Odds and Ends on an Overcast Thursday Morning

“Hey Joe, where you been man.  Are you ever going to post anything on your blog again.  Do you realize that it’s been almost a month since you posted last?” This is what I’ve been hearing lately from folks I’ve run into and I have to be honest.  There just hasn’t been a lot to post on locally.  Oh, I’ve heard some rumors and such and I will share here but not a lot of folks are forthcoming with information these days.  Still, there are some tidbits floating around and I will share what I’ve been hearing which isn’t a lot.

Steve Dawson’s departure from WHBQ Fox 13 over the weekend of September 11/12/13 has prompted about four versions of why he left.  One version indicated he retired, another said he resigned, another said he resigned before…..well, whatever the reason, a familiar face to viewers at Fox 13 is no longer there.  What will that mean to the ratings/viewers?  These days probably not much.  The reality is, some viewers will miss SD and some will vow to never watch again.  The truth is, there are many people who watch a channel only out of habit and they really don’t care who delivers the news.  That’s why from New York City to Missoula, Montana, long-timers are being thrown under the bus and replaced by young pups who will work for peanuts just so they can be on TV.  Hey, it’s merely an observation.  Don’t believe me?  Ask any long-timer currently working at a TV station and if they are honest, they will tell you they sweat bullets on a daily basis on how long they have a job.  That’s why many tend to color/tint their hair and cover the wrinkles the best they can.

I’ve heard rumors (again, only rumors) that more cutbacks/salary reductions could be taking place at the station on Union.  I’ve heard there are some folks making big bucks who will be asked to take a salary reduction and that some worker bees will get the boot altogether.  I’m sure there are folks busy at all stations updating their resumes and trying to learn new skills so they can prove their worth when the budget ax is brought out at the end of the year.  Folks, now is not the time to try to start proving your worth. Ask any turkey.  The farmer has already set his/her eye on the bird well before the Thanksgiving holiday and the ax is being sharpened.

At the station DOTR, I’ve heard they have had so many cutbacks that over the previous years that there really is no other place to cut.  One person tells me things actually seem to be turning around down there.  The one rumor that has cropped up is that one of the big guns in the news department is not seeing eye to eye with a station honcho at this particular moment in time.  What that means or could mean remains to be seen.

Just when I think folks representing Memphis can’t do anything more to embarrass the Bluff City, someone proves me wrong.   If some elected official wants to announce that he was basically chosen by God to lead and that no one else can do the job, then yes, it is a little uncomfortable.  Generally speaking, the story tends to stay local.  And when some of the local politicians do crazy things or talk that crazy talk, you tend to treat them like the whacked out uncle or aunt who took that blow to the head back in 1941.  Again, that kind of stuff tends to stay local and it’s easier to forget about it.  But, when the leader of your local government welcomes an internationally recognized leader with the words “Hello Dalai” to the Dalai Lama and then gives him the old fist bump, then it’s time to stop and re-evaluate IMHO.  I know when I travel out of town in upcoming weeks, I will NOT mention that I’m from Memphis.

I was cutting the grass in between the recent monsoons we’ve been having.   I’ve used hearing protectors for the last 20-years whenever I cut the grass to protect my diminishing hearing and for that entire time I usually listen to …..silence.  That’s not a bad thing since I do a lot of thinking and soul-searching while I’m pushing the mower.  (and you thought all of that smoke was just coming from the mower’s engine).  Recently I started listening to the Ipod part of my Iphone while mowing.  I just slide the ears buds into my ears and pull the hearing protection muffs over my ears.  It really works well.  It was while I was cutting my grass that a song came on that instantly reminded me of WTVF in Nashville.  The music was by Floyd Cramer and called “The Homecoming”.  WTVF used to close out its newscasts with that song every night and now I can’t hear it without thinking of credits rolling at the end of the newscast.  I think it worked quite well since another station in Nashville, now WKRN, used to close its newscast with the song “Musicbox Dancer” which was being played on local pop stations for a while.  I’m not sure if any other stations around the country used popular music during their newscasts or not.  I know that WBBJ in Jackson used the theme music from the movie “Electric Horseman” for its news open but that was because they were too cheap to spend money on a news music package.  Can anyone help me out on popular music or commercially available music used by local TV.  I’m just curious.  Okay, I’m done here.

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18 Comments on “Odds and Ends on an Overcast Thursday Morning”

  1. Doug Johnson Says:

    When I went to WHLT-TV (channel 22, Hattiesburg, MS) as news director & anchor to plan out its first full-length newscast in 1987-8, I found that many elements of the program had been decided for me.

    One of those decisions was the music we used. Our newscast music was the main theme to the 1986 film “Hoosiers.” Good movie, but every time it’s on TV, I’m reminded of having to live in southern Mississippi.

    It’s interesting to see where people are falling on the “Hello Dalai” comment. It’s either funny and creative or hickish and embarrassing. I’m going to have to line up in the funny/creative line (and not just because I used the same line in my blog last month and again this week). What’s wrong with greeting a visitor to the city with a little levity? I think the Lama leads a serious enough existence that a little lightness is a good thing.

