Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Newscast comparisons

It's time to compare newscasts! Let's look at tonight's 11 p.m. newscasts.

  • Wilkes-Barre flood control projects
  • Weather update
  • Mahanoy City fire
  • Eynon robbery
  • Big bear in Lycoming County
  • Soliders heading to/from Iraq
  • Christmas train
  • NYC Christmas tree

  • Mahanoy City fire
  • Scotrun plant accident
  • I-180 crash/fire
  • Foundation 58
  • Rendell in Pittston
  • Hazelton dregding lawsuit
  • Eynon robbery
  • Job application robbery
  • Consumer corner segment

  • Hazelton dregding lawsuit
  • Eynon robbery
  • Mahanoy City fire
  • Toys-R-Us fire
  • Scotrun plant accident
  • I-180 crash/fire
  • Muncy/Hazle Twp. flooding
  • Weather update
  • Rendell in Pittston

    All three newscasts seemed evenly stacked tonight. You've got the usual fires here and crashes there. WNEP deviated with leading off on flood control in Wilkes-Barre, and also included stories about the kid who bagged himself a huge bear, and the Christmas train. Now let's look at WBRE and WYOU. Not surprisingly, their newscasts are somewhat similar, though WBRE's Foundation 58 story was a nice break from the usual.

    I'll never understand the reason behind TV packages for house fires, which WBRE and WNEP had. The package usually goes like this:
    FIREFIGHTER: Blah blah blaze blah blah fully involved blah blah cause of fire blah blah.
    HOMEOWNER: Blah blah lost my stuff blah blah got out OK blah blah glad to be alive blah blah.

    Exciting? Hardly. Covering this fire isn't the issue, because it wasn't a small kitchen fire, it burned through four homes. That's worth noting in the newscast. But if you're going to do a package on a house fire, let's do more than the usual "Oh look a fire" deal.
  • Monday, November 28, 2005

    Ich bin ein photographer

    If you're in northeast Pennsylvania, stop by Wilkes University and check out their new JFK exhibit. It's a collection of photographs and recordings taken by longtime WBRE photographer Charles "Cholly" Hayes, who was then an Army photographer in West Germany. It's an interesting exhibit, and hey, it's free!

    Cholly is definitely one of the unsung good guys in this business. It's great to see someone like him get recognition for his work.

    Saturday, November 26, 2005

    Where are they now?

    Today, we feature former WNEP reporter/writer Bill O'Reilly.

    Long before he was in the No Spin Zone, O'Reilly got his start at WNEP in the mid-1970s as a reporter and a writer for "Uncle Ted's Ghoul School." He eventually landed at ABC News as a "World News Tonight" as a correspondent, where he would remain for three years. In 1989, he left ABC for a reporter/anchor gig with the tabloid news program "Inside Edition." After getting a master's degree from Harvard, O'Reilly went to Fox News to host "The O'Reilly Factor."

    Where is he now? He's still at Fox News, still hosting "The O'Reilly Factor."

    Thursday, November 24, 2005

    At least it's not a turducken

    Did you ever wonder how reporters come up with stories? Chances are, they've checked Al's Morning Meeting, an excellent website with story ideas, tips, and trends. Given the spirit of Thanksgiving, here's an interesting link from today's column to determine how many miles you would need to walk to burn off your Thanksgiving calories.

    A quick estimate of my planned meal for today says I'll need to walk 14 miles to burn off the calories. Yikes!

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

    Wednesday, November 23, 2005

    Suspicious package!

    Is it a bomb? We don't know! At least it's a "suspicious package," and that merits a BREAKING NEWS segment on WNEP. Don't worry, it turns out the "bomb" was just some boxes glued together.

    Remember when "breaking news" meant "something really big just happened, and we have to tell you about it now?" Here's some free advice to WNEP: save the fancy graphics and music until you know whether it's an actual bomb or not.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2005

    Put out an APB for a missing verb, last seen in your local newscast

    Newscasts are home to some of the most-annoying cliches in broadcast journalism. And every reporter, anchor, and producer has been guilty of using at least one in their career, including me. But now there's a new cliche that has worked its way into every local newscast in this market.

    Newsrooms are now getting into the habit of dropping verbs from sentences, probably in an effort to increase the urgency of the story. Example: "President Bush in Tokyo today," not "President Bush is in Tokyo today." No matter what local station you watch, chances are, the anchors are speaking in broken English.

