Archive for May 2009

Congrats to a Former Memphis Newsperson and Don’t Try This at Home

May 29, 2009

I’ve been working on a couple of video projects this week and while waiting for the computer to digest the video I was surfing the net and ran across an item about a new News Director from Baltimore heading to Kansas City.  After checking a little bit I discovered that the person was none other than Peggy Phillip, former ND at WMC in Memphis.  The Pegster, who left Memphis for Syracuse and then on to Baltimore (WMAR) will now head to KSHB .  I had hoped to catch up with PP when I was in Baltimore a few weeks back and she was out of pocket.  We had planned to catch up with her when I return to Baltimore in a couple of weeks but she will be in KC by the time I arrive.  It’s all about….timing.  Anyway, congrats to Peggy.

One of my default channels is The Weather Channel.  That way I’m usually on top of the weather and the Local on the 8s.  I usually stop watching when Professor Jim Cantore starts holding his Weather Classes .  I really feel a condescending tone when JC is preaching his brand of weather.  You know he’s really serious when he takes off his jacket and rolls up his sleeves.  How cliched. But after all of the warnings from both local and national weather folks about avoiding bad weather, TWC along with some other weather experts are now actively chasing tornadoes.   I understand why the weather experts are chasing the storms.  It’s because they’re trying to gain knowledge about what makes storms tick.  That information could help improve forecasting etc.   But the efforts to follow this exercise live in the form of reality TV is really rather silly and I’ve yet to see the folks at TWC be able to go to their person who is in the car riding around trying to find the storms.  It puts me in the mind of someone playing with a loaded gun.  Yes, it’s okay to do that (if you want) but don’t televise it.  If this thing goes south they may need to rename this “Jackass/The Weather Version”.

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Be Careful What You Wish For

May 28, 2009

I’ve said it before and I will say it again:  I know enough about most technology to be dangerous.  The really scary part is that in our household and in our home office I’m the tech guy.  That’s why I do a lot of head scratching sometimes when a piece of computer related equipment starts slowing down.  I will admit I was stumped as I started working on a project for a client and was having some sort of issues getting video to load up.  Five hours later, after all of that wonderful video was in the system my editing software started acting funky and kept shutting down.  I called a friend who is much younger, much more tech savvy and really knows Final Cut Pro.  He walked me through things that I had already done but that he wanted me to re-do.  Each time we got the same results.  Then he made a comment that made my blood run cold: “I think your second hard drive is failing”.  Considering that I still had a couple of projects on that external 500 Gig drive, I was about to shift into panic mode.  Turns out I didn’t have time to panic as the hard drive crashed and burned right after I got off the phone with my friend.  As I drove to purchase a new hard drive I remember thinking earlier in the week how I wished that I had a new hard drive with a couple of terrabytes of storage.  Well, now I have one.   And I spent most of last night re-loading video to it and trying to figure out how to re-do what projects I lost.  Bottom line: be careful what you wish for as you just may get it.

Speaking of technology crashing,  it appears that both desktop PCs that my wife and I use in our office are winding down with the computer that my wife uses really acting like it’s about to auger in.  Granted these machines are about six years old and we have gotten a lot of use out of them but the timing could be a whole lot better.  But aging machines wait for no man/woman and I just hope to get something in place before one or both of them die.  I’ve backed up what information I can in the meantime.  The biggest issue appears to be getting a machine with the Windows XP OS on it as few if any of our software programs will work with Vista.  Plus I’ve not heard anyone who is happy with Vista.  I’ve priced some machines through Dell, PC Mall and a company in California that builds machines and now I just need to crunch the numbers.  I know I just don’t want another “death” to occur in front of me.

Finally, as I was driving to pick up my new hard drive I saw a billboard promoting Memphis’ Rock 103 radio station and I was reminded of that article that I saw last week (or was it the week before) about the promotional video that no TV station wanted to run.  For those not up to speed, here is the article.  The part that really got my attention was the comment from the Catholic Diocese which stated: “But it’s also not very well produced. One wonders if they ever intended for it to air in the first place or if they just wanted to generate controversy for their show. ” Ouch!  Man, I would hate to be the person/group that produced that video if someone dogs it like that. For those who have not seen the video, here is a link.

