Archive for February 2008

The Ratings are IN From the Feb. Book in Memphis and the Winners Are…..

February 28, 2008

Can you believe we’ve reached the end of February already.  Even with the extra day I’m still wondering “Where did the month go? ”  And in my email I found all kinds of numbers from the TV stations.   Now before someone starts busting my chops, I’m sharing the numbers that I received from two stations.  I know, I know, the demographics aren’t in and I sure as heck do NOT profess to be able to explain the nuance of these numbers.  If I thought I could get ALL the GM’s at ALL the stations in Memphis to cooperate and give me their spin ON camera, I’d personally swing by with my video camera and give each one of the GMs 60 seconds to break down the numbers as THEY SEE them and I would share those comments UNEDITED on this blog.  The problem is, I don’t think I could get EVERYONE to do that.  I figure I could get one, maybe two to cooperate.  I don’t think the others would give me the time of day.   Having said that, here are the numbers and results that have been shared with me.

It’s a tight race in the mornings with the lead changing as often as one would expect in a good horse race.  WREG edges the competition (just barely) in the 5 o’clock hour with WMC starting out strong and WHBQ closing in as they move toward the 6 o’clock hour. By the end of the 6 o’clock hour, WMC surged.

Live at 9 on WREG looks like it fares well against the Today Show on WMC and actually pulling ahead in the second half hour.

Nobody is touching WREG at Noon.

WREG looks good at 4 and 4:30

AT 5p.m., WMC squeaks by WREG by less than a ratings point.

At 6p.m., WMC commands that time slot by almost two and a half points in the first 15 minutes and widens the gap by the time they hit the bottom of the hour.

At 9p.m., WHBQ has some strong numbers.

At 10p.m. WMC edges WREG by more than a half a ratings point.

So, that’s my take from the numbers shared with me.  I admit I may have misread a few numbers here and there but I feel overall I was on the money.  Besides, I’ve learned that if I am indeed in error, someone will correct me.  In a nutshell, we’ve got some serious competition going on especially in the mornings where the head-to-head-to-head fight is so tight that I think it could go in any direction at any time in 2008.  As both Memphis and Tennessee found(and so have some of the stations), it’s a battle to get to be Number 1.  It’s even hard to stay there.

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Lazy Reporters, Conspiracy Theories at a Former NYTimes Station and I End Up Putting on Make-up for Memphis TV

February 26, 2008

I really need to be working on a project that needs my attention but I just can’t get psyched up for it so I’m writing this instead.  I know I’ve addressed this topic before but I ran across a couple of things on the ShopTalk Water Cooler that caught my attention.  One was a running battle between videographers and reporters about carrying gear in the field.  I think it’s safe to say that anybody shooting video appreciates help or at least the offer of help to carry gear.  I know I always offered and sometimes insisted on carrying the sticks (tripod) especially if there far to go.  Some shooters don’t like anyone to handle their gear or at least their cameras.  I also learned the hard way not to lean a collapsed tripod against the bumper of a  car.  I learned that when it slides sideways and hits the ground and breaks off the head of that very, very expensive tripod, that you should not make that mistake twice.  AS I said, I’ve never heard a videographer  complain if a reporter offers to carry gear but I haven’t heard anything from shooters on this blog.  Videographers, now is your chance to weigh in.  Do you want a reporter to help or would you rather they keep their mitts off your gear.  What about after a live shot.  Do you want them to help you break down or do they just tend to mess things up.  I’d be curious as to your thoughts.

WHNT in Huntsville, AL, a former NYTimes station and now a member of the Local TV group has come under fire from some viewers and on Shoptalk’s Water Cooler.  It seems that just prior to a CBS News 60 Minutes Report this past weekend about how Karl Rove supposedly set up the governor for a fall in that state, the station went to black and the viewing audience missed the report.  Conspiracy theories abound.  The station’s news director addresses the issue in her blog.  The segment has been re-broadcast twice now on the station’s local news.  Man, the headaches that a technical glitch can cause.  Glad I’m not answering the phones there.

