Archive for May 2008

One Man Who Used the “N” Word Gets the Boot And A Man Who Participated in a Movie Where the “N’ Word was Used Dies

May 29, 2008

Wow, a news operation in the South proves it ain’t whistling Dixie when it comes to NOT tolerating the use of the “N’ word in the newsroom. It seems the news anchor made a reference to a news producer who is black and called him the “N” word. The irony is that the person who got busted on this is black. According to an article in Shoptalk, veteran anchor Michael Scott at Huntsville, Al station WAAY-TV used the slur during a commercial break in a recent 10pm newscast. Managers have really cracked down on this kind of behavior ever since Don Imus uttered his comment about the Rutgers women’s basketball team a short while back and I’m glad to see that lack of tolerance.  As I have stated previously I grew up hearing the word, didn’t like and to this day don’t like to hear it.   I never understood how one black person could refer to another black person using that term whether in jest or in a derogatory fashion or however it was meant to be taken and I’ve heard it numerous times in a newsroom.   Some contended it was okay for a black person to refer to another black person using that term but that a white person should never consider such a thing.  To me it was like being a little bit pregnant.   I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of this.   I don’t know Michael Scott other than his previous claim to fame. Some of you fans of YouTube will remember seeing the clip of MS when he was attacked by a lizard of some sort during a newscast. For those of you who haven’t seen it, this will make you laugh.

And a very funny man has passed and I doubt if we see the likes of him again. Harvey Korman, perhaps best known by some for his stint on the Carol Burnett TV show died at the age of 81. I used to watch HK on the tube with the ensemble from the Caro Burnett show and watching him try NOT to laugh during the sketches was almost as funny as the bits in which her participated.  Still, one of the funniest roles he played IMHO was in the movie spoof “Blazing Saddles” which has been described as an effort to show how silly racism really is. In this movie the “N’ word is used quite liberally but the hero is a black man who helps save the day in this revised version of the old West. It’s a movie that could NOT possibly be made today but I think it helped make a point when it came out back in the 70s. Harvey Korman, your comic genius will be missed.

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It’s Gotten Hard Out There for a Reporter and Oprah IS Starting to Slide

May 28, 2008

Are things getting tougher for news reporters trying to cover violent crime in general and gang related violent crime in  particular in Memphis?  Apparently that is the case in some cities according to a report featured on Shoptalk that cites, in part, increased gang activity and a growing emphasis on a grass roots campaign called “Stop Snitching“.   A code of silence isn’t anything new.  Organized crime has had in it place for years going back to Italian gangs and I would imagine to some degree the Irish gangs that set up shop in the U-S.  But the article in Broadcasting and Cable would indicate that some reporters in middle America are starting to parrot that ever popular sound bite they use periodically on the news” That’s something you expect to see in the big city, but not out here in my home town“.  If that code of silence has indeed been established in Memphis it’s not being helped by the fact that reporting staffs really don’t have much in the way of “beats” anymore so any “connections” or “sources” would be fewer and farther” between.  Even the local newspaper of record doesn’t have much in the way of “beat” reporters and have morphed into what TV reporters have done for years which is be forced to become an “expert” on the story de jour.  I would be curious if any reporters working the street in Memphis have encountered the so-called “code of silence” or if indeed it is something that hasn’t arrived in Memphis.

Along that line of thought, I know when I was on the streets as a general assignment reporter in Memphis, I found it was not unusual to receive a call from the parents or relatives of a person who was the victim of a violent crime (almost always a murder) asking if we would do a story about the crime.  Almost every time that person calling would be a person of color.  I don’t think I ever took a call from a white person making the same request.  I guess the callers just wanted others to feel their pain and perhaps it was an effort to stop the madness.  And before someone immediately labels me as a racist for making that statement, I think you will find that newsrooms across the city received the same calls and that reporters will tell you they had the same experiences on the street.   Invariably when I was sent to the house of white person asking for comment and of course a photograph  of the victim, I was usually asked to leave.  If I had to make the same call to the house of a black person, I was treated much better and usually asked into the house.    My brother-in-law who practices medicine in Memphis first set up his practice in an urban area.  He shared with  me that he was told more than once by patients that his office was considered off-limits to crime because his was the only medical facility in the neighborhood and that if he wasn’t there then the grandmothers and grand fathers he treated would have to travel even further.  His facility stayed untouched for years because of that special “code” so I have no doubt that a “code of silence” could exist and prevail.

