Odds and Ends on a Tuesday Morning…Oh And One Other Thing…

Nothing like a few days of R & R to get the batteries recharged and there is nothing like a little hiking in Vermont to restore some perspective.  Then again, there’s nothing like getting back home to make the circle complete.  And to quote the late Harry Chapin, “All my life’s a circle“.

Monday night, my lovely and talented bride and I were doing something we rarely do anymore…..we watched network TV.  The particular show was Boston Legal (which I’m afraid has “jumped the shark” ) and that’s when we saw a news promo for WPTY/WLMT that had an interesting twist.  It featured Mason Granger/Brenda Wood back when they were on WMC and someone I didn’t recognize on WREG (my wife thought it might have been Russ Wood).  The announcer indicated that these were folks that the announcer’s father used to watch but now that he (the announcer) had control of the remote, he was watching the good folks at WPTY/WLMT for his news.  It was an interesting promo and one of those rare ones where the competition is featured (to some degree anyway).  I’m not sure how effective the promo might be since one would have to be an old fart like me or at least a life long Memphis area viewer to have an idea of who those other people featured in the promo might be.  The question I have is: where did WPTY get the video and did they have to get permission to use it.  Do they have to do a courtesy “super” identifying the station?  Not questions that will keep me awake at night but I am curious about.

I received an email (in addition to a recent comment) about the declining DMA of the Memphis market.  For those who didn’t catch the original post, the size of the Memphis market dropped a notch.  Here is the comment I wanted to share.

I worked at WBBJ when we were market 181. We started doing more DMA stories making an effort to leave Jackson as much as possible, specifically targeting Gibson County. Soon after I left, Gibson became part of Jackson’s DMA. Memphis stopped doing news outside of the counties that touch Shelby. If you want to grow your DMA, you need to get outside of Memphis and do stories. (You know, like what you, Tommy and Doug used to do back in the day.) Memphis stations are to scared to miss a Memphis shooting to risk a crew going outside the city but it is killing the DMA. Meanwhile Jonesboro, Cape and Jackson are doing the DMA beat and winning. It is up to Memphis news directors to decide wether they want to grow their market size or are comfortable with their shrinking market size. I know the small markets appreciate their lack of effort.

PS: Nashville has always worked their DMA and that is one reason their DMA has grown.

I now live in the MSP market. It used to be #13, but it is now #15 and rarely does DMA news.

It seems to be a trend amound some markets, stick to city limits news so you don’t risk missing local news. Jackson made a point of working the DMA even assigning certain reporters to only work certain counties. Little Rock also works the counties hard. They are up as well.

Some interesting observations and they go hand-in-hand with what a number of critics to the current mindset have said for years.  At one time about ten years ago, the mindset at WREG was to target areas of the Metro area (Collierville was one at the time) that had a large number of metered households.  It was a blatant effort to “game” the system.  That was one of the first steps toward “winning” the book.

Now stations in the Memphis area rarely want to travel outside the Metro area unless it’s for a disaster of some sort.  It’s so much easier to run and gun stories close by plus it’s easier on the fuel bill. Viewers in the outlying area aren’t stupid and they tend to turn to the stations that take the time to send crews out to their area for something other than disasters.  I still run into people who tell me they quit watching Memphis stations because Memphis TV doesn’t offer anything for them.  Some also tell me they’re almost afraid to travel to Memphis because from watching the news they’re afraid they’ll get carjacked, robbed, raped, murdered or that something else bad will happen to them.  There was a time when WREG wanted its crews to be out and about in the viewing area.  In fact, they used to do a home-town salute during weather of every tiny town that crews could find.  The effort required field crews to video tape watertowers of small towns (if they had a water tower) or a sign bearing the name of the town if they didn’t.  These would then be shown on the weathercast.  Hokey? Yes it was.  But it gave a brief recognition to small towns and just stopping for a few minutes in a marked news cruiser got people to talking.  This plus the fact that the crew was probably working on a story in the vicinity may have helped prompt people to watch.  I’m a firm believer of “sowing good-will” in the outlying areas.  That’s because I think you will “reap what you sow” and if all you do is stay home around your home base then eventually all you will have is your home base and as people move away, that too will shrink.

And I forgot about adding this so this comes in about an hour after the original post.  Things are tough all over, even at the powerhouse TV stations.  As you know Landmark which used to own WTVF in Nashville and still owns KLAS in Las Vegas had/has two powerful stations in those properties.  They also just sold The Weather Channel.  I’ve been told that WTVF is HD across the board and I think KLAS is as well.  Well, the housing crisis has hit a number of markets pretty hard but it apparently just hammered the Las Vegas market.  Here is a memo from the the ND at WTVF sharing some infomation about former sister station KLAS:

I know it’s difficult for you all to be here during afternoon staff meetings.  But I wanted to let you know of some significant announcements that were made in Wednesday’s staff meeting.  KLAS, our long time sister station in Las Vegas, announced they would be laying off around 20 employees and not filling several open positions.  As you know, Las Vegas has been hit extremely hard during these tough economic times.  Debbie said while Nashville has not been hit as hard, we are suffering too.  The poor economic conditions and the loss of more than a million dollars worth of NewsChannel 5 advertising is forcing all of us to cut back and hold down expenses.  She is doing everything in her power to not have what’s happening in Vegas to happen here at NewsChannel 5.  I just wanted to make sure you were aware of this and what’s happening at KLAS before you read it somewhere.

