Archive for December 2007

So We Bid Goodbye to Another Year and Look Forward to What 2008 Has to Offer

December 31, 2007

Wow, am I glad to see 2007 pass into history. I really can’t put my finger on it but 2007 was, …..well strange. Not just from a news perspective but all the way around. I thought it was just me but I’ve talked to several people and they kinda had the same feeling. From a news standpoint there was the whole Anna Nicole Smith thing that I thought would never go away. There was what seems to be the never ending political campaigning going on in Iowa and New Hampshire and I like politics (not like my wife does, mind you). Locally there was the West Tennessee preacher’s wife shooting trial, the local politician (you pick which one) caught with his/her hand in the till court date/trial, the ugliness that became the Memphis mayor’s race and the shooting of a little boy in West Memphis. Except for the preacher’s wife case, everything else managed to get turned into a “race” thing. Yes, I’m glad 2007 is behind us.

2008 can be the year when ALL stations in Memphis end up on a more equal footing. Folks will have to turn to a new place to get themselves a dose of Andy Wise. Even though he starts his new gig Wednesday I think at WMC, for now he’s supposed to be off air until his non-compete runs out. We’ll have to see if anyone tries to stretch what is considered “out of sight”. Don’t think that WREG isn’t going to be watching ready to pounce at the first hint that AW is breaking any part of that non-compete. In the meantime WREG will need to scramble to fill the void and get somebody “On Your Side”, which as someone once pointed out makes the reporting “not fair and balanced”. Shouldn’t a reporter be on everyone’s side? If they are on someone’s side then that means they are NOT on someone else’s side. How can they be objective?  Anyway, you get my point.

Some food for thought at we enter the first week of 2008. I ran across an interview with a former anchor in Philadelphia who had some interesting points to make about local news. While Larry Kane was talking specifically about the Philly market, his observations hold true for all markets IMHO. He talks about how “news talent is over-rated”. He talks about what makes a good anchor and why an anchor won’t last if he or she is not out on the streets covering the news and instead remains anchored to the desk. He also pointed out that education and local politics are UNDER covered and that a soundbite with a politician doesn’t amount to real news coverage. Maybe that’s how WREG should be “On Our Side’ instead of the “Consumer Thing”.  Will any station in Memphis give serious coverage to education or politics?  I think I have a much better chance of losing 15 pounds this year than that type of news coverage occurring in Memphis. Some have tried but it’s just not sexy enough.  I think it takes too much time, and effort which too many newsrooms don’t have.

Finally, I had a friendly discussion recently about how I referred to the rankings of stations in the Memphis market. I think it’s safe to say that the ratings are bragging points for news operations and selling points for sales people trying to get advertising time sold. I would bet that most viewers really don’t care which station is Number 1. They either like what they see or they don’t.  I still contend that the ratings/households/demographics can say what you want them to say if you break them down enough.   I lifted this quote from a comment made by a reader of the Larry Kane story mentioned previously:  “Being a #1 station doesn’t make you the best. It means the most people watch you. Being the best station means covering the best stories…….”.     As for my previous postings on which station in Memphis might be the most desirable to own, this is what “The GM” had to say in a previous post:

I do think many on this blog underrate the value of WHBQ in Memphis. This station is one of the stronger FOX stations in the US. With Memphis being a majority African American city and with WHBQ’s programming mix, FOX13 could very well be #1 some day soon. No, I’m not into the egg nog. Just look at how strong WLMT was as a UPN and how the switch to CW affected their numbers. Strong ethnic programming on both the network and syndication side pays off.

If I had a choice, I’d rather own/run WHBQ — from a pure money perspective. WREG has too much legacy in the form of high news costs. I also believe the internal culture of “we’ve always done it this way” would be more difficult to change than a hungry WHBQ.

As I said, food for thought.  Happy New Year.

