Archive for June 2009

Stick a Fork in Me Regarding Michael Jackson, I’m Done.

June 30, 2009

So, have the rumors started circulating yet that Michael Jackson isn’t really dead and that he just did all of this to get away to have a normal life?  No?  Expect them to start soon enough.  Afterall, it didn’t take that long before sightings of Elvis began.  I will have to admit that I am already “done” with the King of Pop.  He’s dead. He ain’t coming back no matter how many stories we do on him.  I was trying to decide if I’m in somewhat of the same mindset that Uncle Walter Cronkite was when he reported the death of Bring Crosby and Elvis.  He really played up the death of BC but wanted to downplay the death of Elvis.  I guess to come degree your view on how big a story these deaths would be goes to how much influence the musician had on your life.  I like Elvis and I really like MJ but enough is enough already.  I know  that all three of these guys had a huge impact on the music world and on people in general.  Having said that, I’m really tired of the MJ coverage.  I DON’T CARE ANYMORE.  Even NPR has given me MJ overload.  I’m just waiting for the next phase of the MJ hysteria:  MJ impersonators.  When that happens in a big, big way then MJ will FINALLY have arrived.


Farewell to Farrah, Goodbye to Michael & Why We can’t Do Without Good Newspaper Reporters

June 25, 2009

I got back to the office in time for lunch and I flipped on the TV to provide background noise while I made some magic in the kitchen.  The big story on the cable networks: The death of Farrah Fawcett.  FF was one of those “one name” stars that everyone knew even though she used her first and last names (and later used three names when she was married to actor Lee Majors, who once played football for Eastern Kentucky University by the way).   I remember seeing the poster of FF in a bathing suit.  Actually it was difficult NOT to see the poster since it was hanging in just about every bedroom/dorm room of young men from L-A to New York.  And while many young men woke up to the sight of that toothy grin (if they ever looked that far up on the poster that is), many young women wanted the Farrah hair-do.  There were many imitators but no one that I ever encountered ever quite achieved that Farrah look.  Then, when Farrah appeared on “Charlie’s Angels”, I know I tuned in just because of the incredible plots.  Can you say “Jiggle TV”.  No, it had nothing with the jiggling of those three detectives in tight T-shirts!  Later FF went on to achieve honors for her acting but I never saw many of those shows.  I just know these last few years she battled cancer and eventually lost.  I saw a picture of her not too long ago and almost didn’t recognize her.  I choose to remember Farrah in all of youthful splendor with the wild mane of hair and that dazzling smile and I’m sure there are literally millions who will speak her name today and smile fondly of the memories her name evokes.  Moving on…

I had already posted this and was working in the office when I heard some music by Michael Jackson coming over the NPR station I was listening to.  I thought at first it was just the fact that he had been hospitalized as I had heard earlier.  Turns out they were reporting his death.  Wow.  I listened to the Jackson 5 growing up,  It was when Michael went out on his own that I really started listening to what he was cranking out.  I guess it was his “Off the Wall” album .   Then, just as MTV arrived, MJ became “Must See TV” with his music videos.  I think I wore out the “Thriller” album.   Then his “moonwalking” hit the TV and many of us were wondering how he could keep topping himself.  Sadly, he really couldn’t and then he just started getting bizarre.  As someone once pointed out, here was a talented kid who managed to transform himself into a middle aged white woman through plastic surgery and generally strange behavior.  I felt sorry for him and repulsed at the same time.  I hope MJ has finally found the peace that I think he so desparately craved for so long.  Moving on…

If there is ever a reason that newspapers should NOT go away, think Gina Smith.  Smith is the reporter who broke the story about the Governor of South Carolina who was not hiking the Appalachian trail but was instead strolling through the old Grand Tetons while down  in Argentina.  Actually what I find amazing is that any news organization would be interested in spending the manpower on  staking out TWO locations (the airport in Atlanta and in Columbia) to meet the governor.  I think it is safe to say that Gina Smith will have several job offers here very soon if she is not fielding them already.  She has what is missing in so many newsrooms these days…imagination, instincts and the support of managers who actually care about real news instead of what passes for news anymore.  A tip of the hat to Gina Smith.  You go girl.

The Arrival of Digitial TV at My Neighbor’s House, Why People Don’t Watch Local TV News Anymore and How to Communicate With a 20-Something.

