Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sunbury switchup

Ali Stevens has returned to the Sunbury radio market as an anchorwoman for WKOK. She previously worked there after the station switched to an all-news format in the late 1990s, but left for a brief stint at WBRE.

Stevens will replace anchorwoman/WQKX-FM morning show personality Sara Lauver, who is moving to New York to work in show business, according to the station's website. Lauver is the sixth person to leave WKOK since January 2005.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Looking for a job?

There's no better time than now to fulfill your dreams of working in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market! All three stations are throwing out their fishing nets for various positions...

- National Sales Assistant ("You're a sales lackey.")
- Anchor/Reporter (Ed. Note: Is this a new position, or is someone leaving WNEP?)
- Photographer ("You'll find VO/SOTs for Mike Lewis to 'report' on.")

- *On-Air Promotion Manager ("Some people don't know that Lyndall Stout is getting married. Change that!")
- *Executive Producer (Ed. Note: Looks like Ron Krisulevicz can take "interim" from his news director title.)
- Consumer Reporter ("Help our idiot viewers NOT get scammed by those Ponzi schemes.")
- *Account Executive ("PLEASE HELP US MAKE MONEY!")
- News Photographer/Editor (Ed. Note: This was posted in February. Did WBRE fill it, or are they slow?)

* Cross-listed on WYOU's website. And you may as well add Phil Yacuboski's job there as well, unless Nexstar really wants a five-person newsroom (not including the sports or weather staff).

So, what are you waiting for? Apply today!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Technical difficulties

I'm having some issues with updating the blog. It'll be fixed as soon as I figure out what's wrong. Submitted comments will still be moderated though.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Newspaper war catches WNEP's attention

WNEP is now jumping into the Times Leader/Citizens' Voice war, giving it some coverage. It's not like WBRE or WYOU would even tread into something involving their "News Alliance" partners. Here's a summary of the WNEP story:


Scott Lynett: We're always looking to buy those bastards, expand our business opportunities. Yeah...

Local Yokels: Durrrr...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

CV: We can't confirm our own story

One of the most-embarassing things a news outlet can do is get scooped on a story in its own backyard, and then cover the story based on information attributed to its competitor. Can't happen, you say? Let's ask the Citizens' Voice about that.
Employees of the Times Leader recognized “high-level managers” from Times-Shamrock touring the newspaper’s buildings on North Main Street and on East Market Street, according to a report in the Times Leader.

Yep, the CV is attributing a story to its sworn mortal enemy.


TL editor Matt Golas couldn't resist the urge to jump on this and pile it on the CV. And then it ended up on Jim Romenesko's blog, where countless newspaper nerds are no doubt laughing.

For those of you on the broadcast side of things, imagine what would happen if WBRE did a story, and used the line "WNEP is reporting...," or vice versa.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

To catch a few more viewers

A few of you have asked about the recent WBRE sweeps piece that was a blatant copy of Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator" ratings ploy. I didn't catch it when it originally aired, but thanks to one tipster, I got to watch it for myself.

Much like Dateline NBC's sensationalist pedophile sting bust, WBRE set up online chats with suspected perverts, and then had them come to a local motel. But when the pedophiles came to play, Andy Mehalshick was there to bust them...or at least do his best Chris Hansen impression while the cops cuffed them. Sadly, there wasn't a camoflague cop hiding in the bushes, like on Dateline. But we did get to speak to the producer who helped set up the sting! Come on, reporters interviewing fellow co-workers? Did someone get inspired by the Times Leader?

In all, WBRE's sweeps piece was nothing to write home about. Like other NBC stations, they decided to piggyback on NBC and do their own version of "To Catch a Predator." It's a quick and easy way to get viewers. All you have to do is run ominous promotions of "PEDOPHILES ARE COMING AFTER YOUR CHILDREN."

It would have been nice to see WBRE actually do something different on the pedophile angle, instead of the tried-and-boring. But after seeing so many of these damn "PEDOPHILES HOLY CRAP THINK OF YOUR CHILDREN" stories, I feel compelled to vomit, or poke my eyes out with a steak knife.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Where are they now?