Latest Ratings for Memphis TV, TV Relationships with the Local Newspaper & Other Odds and Ends

May 25, 2009

I received a “heads-up” that the latest numbers were about to come out late last week and the next thing I knew I had received a news release from WMC-TV.  I have to admit when I receive a news release from Action News 5, I have to “decode” it on another computer since the version of Word that they create it on and send it out is a later version than I have on most of my computers at home.  So that usually takes a bit of time.  The bottom line: AN5 did well in the latest ratings book.  Yes, Yes, I know that the “cums” haven’t been released yet but perception is often times reality and this is a chance for bragging and expect the promos to begin.

The end of the ratings book also means that News Chopper 3 was supposed to be sent flying off into the sunset.  Was there a big final use of the “Red Chopper” before it departed? Did everyone in the newsroom get a ride before it left.  Did the pilots sign autographs?  Another big question: What will happen to the hangar building and helo-pad that was built especially for the chopper on the side of the building? Also, will NC3 ever really be able to start using a chopper there again?  That subdivision that sprang to life over the last ten years next door may get used to the peace and quiet and folks who pay high dollar for real estate tend to like not having a lot of noise next door.  It will be interesting to see what pans out should the economy improve and the helicopter is brought back sometime in the not too distant future.  Moving on..

For years, the Commercial Appeal’s parent company owned WMC-TV and it’s sister radio stations.  Even though there was no “synergy” between the paper and the stations, I know there was always the feeling that the C-A showed favortism toward the WMC group.  The paper denied it.  Then the parent owner of the C-A sold the stations and folks at other stations in Memphis finally thought there might be more of a level playing field.  Fast-forward a few years and WREG started a relationship with the C-A.  I think the feeling of excitement was kind of one-sided with the euphoria being on the side of WREG.  The reality is that for years (and perhaps it still exists to this day) folks on the print side of news have tended to look down on people who cover news for electronic media.  The feeling is that reporters for TV and radio aren’t really journalists.  I do know this:WREG was excited about what the C-A folks could bring to the table.  Unfortunately for both sides that synergy really never developed as it could have.  Oh, there were teases back and forth but IMHO it never really got off the ground as it had the potential to do.  Too much turf  to protect I guess.  Still, it looked like the C-A and WREG had something going when I started seeing WREG weather folks appearing in the newespaper.  Perhaps that was just paid advertising.  I say this because now I see that WPTY 24/30 weather folks are appearing in the C-A.  Has the love affair/relationship between WREG and the C-A faded or is it once again all about the money.  Perhaps someone can shed some light on that for me.  Moving on…

At this writing I am inching ever closer to joining the H-D crowd.  I’m waiting to hear back from the person who is supposed to upgrade our service to H-D.  It could possibly happen by the end of the week.  This brings me to my question about H-D/digital signals coming from local stations.  I’ve noticed as I’ve traveled (and I’ve been on the road a lot in the last couple of months) that there seems to be a lot of “lip lag” or loss of lip synch coming from local stations. It was especially noticeable when I was in the Baltimore area recently.  It was only on local stations during local programming.  Was I seeing some sort of issue because of the whole digital/analog transmitter thing?  Was it because of SD/HD issues?  I’m not sure.  I have also noticed lip synch issues on some You-tube videos I’ve watched.  Maybe there is just some sort of disconnect between MY eyes, ears and brain.    And sort of along those issues I’m still having some sort of “digital” lock-up on my local cable signal.  It’s still rather sporadic but it’s still quite annoying.  Maybe it’s just old cables in my house or an old system feeding in to my house but I can tell you that I’m at the age that when I find something that continues to annoy me, I tend to remove the annoyance.  Moving on…

Finally, Next week my lovely and talented bride and I will celebrate 20-years of living in Midtown.  I will admit that moving to Memphis was NOT our first choice.  We really wanted to live in Nashville.  She went to school there (after growing up in East Memphis) and I went to school just north of there.  But we moved to where the work is.  I always thought I would retire in this city after finishing out my career at WREG.  It’s always interesting to see how life has other plans for you.  So next week we will toast our 20th and we will think fondly of all the great folks we’ve met along the way.  If your ears tingle a bit, that means we are talking about you.  Cheers.

