Archive for August 2008

When You are Up to Your Ears in Alligators……

August 27, 2008

Joe, where the heck have you been?  Joe, is your blog still active?  Joe, are you planning to post anything new or just let this thing die?  Busy with work, Yes it is and Yes and Not just yet.

I’ve been swamped lately and the brain cells that I normally devote to posting have been tied up.  Yes, it’s hard out there for a pimp.  I can tell you that you CAN stick a fork in my because I’m done…with the Democratic Convention that is.  As I’ve mentioned before my wife is a political junkie and these days she is in heaven, listening to all of the commentary, listening to strategy from the pundits and generally having a good time.  Me, I wander off to another room and watch re-runs of CSI on Spike.  Occasionally from across the house I’ve heard my wife complaining loudly to the the TV set.  Sometimes the two dogs come running in where I’m parked just to hide.  I’m not sure if they are tired of HER ranting and raving about politics or the commentators ranting and raving about politics.  Of course all of this will come to a close this week just in time for THE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION!!!!!.

To add confusion to mayhem is the start of the college football season.  Recently my wife was exposed to the Olympic coverage on HD.  I think I’ve seen her leafing through the ads in the Sunday paper of HD TV sets and I know she was briefly flirting with the idea of a college football sports package on satellite.  I think if she ever sits through a college football game while watching it in HD,  then she and I will be making a visit to the local Big Box Electronics store to drag an HDTV set home.  I told her I wasn’t quite ready to commit to HD since I don’t watch that much programming which is available in HD.  Of course I’m told that there are more HD programs available on satellite than cable.  And it could be that if we had an HD TV set, I might start seeking out HD programming.  Then again, if my wife is standing in front of the set shouting at A) bonehead politicians and pundits or B) bonehead college football coaches or players, then the dogs and I will probably be hiding out watching more reruns of CSI anyway.

Maybe It’s Just Me……..

August 18, 2008

For years some folks at newspapers have looked down their noses at those in the TV/Radio business. Primarily the object of their scorn was those darn folks in TV news. “Oh that’s not real journalism” and “you folks never let facts get in the way of a good story” I was told over the years by some of these “Holier Than Thou” newspaper types. I never understood why these people appeared to be so contemptuous toward those in the TV world. Of course this was back in the day when newspapers were still in their glory with huge staffs where individuals had specific beats compared to TV newsrooms where everybody had to be (and still are) versatile enough (you hoped) to cover everything from crime one day to environmental topics the next and then do a feature the next. I never saw newspapers and TV competing with each other as much as they were complementing each other. If you wanted to see what was going on with the weather or why traffic was at a stand-still you turned to TV. If you wanted details you read about it in the newspaper. If you really wanted in-depth analysis you turned to the news magazines.

Of course along the way newspapers discovered that readership was dropping off and they started cutting staff and some like the Commercial Appeal started depending on freelancers to flesh out their staff as they cut back on the reporters and photographers. And along the way, some newspapers discovered that there just might be something to this video thing as they started sending out videographers to (gasp) shoot some of those “moving pictures” to place on their newspaper web pages. I’m sure that move had some long time newspaper folks and some newspaper purists practically retching. Heck some newspapers even formed partnerships with TV stations.

Which leads me to the point of this post. I was browsing through the Commercial Appeal Sunday morning and ran across the “1,000 Words” part of the Viewpoint section. For those of you who missed it, here is the photo along with the caption and his commentary.

“For TV, world’s a stage”

When I am photographing assignments for The Commercial Appeal, people often find it hard to believe that it is a violation of the National Press Photographers Association code of ethics for news photographers to stage or manipulate a photograph for use with a story. Some people even seem offended when I refuse to stage a photo. Perhaps their attitude is shaped by the sensationalism they are used to seeing on TV broadcasts — such as this reporter who went a step further this month and used debris from the site of a Mississippi car crash that injured actor Morgan Freeman as props for his stand-up. “1,000 Words” is a weekly pictorial commentary on events in Greater Memphis and around the world. Today’s “1,000 Words” was written by Mike Brown, a photographer for The Commercial Appeal.

