Friday, August 04, 2006

A moment of clarity

This comment was posted in response to my last post. Between all the whining and complaining about local television news employees, past and present, I think this post sums up the real problem in this market. I've reposted it here, because you all need to read it.

Behind all the backbiting, bitching and complaining, one fact is lost. We got into this mess to be journalists. We just got lost along the way.

If it's not light and fluffy, if it will offend, if it truly matters, it doesn't get covered in this market.

In Scranton, the Public Works Director is being accused of using his department to pay political favors. The Mayor is directing him to appear before council. This may involve the mayor, since the favors allegedly were done for him. This could eventually topple the mayor.

Yet not a word from any of the three stations? Must not be "news worthy." Not even from "Lackawanna county's news source." No puppies, no murder, no airtime.

New sets, hunky reporters, personality clashes- they all make good fodder for social columns but aren't we supposed to be bringing news to the people?

The day political corruption in one of the larger cities in the state brings no attention from a news director is a sad day in this industry.

If a station exists to spoon-feed the public oatmeal, it should go black and instead, open a nursing home.

The sets, personalities and organizations like Nexstar are what make give TV news a bad name. The content of TV news is what confirms it.

Did we really go to school for four years, work like slaves as interns and accept peanuts so we deliver schlock to the masses?

"It's all in the past now,
money changes everything."

29 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right answer, wrong reasoning.

It's certainly about making money. It's also about lack of money.

We talk about how dominant WNEP is with its 32 share. Hell, 20 years ago WNEP had a 35 RATING at 6:00 p.m. That's right: at six o'clock Monday-through-Friday ONE-THIRD OF ALL THE TVs IN 21 COUNTIES WERE WATCHING "NEWSWATCH 16." WBRE and WYOU were 2nd and 3rd, but drew respectable (and salable) numbers.

And don't give me the "That was in the days before cable" argument. This is the market that invented cable: we were 75% wired even back then.

What happened was the explosion of news and entertainment choices. True, first it was cable: and you could get news from CNN, weather from TWC and sports from ESPN without waiting for 6 or 11. Then it was the internet. And don't forget the kiddies playing videogames, Mom watching Emeril and Dad sneaking a look at porn.

In short order more media were competing for fewer eyeballs.

Broadcasting is still a good way to make money: just not the obscene amounts made in the old days.

And over the years the day of the pioneering broadcasters (many stations were family owned) came and went. Stations today are owned by money men (and women), and whatever name they have for the company ends in "LLC" or the like.

Any of these TV owners actually live in their communities anymore? Any of them have to face local business leaders at the Rotary luncheon anymore? Any of THEM know how to pronounce "Throop?"

It's 24/7 "Show Me the Money." And if you can't make it the way you did 20 years ago, how about you find new ways to save it today?

Let’s do more news, and let’s do it with fewer people. Let’s save money by hiring inexperienced people and giving them equipment that’s on its last legs. Let’s come up with “creative” ways to trim the budget (the Nexstar duo dropped the AP wire to save a couple bucks).

16, 22, 28: how many reporters on the street in this market when they were doing three or four half-hour newscasts each weekday? How many reporters today? How many newscasts today?

No one set out to do fluff news. Everyone wants to do better, tries to do better, hopes to do better. But the pressure is on: fill those newscasts, get viewers, do what it takes. It's easier (and less time-consuming) to race to the scene of the fender-bender than it is to stake out the mayor's office for four hours waiting to ask him the tough questions.

IF the stations had a commitment to the community, and IF they were willing to defer just a bit more of their profits to news and IF they paid enough so the brightest young minds were clamoring to get into broadcast journalism like the old days and IF THE AUDIENCE DEMANDED MORE FROM LOCAL NEWS THAN FOOTAGE OF THE WATER-SKIING SQUIRREL, things would get better.

And if frogs had wings they wouldn't whomp their asses every time they land.

Bealsie, your poster makes it sound as if the local stations do crap because they want to do crap. I contend that they do crap because it’s the best they can do under crappy conditions.

We're not worried about offending viewers: we're worried about offending the people who sign the pay checks. They'll let us do anything we we want as long as we make the nut each month.

It ain't what we thought it would be, is it?

9:05 AM  
Blogger Phil Rizzuto said...

Well done.

If any local kids are going to school to get in the news game look what you'll be reporting. The local stations are becoming repeats of previous years.

How often when a Red Barons game and concert fall on the same day is that a top story? But when the Mayor of Scranton could be in some trouble there's no mention of it.

Is it possible for any news to reported? Or will area local news be all fluff all the time?

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Journalism takes a back seat to entertainment with the blessing of management at all the stations. I think the last journalist standing was Bob Absher at WNEP. Even he gave up.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We cannot make good news out of bad practice.
Edward R. Murrow

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This market is a ball buster to cover. Okay, let's do a council meeting in Scranton. What's that noise I hear? Oh, I know. It's all those people in Lycoming County clicking to another channel. That's why you get puppies and ducks and water skiing squirrels.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It ain't what we thought it would be, is it?