Local TV LLC Kicking Young Broadcasting’s Tires and A Possible Scenario Where WREG Produces News for Someone Else in Memphis

May 13, 2009

For the second time this week someone has shared with me that Local TV LLC is interested in properties owned by Young Broadcasting.  The two accounts differ so, I figured I would post on what has been shared.

I’m told that Local TV LLC has paid a visit to some of the properties, looking them over, taking photographs, showing interest in the VJ model in the newsrooms.  For those not quite up to speed, it was Local TV LLC that bought the NYTimes Broadcasting Division and later acquired some Fox O & Os from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.  Slowly but surely the operation owned by Oak Hill is growing.  Enter Young Broadcasting which owns 13 stations and which earlier this year declared/filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  Young’s stock value was in the penny stock range the last time I checked.  Here is where the two versions I’m hearing diverge.  On one hand I’m told that Local TV LLC was interested in acquiring KRON, the once power house station in San Francisco and the other version shared with me was that Local TV LLC was interested in every station in the group BUT KRON.  Acquiring the Young properties would give Local TV LLC properties across the Volunteer State : ( WREG-Memphis already in the fold), WKRN-Nashville and WATE-Knoxville.  There would be an issue with a station already owned in the Quad Cities area but I think that is the only conflict.  Anway, don’t be surprised if the announcement comes about especially if  Local TV can get these operations for a song.  Eventually the economy will turn around and I’m sure the investors will be happy.

Meanwhile, I heard something else about station acquisition and I guess I find this one a little harder to believe.  I’ve heard that The Tribune Company was kinda, sorta, possibly interested in buying some stations including WPTY/WLMT in Memphis.  The reason I find this particular item a little harder to swallow is that The Tribune Company filed Chapter 11 just before the end of 2008.  Now, I don’t know how the world of finances works but I would imagine that if the parent company has filed Chapter 11, then most of the rest of the company is not going to go out and spend money that the company may or may not have.  Still, stranger things have happened and this could be one of them.  So, evoking the spirit of Rod Serling  “Imagine if you will, that WPTY/WLMT is sold to TTC.  Remember that the company(Tribune)  joined into an agreement back in December 2007 with Local TV LLC to form a ‘broadcast management company’ to provide management services for both Tribune and Local TV stations.   According to Wikipedia: In addition to the management agreement, Tribune Interactive provides the platform for the websites of all the LocalTV stations and transitioned them from other website hosts such as Fox Interactive and World Now. So, we have two groups playing footsies with each other already.  Despite what I would consider valiant efforts on the part of those at WPTY/WLMT, the numbers for their local news aren’t really strong.  What better way to save a bunch of bucks than by pulling the plug on the news operation there and letting WREG produce the local newscast for WPTY/WLMT.  The rest of the national and syndicated stuff would stay the same at WPTY/WLMT.  Crazy, yah maybe.  I’m sure there are all kinds of legal and technical issues why this might not work, but I just wanted to put that out there.  And now, back to our current timeline.