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Perhaps It WAS WHBQ That An Out of Town Company Wanted to Buy Afterall

December 23, 2007

Previously I posted on the possible sale of WREG to an out of town company.  This after an employee at a TV station in another market in the region said rumors had been floating around that the company that owns his station was considering buying a station in Memphis.  Several folks DOTR indicated that it didn’t make sense that Oak Hill/Local TV LLC would let go of what is now the Numero Uno station in the market even if Oak Hill purchased the nine Fox O&Os on the block.  WHBQ in Memphis is one of the nine stations that was listed for sale.  Well, it seems that WHBQ got pulled from the sale.  According to a heads-up I received first from P-B,  The Chicago Tribune reports that WHBQ was not among the EIGHT stations sold.  This works out well for Local TV LLC since the whole duopoly thing wouldn’t work in this case in the Memphis market for various reasons.  So, does that mean that this entity my contact was telling me about which owns a couple of Number 1 stations elsewhere along with a bunch of newspapers is now going to go for WHBQ or perhaps was heading for that direction all along?  Yah, they’d probably prefer to have WREG but then so would many companies.  But it appears if this company wants to dance, they’re going to have to do it with Fox 13 since the dance card of everyone else is filled for the moment.

Is Andy Wise About to Be on The Competition’s Side?!!!!!!Wait Let Me Now Add Breaking News!!!!!

December 21, 2007

THIS IS A JOELARKINS BLOG UPDATE!!!!!!!(Roll the Breaking News Open)

THIS JUST IN TO THE JOELARKINS BLOG. NEWSCHANNEL 3 HAS ESCORTED ANDY WISE OUT OF THE BUILDING. THIS AFTER THE LOYAL EMPLOYEE OF ABOUT TEN YEARS AND FORMER EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR ANNOUNCED HIS RESIGNATION. WITNESSES SAY WISE IS INDEED HEADING TO WMC WHERE HE WILL SERVE DUTIES OFF CAMERA (WE’RE TOLD AS AN EXECUTIVE PRODUCER) UNTIL HIS NON-COMPETE IS WRAPPED UP. FOR DETAILS ON MY EARLIER POST, SCROLL DOWN BELOW. CONGRATS TO WMC ON THIS COUP AND STAY TUNED TO THIS BLOG, PERHAPS WE WILL SECURE COMMENTS FROM THE WISE-MAN HIMSELF THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON. WE NOW RETURN YOU TO OUR REGULAR BLOG POSTING AND LOWER CASE TYPE.

*****This following is an excerpt from AW’s farewell letter to his co-workers:

I submitted my resignation to Ron and Bruce this morning, effectively at the expiration of my contract Dec. 31. I have accepted a position at Action News 5 to start Jan. 1. I will be able to discuss more details about that at another time very soon.

This is an opportunity to take what I do to the next level — and to produce appointment-television segments based on ideas I have created, ideas that haven’t seemed to gain traction at News Channel 3.

Here is the official news release from WMC:

MEMPHIS, TN December 21, 2007—The Mid-South’s premier newscast and best known Investigative Reporter are joining forces in an unprecedented move: Investigative Reporter Andy Wise is leaving WREG to join WMC-TV and Action News 5.

Wise is a long-time consumer investigative specialist who is instantly recognizable to Mid-South viewers as a no-nonsense, hard-hitting reporter. With Wise joining “The Action News 5 Investigators” there can be little doubt that WMC-TV5 has cornered the market for television investigative reporting.

“For generations, Mid-Southerners have trusted the tradition of broadcast journalism at Action News 5. They grew up watching it. Their parents grew up watching it. Now in the age of HDTV, I am thrilled to be a part of producing ground-breaking segments for WMC-TV and wmctv.com that will set a new standard for consumer protection in this generation,” said Action News 5’s Andy Wise.

Andy Wise began his broadcast news career at Raycom Media sister station WLOX in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1991. He eventually took over the investigative unit at Raycom’s WLBT in Jackson, Mississippi, before moving to Memphis in 1997.

“Mid-South viewers know exactly what they’re going to get when they see one of his investigative stories on television: hard nosed, relentless, top notch reporting, aimed at helping our viewers. He’s a perfect fit for our news team. We’re extremely proud to welcome him as another addition to our great team,” WMC-TV 5’s News Director Tracey Rogers comments.

WMC-TV5 Vice President and General Manager Lee Meredith said, “We’ve admired Andy’s work for years. We know people in the Mid-South look to Andy as a leader because of the way he helps them deal with many different types of consumer problems. We have a great team of journalists at Action News 5, and Andy’s abilities in consuner reporting are a perfect complement to our established strengths.”