And finally today, I got up early this morning (early for me these days) and put on a coat and tie and headed off for the TV studio where I promptly “slapped on some face” (put on make-up) and for about an hour read off a teleprompter.  It would have gone faster but I was a little rusty reading off the camera.  This was my first time in a studio on a local TV station reading prompter since I left WREG.  It felt a little odd to be quite honest with you.  No, it wasn’t one of the local news operations.  It was at WKNO TV where I volunteered my time to help drum up support for their public TV operation.  So if you tune in to the News Hour or any of the “Brit-coms” that they feature don’t be surprised to see me staring back at your.  Hey, send them money and they may take me off!

Don’t You Know that All Those TV Folks Look Alike & What the Bookies Used to do Before the Internet

February 25, 2008

All people on local TV look alike.  And everyone on local TV knows each other.  That pretty much appears to be the general feeling of some viewers I’ve encountered over the more than 25 years I was involved in the local media and the three years since I’ve left the TV news business.  The most recent case came Thursday night in Millington where I spoke to a civic club at a local eatery.  First, some background.  When I came to the Memphis market in 1989, Joe Birch had been on the air at WMC for about ten years.  To viewers it’s easy to see the confusion that would cause:  two white guys, about the same age, with pouffy hair, the same first name and they both were involved in local news.  When folks would call me “Joe Birch”, I would tell them they were “half right” since my first name is Joe.  I would also tell them as long as my wife never got us confused there was no harm.  I would then give them a business card.  I have had some people argue with me that I WAS  Joe Birch.  (Joe  has told me that he was asked,  on occasion,  about the Outdoor show he hosted).   Over the years I’ve been called  Steve Hayslip, Todd Demers and even Les Smith who was doing  sports at WREG at the time.   I could see perhaps the confusion with Steve and Todd but being confused with Les was more of a stretch than even I could imagine. (and I have a great imagination).  I’ve even had people call my wife Marybeth Conley and they look NOTHING  alike.   My former co-anchor in the morning (after Marybeth) was none-to-happy when she and I paid a visit to the Cook Convention Center for some event and someone referred to her as April Thompson.  In all fairness, she had only been in the market for a couple of years at the time.  Now, back to my visit to Millington.  I knew something was going to be said as I made my way through the restaurant and I made eye contact with a little old lady.  It wasn’t until about 15 minutes later after going through the salad bar line that the people seated at the table began to shout in my general direction “Andy Wise, Andy Wise, come be on my side. ”   Now Andy is a good looking guy and I guess I should be flattered but Andy and I look about as much alike as…well, we don’t look anything alike.  But we both used to be on local TV and he’s about to be back on at some point in time.  I didn’t say anything to the folks in the restaurant.  Perhaps I just should have told them “As long as my wife doesn’t get us confused……”

Before the big ballgame Saturday night between Memphis and Tennessee, my wife was trying to find what the “line” was on the game.  She couldn’t find it and I started to look the information up on the internet.  (Google is my home page).   All of this reminded me of when I was working weekend nights.  During the big college football and basketball seasons we would get calls about the same time each Saturday night and to a lesser degree, on Sundays during the professional football season as well.  Most of these calls were from the same people and they didn’t ask the score for just one game.  They usually had a laundry list.  I couldn’t figure it out until I was informed that these were people, mostly bookies, others just betting on the games, looking to get the latest information about the winning and losing teams.  The internet and multiple sources of sports news have eliminated the need to call TV stations on the weekends anymore.  Those weekend news people don’t know what they’re missing.