    WNEP seems to be especially guilty of verb-dropping, with broken phrases such as "Skycam 16 over the Susquehanna River today." Yes, we know you want to cram more news into less time, but saying "is" or "was" isn't going to make the newscast run over. And on WBRE's 11 p.m. newscast last night, Andy Mehalshick informed viewers that "WBRE's Joe Holden at that meeting tonight."

    The Stone Age was a couple billion years ago. Nobody talks like cavemen anymore. Put the verbs back into your newscasts!

    Monday, November 21, 2005

    First Adams Cable, now Service Electric?

    Nexstar Broadcasting is now heading after another local cable company for retransmission fees for WBRE/WYOU. A station insider says Service Electric is now number two on the hit list, joining Adams Cable in the shoving match.

    Come 2006, we shall see who wins. It won't be the customers, I'll tell you that.

    UPDATE: Both stations have amended their "open letter" to include Service Electric. The company's website has no response yet. See the previous entry on the retransmission fee brouhaha for Adams Cable's response.

    Saturday, November 19, 2005

    Where are they now?

    Today, we feature former WYOU/Pennsylvania Midday anchor Stacey Weaver.

    Stacey got her start in journalism as a newspaper reporter in western Pennsylvania, before heading to WFMZ-TV in Allentown as a producer. She spent some time in West Virginia before coming to WBRE in 2000 as a weekend anchor. Her time at WBRE was short, as she moved across the newsroom to WYOU as an anchor/reporter. Stacey was then tapped as co-anchor of Pennsylvania Morning and Pennsylvania Midday, where she remained until leaving in 2004.

    Where is she now? Stacey is a freelance reporter for WCAU-TV in Philadelphia, which is also home to former WBRE staffers Dawn Timmeney and Justin Pizzi.

    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    Singing with Diane

    WYOU anchor Diane Lee has released a CD of Christmas music to benefit the Children's Miracle Network. WYOU has samples from the CD, and ordering information, on their website. Nothing wrong with a second career as a musician. Just ask WNEP's Mike Lewis.

    All we need now is a gangsta rap CD from Andy Mehalshick.

    Monday, November 14, 2005

    Nexstar v. Adams Cable: Round 2

    Nexstar Broadcasting has fired another round against Adams Cable in the ongoing dispute over retransmission fees for WBRE/WYOU. In this statement, GM John Dittmeier basically says, "We're right, they're not." It's the same argument Nexstar's made in Texas and Arkansas, where they've gone after cable operators for retransmission fees. As I've said before, both sides are going to point and whine, and the subscribers will probably get screwed, either way.

    The least Nexstar could do is change the template letter they yanked from this Texas affiliate. Cox Internet doesn't offer cable service in this area. Whoops!

    UPDATE: Adams Cable chimes in with their side of the story. Here's a particularly biting comment:

    Nexstar Broadcasting’s stock was trading at $14 two years ago. It now trades near $4. In September, Nexstar posted an $8.9 million LOSS for the third quarter of 2005 alone! They are struggling to manage a business that brings in millions from a number of sources. They are desperate for cash and decided that they could use their power to start charging consumers for their free station.



    I still get an occasional e-mail blasting me for linking to a certain Electric City gossip columnist in a certain post more than two weeks ago. In my defense, I'm not even familiar with Rude Rube, as I don't read any of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton alternative weekend publications. But the e-mails I've gotten have painted quite a picture.

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again, this blog isn't about mindless, inane gossip. From now on, I won't link to it either.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming...

    Sunday, November 13, 2005

    Back on the job

    WBRE's Lorena Beniquez is back as the station's Williamsport bureau chief, reports The Citizens Voice. She fell and hurt her back while covering a story, and stayed off the air for the past few weeks to recuperate.

    Saturday, November 12, 2005

    Where are they now?

    Today, we feature former WBRE health reporter Molly Henneberg. I was unable to find a picture of her from her days at WBRE.

    Henneberg got her start at WHAG-TV in Hagerstown, Md. following graduation from Vanderbilt University. Her next stop was at WPBN-TV in Michigan. There, she was an evening anchor/health reporter, and won an award from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters in 1999. That year, Henneberg went to WBRE as its health reporter, where she would stay until 2001.

    Where is she now? After a stint as a freelance reporter/producer for Fox News, Henneberg became a full-time correspondent in 2002.

