Archive for July 2008

Longtime Memphis TV Weatherman Brian Teigland Has Died

July 25, 2008

Not very many things I’m told actually stun me but news this morning from several folks hit me like a punch to the stomach. My friend and former colleague Brian Teigland has died. One of the callers contacting me indicated that Brian had been in and out of the hospital recently but gave no cause of death. Brian who has been with WPTY/WLMT for several years now was working at WREG doing weather when I arrived in 1989. This was his second stint in that position. He had left to go north (Detroit I think) before returning to work with his close pal Jerry Tate. They had a great relationship. Brian used to refer to Jerry as “the Tater Man”. Brian and I didn’t work together on set that much but he was always such an easy going guy around the newsroom. Occasionally when he filled in on weekends, he and I would talk. Knowing that I enjoyed all things “outdoors” Brian had shared with me how his dad had been given some original art work from an artist who created material for “duck stamps”. Brian had a quirky sense of humor and when he was on a roll, it came out in full force. He was the one who unveiled the “Jerry Tate” mask on the air while working at 3. I think it was around Halloween. It was also before I got there. Once when Brian and I were working together at the MidSouth Fair (he was doing weather and I was doing a live shot feature) we had trouble with people crowding behind us acting crazy and messing up our live shots. So he and I devised a plan where we stood about 8 feet apart with the videographer shooting the live shot kind of standing between us. As we prepared for MY live shot, the videographer turned the camera on Brian who looked like he was about to go on the air. Naturally the crowd gathered behind him. With the producer back at the station screaming for the shooter to put the camera on me, the camera swung off Brian with about 5 seconds to go before we hit the live shot and focused on me. I was finished with the first part of my “Sony sandwich” before any of the crowd behind Brian understood what was going on. I managed to finish my live shot without much interference. We used the same technique to some degree with Brian’s weather. Brian left WREG under some circumstances which I still don’t know about or even understand. I know his presence was missed DOTR. I was happy to see Brian resurface a few years later on WPTY/WLMT. I ran into Brian on occasion around town and we also briefly chatted. One memorable story he shared occurred not long after comedian Robin Williams had come to town for a performance at the Orpheum. Brian told me that he (Brian) was in the lobby of the Peabody and saw Robin Williams walking across the lobby with his luggage. Brian said that he figured he had nothing to lose and just walked up and started talking to RW who turned out to be quite the down to earth kind of guy and was quite willing to talk. So Brian came away with a great story and some memories and perhaps a friend. But that was the way Brian was. To my knowledge he never met a stranger and perhaps that’s why he was always so well received in so many homes in the Midsouth. Brian Teigland will be sorely missed by his friends and colleagues.

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Any Word Yet on Whether WREG Will Keep a Presence at Peabody Place and I’ve Got a New Favorite Network

July 21, 2008

Still no word on whether WREG will maintain its presence at Peabody Place. Not too long ago I posted on the big changes planned for PP which for those not familiar with it started out as an upscale shopping destination attached to the Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis.  WREG opened a small studio in PP which served not only as a base of operations for the Live @ 9 show but also served as the set for the 4 and 4:30 news. But the old “Build it and they will come” saw didn’t work and Peabody Place has slowly lost businesses after opening to great fanfare. In the past few days another article appeared in the Commercial Appeal about efforts to change the upper levels of PP into rooms for paying guests and keeping the lower level for retail space. A short list of businesses that are staying was named but WREG was again NOT among those listed. That doesn’t mean that the station DOTR won’t be staying but it doesn’t mean it will either.   So the questions still remain: Will WREG stay and try to make it business as usual while the construction to the upper levels is going on or will they (WREG) try to vacate the premises while the construction is going on and come back or vacate the premises for good? If they leave, where will the show with its emphasis on “live” events take place? WREG has a second studio but it’s small, at least for the types of stuff that goes on during “live @ 9” such as cooking, music, fashion shows.   On the plus side, if they do end up back in the “second studio” it will mean everyone is under one roof again should problems occur. With the decent numbers the Live @ 9 show appears to be pulling, I can’t imagine that the managers would pull the plug on the show but stranger things have happened.

