Archive for April 2008

Is WMC Planning to Launch a 4pm Newscast?

April 30, 2008

Could WMC be preparing to launch a 4pm weekday newscast?  I’ve heard that rumor but have no idea if it’s true.  So far, nobody is talking, at least to me anyway.  WREG has a 4 o’clock news started IMHO because no programming the station could buy could compare to Oprah which WMC has run for years.  So, instead of trying to go toe-to-toe against Oprah, WREG had to counter-program in a serious way.  The original 4pm show at WREG was hosted by Paula Haddock and April Thompson and seemed to focus on women and women’s topics.  That format didn’t seem to light a fire under viewers so they switched it over to more of a harder news format and moved Paula off and Alex Coleman in her place.  I can’t remember the most recent numbers but it seemed to be doing okay.  Now I will be the first to admit that what I know about running and programming a TV station could be inscribed on the head of a pen with magic marker but what would WMC do with Oprah?  Move her to the time slot currently filled by Dr. Phil?  Even if Oprah has “jumped the shark”  I would imagine she still has a loyal viewing with good numbers.  I know that TV stations discovered a long time ago that it’s cheaper to slap another newscast on the air than pay for syndicated programming but moving Oprah to make way for yet another newscast is either a really bold and gutsy move or well,  maybe I COULD program a TV station.  Then again, maybe this is just a rumor after all and someone is just yanking my chain.

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Bugs & the TV News Biz

April 27, 2008

Face it.  When things go well, there’s nothing like live TV.  It can come across as a well-oiled machine that is indeed firing on all cylinders.  It’s when bugs crop up that things can get screwed up.  And when real bugs, (insect not mechanical) show up that things can get comical at most and distracting at the least.  What brought all of this to mind was watching one of the political candidates during an interview on one of the cable news outlets.  I noticed a large fly dive bombing the candidate’s head.  The first pass just caught my eye.  I then began focusing more on when the next passes would occur.  I saw the fly at least twice more.

This reminded me of insect encounters over the years by co-workers and me.  Flying insects are usually more noticeable in the studio because of the bright lights.  The heat generated by the bright lights also tends to attract bugs, (especially the old style lights not the newer fluorescent cooler ones).    We used to have a problem with wasps  at WREG.  The lights got them warmed up and I guess the sweet smell of the anchors all dolled up with perfurmed lotions, make-up and hairspray and cologne (and that’s just the men) would prompt the bugs to buzz the set.  Steve Hayslip, now doing mornings at WTVF in Nashville was working weekend nights at WREG when a wasp landed on the desk.  I’m not sure but I think Steve was in the middle of reading a story and never really took his eyes off the camera  as he continued reading off the prompter, calmly rolled up his scripts and suddenly whacked the wasp which had landed on the desk.  The noise was startling but Steve explain what was going on and the newscast went on.

I remember seeing a very large wasp which buzzed the set a few times before flying into one of the super-hot high intensity halogen lights hanging overhead.  First we heard the snap, crackle and pop of the insect as it made contact with the bulb.  Then the smell of burning bug wafted down through the studio.  It smelled liked burning hair and the stench stayed there all morning long.

During Hurricane Elvis when WREG lost power for several days, we were forced to open the doors to get some fresh air in since our AC was out.  That had the unfortunate side-effect of letting in mosquitoes which hovered under the desk to feed on the tender legs and ankles of the anchors.  I say legs because I wore shorts and my toad-belly white legs were covered with bites before I found some mosquito repellent to protect myself.

One final insect story involved a former reporter for WREG.  John Donnelly, who left for the great southwest a few years ago was in the middle of a live shot, expounding on whatever topic the live shot de jour involved.  Then he just stopped talking.  No one was really sure what was happening.  He started talking again explaining that he had just inhaled a bug.  He finished his live shot rather breathlessly and I think it’s safe to say more people remembered the incident than the subject of his news report.  Yes, there’s nothing like live TV, even with all the bugs.

