Archive for July 2009

God May Speak to Hizzonner but the News Gods are Dissing Him Big Time

July 30, 2009

In real estate it’s all about location, location, location.  In the news business it’s all about…..timing.  When Hurricane Elvis hit and crippled the city of Memphis in the summer of 2003, most of the outside world didn’t know about the storm damage because there was a HUGE power outage that crippled the northeast that same day.  All attention was focused on that.  Memphis wasn’t even a blip on the news radar despite hurricane force winds that left some folks without power for three weeks.

When our long-time mayor of Memphis announced his planned resignation, he was upstaged by the death of pop superstar Michael Jackson.  Heck, do most folks even remember that Farrah Fawcett died that same day?  Probably not.

Then, on the day that hizzoner moved out of the city’s highest office and was pretty much guaranteed to fill the first 10-minutes of each newscast on the local affiliates, tornado warnings are issued for the Memphis area with actual storm damage reported.  Once again, local news operations were scrambling as the carefully crafted news run-downs were scrapped and it was time for a weathergasm extraordinaire.  Heck, in Memphis, a mayor announced he’s stepping down all the time (and sometimes does it).  But a twister that actually causes some local damage, heck that’s a gift from the news gods.  Afterall, how many of us have actually seen news managers pacing in a newsroom almost praying for a twister to cause some damage in  their viewing area.  I know I have.   The bottom line: the outgoing mayor got upstaged by a force of nature.  Someone might wonder if God spoke to him about this.  I, on the other hand, would never harbor such a thought.

A Veteran of Real TV News in Memphis Passes, Some Morning Show Competition, A smart Move by some Local Radio Stations and When Is a Radio Remote NOT a Radio Remote

July 23, 2009

Longtime viewers of Memphis TV will know the name of Paul Dorman, formerly of WREC/WREG TV.  Mr. Dorman died earlier this week.  I was alerted to this by Todd Demers, the weather guru on WREG’s Morning show and former co-worker of mine.  Here’s a link for those wanting to check out more information on Mr. Dorman.  I never had the pleasure of working with P-D as he left about five years before I showed up on the scene and he didn’t come around much (at least when I was in the newsroom).  Still, his name is instantly recognized not only by those who watched WREC/WREG TV but also those who tuned in to the local news on radio as well.  I believe he had a 40-year run in the news business.  Talk about someone who has witnessed a lot of history in Memphis firsthand.   Wow.  Moving on…..

It’s been said that “it’s cheaper to create your own news programming to fill air-time than it is to buy a program to fill that space”.  Witness the explosion of news content over the last 20-years in just the Memphis TV market.  And now, one operation in Memphis plans to expand their news program another hour.  I’m told that WHBQ Fox 13 is planning to extend their morning show which runs from 5am to 9am by one hour so it goes to 10am.  That means it will go up against the locally produced “Live @ 9” on WREG and The Today Show on WMC.  I’m not sure how the numbers are looking for “Live @ 9 but I would think they have established themselves to some degree after not quite a decade in that slot.  And there’s nothing like some competition to spruce things up in a market.  Don’t know when the start date is, but I’m hearing that the expansion will be sooner than later.  If anyone has any skinny on this, please share.   Moving on…

WKNO Radio has found a clever way of keeping listeners updated on actual local news.  I’m not sure who the person is, but I’ve noticed on occasion in the afternoons, a young woman comes on during the local news break and does a Q&A with Bill Dries, who I think is one of the best all around news people in the Memphis area.  When Bill was in the radio business he seemed to be everywhere and I thought he was one of the best if not THE best reporter on the electronic side of the biz.  After a stint at the Commercial Appeal, Bill is now with the Memphis Daily News and does a bang-up job there.  I’ve heard Bill on WKNO and I believe he does a similar debrief on the Drake & Zeke show about once a week.   This is about the “synergy” and those radio stations and newspaper ALL benefit from this bit of cross-promotion.