Moving on to Oprah, it appears the Queen of Daytime TV is starting to slide in her numbers.  But then isn’t everybody on TV.  A few weeks ago on this blog I had posted that WMC was apparently considering an early newscast that might fill the time slot Oprah currently reigns over.  I think it was The GM who indicated that Oprah ain’t what she used to be and that she had managed to step on more than a few toes over the years.  Plus, she’s starting a new network.  Well, her timing is good.  According to an article in the New York Times, Oprah is still Queen but her numbers are dropping even with the giveaways. And hey, if you can’t boost viewership numbers with giveaways, what’s this world coming to? But Oprah isn’t going anytime soon.  She still has contracts with some local stations through 2010 and I think all those involved will still be pushing the wheelbarrow to the bank.

Some May TV Ratings Numbers & Odds and Ends on a Thursday

May 22, 2008

By now, TV folks in Memphis have a pretty good idea of the numbers of for the May book.  For everyone else, here’s something to chew on from the partials that have been shared with me.  I’ve edited a little from the originals sent to me.   Not sure what the 5am numbers look like but Fox 13 has moved into 2nd place in the mornings.

Local Morning News at 6am

WMC     6.7/16

FOX13   6.3/15

WREG    6.2/15

WPTY    1.8/4

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No really big surprise that WREG continues to lead here.

Midday/Noon News

WREG   7.7/19

FOX13   4.5/11

WMC     4.3/10

WPTY    2.0/5

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5pm News

WMC     8.7/16

WREG    8.3/15

FOX13   6.0/11

WPTY    4.0/7

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WMC still strong here.

6pm News

WMC     10.0/17

WREG    8.3/14

WPTY     3.0/5

************************

And the seesaw continues here.

Late News

WREG    11.4/17

WMC      11.1/17

FOX13    10.0/14

WLMT    4.4/6

WPTY     4.1/6

Man, oh man. Where have the last two weeks gone. I’ve been up to my uh…..ears in alligators and haven’t had time to do anything but work, much less blog. I’ve discovered that I’ve actually missed blogging over the last two weeks. I’ve been so tied up that I even missed the Memphis in May BBQ fest which would be the first time that’s happened in about 15 years. I hope a good time was had by all. Speaking of which, apparently someone suggested on the Mediaverse Blog that Joe Birch and I team up with a chorus of notable back-up singers and that we perform down at the Fest next year as part of the Mediaverse cooking team. I think someone was inhaling too much hickory smoke or snorting too much dry rub and sauce. I’m not sure it’s legal for two guys like JB and me with that much hair to be in the same vicinity.

Congratulations to Joe Birch on 30 years at WMC. I was asked by a friend if I had seen the various tributes to Joe over the last week and I had not so I went on line to check them out. I clicked on Mason Granger’s comments to see what he had to say. I always liked Mason. In fact, somewhere around my office I have a very kind and gentle rejection letter from MG dating back to about the mid-80s. Our paths crossed on numerous occasions when he was at WMC and he always spoke. I’m not sure how much of his tribute comments made it on the air but the interview I saw on-line ran more than 7 1/2 minutes.. It got a little draggy after a while. I lalso ooked over Joe’s blooper reel. Not that many real bloopers but some amusing stuff. Joe has been good for WMC and WMC has been good to/for Joe. Joe is a genuinely nice guy who has managed to finish first. Someone pointed out that it’s just a coincidence that Joe’s 30th anniversary just happened to be in the May sweeps and that it was coincidence that last May during sweeps that Dave Brown celebrated 30-years there as well. Lee Meredith, GM at WMC says it’s also coincidence that Jarvis Greer will celebrate his 30-years NEXT May. Gee, I HATE it when that happens. By the way, have they announced if I’ve won Dave Brown’s Vette yet?

The days of anchors sticking around for their entire careers almost appear to have passed us but I saw an item in Shoptalk about an anchor in Hawaii who after celebrating 40-years at a station was given a ten year extension on his contract. Now that is loyalty. Joe Birch, you have a goal to shoot for.

And a tip of the hat to Bob J. for sharing this tibdit of “Old School TV News vs. New School” that I think was originally posted on a newspaper website in Tampa/St. Pete. Look it over and see if you don’t agree.

Old rule: news is news. New rule: news is marketing.

Old rule: news is never old New rule: news has an expiration date

Old rule: live shots compliment the story New rule: live IS the story

Old rule: weather gets the attention it deserves New rule: rain is a lead story

Old rule: Cover the issues New rule: cover the emotions

Old rule: Staff experience is valuable New rule: 1 year is experience

Old rule: Cover breaking news New rule: make up breaking news

Old rule: Build credibility and you’ll gain a bigger audience New rule: Reach more people through the Internet

Old rule: Be good storytellers New rule: more stories, less telling

Old rule: Report the facts New rule: report what people say

Old rule: Follow the news director’s lead New rule: Who’s the news director?