In Case You Needed a Pam McKelvy Fix…..PMack is Baaaccckkkkkk & Does Your Choice of Computers Indicated That You Have a Superiority Complex

April 23, 2008

I seem to be far out of the loop these days but occasionally someone tosses me a bone. That was the case from a writer posting about the reappearance of Pam McKelvy on the Memphis airwaves. Here’s what the writer shared with me:

I just read on Pam McKelvy’s blog that she has began hosting a morning radio show for 98.9FM. Great news that she is returning to work, but I thought she had a great presence when she was at WREG. I’d like to see her resume an anchor position at a local TV station. What do you think. Here’s a link to her blog http://pammckelvy.blogspot.com/

In case you don’t bother to check out her blog, this is an excerpt of what she posted back April 1st, No fooling!

I am officially back at work.
Monday, I began co-hosting a morning talk show on KIM 98.9 FM. The show is by women and for women!
It’s called the Memphis Morning View. We’re on from 6 to 9 am.
I’m excited and glad to be doing something I believe in.
Ain’t life grand!
You can listen live on the http://www.KIM989FM.COM.
Also, Check out my Internet interview with Epic1 Media productions, also on the http://www.epic1media.com. Pmack

As Pam pointed out, I’m not among the demographic the radio station is targeting so I guess that’s one of the reasons I missed her return. I must have missed it in the local papers as well. Oh well. So for all of you wondering what happened to Pam, to all of those who share with me how much you miss her and how you wished she would get back on the air, you can finally rest easy. PMack is back.

I was working in the office listening to the radio when a report came on about computers and their owners. You’ve probably seen the ads with the two guys and one of them represents a Mac while the other is a PC, The Mac guy is a cool kind of younger hipster and he has all of his act together. The PC guy is more of a doofus, an older uncool kind of guy who always has/had issues. Well, it turns out that many Mac owners consider themselves more cool, with it and hip than those who merely work with PCs. Here is the intro to the story: A new marketing study has found Mac owners tend to think they’re more extraordinary than the average Joe. They’re also more likely than PC users to whiten their teeth, drive hybrids, drink Starbucks coffee and eat organic food. If you want more information, check out the report on NPR’s Marketplace. As for me, I own and work on both. Does that make me “an above average” Joe?

A Memphis TV Guy Heads to Nashville and Some People Weigh in On the State of Local News

April 23, 2008

So long Nick Paranjape.  The former WMCer is now hosting mornings in his home town of Nashville.  I had posted previously that someone from Memphis was headed to Nashville but didn’t have a confirmation from the man himself (or anyone else from Union Ave. ) on the move so I didn’t name names.  I must have misunderstood as I was under the impression NP was going for the primary anchor post and that was not the case afterall.  I received an email this morning asking what happened to NP as he hasn’t been on the air and his job has been posted.  Well, now you know.  Here’s his bio posted on the Fox affiliate in Nashville. I also noticed in reading over the bios of several people on the Fox 17 station that they mentioned not just that these folks were married but that they were “happily” married.  Does that mean those who don’t have the word “happily” are NOT.  I’m just asking.

I’ve never made it much of a secret my opinion of TV consultants and those managers who try to implement ALL of the crap they sell.  Some interesting observations in Shoptalk’s Watercooler section on consultants and how they figure in on the state of local TV news.  One person seemed to be surprised that the consultants were being paid more than the primary anchors at one station.  The thread was summed up (at least when I read it) with this observation: The only reason Shakespeare said to kill all the lawyers is because there were no consultants back then.

I’m not sure I would go THAT far but it is am interesting observation.