June 24, 2009

As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve been on the road a lot recently for business and haven’t had much time nor inclination to blog.  I’m now trying to catch up on the wackiness that I call “business as usual in Memphis”.   While I was out of town, I received a call from one of neighbors asking if I might be able to help him get his new digital TV set up and running.  He doesn’t have cable and was trying to get local signals with a set of “rabbit ears.”   I told him I would stop by when I got back in town and that’s what I did.  Now, I’ve not hooked up a TV to an antenna in many many years and wasn’t sure what to expect.  Turns out it wasn’t that difficult.  I did find that unlike the old analog signal, the new digitial signal is either there or it isn’t.  Specifically, if you have a strong signal, then the picture and sound are good.  If’ it’s marginal, it just pixalates and locks up.  The old analog signal would at least be fuzzy but it might be watchable.  I also found that I could get WREG, WMC, WPTY, and WLMT tuned in with a good signal but WHBQ and WKNO didn’t have a strong signal.  And when I fot those two tuned in, the others pixalated.  It was making me crazy.  I finally told my neighbor he might have to get an outside antenna or resort to cable or satellite.  Moving on…

An interesting editorial was posted a few weeks ago in the Commercial Appeal titled: TV news dealing overdose of violence.   It makes for good reading.  I used to work with Dr. Lurene Cachola Kelley before she saw the light and left the world of TV news to get her doctorate and teach.  And before someone chimes in with the old saw “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” let me just say I have the utmost respect for Dr. Kelley and she and I have had frank discussions about being honest about what college students should expect should they decide to enter the world of TV news.  She says she is honest with them and I believe it.  But getting back to my point about the editorial that Dr. Kelley and Joe Hayden co-wrote.  If one goes only by what they see on the local news, one would think that if one walks out the door then you stand a pretty good chance of being a victim of crime.  That’s because stories about crime makes up about half of the daily newscasts, at least according to a U of M research project concerning  local news.  Crime is easy to cover and according to research that TV newsrooms seem to operate on, that’s what people want to see.  Also, the editorial touched on race when it comes to covering crime.  I know while I was working as a reporter that, generally speaking, I found that when the victim of a crime turned out to be black/African American, I had much less trouble getting a family member to talk on camera than if the crime victim was white/European American.  I also found that getting the required photograph of the victim was much much easier if the victim was black than white.  Maybe it’s a cultural thing I don’t know.    I do know that as I have traveled around and talked to various folks over the last few months that the issues about local news are echoed from South Florida (Miami) to Baltimore, MD.   People tell me that they are tired of watching the local news because it’s all about crime and I’m told that the news stations run the same thing over and over on various news casts after, of course, they tease and tease the story.   And one person told me that part of the problem is that too many of the newscasts look alike.  It was described  like this: “When we had just a couple of newscasts, it was MUST SEE TV and similar to a good strong cup of coffee.  But with a bunch of newscasts, the product, like coffee, has been diluted to the point that it watery thin and not worth much more than a sip.”  I’m just sharing.  Moving on

I’ve discovered that when it comes time to communicate with my two 20-something nieces who have smart phones and who live in the Memphis area that even though they have cell phones, don’t bother trying to call them.  They rarely answer and they rarely check voice mail.  No, if you want to contact them, you must email them or you must TEXT them.  TEXTing is the best way to reach them.  Go figure.  Is voice communication becoming a thing of the past?  Not for an old fart like me it ain’t.  My thumbs don’t work well for texting.  Maybe one day I will have a phone that will convert voice to text.  For now, I will have to do things the old fashioned way if I do it at all.

Odds and Ends on a Monday Night

June 15, 2009

When it comes to monitoring bad weather that is ACTUALLY occurring in the Midtown Memphis area, there’s one station I turn to: It’s WMC.  Don’t get me wrong.  When it comes to covering the weather, most folks in the Memphis area are pretty much on the same footing IMHO. I mainly watch weather in general for the radar.  The pontifications of most of the prognosticators is lost on me.  I can find the forecast on-line and usually do.  It’s only when I find weather threatening my humble abode of stately Larksmith Manor that I tune in to local TV.  Why do I tune in to WMC? It’s like real estate: location, location, location.  I live closer to WMC than I do the other stations.  When Dave Brown and Company flash images from “High 5” at the station on Union, that gives me a pretty good idea of what is bearing down on me.  I will admit that it is a little disconcerting when I hear tornado warning sirens wailing in Midtown and when I turn to see /Dave and Tim VH on the air and you can hearing that same wailing sound over Dave’s mic, well maybe it’s time to head for cover.  After the storm passed the Midtown area, I started surfing to see what else was going on.  I know this may sound weird but I turned to WPTY/WLMT and my first thought was “Where is Brian.”  (sorry Mark).. I still find it hard to believe that it’s been almost one year since B-T’s passing.  I stopped at WHBQ because their radar looked like it had a whole lot more stuff on it.  Maybe they had it set to be more sensitive, I don’t know.  AS I was trying to figure out what was going on, I heard a rather breathless report from Earl Ferrell who had sought shelter under an awning at a bank in Millington.   I listened to that until Earl was wrapped up and then turned off the TV.