Now, I’m not sure what news value this particular tidbit had for the newspaper other than filling space so the editorial page wouldn’t appear so thin. Plus I wasn’t there and I don’t know who this video news crew represents or what they were doing. They could have been from some local TV station, a syndicated tabloid news show, or they could have been from a local college. As I said, I wasn’t there and I don’t know. And those who read my rants know that I’m no fan of the tabloid “bent” that local TV news has taken over the years. But anyone who has worked in TV news knows that a walking, talking “stand-up” for a news story is more interesting than standing in a static pose with some mundane scene in the background. In fact, those are encouraged by those who run TV newsrooms. Is that staging. Not in my opinion. But it apparently is with Mike Brown who apparently has some issues with TV news. I don’t know Mr. Brown and I’m sure he’s a nice guy who has won numerous accolades from his peers for his outstanding work. But IMHO, you “stooped” on this one. I’m not sure of these reason that you felt compelled to shoot this photo or to have it published with that caption but you stooped a bit on this one. I think it would have been a lesser sin if you staged something rather than have this photo published. It didn’t accomplish much in my opinion. That’s just my opinion mind you.

Something To Ponder as We Look at the State of the 4th Estate

August 14, 2008

About the time I think those in power or at least in powerful positions will look at the bonehead deeds of those who have come before them and think “Man, I won’t do anything THAT stupid”, someone takes a big sip from the “Stupid Cup” and does something really stupid.  I generally try to stay away from politics on this blog but the whole “John Edwards” thing can only be described as stupid, insensitive and callous.  But that’s not the reason for this post.  I received an email from a reader Chris Julian, formerly of Memphis, now living in Brazil with his wife and family where they serve as missionaries.  When CJ was in town back in July, I had a cup of coffee with him and got to know him a bit.  He’s a nice guy and he stays up on the national and international news by way of the networks in the U-S and the Memphis stuff by way of the internet.  This is someone who attended the University of Memphis State University, received his degree and thought he wanted to go into the broadcasting business until he wrapped up his internship at a local TV station.  That was apparently enough.  Having said that, CJ wrote me an email after the John Edwards story broke.  Here is what he wrote:

You know I feel awkward chiming in on your blog at times. You have
such “big guns” in the industry. I’m such a small boat in a big ocean.
But i do enjoy reading your posts and the posts of your readers.
Sometimes I think of things that are not appropriate to write to be
posted on the subject at hand. So I have a question that I’ll ask you
here.

When I was growing up, the National Enquirer was something laughed at.
When I was in college, it was never considered journalism. And if you
brought it up in class, the only thing you would do was to roll your
eyes. Now, “breaking news!” and the NE is in the spotlight. John
Edwards has an affair. I watched commentators on Fox News and CNN
International admit that the major media outlets sat on this story for
a year or even more. So as soon as someone else, no matter how smutty
they are, breaks the smut, they’re all quick to pounce!

And then why does the media not bring up Clinton? He was the
president, okay I don’t have to go into that. Besides being impeached,
Clinton walks away like he’s bullet proof (which reminds me of a
sketch on SNL). So we’re cornering Edwards with this? I see hypocrisy
here but no one touches it.

Fox News had the editor of NE on today. Yes, the NE is the source. I
don’t know. It’s complicated, isn’t it? So, as of this story, the NE
is a credible source. Yikes! I can hear my advisor at the Memphis
State yelling, “That’s $&@*&% CRAP MR. JULIAN!”

CJ brings up several points, observations and and questions and instead of me trying to answer them I thought I’d throw the doors open and see if anyone out there in the blogosphere has any thoughts.

Hope Everyone Has Been Keeping Track of Those Cell Phone Minutes

August 12, 2008

I remember the first time I worked in a news operation that provided cell telephones to the field crews. It was at WEVU TV in Ft. Myers/Naples and the cell phone unit was about the size of a 12 volt car battery. It had a shoulder strap and it was quite the big deal to have in the field. Of course we only had one cell phone in the newsroom and it was handed out on a “need to use” basis. Since cell phone minutes were expensive, we only used it on special occasions. Later when I started work at WREG, cell phones were still not commonly used. We used pay phones to call in when we were out of radio range. I remember when the West Memphis murders of three little boys occurred and the news director gave me his personal(company issued) cell phone to use. It was a Motorola Tac phone which was relatively small at the time but huge compared to modern phones. Eventually all videographers were given cell phones to use strictly for business. Of course some folks ran up huge bills which in turn prompted a crackdown on cell phone usage. Apparently some folks didn’t realize that the station received an itemized account of each cell phone’s calls. I think some folks even lost their jobs while others received a good a** chewing. Which leads me to my point in this post.