Mr. Wise will begin his duties at WMC-TV5 on January 2, 2008; however due to existing contractual obligations, Wise will produce consumer investigative stories behind the scenes throughout 2008 and will be seen and heard on Action News 5 beginning January 1, 2009.

There’s little doubt that one of the best known TV reporters in the Memphis market is Andy Wise. His “IN YOUR FACE” reporting style and “I’LL WRING ANSWERS FROM YOU NO MATTER WHAT” interviews have attracted viewers from the get-go. Some watch because they believe in Andy. Others watch because they’re waiting to see someone “clean his clock”. Word has it that AW is moving across town. Word has been circulating this past week that WMC was picking up somebody in the market but it wasn’t clear who that was. If AW does goes to WMC, then score a major coup for the folks on Union. I liked AW when I worked with him although our paths didn’t cross that much. He is a focused individual and will tell you (his bio used to, I don’t know if it still does) that he considers what he does as part of a ministry. AW was named employee of the year by the NYTimes a couple of years ago. You do not want to stand between AW and where he wants to go be it a bad guy or a goal. That’s one of the reasons he’s been successful in the Memphis market. And his name recognition is about as good or better than most of the anchors at the local level. What about a non-compete you may ask? Anybody who really wants somebody will either pay it off or put them in a behind the scene’s position to work off the N-C. A year is nothing. The competing stations were willing to do that when they were bidding for Joe Birch to get him away from WMC a few years back. It’s not personal, it’s just business.

I Can Take on 23 Five Year Olds in a Fight!

December 20, 2007

We all daydream on occasion, some more than others.  Sometimes I think about what it might be like to have unlimited or at least a lot of income at my disposal, or to have some sort of  really  nice, high tech airplane waiting for me at the airport.  I can honestly say in my 51 years I never gave much thought to how many five years olds I could take on in a fight.  That is until D-J sent me a link to a website that lets you answer that particular question.  Now, this particular website falls under the heading of having way too much time on my hands which is exceeded only by that of the creator of the website.  Still, if you are dreading making small talk over the next couple of weeks as you attend those holiday parties, this might be just what you need.  If you are interested in finding out how many five years olds you could take on in a fight, then go to the website.  Consider this an early Christmas/Kwanzaa/New Year’s or whatever gift from me.

Is Someone Making Overtures to Purchase WREG?

December 18, 2007

I will be the first to admit that I’m out of the loop on…well just about everything these days.  So imagine my surprise when I get some information asking if I’ve heard anything about WREG either about to be sold or being considered for purchase.  The person who contacted me said there were rumors floating around that the owners of the station where this person worked (within the region) were considering buying WREG.  I’ve checked around and have several people asking but so far no confirmation.  Now, IMHO the sale of WREG is within the realm of possibility now that Oak Hill had a successful bid for the Fox O&Os recently and that would give Oak Hill the Number 1 and Number 3 stations in the market.  I’m not sure how the ruling by the FCC on ownership affects such a duopoly. Perhaps someone could weigh in.  Perhaps the station this ownership group is really interested in is WHBQ which maybe Fox wouldn’t sell individually but Oak Hill could.  Perhaps Oak Hill would like a presence in the market but would be happy with a strong presence as opposed to a Number 1.  I’m reminded of a statement made by a former GM and head of the NYTimes Broadcast Group now living in North Mississippi who once remarked he would rather have a profitable Number 2 station in the market as opposed to a Number 1 station that is spending a ton of money to stay Number 1.  A variety of possibilities exist.  Some might dismiss the rumors altogether.  I say the source is reliable enough that in this case where there is smoke, there is fire.  We’ll see what unfolds in the  new year.

Desperate Advertisers

December 13, 2007

Ask anyone in the TV industry and they will tell you that advertisers will do just about anything to get people to watch.  How desperate are they?  They are so desperate that tonight I received a telemarketing call asking if I would watch a DVD on December 18th if they sent it to me.   Here’s a breakdown of the conversation:

Caller:”Hello, my name is Anthony and I’m conducting a survey…

Joe: Hey Anthony, how are you doing tonight?

Caller: uh …and no personal information will be revealed….

Joe:Hey Anthony, I said how are you doing?

Caller: Uh, I’m doing okay.  This is a survey about TV viewer habits and would you be willing to answer a few questions?