I was taking care of some honey-do errands at the Home Depot in Midtown Saturday and was trying to remember exactly what Bethany wanted me to pick up when I heard my name called from right in front me.  I looked up and lo and behold there was Kym Clark of WMC pushing a shopping cart.  I was trying to remember the last time I spoke to KC face to face and it had been a while.  I know it was long before KC got married and here she was pushing this cart with her daughter in it.  We chatted for a couple of minutes.  It seems that she and her daughter were trying to catch up with KC’s husband who was somewhere else in the store.  It was good seeing KC and I will tell you that her daughter is a real cutie.  I later met KC’s husband as they were preparing to check out.  This by the way is the same Home Depot where I ran into Ethel Sengstacke the PREVIOUS Saturday.

After I left the HD, I stopped by the Mapco at Poplar and Belvedere to fuel up and was in the process of taking care of that when I saw a guy who was walking down the street strolling toward me.  I was just hanging back up the gas hose when this person called my name.  It was my former co-worker at WREG and now currently a  reporter for WHBQ, Les Smith.  For those who don’t know it, LS walks EVERYWHERE around Midtown.  We chatted for about five or ten minutes or so and I was having a great time when I realized that my wife was waiting for my return to home. As I was driving off and Les was continuing on his rounds I was reminded of a time about 10-years ago that I was driving through the drive-through lane of a fast food eatery in Midtown.  The woman taking my order did a double take as I handed her my money and then asked me “Ain’t you Les Smith on Action News 3. ” I told her that “no, I was not Les Smith ” but that a lot of people confused the two of us because we look so much a like.   I then drove on.  That just goes to show that ALL those folks on TV look alike….even those who don’t.

OMG, I’m NOT getting a TV Signal, Why Didn’t Someone Tell Me TV Stations Were Going to STOP Analog Signals!!!!!!!

June 12, 2009

I’m expecting to have a couple of TV Live trucks whipping up to my house just any minute now with reporters breathlessly sharing how some folks (including me) missed the boat on the switch to Digital Only Signals.  Okay, I’m kidding…not just about my TV sets NOT working but also about TV Live trucks whipping up to my house.  They wouldn’t do that now would they.  Okay, maybe they would.  The way that I look at it is if some yahoo hasn’t gotten the message about pulling the plug on analog signals by now then they NEVER would get it.  I’m sorry but that’s the way it is.  There’s been plenty of notice and one big delay.  Either get with the program or get out of the way.  Since I won’t be watching, someone will have to tell me how many local stories and much local air-time will be devoted to those poor souls who were lost in the lurch over the transition.  Moving on.

I’ve been out of pocket with work and haven’t had much time to check my usual internet haunts.  I was distressed to see that Mediaverse has gone on hiatus.  Here’s what you find at their site:

This site is on hiatus until Sept. 30. It’s a self-imposed deadline to implement a feasible business model for Mediaverse®.

It’s not that the current model–the blog–does not work. It does as evidenced by the wide usage of this site as a resource on journalism, news professionals and various related issues. The blog averages about 20,000 page hits a month, which is pretty cool considering that Mediaverse® does little to no external advertising beyond word-of-mouth and ending up in search engine results.

Blogging is easy. Developing a dynamic business model is not.

I can feel their pain to some degree.  Those folks put a lot of effort into their blog and there needs to be some pay-off.   I know I had to scale back so I could concentrate on income as opposed to “outgo”.   I hope they (Mediaverse)  return.  I miss them already.