It seems from Day 1, back when cell phones were considered a luxury item that the IRS says you are supposed to keep track of the usage if you use it for business. According to an article on Yahoo about cell phones, even if your company provides you with a cell phone, you are supposed to keep track of any personal calls as well as the business calls.  Here’s an excerpt of that article:If you use a cell phone for work (one provided by your company), you’re supposed to keep a detailed log of every call you make on that phone, recording whether each call is for work or for personal use. If you don’t, and even if 100 percent of the calls are for work purposes, your employer, by law, can’t consider your phone a business expense. Instead, it has to consider the phone a perk provided by the company, which means its value has to be treated as taxable income to you.

The article goes on to say while most employers ignore the law, the IRS has cracked down on some organizations with UCLA being one.  And while some in Congress hope to change the law, right now I’d say it’s a safe bet that there are a lot of law breakers out there.  And yes, your chances of getting caught are slim to none, but remember when everybody was downloading music on the internet for free.  Eventually some folks got taken to court where the powers that be made examples of them.  Hope none of you end up as examples.

So Long to One Bad Mother…..(Shut Your Mouth)..I’m Just Talking About Isaac Hayes

August 11, 2008

My wife and I were attending a Memphis Redbirds games Sunday afternoon and the folks we were with had to leave before the end of the game for a scheduled late afternoon rendezvous with family south of Jackson, TN. So were were strolling out of the stadium with a quick walk through of the Redbirds store. As we looked through the stuff there my friend pointed at the TVs which were turned to WMC for the Olympic coverage. There on a crawl at the bottom of the screen was the announcement that singer/songwriter/voice-over man and all around musical icon Isaac Hayes was dead and that more information would be coming on the Action News newscast. My friend had remarked earlier in the day after seeing a story about comedian Bernie Mac’s death that we should expect a third celebrity death shortly. I’ve never really subscribed to the “deaths occurring in threes” scenario. People die all the time and I think it coincidence if some well known name goes on to meet his or her great reward. Now if all celebrities die in threes say within 48 hours of each other and they do this on a regular basis, that would be a different matter. Also, what constitutes a celebrity. Do they actually need to have made a contribution to society in some form or fashion or can they just be famous for being famous such as Paris or Brittney? But I digress. I only met Mr. Hayes one time and that was about ten years ago at a downtown function in what was Captain Bilbo’s. I remember thinking he was smaller in stature than I thought he would be. But then so was Elvis. Somehow I expect these larger-than-life people to be, well, larger than life. Mr. Hayes was also a little more quiet than I expected him to be. Still, he was friendly and I told him it was an honor to finally meet him face to face. Later, when my wife and I had season tickets to the Redbirds during their first years at Autozone Park, Mr. Hayes sang the national anthem at one of the games. He was decked out in a blue outfit that flowed around him like the music that sprang forth from him. I thought at some point my wife and I might make it to his restaurant but that never happened. Then the eatery closed. Monday morning as I read the various articles about him in the Commercial Appeal I discovered his touch/influence on the music world and popular culture was even more far reaching than I thought. And he gave back to the city as well. On top of everything else, Mr. Hayes brought a sense of pride to the Bluff City. This is a great thing for a city that has an inferiority complex (and not a very good one at that!). Mr. Hayes may not be as well known as the two kings of music in Memphis (Elvis and B.B.) but it’s safe to say he is still considered royalty and if he isn’t a king then he’s at least a prince. He will be missed.

