” slogan, was, according to Wise and witnesses, attacked by a man they were covering as part of a story.  The video (both edited and raw)
shows some quick movement and Wise grabbing the guy and both falling to the ground.  The video proves Wise can physically hold on to someone as doggedly as he can pursue a lead!  And at last word, Wise plans to file simple assault charges against the guy who reportedly head-butted Wise and spit on him.  Somewhere along the way, Wise needed some stitches  to close a wound to the head.

I was asked in a private email by a person who identified himself as a journalism major where I thought Andy Wise was justified in grabbing the guy after the guy supposedly asked the news crew to leave him along and then attacked  Andy.  Well, I’ve never been much for the in-your-face journalism that was first made popular by CBS’ 60-Minutes Mike Wallace.  For a long time some folks have followed Mr. Wallace’s lead because they can sometimes get some good sound or good video of the “perp” but it also makes for dramatic TV as the camera chases someone down the street or where ever.  The folks who flee look guilty whether they are or not (or at least look like they have something to hide). Also, the viewers watch, waiting to see if the perp will turn and attempt to “clean the clock” of the person chasing them.  I can’t tell you the number of times while working at WREG that someone told me that at some point, someone, somewhere was going to take Andy down and they wanted to see the video when it happened.   Nc3 is quite willing to accommodate viewers as they have posted not only the edited reports of A-W on their website, they’ve posted the raw video as well.   If the video hasn’t been blasted into a promo yet, then expect it to be there soon enough.

I was also asked how I would have responded if someone had attacked me.  First, I have to admit that if I had been warned a couple of times by the perp and I persisted, then I shouldn’t be surprised if I got attacked.  However, if I had received NO warning and the person attacked me, I’m afraid the perp probably would be able to file assault charges against ME because I’d probably attempt to inflict a little payback.  The perp would be able to tell a judge that I wasn’t On His Side, I was ON HIS BACK, making him eat cement or whatever else was handy.  Of course, that would probably only serve to make the perp angry and then he would proceed to kick my butt into oblivion.  But that is a theoretical situation as I’ve never been in that situation.  I wasn’t in Andy’s shoes and never hope to be.  I would venture a guess that this attack and others that have happened against reporters in the past year will give some pause to think about their actions in covering the news and to give News Directors pause to issue policies on aggressive coverage.  Hey it makes for great TV until some yahoo pulls a gun and shoots a reporter or videographer.  Then it’s too late.

The Show That had West Tennessee (and perhaps the rest of the country) Talking and What Happens in the Hood Should Stay in the Hood.

September 12, 2007

I’m no longer a virgin. I finally watched my first Oprah show. Of course it was TIVOed. But, what was the topic you ask? Oh come on folks. It was the topic that probably gave Oprah some of her biggest ratings of the summer season if not the year. I’m talking about the Mary Winkler interview. I would just about bet the farm that the folks at WMC and every other station in the South or Mid-South that carries Oprah had to be thanking their lucky stars that they had this particular show in their stable. I see that WMC made hay while the sun shone on this particular field and as well they should. I saw at least two promotions about having reaction to the interview from the good folks from Selmer, Tennessee (where the shooting of Rev. Winkler took place for those not up to speed on the case) . I’m sorry I didn’t TIVO the Action News 5 5pm News. If they didn’t blow the competition out of the water ratings-wise I’d be surprised. Anyway, I’ve never seen Oprah and I’m not sure if what I saw is the usual format or if there is more audience participation. It was an interesting “get” for Oprah although I thought the interview dragged a bit here and there. Did it change my mind about what I think happened or the verdict in the trial.  Not rally.  My wife saw some of the excerpts later on some other cable news show so I’ve no doubt that it was a big deal nationally. My wife seems to think that the rest of the nation thinks Mary Winkler got away with murder. Hey, a lot of folks here in the MidSouth think that! I’ve just got to remember not to get my wife real P-Oed when I’m trying to sleep or at least hide all of the weapons if I do.