I received a note regarding a previous posting about WMC’s Sky 5 Chopper being down for a couple of months.  Lead Pipe shared some information (which I will call rumor until I can get confirmation) that the formerly bright red “News Chopper 3 from WREG” which flew off into the sunset after the last ratings book (actually back to the owners in St. Louis)  was being repurposed.  NC3 was newer and had some much newer (and perhaps better) equipment on board and I’m told that it’s being repainted and will return to Memphis at Sky 5.  Talk about the irony there.  If this is true, it will be interesting to see if, after a live shot for WMC, the chopper tries to make a landing at its former home at WREG because it is homesick.  If anybody knows about this possible changeover, give me a shout.

Speaking of changes, I also received word that there is a change of news directors at WPTY/WLMT.    I’m told that Jim Turpin is no longer at the helm and that Peter Jacobus (formerly of Magid,) is in.  For some reason I was thinking that JT (who once worked at WREG as a producer before moving on his way up the career ladder around the country) had received a new and improved title and position that was actually more of a corporate thing.  Maybe I’m just suffering from “Old Timers” disease.  Don’t know if JT is still with the company, still in Memphis or basically anything else so someone fill in the gaps please.

From the “It’s not my imagination after all” file, I see the issue of LOUD commercials on TV is finally being addressed.  For years I fielded calls at the TV station from people calling to ask why the commercials aired were so much louder than the regular programming.  The engineers would dutifully tell me that the audio levels were normal.  After I left the TV business, I posted on that issue and received something about that audio levels were within levels and that it had something to do with compression or the muffler bearing or the freebus pin or whatever.  I’m glad to see that the issue if inally being addressed, at least according to an article in the local newspaper (and they can’t print it if it isn’t true now can they).

I mentioned in a previous post that I was in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina for business (a really quick trip).  I was watching the early morning news (WRAL) and saw yet another case where some video had lost lip sync.  This time it was a network package that the local affiliate was playing during their local news.  Is there nobody who catches this kind of stuff in the news department.  The lack of lip sync was obvious.  Come on folks, let’s get it together.  It must be a digital issue as I have seen it in the Orlando, Baltimore and now Raleigh-Durham area. Maybe there’s no quality control….naw, that would never happen in the TV news business.

While I was in the R-D area, I received an email from former Memphian and now North Carolinian Byron Day who had read that I was in the “hood”.  Viewers of Memphis TV will remember B-D from WHBQ before he went to the big-time and later his return before departing for the Tar-Heel State.  B-D,I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get together with you because this was a last minute trip.  Trust me, the next time I’m there, I will look you up and we can consume adult beverages and swap war/TV stories.

And finally, a little something to share about my trip to the Raleigh-Durham area.  It was a last minute trip and I was scrambling just to get on a flight.  It was like pulling teeth to find a rental vehicle.  The agency worked for half an hour and said all vehicles were gone because of a race in the R-D area.  I was thinking NASCAR but it was a foot-race that drew about 40-thousand folks. They finally tracked down a vehicle and told me that I could not pick it up until Wednesday morning.  Just having access to a vehicle made me happy as I was ready to rent a goat or a mule to get me where I was going.  Imagine my surprise though when I stopped by the rental place and the vehicle I got was a pick-up truck.  Specifically it was a four-door Dodge Dakota.  Am I the only one who didn’t know that rental agencies rented pickups?  Hey, I’m not thumping the melon here.  I grew up driving pickups and drive a SUV now.  I was just surprised that’s all. Just so you know I’m not yanking your chain, I wanted to share some pictures of me and my ride.

NC rental vehicle 1NC Rental vehicle 2

Odds & Ends on a Tuesday Night

June 9, 2009

I’m sitting here in a hotel in North Carolina and watching some of the of NBA Championship game as a storm passes through the area.  One might not really know that a storm is  passing through since no one is breaking into the game with WEATHERGASM ALERTS. What a concept.  Don’t get me wrong, I bet they DO break into regular programming here in the Raleigh-Durham area but they haven’t so far tonight and I applaud them for that.  It shows restraint.  At least on the ABC affiliate that is.  Moving on….