Tracking News Cruisers/Videographers, The Debate over One Man Bands/VJs and The Big Rumble

April 18, 2008

I always felt sorry for the folks working the assignment desk in a TV newsroom as they had a tough job.  Not only did they have to monitor the scanner and juggle news crews in the field to get them where they were needed, they had to play a game each day.  The game?  Where In the World are My Photogs? A number of shooters I worked with never really let the desk know where they were or the true status of the shoot they were on.  I was even admonished by a shooter once when I told the desk we were just about to wrap up with a shoot and headed for lunch.  “Never tell the desk that” I was told.  And much like the military, I was told never volunteer.  I know some shooters would wrap up a story and park their vehicles on the back side of the building in the parking lot where there wasn’t a lot of news room type traffic.  If the desk called, they wouldn’t answer the radio.  If they were beeped, they would say they were tied up and couldn’t be bothered.  Granted, some shooters really abused the system but others used this bit of subterfuge because they said if they didn’t, they’d never get a chance to eat lunch.  Hey, I never gave them away.  The reason I’m posting about this is because a growing number of news operations are tracking news cruisers with GPS devices so they always know where everybody is.  Some just use the cell phones they issue the reporters and videographers to keep up with everyone.  Dirty pool?  Not when stations pay for the vehicle, the insurance and the gas AND allow a shooter to drive a vehicle home.  It’s just like being able to read what you write on a station owned computer or monitor what calls you’ve made on a company issued phone.  It’s their money.  I don’t know if any of the Memphis stations have started tracking their news cruisers but if they haven’t, don’t be surprised if they do, especially as gas hits four bucks a gallon.

I’ve said for some time that I think many stations will start easing into the Video Journalist mode or what I used to refer to as One Man Bands.  There are some trying it and there’s a great deal of resistance but I think the technology has vastly improved and as stations seek to keep costs down,  the trend will move in that direction.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think a station can go completely to VJ/OMB because some stories lend themselves to a two man crew.  But, (and this IMHO is a big but, not to be confused with a big butt) the key to a successful VJ/OMB operation is for the folks involved to have a “beat system” and be allowed to turn stories maybe three times a week.  If you have these folks merely turning stories each day because you are too cheap to keep enough folks on staff to fill the daily news hole then you are setting up these folks to burn out quickly.  With a beat system, they can develop stories that have some merit to them.  Otherwise you will burn up their interest and enthusiasm and suddenly find yourself with a newsroom full of malcontents and moaners and morale will plummet.  Just saying, that’s all.

And I got a call this Friday morning from a friend who wanted to know if I had felt the earth move this morning while I was in bed.  At first I thought that was a rather personal question until he explained that there was an earthquake centered in Southeastern Illinois. I told him I was NOT aware of the earthquake.  I was tied up for most of the day so I didn’t see the local news in Memphis so I can only speculate that there was “team coverage” as local news rooms revisited the earthquake issue here in the MidSouth.  Did anyone dispatch a crew to New Madrid, MO?  I can just about bet that someone paid a visit to the Earthquake Research facility at the University of Memphis State University.  Then there would be a story on local building codes and what would happen if “the BIG One hit.”  How do I know all of this?  I’ve been there and done that.  One doesn’t spend 16 years in Memphis TV News and NOT do an earthquake story.  That’s like living in Memphis and never doing a story on Elvis.

It’s ALL about WMC These Days & The City of Louisville Knows How to “Get a Party Started”.

April 14, 2008

Somebody asked me the other day if I was picking on WMC.  No, it’s just that I’m folks from over there are feeding me information and nobody else around town is these days.

Case in point:  I got an email last week with a link to the WMC website about a car giveaway.  The giveaway isn’t just any old car.  Actually it supposedly involves an “old” car but it’s an old car a lot of people would be salivating to have.  It’s Dave Brown’s Corvette.  I’ve seen Mr. Brown tooling around in this car and he looks good in it.  In fact, few people would NOT look good in it.  However when I clicked on the video it wouldn’t play and I got the message that the video I was trying to view was NOT available. If this is a legitimate promotion then the competition in town will be hard pressed to match the promotions value of this.   I’d say WMC has ratcheted up the game a bit here.

I also received an email from someone asking me if I had seen the latest ad on WMC running for Andy Wise.  I’m told there was lol.  I didn’t received a link to it so,  short of watching WMC around the clock to catch it, I’m out of luck.  If someone can send me a link, “hook a fella up.”