So, if you have a rock solid contract, be thankful.  If you have a job, be happy.  If you are worried about your job, better try to make yourself indispensable.  Times are tough and things are lean in the TV biz these days.

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15 Comments on “Odds and Ends on a Tuesday Morning…Oh And One Other Thing…”

  1. Former Fox 13'er Says:

    Umm…yeah former WBBJ staffer should check out the local stations a little more closely. I know for a fact Fox 13 REGULARLY goes outside Shelby County for stories, because I did them. Check out the series The Road Les Traveled.


    I have since moved on to another job, in another state, but those Road Les Traveled stories I did were TV news nirvana. Getting away from the crime and press conferences, to just go out and meet people. Telling stories that are being forgotten. It’s what TV news should be (in my humble opinion). No one can tell a story like Les, and it’s one of the highlights of my career working with him on this series.

  2. Allie Says:

    My 2 cents: as one of those outside the metro (Olive Branch MS) former news watchers I have to agree with the reasoning for not watching anymore. Seriously, I usually try to catch either 3 or 5 as soon as they come on and give it about 10 seconds. If it doesn’t interest me with something local or important to me I can’t stomach it anymore. I used to be a voracious news reader and news watcher. I am a 44 year old female. My mom is a 65 year old and has been a DIE HARD news watcher/reader until about the past 2-4 years. She does the same thing I do and that is something I never thought I would see in her. And both of us would like to say the news directors should LISTEN to what this person who worked at WBBJ is saying about markets and DMA news…that is if you truly want higher numbers again.

  3. the tall tv guy Says:

    Joe, the WREG anchor in the WPTY promotion is Paul Dorman. I turned on the tv Saturday when the spot was running, was surprised and thought the same thing, did they get permission to use that tape? A bold move to get viewers.

    Meanwhile, the countdown is on….will Andy Wise appear on WMC before the non-compete runs out? Thought about that going down Union and seeing his mug on the side of their building.

    Hiring in Vermont sounds like a pleasant getaway…maybe one day.

  4. joelarkins Says:

    Thanks for the info on the promo spot and the fact that the WREG anchor is Paul Dorman.
    As for the re-emergence of Andy Wise on Memphis TV, I would have bet that WMC would have introduced AW on-air by now and I still think he’ll make an appearance before the end of the November book which is a big one. Of course, the downside of that would be to put a bit of a chink in the armor of the non-compete (unless they are willing to pay WREG for the privilege of violating the non-compete) and that could move everything a step closer to doing away with non-competes and no broadcasting operation wants to see that happen.

  5. Former WBBJ'er Says:

    When I was at WBBJ, our ND pushed hard to get more counties in the DMA. We opened up one-person bureaus in Gibson and McNairy Counties. Within a year, we had Gibson in our DMA and when I left back in ’05, we were closing in on McNairy. I think there were plans to open more in Dyersburg and Paris, but I don’t know if that ever materialized. While we never went after them with Nielsen, I know we did more stories in Haywood and Hardeman counties in a month than the big boys did in a year.

    Also, I think WREG has over-saturated themselves with way too many newscasts. I know those producers try their best to make each show different, but when I was in town recently, I felt like I was seeing the same stuff, over and over again.

  6. Former WBBJ'er Says:

    When I was working at WBBJ, our ND actively went after counties in both the Memphis and Nashville DMA’s. We opened one-man band bureaus in Milan and Selmer. We got Gibson County after a year – which made us go from market 184 to 174. Don’t know how they’re doing now in McNairy – been three years since I worked there.

    As far as the WPTY promo goes, I bet they grabbed that stuff off YouTube. There’s a channel on there with a lot of old Memphis TV stuff.

    Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/user/NewsRetiree

  7. Doug Johnson Says:

    The GM may tell us something different, but at least one former NC3 news director told me that the key to winning a book was take the Willie Sutton approach (when asked why he robbed banks, he reportedly said, “because that’s where the money is…”). So, the best way to win is to on the largest concentrations of viewers… and that usually means focusing on Memphis, although we see a lot of coverage from north Mississippi too, probably because so many people are moving there.

    When I started at 3, there was not only a Mississippi beat, but an Arkansas beat too — but I was the last person to have that assignment — and that ended in ’91 or ’92. I don’t think there are any more reporters there than were there back in the day, but with several more hours of news, they are spread thinner. So, I assume it’s just easier to keep them close to the house, since so many of them seem to anchor too.

