Archive for November 2008

So, Anybody Out There in TV News Ready to Take a Salary Cut, Is There Such a Thing as a Real Life Portrayal of Life in the TV News World and I Think I Have Some Numbers for Memphis from the November Book.

November 30, 2008

Times are tough out there for everybody.  Heck I’d propose downsizing in my household to just one dog but I’m afraid my wife would keep both of them and boot me.  I see where TV stations are REALLY looking at the bottom line as even the mainstay advertisers (car dealers)  are said to be cutting back.  (I read in Newsweek where one person who heads one of the Big Three automakers was asked if he would work for just one dollar a year ((like Lee Iacocca  when Chrysler fell on hard times years ago)) and the auto maker replied that his current salary was okay. ) It seems he makes about 21million a year.   It’s never been a secret that most of the folks in the TV newsroom don’t take home that much money while a handful of others do.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  That’s what negotiations are for if you can work it out.  But in an article posted last week in Shoptalk by Eric Sorenson proposed an across the board 15 percent cut.  Here are the first three paragraphs of that blog posting.

Erik Sorenson

These are the times that try the soul, across the economy especially for TV news. Ratings are dropping for national news with the election suspense behind us. Revenues are dropping for local news as car dealers and other local retailers cut back on advertising. Most news departments have had (or are about to have) some kind of 4th quarter cutback. (As our loyal readers know, TV Spy has been at the forefront of reporting news all year about anchor shuffles and talent cutbacks.)

Unfortunately, the pain has only just begun. Since the economy will worsen before it improves, more cuts are inevitable. But at some point, you are not just cutting into the bone, you’re cutting right through. At some point, you just can’t get the job done with any fewer people, no matter how much pooling and streamlining you do.

Instead of laying off another 15% of your department’s personnel next time the Corporate Reaper comes around, you should reduce salaries by 15% across-the-board. That way you won’t have to further cut service to your viewers and you won’t be contributing further to the national and regional unemployment problem that fuels a vicious economic cycle. Instead of slow incremental death, dollar by dollar, head by head, cut everybody’s salary from the GM and VP’s down the line.

Now, nobody wants to take home less money, but if the alternative is that there are fewer warm bodies around to get the job done, which makes more sense?  And I’m not talking about “fake cuts” here either.  We all know that management generally gets performance bonuses at the end of the year.  Depending on the level of the manager, that bonus can be staggering. I remember working with a manager who talked about the sacrifice he and other top level executives had made by not getting a cost of living raise for two whole years.  I asked if he was still getting his performance bonus and he just scowled and walked off.  Hey, I would have tried to sell it the same way.  It will be interesting to see just where the cuts have to be made in TV stations across the country and trust me, the cuts are coming.  Will use of the newschoppers be cut way back or dropped altogether especially since Jet-A fuel hasn’t dropped in price that much?  Will more stations delay the move to HD as they try to wrangle the money to make it happen?  What if a couple of the front-line anchors stepped up to the plate and said “hey, everybody is important in this operation and we want to be the first to say that we’ll take a reduction in pay for now”  We’ll see what happens.  Stay turned for more on that.

I’ve admitted before and I will state for the record again that when it comes to things on the cutting edge, I’m not there.  I’m still trying to get a handle on Facebook and LinkedIn!  So when I finally do get around to watching movies, it’s because they showed up on regular TV networks.  After reading all day I thought I would turn my fortified brain into mush by watching mindless TV and the boob tube was happy to accommodate me. There on the menu was Bruce Almighty, a film about a TV guy who gets the chance to fill in as God. This isn’t a rant about the film as much as it was about the portrayal of a TV newsperson or rather what some film maker must think is the routine of a TV news person. Having worked in TV and radio and watched a few TV shows and films along the way, I have yet to see “real” TV captured on the big or small screen.  I’ve seen many efforts and only one came even close and it wasn’t that close. (the name escapes me but it was back in the 80’s) If anybody knows of a show or film that accurately portrays what goes on in a newsroom, please let me know.

Finally, I received an email late this past week from one of the stations with what I would assume are numbers from the November book.  Since I don’t have an updated version of Word (mine is Office 97 I think) I couldn’t open the file.  I was disappointed as I was looking forward to seeing what happened here in the Memphis area.  Please, someone share.

And finally, thank those of you who sent Thanksgiving greetings to me.  I’ve been up to my ears recently with work and unable to get around to blogging.  I hope everyone had a happy Turkey Day.