Today, we feature former WNEP reporter Kyle Schmoyer.

Local TV pundit Rich Mates once described Kyle Schmoyer as "animated." And he was right. Schmoyer's looks were admittedly not the slick, polished package so many fickle news directors like. But you've got to admit, his straight-out-of-a-cop-movie brown leather jacket was slick.

Schmoyer did some stints in Florida and New Jersey before heading to northeast Pennsylvania. As the "Luzerne County Bureau Chief" (a rather silly title, since WNEP doesn't have an actual bureau in the county), he usually got the big stories, like the Hugo Selenski escape, while other reporters got the "car wash fundraiser extravaganza."

But bigger things called, and in 2004, Schmoyer was gone.

Where is he now? Schmoyer is a reporter for Comcast Cable's CN8 in Philadelphia.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Another one jumps from Nexstar

Another reporter is jumping from the local Nexstar duopoly this month. WYOU anchorman Phil Yacuboski says he's looking for other jobs, after losing an arbitration case to get his non-compete clause axed so he could head to WNEP...or at least "consider" it. His argument was that the clause was voided when he got a contract extension in 2004.

Yacuboski isn't the first Nexstar employee to try to get out of their non-compete. Perhaps you've heard about Rachel Barnhart, a former reporter for WROC in Rochester, N.Y. She managed to circumvent her non-compete (scroll down) as a "web reporter" for competing station WHAM. Because Barnhart only appears online, she can wait it out there until she can go back on-air.

Other reporters are using the online loophole, and with everything WNEP is doing to its website, maybe Yacuboski can be the station's first "web reporter?"

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Andrews wins primary

Frank Andrews is one step closer to Harrisburg. The former WYOU anchorman got the win in a five-way Democratic primary race for 113th district state representative. I can't say I'm surprised. Andrews' tenure at WNEP and WYOU gave him the name recognition he needed. And the 113th district has the perfect demographics: really old Democrats who still watch WYOU.

Now that the primary is out of the way, I think it will be interesting to see where Andrews really stands on the issues. We'll find out as November draws closer. And if you're keeping record, Andrews will face Republican primary winner Matthew Burke in that election. Burke who? Hey, you got me.

Also interesting was how each station covered this race. I'm surprised WYOU and WNEP didn't even mention that Andrews used to work for them (unless I missed something). Is it really important to mention that? In the interest of full disclosure, I say yes.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Primary day

Will Frank Andrews continue his quest to Harrisburg, or will he head back to WYOU? We'll find out today, as the former news director/anchorman goes against four other Democrats in the primary for 118th district state house.

Andrews seems sincere in his intentions to run, though I haven't really heard him talk about the issues. The only issue I see on his website is a stance on the whole "Coming Soon!" issue. It's not like his opponents have said anything about the issues either.

His chances of winning seem somewhat reasonable, if only because he's a recognized name in the Scranton area. Normally, a lack of political experience is a downside, but if people like Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger have taught us anything, it's all about the name recognition.

But guarantees are far and few between in politics. We'll see what happens tonight.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Where are they now?

Today, we feature former WYOU anchorwoman Penny Lindgren.

A lawyer by training, Lindgren came to WYOU in 1986 as a reporter. She stayed with the station for the rest of her broadcasting career, moving up the ranks from reporter to noon anchor, and eventually 6 p.m. anchor. Lindgren also took up the now-defunct health reporting beat.

After 17 years at WYOU, Lindgren left WYOU in 2004, and moved out of state with her husband. At the time, she planned to continue her television career. Kind of odd, since lawyers typically make more money. But hey, do what you love, right?

Where is she now? It appears that Lindgren is no longer in broadcasting.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Sweeping away sweeps

There is an advantage to the ratings situation here in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: nobody really gives a damn about sweeps. WNEP hasn't lost the ratings war since the 1980s, and WBRE and WYOU don't even subscribe to Nielsen anymore. You, the viewer, benefit from this whenever sweeps rolls around, as you're spared the gamut of "SEX OFFENDERS" or "MYSPACE" or "THE SODA THAT WILL KILL YOUR FAMILY" stories.