    As for the memo from TV5, I used to share an office with that news director; she’s a good person and an honest one, so I’m not surprised she’s making an effort to stay in front of the information curve. How may times have you been frustrated because you didn’t get ANY information from the boss? Times are tough. I read about cut backs and contracts not being renewed every day. I never thought I would do anything else once I got into news — but I gotta say — I feel a lot safer now that I’m out.

  8. outside metro Says:

    Joe, I’ve noticed lately that WMC is starting to expand their reporting ever so slightly, or at least refering to Justin Hansen as their “West Tennessee Reporter” and Chip Washington as the “North Mississippi Reporter”. The only problem is that most of what I have seen is Hansen working Tipton County, where he’s worked for years, and Washington working DeSoto County. Maybe this is an effort to cover events outside the metro area. We can hope, right? I’m still kinda wondering why there was no coverage of a prison escape in west TN a couple of weeks back.

  9. Former WBBJ'er Says:

    Sorry for the double comment above… I didn’t think the first one posted!

  10. joelarkins Says:

    The outlying “bureau” thing has worked well for some organizations while others have made a half-hearted effort at creating and staffing the so-called bureaus. A push was made a while back by WREG to have bureaus in North Mississippi and in Germantown. I don’t know how those have worked out so far. Maybe someone could share. I would think that a true bureau would work a little better if it were outside the immediate area. Just my opinion mind you.

  11. Ready camera 1, take 2. Says:

    I have never heard the scientific data explained as to why the “bleed/lead” works. Unless it’s simple trainwreck TV… I can’t imagine night after night people across the Memphis and the Mid-South watching and saying “Hey Thelma look! There was another shootin’ in Orange Mound/North Memphis/Hickory Hill. Seems like just last night they was sayin’ the same thing. Ya know whut? I’m gonna watch tomorrow night and see if there’s another one.” Should there be a newscast for the consultants and another for the rest of us who grown weary of it all? Where have all the feature reporters gone?!
    There was a time when you wanted the good people of Possum Trot and greater metro Tyronza to talk about your news because stations served all of the Mid-South from the Bootheel to Tupelo. They’re nobody now because they don’t have a meter. Maybe if they had more shootin’s they’d get on the news in Memphis!

  12. Jeffrey Jones Says:

    Re post on new WPTY promo, the former WREG announcer in the spot is Paul Dorman who most remember as doing news on Good Morning Memphis and anchor of Channel 3 news at noon! Does anyone know whereabouts of Russ Hodge, formerly anchor at WREG? He was great!!

  13. In the early to late 80’s when Doug Viar was doing stories out in the DMA (when there was a far reaching DMA) which back then included the Missouri Bootheel, Gibson and others, as previously mentioned, WREG’s numbers were actually up nicely. Not because of the metro area, but the ND back then realized…”Mmmm, let’s go after those countless thousands of viewers out there that no one cares about.” Chris Schmitz (former ND there) knew his business and it worked. (Side note: We actually crossed paths about two years ago through another person from Orlando – Chris was the GM of the International Airport there at the time I think…)

    When I came along following in Doug’s footsteps, on air in the early 90’s, the plan was to eventually establish a bureau up in NW TN and perhaps in Jonesboro as well. Then ND, Tim Morrissey, EP Bob Jacobs, and I looked at numerous ways to get video back remotely, back then we were considering fiber vs microwave, if the plan ever happened.

    I was constantly shooting those “Proud to Serves” you mentioned Joe, when I would go report on a story out there in those small towns. Yep, it was hokey, but the viewers loved it. And it was nice when we were doing weather to be able to toss to that as we headed to break out of the weather tease. It made the viewers in those towns feel appreciated.

    But as the station changed GM’s and ND’s all of that took a backseat. Though, as much as I disagreed with Crag Jahelka on his style and methods, he did have a good understanding of DMA importance. But, once they started giving away cars, contests, etc in the weather it was never the same. When I moved to WMC (Ken Jobe was ND at the time) they were extremely interested in the DMA. They had just snagged the chopper, so it was a fantastic mix for several years!

    Hopefully the stations will again pursue the outlying DMA, it’s, again, an untapped market with numbers worth going after in many of those boxes.

  14. AMNewsBoy Says:

    I’m wondering if anybody at WPTY/WLMT realized that, when making that commercial… the “Eyewitness News” branding is “old school” too — and that WHBQ was using it before either station ever signed on the air.

  15. Ferd Says:

    The first poster mentioned WHBQ was going out of area. That might be for survival, because Clear Channel has blocked WHBQ’s network shows from fox with their WJKT TV-16 station in Jackson. It s a masterful move to cut HBQ’s number to give WLMT-30 a stronger looking vewer base.

    WHen you add the point for KFVS, KAIT, and WBBJ all added from the frenge market of Memphis well memphis is missing the boat. One must also add WJKT and WLOV in Tupelo siphoning off the FOX-Memphis viewers, well you can see the Memphis market is getting eaten around the edges.

    Joe you are right, Nashville does a great job reporting a 100 mile radius in and around Nashville.

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