Finally, I need someone who is much wiser in the ways of the world than I to clarify something for me.  It involves this issue:  When is a “radio remote” NOT a “radio remote”?  Apparently when it’s performed by certain radio group(s in Memphis that’s when.  We all know what a radio remote is:  You pay some radio station to promote some event and then some personality shows up on location and folks get to come by and “grip and grin” with personality and maybe if they are lucky during one of the “live” cut-ins,  the personality “might” put them on the air.  Plus, folks driving by the location see the radio station van/truck on location and some more folks might just stop by to see what is going on.  Well, in these days of “people doing more with less”, that is NOT the case with ALL radio stations.  It seems that instead of a “live” cut-in from the location, the personalities go into the station BEFORE they go on location, cut the audio for the remote in a “look-live” scenario and then head for the remote.  When asked why they no longer broadcast live from events, the answer pretty much depends on who on the scene you ask:  1) FCC rule prohibits live remotes after the Janet Jackson breast exposure.    2)It was a new corporate rule.   3) there was an equipment problem.

No word on whether you could just make up your own reason which would be 4) lack of manpower and money to make it happen.   Don’t get me wrong, some radio stations/groups still conduct actual remotes in the Memphis area.  Just not all of them.  Perhaps someone in the know could weigh in and share the skinny.

Goodbye Uncle Walter, Hello Anniversary of the First Man on the Moon and How Long Before a Musical Based on the Life of Michael Jackson

July 19, 2009

And that’s the way it is.  I can still hear Walter Cronkite utter those words as he signed off the evening news.  In Western Kentucky, we only really had two stations that came in clear enough to watch.  One was the CBS affiliate out of Cape Girardeau, MO and the other was the NBC affiliate out of Paducah.  Dad used to alternate between the Huntley-Brinkley Report (Good night David,  good night Chet and Goodnight for NBC news)  and the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.  I remember watching all of the space coverage with WC and whoever he had with him as the expert.  It seemed to me the coverage  was sponsored by Gulf Oil but that may not be the case.  I remember the coverage of the Democratic National Convention in 1968.  I remember WC and how he used to light his pipe at the end of a broadcast until the anti-smoking group protested and he stopped.  I regret that I never had a chance to meet WC face to face.  I know many people in the TV news biz did and had their photograph taken with him.  He could have anchored until he didn’t want to and SHOULD have been able to but the politics of the news business got in the way and we got 20 plus years of Dan Rather instead.  I just wonder if WC had stayed in the chair would he have still kept the title of “the Most Trusted Man in America”? Also, I saw an article in Sunday’s Commercial Appeal asking whether WC would have “tweeted”.  I think not.  I think he would have blogged but I think he would have thought the whole “tweeting” thing was overboard.  Speaking of WC, I understand that “60-Minutes” is doing a segment on his life.  I haven’t had a chance to see it yet but I have it TIVOed and look forward to watching it.

Monday marks the anniversary of the first man walking on the moon.  I remember being all excited about the rocket launch and I remember all of the coverage.  Since it was the middle of the summer and I lived on a farm, it seems to me that my brothers and I were all busy doing farm stuff when the actual moon landing took place.  We later went out to catch a movie in Paducah  and it seems we got home in time to watch the coverage of the actual first step on the moon.  I remember thinking this is really taking a long time to get someone out of a vehicle.  I guess too much Star Trek had me wondering why don’t they just open the door and get this show on the road!  Oh, the arrogance and impatience of youth.  I will admit that as a space buff, I really disappointed that we haven’t gone back to the moon.  Afterall, when I was in grade school in the 60s, we were led to believe that we would have cars that drive themselves on super highways and we would have jetpacks to get around town as well.  I’m still waiting for my jetpack.  For those who remember the original “Lost in Space” series, I think the launch of the Jupiter 2 space ship for Alpha Centauri took place around 1997.  Did I miss something here.

Finally, as I was cutting the grass today, I was listening to the musical “Evita” on my I-phone.  As I listened to the music it occurred to me that with all of the brouhaha over Michael Jackson, someone will write a musical based on his life.  Okay, laugh if you will but if someone could do “The Buddy Holly Story” and “Evita” don’t be surprised to see a musical in the works based on MJ.  Hey, you heard it here first.