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    The midday roundup

    Let's compare today's noon newscasts from WNEP and WBRE/WYOU's "Pennsylvania Midday."

  • Gordon 18-wheeler crash
  • Susquehanna Co. farm fire
  • Broken water main in Pittston
  • Mock terrorism drill
  • Williamsport stabbing
  • Veterans tribute at VA hospital
  • USPS safe driver awards
  • Bird flu
  • Hazelton gift certificates
  • Churches preach anti-smoking message
  • Jordan terrorism

  • Jordan terrorism
  • Iraq terrorism
  • Bush Tobyhanna visit preview
  • Bush to award local firefighter
  • Witness recants, couple arrested
  • Williamsport fight
  • Car window breaks

    Call me crazy, but when I watch a local newscast, I want to see local news. I know WBRE/WYOU are making the most of those NBC Newschannel reporters, who provide customized reports to affiliate stations, but throwing the "For Pennsylvania Midday" tag on the end doesn't change things. I can turn on any of the cable news channels, and get my fill of foreign terrorism. Now, let's discuss importance. A woman is driving down the street, when her car windows suddenly breaks. Could it be a rock? A BB? A bullet? TERRORISTS? It's in the first block, so it has to be important!

    Let's head up the road to WNEP. I've always said WNEP tends to favor crime and disaster in their newscasts, and it shows. A truck crash here, a fire there, mock terrorism drills for extra flavor, and more crime in Williamsport! The broken water main at least broke up the monotony. Then it's a mixed bag of local stuff, finished up with a mention of the Jordan terrorism.

    Let's summarize. WBRE/WYOU wouldn't need to rely on NBC Newschannel for filler if they would send photographers and reporters out to, well, cover local stuff! But if they're paying good money for Newschannel, you know they'll use it. And WNEP's hard-on for crimes and disaster continues. How about using those mighty resources to report on something other than the latest crash or fire?
  • Tuesday, November 08, 2005

    Nexstar v. Adams Cable

    Looks like we've got an old-fashioned pissing match between Nexstar Broadcasting and Adams Cable Service. Tonight, WYOU has run an on-screen scroll advising subscribers to jump to satellite, since both WBRE and WYOU may no longer be on the cable service at the end of the year. Adams Cable has countered with its own message on its website.

    If this is anything like Nexstar's ongoing shoving match with Comcast in Arkansas, I'll bet retransmission fees are at the center of the brouhaha with Adams. Either way, both sides are going to point fingers and cry, and subscribers will somehow be screwed in the end.

    Hey, it could be worse. WBRE and WYOU could be owned by Sinclair Broadcasting.

    Monday, November 07, 2005

    Race and the news

    I'll admit I was a bit surprised when WNEP aired the word "nigger" on tonight's 6 p.m. newscast. The slur was uttered in Bob Reynolds' football riot story by a black student (left) who claims the police response was racially motivated. Personally, I thought it was OK to leave the slur in, given the context of the story. But I'm sure this will only fan the controversy over what happened even further.

    WNEP will likely take heat for using "nigger" in the story, even though there was a warning beforehand. But I doubt it will be noticed, since people are still complaining about Joe Snedeker's on-air jab against Kim Supon.

    My cynical side does remind me we're in sweeps mode. Even if this is a sweeps story, it's very tame compared to the stunts being pulled by stations in other markets.

    Nexstar loses money again

    In case you missed it, Nexstar Broadcasting recently posted an $8.9 million third quarter loss. What's that mean? Don't ask me, I'm no financial expert. But the news is fueling rumors that Nexstar will sell five of its stations to save money.

    I doubt WBRE/WYOU is at risk, since this is the second-highest market with a Nexstar presence. But you can bet corporate will come down on the duopoly with their latest "SAVE MONEY NOW" mandate.

    Because everyone needs a chuckle on Mondays, I give you the top ten signs Nexstar Broadcasting is trying to save money at WBRE/WYOU.

    10. Williamsport and Stroudsburg bureaus converted into McDonalds
    9. Photographers given VHS tapes and clunky JVC camcorders made in 1989
    8. Gasoline credit cards cancelled in favor of siphoning gas from employee vehicles in WNEP parking lot
    7. One word: newsbots
    6. Wardrobes now courtesy of the Salvation Army
    5. Meteorologists resort to drawing temperatures and maps on giant whiteboard
    4. Station vehicle fleet replaced with four Geo Metros
    3. Anchors now just read headlines from News Alliance newspapers
    2. Shared-services agreement signed with WYLN-TV
    1. "Pennsylvania Evening"

    Sunday, November 06, 2005

    Feds go after REAL terrorists: local public broadcasters

    WVIA-TV president Bill Kelly found out his name was on the government's no-fly list as he tried to board a round-trip flight to Florida last week. He was allowed on his way, after getting extra "attention" from security screeners.