Moving on. My wife and I have a new favorite network we can turn to. It doesn’t feature silly reality TV shows. It’s managed over the past year to crank out some intriguing shows. Not many mind you but something beyond the mindless drivel that generally passes for entertainment on the tube. That network is AMC. The shows: Madmen and Breaking Bad. Madmen, for those not fortunate to have seen an episode is set in 1960 around an advertising firm calling Sterling Cooper and located in Manhattan.  If one wants to see how bizarre things used to be check out what appears from all accounts to be a snapshot of 1960.  It’s almost enough to make your head spin.  Men run the world ,  women have a role but it’s primarily subservient .  (One female office worker on the show said the men primarily want something between a mother and a waitress and that’s just at the office.  Outside the office it gets even more chauvinistic. )  And everybody smokes and they smoke everywhere including elevators.  A new season started this weekend and my wife and I have been trying to watch the first season episodes during a “Madmen” marathon that started Sunday.  Another cutting edge show is called “Breaking Bad”.   It’s about a talented high school chemistry teacher in a dead-end career who turns to cooking what is described as “primo” crystal meth to help pay for his cancer treatment.  There are a lot of shades of gray in this series as well as Madmen and you never really know where things are going.  The writing is clever and the videography great.  You know, all those things you used to expect from the original networks that have turned to reality shows to fill space.

How NOT to Do a Morning Live Shot and the Man with the Controversial Fainting Goats has Died

July 16, 2008

The life of a morning TV news reporter is tough. IMHO these folks have the most thankless position ANYWHERE in the TV news organization. They are often abused, so to speak, by managers who want them to come in, be ready to hit the ground running with a live shot for the early morning news, keep things interesting for the viewers as they do multiple “live hits” and then try to turn a package for the noon or afternoon newscasts and still get out of the office on-time so they don’t incur any overtime. It’s a thankless job and I’ve seen so many morning reporters burn out quickly on that schedule. On top of everything else, if breaking news occurs during the morning, the morning reporter is often yanked off what he or she is working on and placed on that story which usually requires a live shot for noon and they STILL have to turn a package for the afternoon shows. That usually means a 12 hour day. Granted, not all morning show reporters are treated this way but it happens way too often.  So I saw on Tuesday’s Shoptalk how a reporter in L-A (the city not Lower Alabama) last Friday was doing a live shot on people lined up to buy the latest Apple I-Phone. Here is the initial clip and I cannot believe how condescending the reporter was.

He should have had his lights punched out and I’m surprised someone didn’t oblige him. To his credit, he did issue something of an apology Monday morning. Here it is.

IMHO if there is ever an example of what NOT to do or ask on a live shot, the first video is it.

Shifting gears, this past week, Babe Howard of Millington died after a long illness. At first glance, Mr. Howard appeared to be just another good ole boy from West Tennessee. He dressed in khaki work clothes and looked like any other blue (tan) collar worker. Just looking at him you would never suspect he was probably the wealthiest person in Millington or that part of Shelby and Tipton County. I first met Mr. Howard back in the early 90s when he was trying to drum up support for Millington’s Goat Festival.   Mr. Howard was a cheerleader for Millington and he was ready to attact attention any way he could.  One of the attractions at the Goat Days event was going to be “fainting goats” which Mr. Howard owned. Now for those who are not familiar with fainting goats, these goats, when startled, somehow become paralyzed and will fall over. They recover fairly quickly. Mr. Howard wanted to put his fainting goats on display. But some animal rights groups were protesting that it was cruel to have the goats on display like that. The matter actually created such an uproar that WREG dispatched a crew to see what the big deal was. I was the reporter, and Jeff Woods (now the host of WREG’s Outdoor show) was the videographer. This story proved to be yet another lesson on the fact that when videotaping animals and small children that neither will do what they were billed or intended to do. We couldn’t get the damn goats to faint! Oh, we finally got one or two to partially fall over when their back legs locked up but it wasn’t much more than that. We managed to cobble together enough video and put together a story but it was like pulling teeth. It seems to me that the fainting goats made their appearance at the Goat Days Festival but I’m not sure if they ever returned in following years. Working on that story was the only time I remember meeting with Mr. Howard. On other stories concerning the Millington Telephone Company , I ended up talking to other people with his organization. I would see Mr. Howard in later years and saw him about a year or so ago at the Oldtimer’s Restaurant which he owned in Millington. He would always speak. I don’t think we will see a man like Babe Howard again. He was part of a rare breed indeed.

Turns Out It’s “Someone Else”

July 14, 2008

Roll the Breaking News Open, none of the stations in Memphis will have a sister station in Nashville afterall.

According to a news release from Landmark Communications which owns WTVF and KLAS, the new owner is Bonten Media Group:  Here is the release:

Landmark Communications announced today that it has agreed to sell NewsChannel 5 (WTVF), located in Nashville, TN, to Bonten Media Group. NewsChannel 5, a CBS affiliate, is the leading television station in the Nashville market, and the #1 rated CBS station in the top 30 markets in the U.S. NewsChannel 5 also operates a 24 hour local-on-cable news channel and an online business in addition to the television station.. Landmark Chairman and CEO Frank Batten, Jr. commented, “We are very proud of NewsChannel 5’s outstanding service to the Nashville region. We deeply appreciate the high level of professionalism, innovation and commitment to news excellence and community service that Debbie Turner, the President and General Manager of NewsChannel 5, and her team provide. Bonten Media Group, which has a strong track record in broadcasting, inherits a wonderful station and group of superb professionals, and we expect NewsChannel 5 will continue to grow and excel.” The sale, which is expected to close later this year after FCC approval, is part of a process that Landmark announced in January to explore strategic alternatives, including the sale of Landmark’s businesses.

