Monday, March 27, 2006

A tale of two stations

The Morning Call of Allentown had an interesting piece this weekend on the Wilkes-Barre newspaper showdown. If you missed it, check it out. It's a good rundown of the 25-year-old fight between the Times Leader and The Citizens' Voice.

There's a lot at stake in this showdown. The TL is fighting to stay alive, as CV parent company Times-Shamrock considers a takeover. And, and both papers still resent each other...you know, newspaper strike and all. What is also at stake here is the quality of journalism.

You can compare a possible TL/CV merger to Nexstar's takeover of WBRE and WYOU. Before the takeover, both stations were independent of, and competed against each other. It wasn't enough to take down ratings giant WNEP, but both stations did their best to fight for second place. From the look of the newscasts to the stories themselves, both took their own approach. And all was good. If you didn't like how WBRE did a story, you could head to WYOU, and vice versa.

And then Nexstar Broadcasting came into the picture.

WBRE and WYOU (which is owned by a Nexstar shell company) were suddenly whisked together in the same building. What is the result? Pennsylvania Morning, Pennsylvania Midday, and evening newscasts that really don't offer anything unique. I can look at video of a fire on WBRE, and then switch to WYOU, and see the same footage minutes later. The quality of journalism at the Nexstar duopoly has suffered since the takeover. Why offer something different, when you and your competitor share the same newsroom?

I don't know if anything similar would happen to the TL, should Times-Shamrock move in. But after seeing how Nexstar basically killed the identities of WBRE and WYOU, let's just say I am very wary about two competing news outlets being owned by the same company.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to point out the relationship between the WBRE/WYOU and Times-Shamrock. They are "news alliance" partners. Like-minded companies. Very interesting especially when it comes to the paper's coverage of one former "news alliance partner" who has political office aspirations, Frank Andrews (shimkus)(yuk). So far the coverage has been biased. Covering it at all is bias. I don't have time to go into all the reasons now (am working) but just think about it.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You heard it here first...

If Shamrock does come along and snatch up the TL, there's talk both Wilkes-Barre newspapers will be merged. Obvious, right? Chew on this...Shamrock's head honchos would pick the best writers from both newspapers, and send the rest packing.

Obvious again, right?

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would imagine that people at both papers are getting pretty scared at this point. Anybody here from the CV or TL who has some good info? There just has to be some "staying / not staying" going on, unless McC has actually lined up another buyer and the competition continues.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Tom Carten said...

Thomas Keil, professor of Sociology at the University of Louisville, wrote what I think is an excellent book on the newspaper situation. "On Strike! Capital Cities and the Wilkes-Barre Newspaper Unions," published in 1988 by the University of Alabama Press, explored the early issues in a fair-handed look.

There were a few items I, as the reviewer for the Voice, took issue with (one involved me), but they were too minor to involve the overall quality of the work.

I could not find any reference to used copies on Amazon, but if you want to read it --and I think it's worth the effort-- you can try any of the local libraries or inter-library loan.

Naturally, it does not take up any of the later issues or problems, but it does give an excellent background and the first ten years.

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Competetion is what drives this country. This is no new idea, it's a way of life. Take for instance, a merger of a BK and a McD. Before you know it, there would be tons of McBurger resturants all over. Do you think they would still offer the $ menu, when they really don't have any other major competition. (I know they do, but just go along) Without a need for competition, say goodbye to quality, in-depth and originality. The same for the news business. Once there's word of a merger going around, you might as well give up. Why compete when there's no need and no possible chance? Why send two news crews out when you only need one? Now, they don't, and your lucky if you see a first block story one WBRE that doesn't use the same exact edited footage for WYOU and vice versa. Say goodbye to quality, NEPA. Lets hope WNEP never merges.

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The agony of it all is this; between Nexstar and the Lynett family, news can suppressed, promoted, or ignored. That is the tragedy of this. A family dynasty and a corporation will control what you know, when you know it, and even if you know it.

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to 7:18 p.m., you hit the nail on the head! Just look at the promotion of frank andrews by the outlets he's associated with. it's amazing--that wouldn't happen if the lynetts and nexstar didn't really, really want it to.

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Tom Carten said...

7:18pm poster:

A family dynasty and a corporation will control what you know, when you know it, and even if you know it.

This assumes you can't receive WNEP. No corp or dynasty can exercise full control when there is another outlet in the market. (This assumes Channel 50 is their lapdog, which I question.)

11:40am poster

...when it comes to the paper's coverage of one former "news alliance partner" who has political office aspirations, Frank Andrews (shimkus). So far the coverage has been biased. Covering it at all is bias.

No, covering it is reporting a legitimate news item. You just take care as to how you do it, knowing the other candidates will be monitoring your performance carefully.

3:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well so far the plan's working.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This assumes you can't receive WNEP. No corp or dynasty can exercise full control when there is another outlet in the market.

Poor wording on my part, let me try again; with Nexstar and Lynetts teamed up, what you have is corporate entity and a family dynasty controlling an alarming and frightening amount of news flow in NE PA. We should all be very wary of this arrangement.

No, covering it is reporting a legitimate news item. You just take care as to how you do it, knowing the other candidates will be monitoring your performance carefully.

If they had any interest in avoiding the appearance of impropriety, and they clearly do not, they'd make a point to avoid any mention of the race in the 113th until primary night when they do results.

2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Competition does indeed drive this country, our society, our way of life. But more and more and more, partnerships and alliances are created to destroy competition. Eliminating competition is their chief objective, they want to be the only game in town. With the Lynetts, it's all about feeding mouths, too. With each new generation of that family comes a need to further grow the business in order to pay the newest members of the family as they enter that business. And by most accounts, all of the Lynett progeny are doing just that.

Should Shimkus win, Nexstar and the Lynetts will then have their first ever shared elected official. Pretty cozy deal, right?

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Tom Carten said...

4:41pm:

Re: The Lynetts.

Eliminating competition is their chief objective, they want to be the only game in town.

I believe that was the objective of the Times Leader and its owners, as well.

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that was the objective of the Times Leader and its owners, as well.

And how about the irony in a possible sale of The TL to the Lynetts, who will then, perhaps, assemble a new staff using the best of both papers. And in the process, union jobs at The CV could be lost.

The Scranton Times(and its subsequent reincarnations owned by the same family)has a long history of being a Democratic, Catholic, pro-labor, newspaper. They do have a Pulitzer to their name, it was a Lynett who earned it, it was a result of being very pro-union, pro-labor, pro-working class.

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every company wants to be the only game in town. It's a shame the Lynetts get away with doing it with an inferior product.

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

THE LYNETTS AND THEIR PUBLISHING MONOPOLY IN N.E. PA IS AND HAS BEEN A JOKE FOR A LONG TIME. THEY PRINT MORE ADVERTISING THAN NEWS STORIES, EXCEPT FOR THE ENORMOUS RETRACTION PAGE.

1:00 AM  

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