    Think that's bad? It gets worse. Kelly will now be subjected to hours of torture as he tries to navigate the phone menu of the Transportation Security Administration, America's favorite useless agency, to find out how to clear his name.

    How did Bill Kelly end up on the no-fly list? Simple. It's the beard. All terrorists wear beards!

    On the move

    Former WNEP sports anchor Joe Zone is heading to Connecticut next year as sports director for WFSB-TV. Once again, he'll be working under Elden Hale, who ran WNEP in the 1980s and early 1990s. Zone is currently sports director for WSTM-TV in Syracuse, N.Y., but opted not to renew his contract.

    Also on the move is WVIA-TV producer Richard Briggs, who is leaving after 22 years at the PBS affiliate. He has produced several documentaries and programs for WVIA over the years, including the recent "Voices from Vietnam" documentary. Briggs will be pursuing other opportunities, an e-mail announcement from the station said.

    Saturday, November 05, 2005

    Where are they now?

    Today, we feature former WNEP sports anchor Tim Karlson.

    Karlson's broadcast career started in local radio back in the 1970s. After 12 years as a radio announcer, he made the move to TV in 1982 as WBRE's weekend weatherman. Karlson moved shortly thereafter to WNEP as its weekend sports anchor. He was eventually promoted to sports director in 1986, a position he held until retiring in 2000.

    Where is he now? Karlson is still at WNEP, but is now in a behind-the-scenes role as the station's director of client services. He also has a great shot at a movie career, should there be a sequel to Ferris Bueller's Day Off.


    Friday, November 04, 2005

    New blog feature

    Well, I'm learning more about this blog as I move along. First I disabled comments, then I re-enabled them, only to have someone come back with a smear campaign against someone else. To prevent this, I've turned on an option to moderate comments. Ergo, any comments that involve personal attacks against other people will be rejected.

    Legitimate criticism is still allowed and encouraged. Also, this does not affect the ability to post anonymously, if you're concerned about that.

    This keeps the discussion alive, and prevents idiots from trolling the comments. So have fun!


    An Iowa TV station has found a way to get around a non-compete clause keeping a newly-hired anchor off the air until June. Erin Kiernan is anchoring the news on WHO-TV as an animated "newsbot" on the station's website, reports the Des Moines Register. Her former station can't do anything about it, because the clause never covered the Internet.

    Since WYOU anchor Phil Yacuboski is trying to get out of his contract, I think he may have a new option at his disposal. That's unless Nexstar Broadcasting quickly changes his contract.

    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    Let's get ready to rumble!

    Television sweeps are upon us! This is the special time when TV stations basically scare the shit out of viewers to keep them from switching the channel. This increases viewers, and subsequently ups the station's ad rates.

    "Do child molesters and terrorists live in YOUR state? Tune in and find out!" "How the nails in your walls could give you CANCER!" "Why this road could cause your car to EXPLODE!"

    On behalf of the news media in this market, allow me to apologize in advance.

    Two counts of journalese

    Why do reporters feel like they have to run down the entire list of charges when talking about a criminal suspect? Watching WBRE/WYOU's joint Pennsylvania Midday newscast today, I saw Jill Konopka (who comes from WUHF-TV in Rochester, NY, to replace Justin Pizzi) spatter off the entire list of charges against the man charged in last night's Wilkes-Barre shooting. Perhaps that's because they needed time to make up for not having the perp walk video of the suspect.

    What's more important here?

    A. This guy's accused of killing someone.
    B. This guy's been charged with various counts of criminal homicide, attempted homicide, aggravated assault, and unlawful use of a firearm.

    If I want the full police report, I'll read the Times Leader, as they're apparently obsessed with their police blotters. I think Mark Cour at Wilkes-Barre Online sums it up the best:

    "They should rename it The Police Blotter Leader. Do I really need to know that Billy from Jones Street had his Doobie Brothers tape ripped-off? Do I want to know which total dumb-asses left their purses in their parked cars only to have them go missing? Is it news when a half-dozen houses get egged?"