Hey Joe, Can You Score Me a Couple of Tickets to the Memphis/Tennessee Basketball Game

February 21, 2008

Ev’rybody’s got the fever
that is something you all know
Fever isn’t such a new thing
Fever started long ago

From the song “Fever” by Elvis Presley

It’s been a while since something this big has hit Memphis that has two sides squaring off separating into two camps.  No, I’m not talking about the big Yellow Fever outbreak from the early days of Memphis history.   I also won’t go so far as to say the last thing this big to hit the Bluff City was the “Civil War” (or as some refer to it as the Recent Unpleasantness or The War of Northern Aggression) but the college basketball game between the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee is right up there. Oh, some will tell you that it’s just a ballgame. Yah right. We’ve got Number 2 Tennessee coming to the home of Number 1 Memphis. Both teams have attitude and there’s a good reason for it. Some folks are calling this the National Championship title game. Before I go any further, let me state for the record that I’m a Kentucky Wildcat fan and my wife is a Vanderbilt Commodore fan. I haven’t had much to cheer about in basketball this year and I won’t even go into football. As a ‘Dore fan, my wife doesn’t have much use for Tennessee (unless they’re playing Florida).  To give you an idea of how big this Memphis/Tennessee game is, Friday, my wife and I are supposed to judge team spirit at a client’s offices scattered around the Memphis Metro area. We’re going in to see all of the Blue & Gray and Big Orange decorations set up at these various offices. (I can tell you what colors we WON’T be wearing.) While all of this is in fun, I can almost bet you what WILL happen come Saturday night during the big game. I predict that so many people in the Memphis area will be watching the game that Crime will actually drop in the Bluff City, much like what happened during the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Some of you may scoff, but I bet if you check with Memphis PD, that will be the case. Now afterwards, things may skyrocket as people get into fights AFTER the game as folks on the winning side start shooting off their mouths. But that’s another story. I will say I had to laugh during a phone conversation with my good friend Jack who now lives down in Florida near Orlando. If you were to cut Jack, he would indeed bleed orange. He’s the kind of fan sports teams love because Jack will load up his family and drive for hours to see U-T play football. He asked me if I could score him a couple of tickets to the big game in Memphis. I think I’d have a better chance of winning the race for president. So Jack and his lovely bride Pam along with children Eric and Hannah will do what many others including me and the rest of us at stately Larksmith Manor will do.  We will watch the big game at home.  And at the end of the game, somebody (those on the winning side) will probably call somebody on the losing side and offer heartfelt condolences while on the phone and talk about what a good game it was.  Then the person who made the call (the winning side) will hang up the phone and start dancing around with glee, shaking what their mama gave ’em.  All I can say is “May the best team win”.

The February Book In Memphis, Jane Fonda Drops the C-Word and Yahoos in the Background During the Apology

February 19, 2008

I ran into a former co-worker from WREG over the weekend and this person shared with me that this ratings book shows things are looking a bit tighter with chief rival WMC.  I was told that the mornings are still looking good for WREG and that WMC is still strong at 6pm but the 10pm is tight.  No one is sharing information so far,  so I can only speculate on how things look.  Nothing like a a wee bit of competition.  Since I haven’t seen any numbers, I would imagine that WHBQ Fox 13 is neck and neck with everyone in the mornings.  I will attempt to keep you updated. If you have numbers please share.
I’ve been debating on whether to post on the C-Bomb dropped last week on the Today show by Jane Fonda.  The C-word is considered by many (especially women) to be the ultimate insult to women everywhere, at least according to my sources.   The whole C-word thing has been discussed ad naseum already and was addressed Tuesday in an article mentioned in Shoptalk by Jenice Armstrong in The Philadelphia Daily News.  Some interesting reading and provides some insight.  I have to admit the C-Word is not something in my regular vocabulary and it takes something pretty powerful to make me even want to consider thinking using that term as a descriptive word.  I will say there are some folks I’ve encountered who might fall under the umbrella of that particular term but that’s not something I would feel comfortable speaking even if a particular person fit the definition.  That’s just not me.