And here is what Bonten had to say:

NEW YORK, NY – Bonten Media Group Inc. today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire NewsChannel 5 Network, LLC, the owner and operator of CBS affiliate WTVF-TV in Nashville, TN, from entities owned by Landmark Communications. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.  Bonten Media Group is a leading television broadcasting company that currently operates sixteen* full power, low power and digital television stations in eight markets across the United States. Bonten Media Group was formed in 2006 by Diamond Castle Holdings, LLC, a New York based private equity firm with $1.85 billion of capital under management, and Randall D. (Randy) Bongarten, a veteran broadcasting executive and former President of Emmis Television, as a platform to acquire and operate local television stations. “We are thrilled to add WTVF, a market-leading CBS affiliate, to Bonten Media Group’s portfolio of high performing television stations,” said Randy Bongarten, Chairman and CEO of Bonten Media Group. “This acquisition reflects our confidence in the future of WTVF in particular and of local television in general. We are strong believers in television as the most powerful advertising medium to reach local audiences. WTVF’s management team and employees have done a fantastic job developing and managing a strong operation that is well-positioned for continued success.”

And for those looking for what other stations owned by Bonten, here they are:

Bonten Media Group was formed in November 2006 by Diamond Castle Holdings, LLC and Randy Bongarten for the purpose of acquiring and operating local television stations in the United States. Bonten Media Group currently operates sixteen* full power, low power and digital television stations in eight markets, including: WCYB (NBC), WEMT* (FOX) and CW-4 (CW-DT), Tri-Cities, TN/VA; WCTI (ABC), WFXI/WYDO* (FOX) and ENC-TV (IND-DT), Greenville-New Bern, NC; KRCR (ABC), Chico-Redding, CA; KTXS (ABC), KTES-LP (Telemundo) and CW Abilene (CW-DT), Abilene, TX; KECI/KCFW (NBC), Missoula, MT; KTVM (NBC), Butte-Bozeman, MT; KTXE-LP (ABC), San Angelo, TX; and KAEF (ABC), Eureka, CA.

Raycom, Local TV or Someone Else AND There Appears to be a Ghost in Our Radio

July 14, 2008

One of the two stations in Memphis could learn today if they will have a sister station in the Music City. Staff at WTVF are scheduled for a meeting at 8:55 this morning where the managers are expected to announce who won in the bidding for WTVF and KLAS. Both Raycom and Local TV were in the bidding and a rumor has been going around for the last couple of weeks that Raycom was the winner. Anyway, the speculation will be put to rest this morning one way or another. Raycom has been a big dog especially in the southeast but Local TV has grown in recent weeks with the number of Fox affiliates it picked up. Whichever group gets the soon-to-be-former Landmark stations, it will be quite the feather in that group’s hat. Both are great stations with great histories and great reputations as news leaders.

I need help. No, that kind. I need help with why my radios, when monitoring a specific channel will suddenly fade or go silent or start blaring while we’re listening to a program. The station is WKNO in Memphis. My wife and I listen to the morning news while working in our office or if we are in the kitchen. Two separate radios, one old and one not so old. Other than the station itself, there is no common denominator. We’re not walking around the radio when the volume changes so it can’t be an antenna thing. The station has gone digital and broadcasts in High Def (that’s what they tell us anyway) but the signal we receive should not be the so-called HD since we don’t have HD receivers. Could it be something with the digital signal? It can be quite annoying to be listening to a station and then it starts to fade like the old AM signals and then will suddenly start blaring like someone turned up the volume. Maybe it IS a ghost which has right wing leanings and just doesn’t want us to hear that left wing “liberal” stuff. Anyone have any thoughts or experienced anything like what I’ve described?