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    Insert zany Dr. Phil quote here

    The Philadelphia Daily News reports that former WBRE anchor Dawn Timmeney will be a guest on today's Dr. Phil show.

    The show deals with people being falsely accused and Timmeney appears along with former Chester High School principal Dr. Eboni Wilson, and his wife Eva.

    Earlier this year, Wilson lost his job amid allegations that he had sex with a 16-year-old student, who later recanted her allegations against the principal.

    At that time, Timmeney got exclusive interviews with the accuser and one with Wilson before the charges were dropped.

    What's amusing is Timmeney's current station, WCAU, doesn't air Dr. Phil. But competitor KYW does!

    NOTE: Use BugMeNot if the site asks you to register.

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005

    Say what now?

    Here's a new phrase, courtesy of Paola Giangacomo on WNEP's Fox 56 newscast tonight: "Convicted child offender."

    Oh crap, and I told my friend's six-year-old cousin that Pokemon was a dumb cartoon!

    Burglars, oranges, and economic development

    Here's a look at what WNEP, WBRE, and WYOU ran during their first blocks on their 6 p.m. newscasts tonight. It's possible I missed something while switching between all three channels, so let me know if I did.

  • Wayne County burglaries (with live standup)
  • Williamsport shooting
  • Army military tribunal
  • WolfHawk custody dispute
  • Mountain Home candle fire
  • Truck fire in Poconos
  • Beetle infestation in Clinton County (with live standup)
  • Rendell energy summit
  • Brief weather update
  • Dupont tackle shop closing doors

  • How citrus crop problems will affect OJ prices (with live standup)
  • Diesel prices affecting central PA food bank
  • Finding ways to save money (with live standup)
  • Christmas job rush
  • Mountain Home candle fire
  • Sex offender arrest
  • WolfHawk custody dispute
  • Retired voting machines

  • Scranton development
  • Mountain Home candle fire
  • Dickson City purse snatcher
  • Sex offender arrest
  • WolfHawk custody dispute
  • Using time off to help hurricane victims

    Once again, WNEP manages to cram more into its first block, going to commercials after WYOU (first) and WBRE (second). They chose to lead off with crime and fire (including a too-long package on the candle factory fire), and then got around to Norm Jones' interesting story on the beetle infestation in Clinton County. Thank God that's not happening in my area! After a quick recap of the governor's energy summit in Archbald, we get some weather, and the obligatory "Awwwww" human interest story.

    Do you like orange juice? WBRE hopes you do, otherwise their lead story on how local OJ prices could go up was all for naught. After a short mention of diesel prices affecting a local food bank, consumer reporter Elliot Weiler starts his series on how you can save money through simple methods. Now, because Christmas is less than two months away, WBRE wants to remind you that shopping malls are putting out decorations and looking for seasonal help! Then, we get video of the candle factory fire, video of a sex offender being hauled to the paddy wagon, a mention of the WolfHawk saga, and why you won't see those behemoth voting machines anymore.

    I know WYOU no longer bills itself as "Lackawanna County's News Source," but after looking at this newscast, it's hard to say otherwise. With one exception, these stories are definitely NEPA-centric. First, David DeCosmo tells us about downtown development in Scranton. Everyone else is mentioning the candle factory fire, and so will WYOU. The laugh of the night comes from the dumbfounded look of the purse snatcher. A bit about the WolfHawks, and how your time off can help hurricane victims!

    My thoughts? WNEP was too high on disaster and crime, WBRE picked a bad lead story, and WYOU is still "Lackawanna County's News Source."
  • People actually read this?

    Andy Palumbo is one of four people who have a WNEP-sanctioned blog. From time to time, I'll read them, and see what's happening. Looks like Andy has a new bookmark in his Web browser!

    Everyone has a blog these days. A blog about the local media scene has popped up. The author/blogger uses the name "Howard Beale." He says he's a local reporter. Memo to my bosses: IT'S NOT ME! I've read the first few entries. Not bad. The stuff is factual and catty comments have been kept to a minimum.

    Are people speculating about my identity already? Sheesh!

    However, it's good to see that people are seeing this site as I intended. This is an outlet for me to make my feelings about the news in northeast and central PA known, without risking any reprecussions by exposing my identity. I'm not here to gossip about private lives or poke fun at anyone/anything without a good reason.