Joe: Normally I hang up immediately on telemarketers but tonight I’m feeling generous so I will answer your questions.  Go ahead.

Caller: How often do you watch TV, six to eight hours…..

Joe: I watch TV about an hour and a half a day or so…oh what the heck about 14-hours a week.

Caller …so would you say about four to six hours….

Joe: Two hours a day!

Caller:Of those hours watched, how much would you say involves watching comedy, six to eight hours….

Joe: None, comedy on TV is all drivel, (wife says what about Boston Legal?)

Caller:  So is that six to eight hours…..

Joe: It’s all drivel!

Caller:  Of those hours watched, how many hours do you watch drama, six to eight hours….

Joe: None, I don’t watch drama on TV.

Caller: So, none at all.

Joe: You got it.

Caller: Would you say your age is 50 to 75…

Joe:Yes.

Caller: Could you be specific on your age?

Joe: Yes, 51.

Caller: If we sent you a DVD of a show, would you be willing to watch it on December 18th and allow us to call you and ask you your reaction.

Joe:  Not at all.

Caller: You would not be willing to watch it?

Joe: Nope.

Caller: Is there anyone else in your household who is 50 to 75?

Joe: Nope!

Caller:  Thank you very much for your time.

Now, before someone accuses me of being a jerk, let me say I am not.  I was minding my own business talking to my wife when someone reached out and touched me.  I didn’t say “hey I wish someone would call so I can give them grief on the phone”.  Normally I do hang up on telemarketers.  Yes, it’s their job, but it’s my phone.  I pay for it.  They don’t.  End of argument.  I’m not sure exactly what is going on here but I got (and so did my wife who wondered who I was talking to and got on the phone to listen) the distinct impression that somebody is trying a new way of reaching out to an audience they can’t get.  Also, I’m supposed to be on a DO-NOT-CALL list nationally and state-wide.  How in the heck am I getting these calls.  I’ve noticed an uptick in these calls in the last year.  Is something going on that I’m not aware of.  Do telemarketers NOT care about DO-NOT-CALL lists anymore.  I don’t know but I’m tired of someone calling asking me if I want to trade in my car because they are willing to take it off my hands at Brand X car dealership.  Anyway, if you get a call from a telemarketer and he identifies himself as “Anthony” tell him I said “hey”.

The Truth About News Choppers is Revealed and This Land is Not Necessarily Our Land

December 12, 2007

Having a news chopper is a double edged sword.  When legitimate news breaks and access is limited to the news site, you can’t beat a news chopper.  It gives a different perspective, it’s promotable and  it  provides a great billboard in the sky  as  it hovers over the  news scene.  On the other hand, news choppers are expensive to operate and  managers have to make sure they don’t use up too much of their budget early in the month so they end up grounded when they really need it.  But do they really need it?  An interesting commentary can be found on news choppers by Leslie Griffith of The Huffington Post.  Griffith also states in that article regarding news helicopters “Truth is, the media corporation does not care if you are informed, it only cares the television is on. That means ratings and that means advertising dollars.”    Still, when all is said and done, there will be the news operations with access to helicopters and those without.  Those with them will wonder how they can use them today and those without will wish they had one.

Did you know that the federal government can charge a news operation for videotaping or snapping photographs in a national park or wildlife refuge? Yes they can.  Depends on how the video is going to be used and if the federal managers really want to push it.  I ran into this a few years ago near Marianna, AR on a story I was working on for the Outdoor show at WREG.  Some guy claimed to have created a great fishing lure and we were going to try it out on videotape at a lake located in a STATE PARK located inside a NATIONAL FOREST.  After we drove over from Memphis we were told we’d have to pay something like 200 dollars to be able to  shoot video since this was for an entertainment program and it was inside federal property.  I thought the person was pulling my leg until I started making phone calls and found out they weren’t kidding.  We ended up not having to pay a fee since we were going to just turn around and go home and some of the local townspeople wanted the publicity.  Why am I mentioning this now?  Because the federal government is re-visiting the rules on that issue and there are concerns they could create even tighter restrictions.  The details can be found in this article from the National Press Photographers Association.  Right now you can still watch wildlife in these refuges but if you take photographs or video for publication or broadcast expect to pay.  What was it Woody Guthrie said “This land is your land, this land is my land”….yah right.