Old rule: Consultants suggest New rule: Consultants control

Old rule: Ratings rule New rule: Demos dominate

Old rule: Know your community New rule: know your research

Old rule: Bad staff behavior is not tolerated New rule: address your questions to our attorneys

Outdoor Weather, Indoor Weather, and A Memphis Politician Turns Up the Heat on a Local Reporter (Not)

May 12, 2008

I thought it was just my imagination that local stations seemed to be more involved in weathergasms these days. I just chalked it off to the fact that they had the toys and needed to use them or maybe global warming was kicking in and screwing around with the weather. Then I ran across an article in Shoptalk about weather coverage in Charlotte, NC. That article focused in part on how TV stations in the Queen City were interfering with regular programming with their weather coverage and how one of the powerhouse stations there had scaled back its weather coverage after getting raked over the coals by viewers when it cut into the ACC college basketball playoffs. I guess they’re now doing what WHBQ Fox 13 is doing which is not going overboard unless it merits a true weathergasm. In that article it mentioned that:We have taken the stance that if there’s a tornado warning, we need to be tracking that storm,” said Dennis Milligan, WBTV’s news director. “Problem is, you wind up hijacking people’s programs for something that’s not really happening. I’ve got four expert meteorologists who know this inside and out. We’re relying on them to be more discerning about our coverage.” Thursday night, they analyzed the storms and decided they were not a major threat. Reporters kept in touch with authorities in the affected counties and were told there were no damage reports. During commercial breaks, the station provided updates. Milligan said the station’s new approach comes in part because the National Weather Service seems to be issuing more frequent tornado warnings.

It was that last line that really caught my attention so that’s why I put the info in bold letters. TV stations can just blame the National Weather Service. Hey, they’re just trying to share what the NWS is putting out.

Regardless, I can say there was a lot of devastation over the weekend. I saw some of the nastiness firsthand in Stuttgart, AR early Sunday morning. As I have said time and time again, I don’t have a problem when local TV stations break in when tornado warnings are issued. It’s when they beat us over the head with the Super-duper Gonad Gajillion watts of NowRad Cobra Gotcha radar for a typical thunderstorm that still causes me problems.

Speaking of weather, I also saw in Shoptalk that a station in the Twin Cities of Minnesota was celebrating 25 years of having a backyard weather set. The article on KARE mentioned some of the incidents that had occurred during the outdoor weather segments. At one time WREG had the backyard weather set and while I think the weather folks generally hated it, I liked it. Yes, we used to get viewers complaining about why in the world did we make the weather people outside. I used to tell them we did it because “outside is where the weather was”. Granted, the weather folks got to come inside when it was dangerous such as lightning and all of that but what better way do the weather IMHO. And if by chance you really screwed the pooch with the forecast, then you were out there enjoying the fruits of your labors. Yes, it was really cold on occasion or really hot on occasion but most of the viewers were out there at some point in time too. Anyway, I guess the viewing public in Memphis didn’t see much about it or perhaps a consultant came up with a weather center and everybody shifted in that direction. One of these days though, the outdoor weather schtick will return in the Bluff City.

And Janice Broach, you had better watch out girl. Apparently you did a story recently on Memphis City Council member Janis Fullilove and her recent car crash while returning from the casinos of Tunica County. I’m not sure what was said but you must have left J-F POed. I’ve attempted to share the video that was shared with me but so far I’ve not had any luck. I’ll see if I can get it figured out. Try clicking on this link.

Okay,  Janice, consider yourself warned.

Sweeps Pieces, Sexual Harrassment Lawsuits and Other Thoughts on Wednesday Afternoon

May 7, 2008

It’s Sweeps time here in the MidSouth. I haven’t seen any promotions so far for Giant Cockroaches Dressing Up as Hookers and Hanging Around School Yards Selling Drugs and Guns to Undercover Reporters Dressed in Women’s Clothing as They Try to Escape From Burning Cars but I suspect there’s something wacky out there. I see WREG is going Green by giving away a Hybrid Car along with a chance to win 300 dollars and 5-thousand dollars in cash. Just tune in tonight at 10. Somebody in promotions wasn’t thinking. That should have been Three Thousand dollars in cash. Never, ever use a competitors number such as “5”. Shame on you.

Meanwhile, WMC is giving away Dave Brown’s Vette. A nice side item to add to that would be that a different anchor (or perhaps a different weather anchor) at WMC would wash that car the first five times it rains. Now I would enter THAT contest. I didn’t see what Fox 13 WHBQ was giving away and I was told that WPTY was giving away DNA tests. Don’t know if someone was yanking my chain on that but hey, these days I wouldn’t be surprised.