    By the by, I know you and many of your readers are award of Lurene and Chris Kelley’s blessed event (http://wdjohnson.wordpress.com/2009/09/23/hey-baby-and-hello-dalai/). Another one of our former WREG co-workers is expecting a similar blessing this week. I hear that the hardest working sports anchor at 3 and his beautiful producer wife should get a stork visit sometime this week…

  2. Chris in Brasil Says:

    Good to see you back, Joe. You mentioned Fox 13 in your post. The other day, purely out of boredom, I did a search on YouTube for Memphis television stations. There was a commercial posted with Jerry Tate and Ed Craig. For some reason that reminded me of a commercial yeeeeeeeears ago that Craig did touting that Eyewitness News was committed to news so much that they had TWO HOURS of local news a day. I wanna say that was in the late 70s, maybe early 80s. Anyway, fast forward to now and doesn’t Fox 13 have 7.5 hours of local news? Wow. Anyway, crazy things your mind will help you remember.

  3. JoeLarkins#535Fan Says:

    http://www.southernmedia-nmsa.com/index.php?page=1,1,WREG

    That link has a lot of the music used by any station in the country for the most part.

  4. Pam Crittendon Roberson Says:

    Heeeee’s baaaaack!

    Missed the blog (and you, too, of course).

    Re: station cutbacks, if you had told me a couple of years ago that main anchors would be asked to take turns taking 2 weeks of unpaid leave at a major Memphis station (WPTY) I would not have believed it. But the furloughs are real. DG at least has a good attitude about it, telling me she hopes this helps the bottom line.

  5. DTV Dave Says:

    Back in the late 1970’s, when I was working at WDEF in Chattanooga, we used several non-package musical themes (in between using the “On Top Of It All” and “Home Country” packages).

    For our News open, we used a piece that was part of several compositions made for the Olympics (I can’t remember the name or the artist). We also added cool “digital” video effects by shooting a monitor with a studio camera while feeding it back to the monitor (a poor-man’s “SqueezeZoom”).

    We used “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath for the horror movie wraparound show “Dr. Shock” (like Sivad at WHBQ). My favorite was the theme for our first all-night show on the weekends (back then we signed off every night) called “12 Non-Stop”. It was “What Do They Do on a Rainy Night in Rio?” by Tuxedo Junction. That show, that I ran for several years, consisted of two movies and whatever episodes of “Gunsmoke” and other shows that I wanted. Those viewers in the know would call me to request certain episodes. I guess that made me an early VJ!

  6. Joy Says:

    See, you really DID have something to say! Glad you’re back.

  7. joelarkins Says:

    See, you shamed me into it! lol It was good seeing you and chatting with you at Cooper-Young.
    Regards

  8. jack church Says:

    Joe, I can remember actually switching the channel just before 10:30 pm over to WKRN just to hear the credits! Unfortunately a lot of people must have done that after watching WSM and WTVF and that’s why WKRN always was so far behind in the ratings. Maybe they should have opened their news with Music Box Dancer!Speaking of WKRN, how man remember watching the big day when they switched from Channel 8 to Channel 2.
    As for “Electric Horseman” theme it was the highlight of my career at WBBJ, other than doing cutting edge promotion shots with you and having you shoot interviews for me at MTSU while the viewfinder melted on your face!! As for my favorite news themes I still have to give my vote to “Say Hello”. It was by far the only positive we had at the old WEVU in Ft. Myers.

  9. JD Says:

    Hi Joe!
    A piece of history…the opening music for WHBQ Channel 13 at one time used to be a high tech ditty called “The Minotaur”. One of the earliest useages of a MOOG synthesizer.

    As to your expendable anchors….
    In Memphis it was all but impossible to escape seeing Dick Hawley, Trent Wood, Fred Cook or even Jerry Tate doing the master of ceremonies at various local productions, such as the Maid of Cotton pageant, etc.

    As time has gone on, these types of productions have gone by the wayside. It follows, so have the personalities. These people were the local stars and as such they kept an audience following. This simply was because televison was a novelty.
    Early radio personalities were very much the same with Paul Berlin in Houston, Howard DeMere in St. Louis, and even Dewey Phillips and George Klein here in Memphis. If you want a prime example, watch the old cornball movie the “Giant Gila Monster”. The DJ character in that movie is treated pretty much as a star/god. All they did was spin records but they sure were special!

    Progress, the times and money, have caught up with anchors and DJ’s. The airwaves became diluted.

    Here is a little test and no looking up ratings or station sites!:
    Name the entire FM-100 DJ line up.
    Name the entire Rock 103 DJ line up.
    Name the entire WREG-TV newscaster line up.
    Name the ABC 24 call letters.
    See what I mean?

    Personalities have to now be original and novel….that is if station and corporate management will allow it!