Has a Tooth Been Pulled In The Non-Compete Clause Issue In Memphis Media, I Get a Solid Explanation as to Why My Picture from WMC Runs Off the Sides of My TV Screen and Memphis Loses Another Radio Personality

November 10, 2008

Back when the announcement was first made that Andy Wise was leaving WREG for WMC I really didn’t think that it would be a FULL year before AW was back on the air.  As I posted previously I figured that WMC might roll out AW during the May sweeps or even during the July book but for sure that they wouldn’t wait any later than November.  Some might say when I’m shooting with a shotgun like that I’m bound to be right at some point in time.  So as I browsed the Commercial Appeal and saw a huge ad featuring Mr. Wise, I really wasn’t surprised.  I was told that he had been doing stuff behind the scenes and I figured that this was the first time that the folks on Union would start branding their Investigative squad with Andy’s face.  Hey, his picture has been hanging on the sides of the station for months now.  But it was while I was listening to Drake and Zeke this morning on the radio that I heard Andy voicing his own promo for his upcoming expose’ on tires.  I figured, “Okay, the gloves have come off”.  Now I don’t know the specifics of what transpired between WMC and WREG to negate the non-compete issues.  The way the wording on the non-competes usually works is that if someone violates a non-compete clause then the former station can seek monetary compensation set at a pre-determined rate (usually based on salary and the amount of time left on the non-compete).  Or the new station can just say “to hell with you” to the old station and do what they want.  But then the next time that someone breaks a non-compete, then  a precedent has been set and such a move would actually remove a couple of teeth from the whole non-compete issue. That’s something that most station managers don’t WANT to see and most TV and radio people under non-competes would LOVE to see.   Again, at this point, I don’t know which way the situation went but Andy Wise will be back on somebody’s side soon. 

I had posted earlier that while watching Saturday Night Live on my Direct TV (Standard Definition) that the picture was way too big.  It ran off the sides which meant that graphics and whatever was far left and far right were clipped.  I changed the viewing screen on the TV from 4:3 to 16:9 and it still clipped the edge of the screen.  I asked if anyone knew what was going on and for several days I had only one response.  Then I got an email from a person who works on Union and has the technical expertise to know what’s going on.  In a nutshell, it’s an issue with the combination of 16:9 and 4:3 video that everyone is dealing with right now, NBC, and Direct TV.  (I think I’ve got this right).  Anyway, we had a lengthy conversation and I was told it would not be an issue if I went to HD.  However, having said that, a good friend of mine who HAS HD says he still has issues with the signal running off the edge of the screen.  Stay tuned for more on the story.

Memphis has lost another long-time radio guy.  Craig Robbins died while driving last Friday.  There was a nice article on Mr. Robbins in Saturday’s Commercial Appeal.  Here are a couple lines.

The voice of Memphis Morning News has gone silent. Craig Robbins, host of the area news talk show on WREC-AM NewsRadio 600, died Friday of a heart attack. He was stricken while driving and concerned motorists performed CPR, but Mr. Robbins died on the way to the hospital, said station operations manager Tim Spencer.

I didn’t know Mr. Robbins but he had been quite involved in Memphis radio over the years. And he was only 59.  There was a time when I really didn’t think too much about meeting my maker but considering that CR was only seven years older than me and that starts hitting close to home.  Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.

And finally, there’s nothing like getting back to nature and this past weekend, my good friend and former co-worker Doug Johnson broke out the hiking boots, climbed into an airplane with me and I flew the two of us to deer camp in Western Kentucky at my family’s farm.  Understand, for Doug and me, this trip was not about hunting deer but it was about visiting the great outdoors and being around some folks who do hunt.  WE were actually there for lunch and for some four-wheeling.  It was only a day trip and other than the fact that Doug hurt his shoulder climbing out of a deer stand (he just climbed up for the view) I think I can safely say a good time was had by all.  I’m sharing a few pictures and I’m calling the adventure, “Boyz in the Woodz”.  (Forgive the quality of the photos as they were taken with my camera phone.)

Boyz in the Woodz
Boyz in the Woodz
Back to Nature
Back to Nature
Flying Home After a Hard Day of Having Fun
Flying Home After a Hard Day of Having Fun
The Vide from 4,500 ft.  (One of the reasons I fly)
The View from 4,500 ft. (One of the reasons I fly)

Darn You, Liberal Media, Some Local Ratings Numbers from Election Night, and A Member of the Bush Household Gets a Taste of that Liberal Media.

November 6, 2008

I’ve really tried hard NOT to blog about the recent presidential election and so many things surrounding it but I figure just this once. First, I will admit that for the first time since living in Memphis, a political sign was planted in our front yard.  As a person employed in the local news business, I could never show support for a candidate (unlike some news people in Memphis) so I never allowed a sign to be placed in our yard.  And because of our location on North Parkway, we had plenty of candidates and their supporters ask to place a sign in our yard.  I took the lone polticial sign down this Thursday morning and if you didn’t see it then I won’t bother telling you who it showed support for.  I think there were enough people whose heads were exploding from the outcome of the election in the area and besides the election is history.  The important thing to remember is that we are all in this together.