In Shoptalk I ran across an interesting sweeps piece from Nawlins. WGNO in the Big Easy has combined reality TV with local news with the introduction of (all together now) WHEEL OF JUSTICE! According to the promo video on their website, folks at the station have a wheel with pictures of bad guys on it. They spin the wheel and whichever picture it lands on, that’s the guy the station will focus all of it’s effort on to bring to justice. I can see this spreading to other markets and I think it will be VERY, VERY popular until somebody pulls a gun and shoots a TV news person in the knee to set an example. I would NOT want to be on THAT beat.

I see where a former TV part time weatherman for WREG has been fired after a sexual harassment suit was filed against him and the judge ruled against him. Bob Stokes, formerly of The Weather Channel was let go from that gig after an unfavorable ruling on his behalf. The story which can be found on The Smoking Gun website shares details of the lawsuit which Landmark would love to keep hushed up until its sale of The Weather Channel and WTVF and KLAS goes through. I worked with Bob Stokes briefly on weekend nights after he left Little Rock TV back in the early 90s and was trying to find another weather gig. Nice guy IMHO. Moral of that story, keep your mouth shut when it comes to co-workers. If what you say can come back to haunt you, it probably will.

And finally, I had a chance to emcee the recent Volunteer Memphis/Hands On Memphis event.  I will admit I wasn’t first choice by any stretch of the imagination but the person who was supposed to do it was stuck at his station to cover severe weather for viewers and asked if I would step in to help him out.  I had a great time and saw a number of folks I hadn’t seen in person in a while including Rock 103’s Bad Dog McCormack, who put me into a headlock on stage , WREG’s Jim Jaggers who gave me a big hug on stage, and WHBQ’s GM John Koski who agreed just to shake my hand.  All in all, a good time was had by all. Congratulations to all the folks who were nominated for their volunteering efforts.  You help make the Memphis area a better place to live and work.

The City of Memphis has Lost a Great Man

May 5, 2008

There are people who promote themselves as having done something great for the city of Memphis and then there are a few folks who have truly made a difference for the Bluff City.  Thomas Boggs of Huey’s fame is one of those who made a difference.  Anyone who knew Thomas (and it seems just about everybody has a Thomas Boggs story of some sort) knew him as a very focused businessman who wanted to see good things for the city of Memphis.  I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Thomas and his lovely wife Wight since Bethany and I moved to Midtown Memphis 19-years ago.  Their house is just across the alley from ours.

Thomas loved Midtown Memphis.  He said he and Wight had talked about moving out east at one point in time because of concerns about crime and such but he said he didn’t want to leave Midtown.  Plus, his first Huey’s Restaurant was located in Midtown and he liked it being close by.  Thomas was always a good neighbor and kept a close eye on our house when he knew we would be away.  Once, when my brother-in-law stopped by but found our back gate locked, my brother-in-law started to climb the fence.  The next thing he knew, Thomas Boggs was standing there with a handgun asking my brother-in-law just what he thought he was doing.  When my B-I-L said he was trying to see if we were home, Thomas informed him that he didn’t know if my B-I-L’s story was true or not and that he (Thomas) suggested my B-I-L climb down since we weren’t at home.  My brother in law did just that and left.

Thomas and Wight were big supporters of the the Memphis Zoo and helped raise money through events such as Zoo Rendezvous.   Thomas would hire people down on their luck to do odd jobs around his house.  He was always willing to help those who were willing to help themselves.

Back in 2006 while my Dad was fighting his battle with cancer, Thomas confided in me that he too was dealing with inoperable cancer.  I was stunned because I would have never guessed it by virtue of the fact that he had never lost his sunny disposition.  My wife and I often talked about about how both Thomas and Wight were the most positive, optimistic couple we’d ever met.  But even their optimistic outlook coupled with the best medical treatment  could not stop the  spread of  the cancer.   Bethany and  I saw Thomas and Wight in their backyard about a week and a half ago enjoying the pleasant spring weather and we stopped by just for a moment.  Thomas’ bright brown eyes were dimmed somewhat by what he was going through but I could still see a bit of a sparkle.  That’s just the way Thomas was.  He always had that sparkle.

This morning I received a call from Wight that Thomas had passed during the night.  Thomas will be missed by his many, many friends and business associates.  Through his efforts both public and private, he helped make Memphis a better place to live.  And I am a better person for having known Thomas Boggs.  May he rest in peace.