And speaking of weapons, there’s one person who needs to stay away from any sharp objects IMHO. This guy you are about to read about seems to think that some local TV news people are the cause of black people dying. Maybe he has a point but you decide. This item is from NewsBlues and sent to me by Mr. DJ who always has my back ( I think). Here is what DJ sent:

GUNPOINT INTERVIEW

A Nebraska bonehead found a novel way to get his mug on TV. He pulled his car near a news crew from KMTV-3-CBS in Omaha (Market #75), identified himself by name, told the crew to “stop killing black people,” then fired a handgun into the air. Cops arrested him a short time later.

But, wait, it gets better worse. Reporter Dave Roberts visited gunman Sean Sweet behind bars and asked him, “Whyjewdodat?”

Sweet explained (sorta) that the local news media is “killing black people” with its crime coverage. He accused TV news of “exploiting” crime stories. “If you go somewhere else they’d shoot you for putting their business out there like that. Where I come from, what happens in the streets, stays in the streets because it’s considered, it’s telling.”

So, TV news folks, stop putting the business of others out there for all to see. Otherwise, if you get yourself “capped” don’t come crying to me cause I’ll just say I told you so. Remember, “Guns Don’t Kill People, Crime Coverage Kills People. ” What a great slogan. Don’t be surprised to see some politician picking up on that.

How About That Expanded TODAY show, How to REALLY Imbed your Logo on Your Video and Why I Still Can’t Watch Anniversary Coverage of the 9-11 Attacks

September 10, 2007

I must have missed all of the hoopla about the Today show expanding another hour on most of your NBC stations. I was out of pocket and didn’t get to see what it looked like although I was told that Matt and Meredith don’t have to stick around for that hour. Maybe they just need to pay them more. It will be interesting to see how this extended Today show works out. I’m not sure if the suits figure America just can’t get enough of TTShow or perhaps they’re trying to reach a new audience that is finally getting back home after dropping off the kids at school or where ever. On the other hand they may find that the theory of “if some is good, then more will be better” may not work out too well. I will admit I never watched TTS mainly because I was either working during that time or that neither Bryant (before I started working mornings) nor Katie (after I came off mornings) did much to float my boat. And wouldn’t you know it, they both ended up at CBS where they discovered they hadn’t/haven’t floated CBS’ boat either. Anyway, I’d be curious as to how the numbers look in the Memphis market after November when the big promotional hype has come and gone.

For years now, various networks and later local stations have used “bugs” in the corner of the screen to keep their identity before the viewers. The theory was in part that with people surfing the channels, they always wanted the viewers to know which network or station they were watching if the channel hopping stopped on them. Also, if somebody recorded the program for viewing later, the identity went with the video. I’ve posted lately that some of the animated bugs with their accompanying sound effects are annoying. (FX are you listening?) But one source of video from south of our border apparently wanted to make no mistake about where some footage came from. I was watching CNN Sunday night and saw some footage of whatever was going on. What caught my eye was not the video but the fact that it looked like the folks who dubbed off the video had placed not one, not two, not three but a couple dozen translucent logos or bugs as a background to the original video. I couldn’t make out the logo but it was everywhere. Perhaps someone else has seen that video or know what I’m talking about. Will we one day see the translucent logos of sponsors appearing across the background of the shows we are watching?  Along those lines, I did see (and I can’t remember which cable network I was watching) a clever ploy by sponsors to keep the viewer tuned in during commercials.  Any body involved in running a station or network knows that thanks to TIVO and other video recorders that people like me speed through commercials.  How to get a viewer to viewer to NOT zap a commercial is the Great Question with a Much Sought After Answer.  One network has made some head way IMHO.  Much like the enhanced versions of movies where they put trivia at the bottom of the screen during the show (AMC does this once a month)  one show ran some trivia at the bottom of the screen during some commercials. I love trivia and could not keep from watching during the commercial. For some reason they only did this during the first part of the commercial break. Of course I couldn’t tell you what the commercial was but hey, at least I watched!

And finally, I will make an effort to once again NOT watch any of the anniversary coverage of 9-11. I just can’t explain it but I’ve recorded shows on previous anniversaries of 9-11 and could never bring myself to watch them. I find I still have a mixture of anger and helplessness stemming from all the events of that day and I just have not been able to overcome any of it. On top of everything else, so much bloodshed has stemmed from that day. I hurt for the victims of that day and their families and I hurt for the victims and their families of the violence and bloodshed since. So for those producing specials to mark the anniversary, you won’t have to worry about anyone watching from the LarkSmith household.