I will also say that during the following apology issued by Meredith Viera on the Today show shortly after Jane Fonda casually mentioned the C-word, that I was rather appalled.  It had nothing to do with the use of the word or the apology.  Rather it was during the apology by Viera that once again people who might normally be considered rational adults were busy making total asses of themselves by holding up signs and waving to the cameras.  Can someone please tell me why waving to a camera from the background is such a big deal that it turns the normal human brain into that of an imbecile.  IMHO, the yahoos who get behind someone during a broadcast and wave at the camera are right up there with the idiots who insist on expressing their love to someone by spray-painting their names on an overpass or water tower or some other high-profile background.  Are people really that starved for attention?  I wish people would just grow up, get a life or something.  It gets tiresome.

What Do the Movies “Brokeback Mountain”, “Capote” and “Walk the Line” Have in Common?

February 19, 2008

What do the movies, Brokeback Mountain, Capote and Walk the Line have in common other than the fact they received nominations for Academy Awards two years ago? In our household, they were just viewed this past weekend.  My wife and I stopped going to movie theaters to watch films after we encountered a growing number of people attedning who must have thought they were in their living rooms.  I’m talking about rude people, primarily younger, who insisted on talking to each other during the movie, talking to the characters on the screen and answering and talking on their cell phones.  We found that complaining to ushers did little good since the ushers told us that those other patrons had paid to get in too.  Asking someone to refrain from talking did little or no good and usually prompted them to get louder (I guess so they’d show us!) So we now wait until a film comes out on DVD.  As is the case with these three films, we waited a lot longer.   My point on this post is that after watching all three films and they were all three very good films, my wife and I are of the opinion that Joaquin Phoenix should have received the award for best actor.  He played his character convincingly, especially since this was a person (Johnny Cash) who was very well known by the general public.  Philip Seymour Hoffman did a great job as well as Truman Capote and Heath Ledger did a great job as Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain but Joaquin Phoenix should have received the award IMHO.  Let’s see now, the Academy Awards are coming up this weekend so expect a review of who won what in about two years.

The Organized Chaos Known as a Daily Newscast

February 13, 2008

I received a comment from the Tall TV Guy who had witnessed a TV news cast from behind the scenes thanks to a weatherman friend of his.  This was his observation.  "He invited us to observe a newscast from behind the scenes.  If people only knew what went on during it, especially at a bare bones station."

Actually it doesn’t just happen at a bare-bones station.  All it takes is someone on the assignment desk to shout “breaking news” or to witness what the competition is teasing  on an upcoming newscast and you won’t believe the combination Chinese Fire Drill/One Armed Paper Hanger/One Legged Man in an Ass-Kicking Contest shenanigans that take place as producers and others scramble to get a newscast on the air.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat on the anchor desk and heard that we’re dropping a couple of stories and to stand-by for copy coming from “producer row”  This announcement in the ear by way of the IFB or earpiece usually comes right after the newscast goes to a commercial break.  That means there is a two minute clock running before you’re back on the air.  You hope like heck th copy gets there early so you can at least scan it and not read copy “cold” on the air.  That’s just one way erroneous information can get on the air because somebody got their facts wrong or perhaps didn’t get all of the important information and it’s handed off to someone to read on the air, ALL in the name of beating the competition.  Even on a normal, non-breaking news day, a packaged report might not make its slot until 15 seconds or less before the story is scheduled to be read.  Some organizations will tell you that “a story won’t air if it’s not ready two minutes before it’s slated to go”.  Yah right.  If it’s a big enough story or perhaps the only way to fill the news hole in that news cast, it doesn’t matter if it’s still loading in the machine while the introduction is read from the desk.  That’s the reality of local TV.  I will say this about having non-news people sit in to watch a newscast from a studio.  It forever changes the way they watch local news.  They walk away amazed that things get on the air.   That’s what they told me.  I also got to the point where I told them this particular truth about watching a newscast from behind the scenes: news and sports are boring to watch.  However, watching the weather was like magic.  Those having sat through a weather cast in a studio will either smile or shake their head in amazement at watching the weather person du jour stand in front of a green screen and point at nothing while filling three minutes of air time.  Now THAT IS magic.