    (Very heavy intonation)…”Hi groovy guys and groovy gals! This is Joe “The Eskimo from Kokomo” Larkins keeping it cool by the Larkins pool. Sitting in for man about town, “Downtown” Dave Brown. So stick and stay, while I sing and sway! Hab-Hab-Ba-Dab! Put out the cat, turn out the lite, it’s going to be a late date night, on WSOB! Good lawdy, miss clawdy, I’m gonna get bawdy!(Pepper/Tanner Jingle)

    Stay Well!
    JD

  10. joelarkins Says:

    Jack,
    I had forgotten about the channel changeover for WNGE/WKRN. And yes, I always liked the “hello” music packages.
    JD, you always provide food for thought. And when I started reading your DJ patter, my first thought was ” I want what HE’S smoking or drinking! lol
    Regards

  11. The GM Says:

    Hey Joe, glad you’re back. Can’t resist adding my two cents . . . and that’s about what it’s worth.

    Regarding big name anchors. A station should not be defined by your talent. A station is about its brand and its talent should reflect its brand. Big name anchors are a thing of the past for a number of reasons. One big one is media saturation. In the 1970s, ’80s and even the early ’90s there were fewer viewing options. Now with all the cable news outlets and more local stations producing more and more news the “voice of God” anchor is less important in terms of attracting viewers. What a station’s news brand represents — are we a hard, investigative news?; are we fluff?; is our forte weather?; all these are more important than the name of the anchor.

    The best example I can give you is FOX News’ success vs. CNN. CNN forgot who they were. FOX defined themselves as the voice that would bring “balance”. It didn’t matter who their personalities were, FOX was Fair and Balanced. CNN started losing viewers and responded by changing their formula and hiring big names for the Big Three thinking this would attract viewers — let’ see there was Aaron what’s his name, John not Supreme Court Roberts, the tall blond chick from FOX and previously CBS. None of them brough viewers. What a station’s newscast represents, how it covers the news, its content, the belief that this station is doing more, digging deeper — that’s what brings viewers.

    One last point, many of the debt laden, private equity backed companies are now going Chapter 11. This will result before too long in a new chapter in local broadcasting. A chapter that will see a return in the priority of serving the community over serving the stake holders.

    The GM

  12. joelarkins Says:

    The GM, Welcome back to you. It’s been a while since you checked in
    As always your perspective is much appreciated. We can only hope
    that your prediction on renewed focus on the community will come to
    pass. The big question is will anyone remember how to do such a
    thing. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when the consultant pitches this
    radical idea.
    Regards.

  13. joelarkins Says:

    I’m told that Dawson’s bio is back on the website and that he still is described as having the night off. What is up with that. Anybody have clue?

  14. Perry Cain Says:

    Kind of a mixed bag when it comes to having the anchor as your station ID. Viewers don’t always seem to make the connection with channel numbers…as we see with Mason Grayson, or Joe Larkins Birch, or Andy’s twin. It does seem to benefit management and the corporate suits though by selling “brand”. Keeps the Q scores out of the equation when it comes to salary negotiations. More of that “anyone can do that” approach to filling jobs in television. And it shows on every level. “Always wanted to fix a transmission, boss.”
    And BTW it would be nice to see broadcasters get back to serving the public “interest, convenience and necessity.” Perhaps more of a return to community involvement. Something other than slapping your station logo on as a sponsor of some 5K run. The words I hated to hear when Raycom took over the station on Union was “we’re broadcasters, we understand.” Kind of like “we’re from the government and we’re here to help.” The penny-pinching began.

  15. lead pipe Says:

    Joe, it’s great to hear from you again.

    A question for the GM, if he doesn’t mind me using Joe’s forum.

    What is considered “high priced talent?” Is there a percentage factor you would apply?

    Here’s what I’m thinking, if an evening shows of let’s say “5, 6 & 10” are bringing in “X” million dollars a year, what percent does management allot for talent on those shows?

    There are many we can assume are “high price” but if their shows are making buckets full of dinero, why would you let them go?

  16. The GM Says:

    Lead Pipe,
    Good question. Five years ago it may have played a factor; not so much now. High priced talent is anyone that is above the market average according to the Belo Salary Survey for like size markets, similar stations and similar revenue. Today if one has an anchor who makes a large number and all they do is anchor — doesn’t help write, doesn’t report, takes the two hour dinner break — that person is endangered.

    Research is more of a factor than ratings in determining who is worth the extra money. The fact is a good chief meteorologist, one who is popular, is more likely to get a big number than the traditional big-time anchor. I can tell you I’ve never looked at revenue generation and said talent deserves X per cent. It really doesn’t work that way. If a news department is meeting its mission statement and delivering for viewers night in and night out, the talent, while important, is less of a factor. Thus my statement that a good strong brand is more important than a popular anchor.

  17. AMNewsBoy Says:

    Just an aside about the station on Union Extended – a friend is leaving there and I stopped by just to see if it was posted, and noticed that there are a lot of openings there… and a lot of faces that aren’t there anymore. When a young station is losing relatively young faces… that’s a sign.

    And on the other topic… I really wish WMC would bring back the WMC 1983 News Theme. Or that somebody would pick up the WGNO 1996 News Theme (even if it is a little dated) or the KAKE 2001 News Package.

    I’m done being a geek now.

  18. Perry Cain Says:

    The WMC 1983 theme was more widely known as “The March of the Flatulent Elephants”. (actually known as something else but I’m sure Joe has certain tastes and standards to uphold) Voice provided by Ron Jones, AM790 Program Director.


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