Odds & Ends during the First Full Week of January

I guess one might consider this to be the “in your face” shoutdown/smackdown or some sort of equivalent by one TV station to its arch-rival in Memphis. I’m talking about WREG’s billboard on Union right up the street from WMC. That billboard basically promotes WREG’s morning crew which has been winning consistently in the tightly contested morning race. That board is a co-op with CBS’ Early Show which unveiled it’s new look this Monday morning. Still, I’m impressed that WREG sprang for the billboard especially since over the 16-years I worked DOTR the only shows promoted on billboards were the nightside newscasts. I would just about bet that was in the works before Andy Wise defected to WMC and if so the timing is great. Of course this might just prompt the folks on Union to “get mad as hell” and work even harder to beat the folks at WREG. What I don’t know is whether there is a billboard in the vicinity of WHBQ Fox 13 which is also breathing down the collective necks of both WREG and WMC and beats WMC in a couple of time slots.

I just found out from a former employee from DOTR that Ethel Sengstacke is now working at Fox 13 as Operations Manager. This is a major score for WHBQ IMHO. There are few people who are as well connected in the Bluff City than ES. If she doesn’t know them, they probably aren’t worth knowing. Her journalism roots run deep with the family having run the Tri-Sate Defender. Ont op of everything else, ES is a class-act and I’m proud to be able to call her a friend (although she might be hesitant to be seen in public with me as she has a reputation to uphold. Congrats to you Ethel and congrats to Fox 13.

As the faithful rally to celebrate Elvis’ birthday at Graceland I’m reminded of another person who showed up at Sun Studios with musical talent back in the 50s. This guy who really wanted to be a professional baseball player was encouraged to pursue music. He showed up at Sun Studios where he cut a few records. His success was a bit slower but when he finally hit it big, he really hit it big in the mid to late 60s. The really amazing thing is that this musician who was born in North Mississippi not far from Memphis made his mark in country music. Why is that such a big deal? Because Charlie Pride, a black man from Sledge succeeded in a genre of music that was dominated by whites. This was incredible. As a former country music DJ, I always enjoyed spinning his records. I remember seeing CP on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson where he talked about his career and how he was ostracized by some in the black community. CP said he was told once “You look like us, but you sound like them!”. I’m sure the band “Wild Cherry” heard the same thing after their one hit “Play That Funky Music (White Boy). Perhaps when Black History Month rolls around someone will make sure they include Charlie Pride as one of the people who left a mark on the culture of this country.

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5 Comments on “Odds & Ends during the First Full Week of January”

  1. Doug J. Says:

    Not that anyone misses my comments, but I’ve been remiss in not commenting more often.

    That said, I don’t put too much stock into the NC3 billboard. I drive past a bus stop version on my way to work — and all I’d say is remember — it’s a co-op — if CBS wasn’t carrying a lot of the expense — they wouldn’t be there. After all, CBS just relaunched its Morning Show for the umpteenth time, so it’s probably urging a lot of local markets to run those types of promotions. 5 will be like a snake in the tall grass — it’ll strike — there’s just no telling where or when.

    And great news about Ethel. As you rightfully point out, she’s one of the classier people in a business that doesn’t always have a lot of class. Any operation smart enough to have her on board will see things improve. Always a calm voice in a storm… a wise word when one is needed… and a swift decision-maker when it’s called for (or is the word “decider?”). I’m probably in that boat with you — proud to call her a friend, but knowing that she’d probably rather not be seen with me in public.

    Good name-check on Mr. Pride, although as your African-American correspondent, I wonder whether you should have waited until Black History Month (Our slogan: “All the history in half the time!”). Next thing I know, you’ll be carrying a sign for Barack Obama.

  2. Jason Ball Says:

    Truer words were never spoken, my friend, about Ms. Ethel Sengstacke…one of the greatest people I have ever known. You’re not so bad either, Joe. Let’s meet at Zinny’s East for a beer and some wings. Doesn’t Zinny’s still exist?

  3. joelarkins Says:

    Yes, Z-E still exists (although it’s been a few years since my shadow has fallen across the doorway) and Jason I’d love to buy you a beer (how rare is that). But that would mean you’d have to tell me when you’re in town you dog. Good hearing from you Jason.
    Doug, on the Charlie Pride/Black History Month thing, I was trying to plant a seed in the mind of producers who put together the Black History Month segments in the Memphis area. It might spice up the mix of well knowns such as George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, etc. And as I’ve raised the question before, shouldn’t we just have Black History all year long. Doesn’t putting it all in one month segregate it? I’m just asking.

  4. Doug J. Says:

    First — Jason Ball! Nice to hear from some of our more far-flung correspondents!

    Second — it’s too early to plant a seed for Black History Month — every producer in town who might glance at this blog will have forgotten the reference by MLK day next week…

    You gotta plant the seed on Jan. 31 — or make sure the news release hits the assignment desk on Feb 1 — that’s the only time they’re going to be thinking about Black History Month. And yes, in some parts of town, we already have Black History Month all year long. That’s only because Uncle Ruckus won’t shut up about back in the day once he gets a couple of 40s in him!

  5. Bob Says:

    Joe, I wanted to share my thoughts about Ethel Sengstacke. When you talk about individuals who have the potential to directly impact the quality of a television news program, she really stands out as one of the leaders in the market. Her silence can be deafening and she can say everything she needs to with a simple look in an environment known for big voices and even bigger egos. If we enjoyed any success at all during my time at WREG, Ethel deserves a lot of the credit. I wish her continued success. She embodies total professionalism in an industry filled with a lot of wanna-bes.


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