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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remembering working for a news director in the 80's who said "Everyday is a ratings day"

8:58 AM  
Blogger Tom Carten said...

Any guesses on the "We report because you need to know" stories?

(a) "Mr. Family" finally appears on-screen. (Taped, wearing a paper bag over his head.)

(b) We take you INSIDE the gentleman's club. (Too dark, boobs blurred, shot from behind heads.)

(c) Our undercover camera caught this priest and this young boy getting into a car in the Back Mountain. (Sorry, we ran out of tape before we could show you the priest's sister and her husband just a few feet away also heading for the car.)

btw: Am I the only person who thinks Mr. Family is really the publicity director for the gentleman's club? The license plate shots never really show anything, he gets his publicity and then disappears, etc.

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have suspected that at least Messrs. Family and G-Club were in cahoots. Certainly not adversarial.

8:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too bad there aren't more celebrity car chases in the area: "We interrupt our regular programming to bring you this breaking story of an exciting cop chase down the rumble strips of I-81"

8:45 AM  
Blogger Howard Beale said...

That brings up an interesting tidbit of TV history. Back in 1983 or so, WNEP actually aired a live car chase. The state police were chasing someone in NEPA. I've heard this referred to as the first televised car chase. Now, I doubt anyone is keeping track of who did the first car chase, but 1983 is early enough.

8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Howard, it was a stolen laundry truck chase in the Scranton area. It became known as the first chase televised live from a helicopter. In the early 80's, there weren't too many news helicopters.

If I recall correctly, Bob Reynolds was the reporter in the helicopter and WNEP's anchor in the studio was Frank Andrews. WNEP stayed with the chase for more than a half hour until the driver wound up stuck in a field.

The broadcast won WNEP an award from RTNDA.

9:32 PM  

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