Those are the stories that news consultants go ga-ga for, since it's supposed to get the viewer's attention. Does it? Alarmist sweeps stories do nothing but simply fuel ignorance, hysteria, stupidity, or all of the above. Whatever happened to reporting in the public interest? Ferreting out government corruption? Discovering oversights that suck up tax dollars? Exposing abuse in the system? It all got replaced with Myspace stories, apparently.

This market has problems, don't get me wrong, but a lack of hysteria-fueled sweeps pieces is just fine with me. What about the rest of you? What's your take on sweeps?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Meteorology or not?

A WATN? update on former WBRE weather forecaster Dr. Steve Fertig got this response...

There's a difference between a weatherman and a Meteorologist, sort of the difference between being a doctor and playing one on TV. (But the other way around.)

Weather forecasting is one slice of the meteorology field. And in television, it doesn't really require any knowledge of meteorology. Many of the early forecasters, like NBC's Willard Scott, were chosen simply because they had an entertaining and pleasant personality. After all, even then, stations realized that weather was the reason why people watched their newscasts.

Though there are people with meteorology degrees plying their trade on local TV stations, they're still getting help from MSI, AccuWeather, or whatever weather forecasting system they bought. What, you thought Tom Clark went to the backyard to launch a weather balloon every day? And you certainly don't need a degree to be a TV weather forecaster either. But if your station GM is crazy about NWA or AMS seals, you can always take the Mississippi State correspondence course to satisfy the minimum requirements for one.

In the end, viewers don't care if they have a bonafide meteorologist, a Mississippi correspondence graduate, or someone who migrated from radio to TV. All they want is someone who will tell them if they need an umbrella today.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Who wants an iPod?

Either WYOU's promotions department didn't check their work before posting it online, or that's a really crappy iPod that can only hold a 30-second video. But it's not like many people in this market know the difference between megabyte and gigabyte anyway.

UPDATE: WYOU fixed the banner. I also shrunk down the banner here, because I got e-mails about how it was messing up the page layout. You can click it to see the original size, though.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Where are they now?

Today, we feature former WBRE weather forecaster Dr. Steve Fertig.

Dr. Steve Greenberg isn't the only medical professional to jump into the crazy world of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton television. Before he pointed at weather maps for WBRE, Dr. Steve Fertig was working as a chiropractor. Insurance paperwork annoyed him though, and in 1996, Fertig went into television. He jumped around the south for a bit, before coming up north to Wilkes-Barre.

Fertig started out on the morning show, and was eventually promoted to "chief meteorologist" and the accompanying evening shift. But you know, it's funny how promotions work. Fertig realized he was happier on the morning show, and decided to split in 2001.

Where is he now? Fertig is now the morning weather forecaster for WBFF-TV in Baltimore. He replaced Kirk Clyatt, who came to WBRE to replace Fertig. How's that for coincidence?

Another questionable exclusive

As they have done in the past, the Times Leader claims another questionable exclusive. Today's exclusive is, once again, based on publicly-available federal records.

Between the newspaper's previous record of questionable exclusives, and their recent tendency to quote their own editors in stories, I don't think Don Sherwood is the only one running scared here. Then again, if you were facing the possibility of being bought out by a hated rival, I'd be running scared too.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Comparing newscasts

I haven't done one of these in a while, so let's see what each station ran on its 11 p.m. newscast Friday. As always, if I missed a story, let me know.