I ran across an article last week on that raised the question of what would happen to local TV news operations IF the local newspaper of record augered in.  Actually the article first focused on how local TV and radio stations used stories from the local newspapers and failed to attribute the source.  I know when I was working at the station DOTR, we usually only cited the source specifically when it was a copyrighted story.  The rest of the time we just said something like “published reports indicate” or something along those lines.  The reality is that we didn’t have the resources to investigate like the local newspaper did and those resources are even fewer now at most TV stations.  So, what would happen if the local newspaper of record augered in?  You would see probably less local news than you see now except for the vastly increased coverage of fires, car crashes and other spot news.  Oh, you might see a little more consumer type “on your side” type coverage but not much. It’s a scary thought of what would happen to local news on TV.  I can’t tell you the number of times I was handed a newspaper clipping from the morning newspaper and told “turn this story”.  It happens numerous times across the country each day and the practice is not going away anytime soon.  Moving on…..

I see a growing number of large market stations are “pooling” their resources to cover the run-of-the-mill press conferences and such.  I think this is a practice that will backfire on them in the long run.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand how in the short-term the savings will look good but I think that is the first step toward a reduction of news operations overall.  That slippery slope will be hard to navigate back UP the hill when things get even tougher.  I’m just saying..

I was just wrapping up some aviation this past weekend and was talking to some folks out at the airport when the topic of WREG’s News Chopper 3 came up.  Someone at the airport mentioned that they had done away with the Big Red Whirlybird and I mentioned that the move leaves ONLY WMC with a news chopper.  One of the airport guys told me that WMC has apparently sent Sky 5 off for a two month sabbatical/upgrade.  So, that means there are NO news choppers keeping an eye on all the news that is fit to be told/showed in the Memphis area.  Folks, we had better be careful or we might find ourselves chopperless in this market .

I was out at one of the big box hardware stores this past weekend trying to find some stuff for stately LarkSmith Manor and almost ran into Ethel Sengstacke, formerly of WREG and WHBQ’s news assignment desk.  I gave her a big hug (which I’m sure she didn’t appreciate since I was hot and sweaty).  We chatted for a few minutes and she told me how glad she was to have TV news behind her.  I think she’s just ready to relax. You go girl!

And finally, after posting a note on how former co-worker and former TV guy/FedEXer Doug Johnson had found gainful employment at production house Running Pony in Memphis after budget cuts at FX,  I received this note from former co-worker Joe Incardona.  Joe, who left WREG in the early 90s and started Mediasource in Memphis, which has evolved into a production powerhouse in its own right shared this tidbit with me:

We’ve got some exciting news here as well.  I’m proud that I have taken someone who lost a job during last December’s Raycom/WMC layoffs off the unemployment rolls.  We’ve just hired Jessi Scherr, former Creative Services Producer at WMC-TV.  Jessi had a really nice following among WMC’s TV commercial clients, and was responsible for writing, shooting, graphics, and editing for all spots WMC was producing for its advertising clients.

I feel very lucky to have Jessi joining Randy Paige, Philip Hood, Debbi Hicks, and myself as we continue to grow our HD production business.

Keep up the good work with the blog, we enjoy reading it!

Joe Incardona
Media Source

Joe, thanks for checking in.

So, if you are proving opportunities for former TV /radio folks, let me know as we like to let everyone know when someone is able to put their hard-earned TV skills to use in the real world.

Changing of the Guard for Late Night TV and I Forgot to Notice, Plus You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down

June 2, 2009

I’m watching the morning news as I sit here in a motel and the folks on the NBC affiliate are really making a big deal about the new man at the helm of the Tonight Show.  Jay Leno’s last night was Friday and Conan O’Brien took over Monday.  I guess it’s a big deal for some but not for me.  While I think Jay Leno is funny (my wife and I saw him doing a show in Las Vegas while on a job interview many years ago) we rarely watched the Tonight show after Johnny Carson left.  I bet we watched Leno maybe a dozen times over the years and never a complete show.  I ran across Conan less than a dozen times and rarely stuck around the watch although I’m told he’s a funny guy. We used to watch Letterman a lot but got out of the habit when I started working early mornings.  When we did try to watch Letterman just didn’t seem quite as edgy as he used to be and always seemed to be in a sour mood.    Our comedians of choice is Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  So I guess I just can’t get excited about the changing of the guard.  Maybe I’ll come around but first I’ll need to watch and that doesn’t seem to be in my plans at this point in time.

And congratulations are in order for my good friend Doug Johnson.  Doug, who was caught by the downsizing ax at Fed Ex this spring makes an appearance in the Commercial Appeal in a story about life after layoffs.  This story comes AFTER Doug signed on with Running Pony Productions.  It’s all about……. timing.  Running Pony gets a good man, Doug is working with a good organization and life is starting to get balanced again.