And I just returned from a quick trip to Louisville, another old town on the river trying to boost interest in all things Louisville.  Let me tell you, the folks in Memphis could learn a few things from them on how to get a party started.  They have an air show that kicks off the big Derby celebration, kind of their version of Memphis in May.  The air show is called “Thunder over Louisville“.  Despite the overcast and nasty weather, they put on a great day long air show that was carried live this year by the Fox affiliate.  (I think they rotate the honors among stations each year).  But it wasn’t the air show that so impressed me.  It was the fireworks display at the end of the show.  For 30 minutes, a full half hour, they had a fireworks display that dwarfed anything that Disney ever dreamed of and that is saying something.  Just when I thought they couldn’t top themselves, they did.  They had closed down a bridge over the Ohio River and used that entire span as part of the launching platform.  That was in addition to the barges on the river used as launching platforms.  To kick off the fireworks show, they had two astronauts aboard the space station do the countdown and showed the video live.  Folks, THAT’S how you get a party started.  Congrats to Louisville on a job well done.

Odds and Ends on a Thursday Morning * (with a note added this afternoon)

April 10, 2008

I think I’m still trying to get over the loss Monday night by the Memphis Tigers. I know that eventually I will, but it may take a few more days.

Turns out WREG was a winner despite the loss by the Tigers. According to information I received Tuesday morning (but was too depressed to post) viewership was pretty dog gone high. According to a memo circulating, WREG was the leader among the Top 5 metered markets in term of viewership. They had a 50.4 Rating and a 64 Share. The order of the list AFTER Memphis: Kansas City, Louisville, Oklahoma City and Nashville. Take that Nashville!!!!

*Speaking of Nashville, I heard something earlier this week about rumors floating around that a newsperson from Memphis was headed to the Music City for a gig at the Fox affiliate there. I haven’t been in touch with this person to get it confirmed so I hesitate to mention his name. However the person who told me about what is being talked about on the streets in Nashville is a reliable source so I feel comfortable posting on this. I’ve seen the work of the person in question and it’s solid and his departure would be felt at his station.. Plus, a move to Nashville would mean he gets to do his work in front a home town crowd. I’ll let someone shoot me an email before I release the name as I don’t want to screw up his deal in any way.

*I had yet another person ask me about Andy Wise and where he’s trotted off to these days. That led me to discuss non-competes with a buddy of mine who is in the news business. We have come to the conclusion that WMC WON’T wait until the one year non-compete is up. It stands to reason that WMC would bite the bullet in a couple of months or just prior to the November book and put AW on the air, paying off WREG for a half year or less of Andy’s non-compete. Heck, if the matter went to court, think how much free publicity the whole thing would generate. Now, it is possible that the whole matter would be quietly resolved in arbiration but it would still get resolved. Of course the downside to that argument is that WMC would be setting a precedent about non-competes and IMHO help pave the way toward doing away with broadcast non-competes all together in the state of Tennessee.  I would be curious as to what someone in management thinks of that scenario.  Perhaps The GM will weigh in on this.

I was browsing around The Watercooler section of Shoptalk when I ran across someone asking about the Memphis market. Usually when someone asks about a market they want to know which stations to gravitate toward and which ones to avoid, cost of living, etc. Responders usually give some insights into the city itself. (That was the case here as well.) However, the responder apparently doesn’t care too much for the lead female anchor at WREG as was evident in this post.

WREG is generally neck-and-neck with WMC (NBC) and “3 On Your Side” has some real talent in the Newsroom but I’d watch out for the main female anchor… once you’re on her list there’s no getting off of it and she’ll work like Hell to get you out.
When she was at the Fox station she got into a knock-down drag-out (metaphorically) with her co-anchor over newsroom lighting during a long-term power outage, made management choose between them, and lost(BTW– he’s a jerk too by all accounts). She spent a couple of years in real estate before an opening came her way at WREG.

I can’t really say anything about Claudia Barr except that I met her a couple of times at going away parties for various members of the TV business over the years. She was always pleasant to me. I never worked with her though. I’m sure the thread on this Watercooler segment will continue for a few more posts but not many. I’ve found that threads about the Memphis market don’t go very far. As for what the poster said about Claudia: This is one more reason it pays to be nice to co-workers in a newsroom.