What If Someone Held the Olympic Games and Nobody Cared

August 7, 2008

The Summer Olympics Games are here, the Summer Olympic Games are here….Yah, I can see everyone is getting hyped up about them. I’m not and I used to really look forward to them. I remember back when I was a sophomore in high school, one teacher actually dragged in a TV set and allowed us to watch the 1972 Summer Olympics during class. I can’t remember his name but there was a tall, skinny Cuban who ran and did extremely well in some of the track events. And Mark Spitz did very, very well in the swimming competitions. I even remember the joke: How do you fill the Olympic swimming pool? Mark (spits) Spitz. Hey, I said I remembered the joke, I didn’t say it was that funny. Actually Johnny Carson may have been responsible for that particular funny. Anyway, I just haven’t gotten excited about the Olympic games and I think part of the blame goes to the schedule. It used to be that the games were held every four years with the Summer Games and the Winter Games within six months of each other. Now with the games staggered, every two years, they just don’t seem as special. Also, video of the games is delayed even though the results have been released so there really isn’t, IMHO, that much to get excited about. I know my lovely and talented bride was complaining that NBC will be showing the games on MSNBC during the day which was interfering with her “political fix”. I can imagine she’ll be cranky about that until the games are over and she can get her political “freak” back on.

The Olympic Games have reminded me of both good and not so good memories. I actually got cross ways with the station manager at the ABC affiliate I worked at in Ft. Myers, Florida over the “Olympic pins” the station wanted the anchors to wear on air. I didn’t mind wearing pins in general on the lapel of my jacket but if I remember correctly, this particular pin was about the size of a thumbnail and was bright white with the ABC logo on it. Our studio cameras were so bad and the logo on the pin fail to stand out and it looked like a white blob or as I had the poor judgment to describe it, “like a bird pooped on my jacket”. Let me say I learned a couple of lessons about Olympic pins in general and self-important anchors in particular. I tried to avoid repeat trips to the station manager’s office after that. lol  Larry Landecker, I don’t know if you read this blog but you were right and I was wrong!!!

Having said all of that I can tell you that one of the most memorable promotions I was participating in involved the Olympics, specifically the 1998 Winter Olympics held in Nagano, Japan.  Each morning after the Daybreak show ended, we had to record a promotion that would air that night during the 10 o’clock news. Well, I got the idea that we should record a generic promo IN JAPANESE. I wrote the promo and found someone at the University of Memphis State University who translated it and helped me write a phonetic version so I could load it into our teleprompter. Then, wearing our promotional Olympic medals that CBS was handing out to promote the Winter Games, Marybeth Conley, Joey Hadley, Todd Demers and I recorded this promo with its English subtitles and it ran for the duration of the Winter Games. Let me go on the record to say Todd and Marybeth are natural linguists (please do post a response on the term “cunning”….thanks in advance) while Joey and I struggled through this. All in all it was great fun and for those who care to take a gander, I posted it below. Now, let the games begin.

It Appears the July Book was Good to WREG and I’ve Got a Question About Those Field Cameras at WMC

August 6, 2008

I received some numbers about the July book from the good folks at the station Down On The River.  According to the numbers they’re circulating, WREG won ALL news time slots in July from early morning late night with the exception of the 6pm time slot which wasn’t mentioned in the release.  My posting of such information usually prompts responses from some folks at other stations that all the numbers aren’t in yet but Hey, I’m just repeating what they’re saying DOTR.  If that is indeed the case, congrats to WREG.  As a caveat, I’ve found that over the years the winners of the July ratings book like to promote their successes while those who don’t win will tell you that the July book is not that big of a deal because of summer viewing habits.  Still, a win is a win and bragging rights are bragging rights and according to this release WREG has earned bragging rights.

And speaking of bragging rights, I received a release from WMC a couple of weeks ago (July 29th) regarding their status as the only station in Memphis broadcasting their local news in HD.  They went on to mention that their field cameras are now shooting in 16:9 aspect ratio.  For those not up to speed on aspect ratios, the standard def aspect ratio is 4:3 while the 16:9 aspect ratio is what is seen on high def TVs.  However, the 16:9 aspect ratio does not necessarily mean something is shot in HD which leads me to my question:  Are WMC videographers shooting in the field in HD or just SD with 16:9 format.  That wasn’t clear to me in the news release.  I’m hoping to get some clarification on that.  Still, even if field video is shot in SD but in a 16:9 format it will help smooth the visual transition for those of us still hobbling around our decrepit SD TVs. In fact, aren’t all TV stations supposed to be switching over the 16:9 format?  I know the folks at WKNO tell me they are and I’m not sure if it is an FCC mandate or whether it’s just good form as we countdown to the big switch to digital early next year.  So many questions.  I’m just needing answers.  Can anybody help out a blogger?