A Reader of This Blog Poses a Question About Local TV News In Memphis

July 10, 2008

I’ve been fortunate to make contact with a number of folks thanks to my blog and one of those who checks in on occasion resides in Brazil.  Yes, that Brazil, as in South America.  He actually has a Memphis connection and attended the University of Memphis State University and if memory serves me, he interned at WMC.  Anyway, he’s back in town and after watching some local news, he sent me this email.  I thought I’d post it in its entirety and see what kind of feedback it prompted.  Here it is:

Joe,
I’m actually in Memphis til the end of the month. I have a question
for you, perhaps for your readers. Is it just me or does news actually
exist anymore? What I mean is this. It seems more and more local
channels are creating news and not necessarily reporting the news. I
get back to Memphis perhaps once a year and I’ll tune in to 3, 5, 13
and 24 from time to time. I even keep up online with the local
stations. What I was taught 20 years ago at the former Memphis State
University is not what I see on local news anymore. Why is chasing
cars news? Why is the lotto number news? That’s just 2 examples but
each time I come back it seems like I see more of a “20/20″ broadcast
than I do actual news. Then there are the contests the stations run to
get you to watch that drive me nuts. There seem to be more special
reports of created news than there are actual news stories. Is Memphis
news just that boring and non-eventful to report? Or is it the
almighty dollar? I think the answer is the latter. When you have
roughly 22” of actual airtime to report, I wonder how much of that is
actual news.

Well, thanks for letting me rant! And thanks for posting your blog.

Sincerely,
Chris Julian
Sao Paulo

Okay, anyone care to share some thoughts on Mr. Julian’s observations?

A Former Memphis TV Reporter Finds that Sometimes the Scoop Can Lead to a Lawsuit and I Am Not a Consumer Reporter Nor Do I Play One on TV

July 8, 2008

There’s nothing like a good news scoop to get the attention of the viewing public and more importantly, your bosses. After all, impress your bosses enough and you’ll get that raise. But sometimes that scoop will come back to bite you. That’s not a problem as long as you’ve done nothing wrong AND the station’s management and attorneys back you. A former Memphis TV reporter who worked on a big story in Chicago was named in a lawsuit filed in connection with that story. The reporter is former WMC anchor/reporter Mike Puccinelli. The story involved video Puccinelli and his news crew acquired last year of Amy Jacobson, a Chicago area TV news reporter who was visiting the home of a man whose wife had disappeared. The video showed Jacobson in a bikini at the home of this person. The article from the Chicago Sun Times details what the lawsuit is all about but here is an excerpt.

One year after a secretly recorded videotape of her in a bikini derailed her career as a Chicago television news reporter, Amy Jacobson is fighting back. On Monday, Jacobson filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 for airing the tape of her at the home of Craig Stebic, the southwest suburban Plainfield man whose estranged wife, Lisa, has been missing since April 2007…….The suit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court by attorney Kathleen Zellner, claims defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other counts. In addition to CBS, it names Channel 2’s president and general manager, Joe Ahern, the station’s vice president and news director Carol Fowler, reporter Mike Puccinelli and anchor Rob Johnson. It also names Michele Weldon, a Northwestern University journalism assistant professor who was interviewed for the station’s original story about Jacobson, and Tracy Reardon, Stebic’s next-door neighbor from whose bedroom window the hidden-camera video was shot. In a statement, CBS 2 said it stands by its reporting: “Ms. Jacobson’s claim has no merit and we look forward to vigorously defending ourselves in court.”

I’m not sure but I think she’s suing everyone but you and me and I’m not sure about you. This may be one of those times when the publicity may outweigh any monetary cost the station might incur should they lose the suit.

I was checking my email Tuesday and discovered multiple items from folks wanting to give me millions of dollars. I am some kind of lucky guy. I was in the process of sending all of those to the spam file when one mail caught my eye. It was from a woman with a Memphis phone number asking me to help her child get the money from a fast-food place where she says he worked. According to the writer, her child has worked at this fast food place for about three weeks now and hasn’t gotten paid. She asked me to lend a helping hand. Some might have gone ahead and dumped her email with the spam items but I decide to be on her side. I looked up the general numbers for each of the stations in Memphis and shared them with her. She wrote back thanking me. Perhaps someone willing to problem solve or be on her side or be one of the investigators will help her out. Just a side note: I thought it would be pretty easy to find the consumer reporter numbers on Memphis TV station websites. I kind of know how to negotiate a website and the best I could do in most cases was just get a general newsroom number. Maybe that’s by design but for those folks needing help from those who claim to be ready to help, the numbers need to be easier to locate on a webpage.

And finally, I’ve been enlightened once again that I’m bitter toward WREG and that I’m lazy and there was something else but I forget what it was. Since I deleted the comment, which did make me chuckle, I can’t go back to find out what it was. The way that I figure it, if someone attacks me personally without putting their name to their comments, it’s not worth me posting it on MY blog. However, if someone has the where-with-all to comment and put their name to it, that could be a different matter. I just don’t think that person has the cojones or ovaries, as the case may be, to do it. Nuff said.