Memphis Will Soon Only Have Only One “Eye In the Sky”, The Commercial Appeal Fights Back, I Discover “Me” On Animal Planet, and A Former Co-worker has passed

May 11, 2009

I leave town for a week for work in Baltimore and I discover that I really am out of the loop.  I see that News Chopper 3 aka The Red Chopper won’t be gracing the skies of Memphis much longer.  According to a blurb in the Commercial Appeal, NC3 won’t be re-upping on the lease agreement for the helicopter after this ratings period ends.  It basically came down to costs and anyone who has dealings with an aircraft knows they are not inexpensive to fly.  When it comes to helicopters or “palm trees having a coniption” as some mechanics call them, the costs really soar.  Of course this is probably making the neighbors of WREG quite happy since the area on the bluff has really been built up with single family homes in the past four to five years, Add to that the fact that WREG built a helipad just outside the station and  those living around will probably appreciate the peace and quiet.  I know the fact that WMC had a news chopper for years and WREG didn’t really stuck in the craw of those DOTR.  I would imagine that WMC will really promote the heck out of their chopper now and there will be a mad scramble to get access to whatever local aircraft is available when news breaks.  Moving on…

The Commercial Appeal (the paper of record here in the MidSouth) finally came out with the guns a-blazing this past Sunday following a story written by  former reporter Bill Dries.  The article,  written by none other than Chris Peck, Big Kahuna at the paper took Dries to task in a big way.  The commentary on the editorial page follows a lengthy article by Dries written for The Memphis News  entitled Deadline:What it’s really like inside the city’s big daily.  , (and by the way a story I initially ran across while reading the Mediaverse blog).  First let me say this: There are two sides to every story and somewhere in the middle is the truth.  Having said that, I have always had a great deal of respect for Bill Dries from the time I first met him on the streets of Memphis as he covered news for radio.  Back then, I put him at the top of the reporters covering news for the electronic media and would venture a guess that he is still in fine form.  Also, having talked to the rank and file over the years at the C-A,  I remember after reading Dries’ article that I was thinking that I really wasn’t surprised at what he shared.  I’ve heard for years that the C-A was extremely middle management heavy and that it wasn’t necessarily how well you did your job rather it was how well you kissed up to the managers on whether or not you did well or got a promotion.   Yes, I’m sure all that has changed since the new managers took over a couple of years ago.  By the way, the Hernando Desoto bridge is for sale….any takers.  I’m letting it go for a song…  Moving on

I was in the process of drifting off to sleep last night and for some reason the only clear channel that came through the cable system was Animal Planet.  There was some show about dangerous/destructive animals and they were doing their countdown to the worst of the worst.  I was just about to click off the tube when video of the Asian carp infestation on the nation’s waterways came on.  I was watching video of these fish jumping everywhere when all of a sudden I saw some familiar looking video.  It was stuff that was shot for the old News Channel 3/Midsouth outdoors show.  How did I know this?  Because I was in it as was former Outdoor co-host/producer Jeff Woods.  Then the video cut to action of my father and me sitting in his boat where a fish jumped in and smacked me in the chest.  Interestingly enough, I could not see our faces because the video had been altered so that our faces were “ghosted” or blurred.  I guess they liked the video that Dan Patton shot that day but (and I can only speculate) since they didn’t have clearance to use it or didn’t want to run into legal issues they opted to NOT identify those in the video.  Can anyone tell me if news video can be used for entertainment purposes without permission?  Moving on.

Finally, I ran across some information that just about left me numb while reading the blog of former co-worker Doug Johnson.  He posted about the passing of a former co-worker of ours, Susan Browning.  I met Susan when I first went to work for WREG.  She was the medical reporter and was truly a lovely person both inside and out.  That’s almost a rare thing in the TV news business anymore.  She was always willing to offer advice when needed and it was much appreciated by those trying to find their way around the newsroom and the city.  She was married to one of the videographers at WREG and she and Don made a good looking couple.  Eventually Don left WREG and it wasn’t too much longer after that Susan left to work for ST. Jude.  Susan died on her 48th birthday.  I’m told that she had battled skin cancer. I’m sure the cancer and the treatment were hard on her.  As I write this though, I am remembering Susan as the brunette, brown eyed beauty who first greeted me in the newsroom.  Her obit in the Orlando Sentinel included this line: In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Youth Department of the First United Methodist Church of Oviedo, 263 King Street, Oviedo FL 32765. Yes, that’s typical of  Susan, always thinking of others.  My heart goes out to your family. I’m truly a better person for having known you.