- Cemetery vandalism
- Freeland vandal
- Sexually-molesting doctor
- Truck flips over
- Exeter stabbing arrest
- Montgomery factory fire
- I-81 traffic
- Cinco de Mayo
- Blakeslee crash victims

- Truck flips over
- Exeter stabbing arrest
- Freeland vandal
- Wilkes-Barre arson
- Montgomery factory fire
- Fire department suspended
- Removing mailboxes
- Korean War vets honored
- Pocono movie opening

- Truck flips over
- Exeter stabbing arrest
- Wilkes-Barre arson
- Pocono movie opening
- Freeland vandal
- Voting machines
- Korean War vets honored
- Cinco de Mayo

Police blotter material ahoy at WNEP. The lead story was a nice personal touch on a previously covered story, but the rest is what you'd come to expect. Over on WBRE and WYOU, I swore I was seeing double vision on their lead story. No, really, I'm serious. I switched to and from the two stations, and both ran identical stories. Come on, I know both stations are Nexstar-owned, but can we attempt to have some sort of difference?

Cinco de Mayo was touched upon by WNEP and WYOU. Brandie Meng's standup inside the crowded bar was awkward, though her story did show why people were celebrating. HINT: it wasn't because of Mexican pride or heritage.

Finally, here's an oddity. WNEP tends to pack stories into its first block like sardines are packed into a can. Plenty of short stories, one after the other. But tonight, both WNEP and WBRE had the same amount of stories, with WYOU short one story. A slow news night, maybe?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Sweeps cynicism

It's sweeps once again, when television station vye for viewers by pulling out all the stops in their coverage. In reality, nothing really happens. A station will dress up its existing coverage, throw in some consultant-inspired phrases, and pretend like it cares about the viewer...but only if they have a Nielsen book.

Yes, I'm pretty cynical about sweeps. I never did like the idea of hyping things, just for the sake of it. A few years ago, I worked at a station where one of the higher-ups got excited about a minor fire in our city. We hyped that thing like there was no tomorrow, simply because the dumbass manager realized it was sweeps.

You see, sweeps can make otherwise rational newsrooms suddenly do crazy things. Look at NBC, whose Dateline program is in SEXUAL PREDATORS HOLY SHIT THINK OF THE CHILDREN mode. Sure, they could use the airwaves to cover...oh, I don't know, REAL NEWS. But instead, we get more HIDDEN CAMERA INVESTIGATIONS for the ratings viewers.

The ratings situation in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market is actually a benefit for cynical reporters such as myself. Sweeps doesn't matter here, because the situation is the same: WNEP is first, WBRE is trailing in second, and WYOU is somewhere north of Noxen in the ratings book. There's no pandering to the slack-jawed yokels with the ratings books.

I'm all for putting out my best work. And I think it should always be done, at every station, regardless of whether it's a sweeps period or not.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Bet this gonna cause a lot of head rolling

I get a lot of junk e-mail at work. Most seems to come from Trena Brown, an office administrator in Gov. Ed Rendell's office. Her primary job seems to be to send out as many press releases as humanly possible. Did the governor proclaim today as "Nacho Day?" Bang, here's a press release!

Obviously, anything from Trena Brown goes into my junk folder. But today, she sent a real gem. The press release was about using video phones to allow National Guardsmen to hear and see their families back home. At the top was the following:

bet this gonna cause a lot of break ups. can u imagine the boy caling home and seeing something he don't want to see

Oops! Kate Phillips, Rendell's chief spokeswoman, replied a few minutes later, calling Trena's snafu "an obvious lapse of judgment." Tomorrow, we may see a release stating, "Governor Rendell fires Trena Brown."

Guess I should read those press releases more often! Did any of you get this as well?

WNEP plans podcasts this year

My predictions about WNEP planning to podcast its news content were true. At this weekend's AP convention, WNEP's online producer talked about the station's plans to have something up and running by the end of the year, according to several people who were there.

For those who don't know, a podcast is basically just a bunch of MP3s you download and listen to. But new media types have given it a fancy name and dubbed it the best thing since sliced bread.

So, what will WNEP be podcasting? News? Features? The best of Talkback 16 Online narrated by Nolan Johannes? I guess we'll have to wait and see. But it's clear that WNEP is now trying to go after a new demographic, as the only people who watch local news anymore are the people who remember the Huntley-Brinkley Report.