Odds and Ends on a Tuesday afternoon.

July 14, 2009

“It is an ill wind that blows no good. ”  I must say that John Heywood  hit the proverbial nail on the head when he came up with that particular phrase.  I say that because I recently traveled to Bowling Green, KY for the visitation services of the engineer at the first radio station I worked at.  I posted on the passing of Dean Maggard previously.   I flew to BG,  and while I will admit I always dread going to funerals I’m always glad afterwards that I went.  I had not seen Mr. Maggard since I left WLBJ in 1979 or 1980.  At the visitation I ran into a couple of my former co-workers Jay Preston aka James Preston Swafford (now at WTVF-TV in Nashville and Rick DuBose (former GM at WLBJ) and now working with Western Kentucky University.  It seems we all had something in common: We had all lost hair and gained weight! Here’s the picture:

(L to R) Joe Larkins, Rick DuBose, Jay Preston, Otis Blanton

(L to R) Joe Larkins, Rick DuBose, Jay Preston, Otis Blanton

We stood around and swapped stories and caught up for the better part of an hour before we were joined by a fourth former employee from WLBJ (former DJ)  Otis Blanton.  I was told that former friend and co-worker Mike Green might be there but if he showed up it was after I left.   It was good seeing everyone despite the occasion.  Once I got home, I hoisted an adult beverage in honor of ALL my former co-workers and to Mr. Maggard.

I had to leave Bowling Green in somewhat of a hurry as nasty weather was bearing down on the area from the northwest and when a small plane like the one that I fly tangles with a bad storm, it usually means headlines and I didn’t much feel like making the news.  I managed to squeak through an opening in the line of storms.  That made me think about the poor guy who was flying (I was told) this plane for the first time on Father’s Day into Gaston’s Trout resort near Mountain Home, Arkansas.  Here are the pictures I took after landing there:

This will ruin your day!

This will ruin your day!

Hey, the prop is only bent on the ends!

Hey, the prop is only bent on the ends!

The best I could gather was that the nose gear collapsed which meant the prop was bent and that the engine will probably need to be torn down.  That’s not to mention the damage to the plane.  Then there’s the damage to the pride of the pilot.  Of course it’s better to bend the plane than to bend the pilot.   Hope this doesn’t turn him off from flying.

The chance to catch up with some former co-workers reminded me that I never did post pictures of me catching up with former KFVS’er Mike Schuh in Baltimore.  MS is a fixture these days in Baltimore as a reporter and it was good seeing him.  The picture isn’t very good but it’s the best I can do with a camera phone.

(L to R) Mike Schuh, Joe Larkins in Baltimore

(L to R) Mike Schuh, Joe Larkins in Baltimore

Finally,  I guess some of us kind of get used to the mind-numbing shennagins that pass for politics in the Bluff City.  I know I’ve heard from a few folks who have shared comments on this blog.  I will have to say that when I was out of town (both in Kentucky and in northcentral Arkansas, that when I mentioned that I lived in Memphis, folks really can’t get over the politics/antics that take place here.  The most common comments made reference to “what a joke the city has become” and “why would anyone want to live there”.   Wow.  Maybe it IS time for a reality check on the city.  I guess it IS a lot worse than even I thought.  I guess it’s time to do some soul-searching on the future.  We’ll see where that gets me.  I’ll keep you posted.

Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Renew Old Acquaintances

July 10, 2009

I received an email this morning that made my heart sink.  The email shared with me that Dean Maggard, the former engineer for the first radio station I worked at (WLBJ-AM/FM in Bowling Green, KY)  had died.  The person who contacted me, Jay Swafford (aka Jay Preston, James Preston Swafford) used to be the Assistant Chief Engineer at WLBJ and the head of the FM side of the radio station known at the time as Natural 97, an album rock station patterned after KDF in Nashville.  I remember when the FM side went stereo in the mid 70s.  The promotional slogan was “Natural 97, now a little to the left of your right ear” and “Natural 97, now in both ears“.  I started work for WLBJ as a DJ on their AM/ Country side before eventually sliding into the news position when the person there departed for greener pastures.  I think her name was Jennie.  Anyway, I will be the first person to admit that I had no business being a DJ for ANY station but it was a chance to get my foot in the door and I took it.  The chief engineer, Dean Maggard, was one of those guys with a miltary background with a gruff exterior and who could be a real pain but was generally a nice guy.  He always seemed to wear short-sleeved jump suits and he smoked a pipe.  The bottom line:  he was a good guy and once when he knew I was short of money and needing some extra work, he told me I could make some extra cash by climbing the three, 250-foot radio towers on site and change the bulbs.  He told me he’d pay me 50 bucks per bulb and he  just wanted the top bulbs changed.  Hey, the prospect of 150 dollars for about four hours work helped me overcome my fear of heights. (I only later found out he paid Jay Swafford $100 per bulb!)  He also hired me to build the desk top for the FM side control center  and the shelves for all of those Natural 97 albums.   I lost contact with all those folks from the early radio days when I moved to Jackson, TN for my first TV gig.

About a year ago, my former coworker, Jay Swafford, now at WTVF in Nashville,  helped me get back in touch with Dean Maggard and we emailed back and forth.  I had planned to stop by to see Mr. Maggard the next time I was in Bowling Green.  I had hoped to do that this summer but my schedule prevented it.  Now it’s too late.  So, I’m left with my old, fond memories of Dean Maggard.  Oh, I’m headed for Bowling Green this weekend unless the weather keeps me grounded, so I will pay my respects.  DM’s passing was noted on the local TV station in Bowling Green.  JW shared this link for those who want to check it out. The bottom line:  Don’t wait too long about renewing those old acquaintances…there’s less time than you might think.

If I Promise to Clean my Plate, Make My Bed and Take Out the Garbage Without Complaining, Will You Please Stop the Michael Jackson Coverage/Specials and Why Does Memphis Have an Inferiority Complex (and not a very good one at that!)

July 6, 2009

I know that I’ve already visited this particular rant but when I opened the morning paper this Monday morning and saw that all of the networks plan to offer live coverage/specials for Michael Jackson this week, I almost spit out my coffee.  I guess I just need to turn off the old tube for about a week or month or so until everyone gets this out of their system.  I will have to admit that I was channel surfing Sunday and was wondering how they got MJ in one particular movie that I ran across.  The movie: Passenger 57.  The person I thought was MJ was actually someone named Alex Datcher.  Perhaps I’m the only one who sees the similarity but I did a double take when Datcher made an appearance as a flight attendant.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  Moving on.

As we gear up for the next round of (special) elections in Memphis, I  still find it amazing that race plays such an issue in EVERYTHING in the so-called “City of Good Abode”.  Having grown up in a redneck environment and having been exposed to racism, I know racism and too many times, the race card is played in Memphis when it really isn’t racism involved.  Heck, I’ve been accused of being a racist by African Americans who didn’t like my comments about something and it had nothing to do with race.  IMHO, it just happens to be an easy fallback position.  That’s one of the reasons it pains me so to see  those who know better to use the race card when it comes to politics. I generally do NOT discuss how I vote in this blog but I will share this: I did not vote for Willie Herenton when he ran for mayor the first time.  I did vote for him twice after that.  I have not voted for him since then as I think his time at being effective as mayor has come and gone.  The person who earns my vote will NOT play the race card and will be a uniter and NOT a divider.  If the only way someone can get elected is to play the race card then that really doesn’t speak much for the direction the Bluff City is headed.  In the short term, it may get someone elected but in the long term we will all drown in the cess-poll that has been created by the divisive politics.  I’ve said this before and I will say it again: If someone had told me 30-years ago that I would call Memphis “home”, I would have not only called that  person a liar, I would have called that person a “damned liar”. After living here for 20-years, I still think Memphis has a lot of potential but right now it has a huge inferiorty complex and even that isn’t a very good one.  It’s time for people to rally behind someone who can lead us from the wilderness.  Quite frankly, I don’t care if that person is black or white.  I just hope he or she has a good sense of direction.