Jack, a good friend of mine, shared with me this article written by conservative columnist Cal Thomas. The point as been raised by more than one person about the liberal media and its bias toward Obama. I do think there was some degree of leaning towarrd Obama by the national media (Fox excluded).  At times, I was rather embarrassed that some of the MSNBC show hosts were so for Obama and against McCain that there never was any attempted at impartiality.  On the other hand, I caught an occasional glimpse of the Fox News morning show and they were so anti-Obama and pro McCain that they might as well have been wearing McCain political buttons.  And I’ve been reading the letters to the editor in the Commercial Appeal where the writers are almost in a state of apoplexy over Obama’s election.  Apparently with the election of Obama, there is nothing safe now and that includes Mom, Apple Pie and the Girl I Left Behind.

I received some ratings numbers from election night which showed that here in the MidSouth more people turned to WREG for their election returns.  Now I will admit that those numbers came to me from WREG but I consider them to be legitimate.  The second most watched station was WMC.  Now, having said that, I expect to see other numbers come forth from the other stations.  Anyway, congrats are in order to WREG.

And finally, I’m a firm believer that dogs in general and Scottish Terriers in particular are good judges of character.  As a point of disclosure, I will tell you that my wife and I rescue Scottish Terriers and at this time we have two of them in our household.  Scotties are hardheaded and stubborn and they have no concept of their size.  That can be a bad thing sometimes.  Our beloved Barkley who weighed in at 23 pounds launched herself at the neighbor’s  110 pound German Shepherd/Akita mix that looked like it was going to attack my wife. (Barkley didn’t win that encounter.)   So it was with much anticipation that I watched the video of Reuters White House correspondent Jonathan Decker as he attempted to make nice with Barney, the Bush family’s Scotty.  I don’t think one has to be a dog lover or an animal lover to see where this was headed.  Here’s the video.

Notice the ears on the dog are down and that the tail is down and not wagging.  That’s a pretty good indication that the dog is not a happy camper about something.  Or maybe he’s just a staunch Republican and exacting some revenge on that darned liberal media with its left leaning bias.  I report, you decide.

InDecision 2008

November 4, 2008

I may get my wife back now that the election is over.  She has been beside herself over the last few months as she worried whether her presidential candidate would persevere in this race.  From the other room where she is/has been  flipping through the channels, it sounds like she is watching a college football game on a Saturday afternoon.  There’s just not as much swearing at the coaches and the officials calling the game.  I will have to tell you that early on in the coverage I heard her say something to the effect of “Oh my God!!!!!”.  She then called me into the other room to see what had gotten her attention.  It was on CNN and appeared to be some incarnation of the first Star Wars movie with the holograph of Princess Leia projected from R2D2.  There on the screen talking to Wolf Blitzer was Jessica Yellin in some sort of hi-def Hologram from Chicago.  She appeared to have some sort of blue tint around her outline like the old chroma-key clips.  Anyway, it had some gee-whiz factor to it but I’m not sure what it added.  Of course I believe it was CNN that started the first “ticker” at the bottom of the screen during a broadcast and it wasn’t long before EVERYBODY  had a ticker.  So I won’t be surprised to see the “hologram” appear elsewhere after tonight. I say “elsewhere” but it really won’t be everywhere because as Jessica Yellin said it took more than 30 high-def cameras placed around her to make the image possible and I doubt if there are 30 HD cameras in any one news room in most medium to small markets.

Locally, I thought I’d check in to see how the local coverage on the Internet was working out.  I will also say that I probably tuned in WWAAAAYYY to early  for returns as it was between 7:45 and 8 pm. When I went to, I saw a small screen of Richard and Claudia pop up and just below that was this message:  Firefox can’t find the server at\wreg\election\electionresultsnovember.html. After a couple of tries to get local results I gave up and moved on.

I went to WMC’s website just in time to hear Joe Birch introducing his “dear friend and colleague”.  Since I was listening and not watching, I wasn’t sure who he was gushing about.  It turns out he was introducing Donna Davis who was about to talk to the panel of experts in the studio. I heard a lot of analysis but didn’t see any numbers I was interested in concerning the local races.

Next I visited WHBQ Fox 13’s website.  I didn’t get anybody popping up on a video screen first thing when I went to the website but I did find what was one of the easiest websites to negotiate with a big tab available for each of the big races and tabs for local races.  It was nice and clean.  Unfortunately they didn’t have any more information posted at the time I was searching.  I know, I know, patience is a virtue and I need a virtue.

Next I visited WPTY’s website.  I had to look around but finally found the “local results” page.  It had a funky look to it with some odd looking symbols everywhere.    I didn’t find what I was looking for there either so I moved on.

Finally, I decided I would check out the action on the Commercial Appeal website.  I was actually surprised because I figured I would find more information there than at the other websites.  I didn’t.  It was even more confusing and difficult to negotiate.  I could find a map that would tell me where to vote but not what the results were. I moved on.

Bottom line:  I let my wife watch the returns while I kept busy elsewhere around the house.  When I heard loud groaning  or cheering coming from her general vicinity then I knew it was time to see what was going on.  Now THAT is what I consider to be a personal election night alert.