It sure as hell isn't. Sadly, it's no different in any other market in the country. Our pathetic state here simply reflects the state of the industry nationwide. And it explains why local news gets lampooned so often.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You all are forgetting the obvious.
Viewers, a majority, not you who are all "high and mighty journalists", don't want to hear how corrupt and crappy their home town is.
And if the viewers don't wath, the stations don't make money.
Numbers are decreasing for stations that actually do news in the country. Investigative stations are in 3rd place because they care, but viewers don;t.
So don't get all high and mighty...remember, we SERVE the public. They want the water skiing squirrel and the panda's birthday.
Blame them.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've been talking about "we" as in TV broadcasters. Let's expand it to "we" in the news business.

From what I've been told, twenty years ago Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties were served by five daily newspapers run by five distinct owsners. Today it's four by two (and in danger of dropping), right?

From what I've been told, twenty years ago both WARM and WILK had fulll-service, full-time newsrooms with competitive staffs, and other stations had at least a local news presence. How many people make a full-time living doing radio news in this market now? Bud Brown on WILK, right?

The viewers/readers/listerners get what they demand, and it looks as if they could care less.

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't it just a few months ago that WNEP's news director publicly apologized for using hand out video where the source wasn't identified? A story on a sex case arrest on 16 at noon today showed the man being hauled off by investigators last week near Philadelphia. Why would WNEP wait a week? Because the Attorney General's Office shot the video and just released it. 16 never told viewers. So much for honesty.

WBRE did the same thing at 6pm. Of course, 28 never apologizes for using P.R. stuff.

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WBRE did the same thing at 6pm. Of course, 28 never apologizes for using P.R. stuff.

6:36 PM


Oh, great! Another person that doesn't watch the noon.

11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a million thoughts on the matter, and not ashamed of one of them. But for now, let us acknowledge the buck, the buck is all it's about. The reason corporate America started gobbling up TV stations twenty-plus years ago is that owning a TV license was like owning a license to print money. Most of the pigs on the corporate level of this business are after quick and obscene profits, they care about nothing else. If you happen to do some news while they pile up the profits, great. The NYT may be, and I stress may be, the exception. Perry Sook is no more a broadcaster than the guy who fertilized your lawn yesterday. Sook is brilliant, savvy busines-wise, and about as greedy as they come. And he's winning.

12:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And the public wants what the public gets
But I dont get what this society wants"

Paul Weller

12:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Local tee vee outlets still think the path to success lies in imitating the "Today" show format, with its syrupy mixture of celebrity gossip, clowning around on a set that bespeaks of "E," on-air promotions and inane chit-chat among persons who more spokesperson for a business than they are actual honest-to-God journalists. Readers of print outlets and viewers of small-market tee vee outlets want LOCAL news. They don't want, nor need, the stupid chatter that now dominates the studio sets at airtime.
Try covering the news, all of it. And do it in a professional, timely fashion while leaving the silliness behind. Then see how viewers respond.

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Response to 2:30 p.m. anonymous:
Even if their hometown really is crappy, unlivable, nothing but a giant sheet of asphalt and concrete with weeds instead of gardens and soot instead of breathable air?
Come on, that's exactly what local TV stations ought to be focusing on.

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From what I've been told, twenty years ago both WARM and WILK had fulll-service, full-time newsrooms with competitive staffs,...

Set against the backdrop of their time, most all stations in this market had some sort of news presence. Arguably, WARM ran away with it, they were the biggest and the best. But that doesn't necessarily mean the public was better served. WARM did very little, maybe more like no, investigative reporting. The only investigative reporter WARM ever had was Kevin Jordan(and a great one at that)but he got bogged down in the day-to-day chasing of fire engines and police cruisers. It was typical for any given radio station to have a "news director" who was the sole employee of the station's "news department." Still, WARM probably had a 6-8 reporter/anchor news department at one time, which is more than some TV stations can boast right now. Plus, WARM wasn't pretending to cover over 20 counties, WARM was primarily concerned with Luzerne, Lackawanna, and to some extent, Wyoming Counties.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Positive Thinker said...

Everybody here keeps restating the obvious: TV news is not the beacon of truth and serving the public interest that it should be. It hasn't been so for the last 20 years. Scranton/W-B is no different than any other market in that. Murrow is dead, Mike Wallace is retiring, Dan Rather is spinning his wheels. It's 2006, this is what we face, so be it.

Blah, blah, blah...bitch and moan and bitch and moan again. The industry is not going to change. The people who work in local newsrooms aren't sitting around just jerkin' off all day, no matter what some of you think.

Maybe some of you could stalk the mayor of Scranton and post your interview in a blog, like the stuff Drudge pioneeered. Make your investigative journalism the start of a new local medium. You guys ready to commit to that? Probably not...

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The paper and tv stations aren't covering the "story" because there is no story. The mayor and the public works director did nothing illegal...the council crazies are stirring the pot. The next council meeting will be "must see tv" because the council crazies will be in full force. It's the best reality show on tv...the tragic part is these people are "for real" and take themselves seriously.

11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best damn radio anchor/newsguy in the Valley during the late 60's and early 70's was WARM's Terry McNulty...

That's when Susquehanna owned the operation and cared about their "local" product.

At WILK, Dave DeCosmo and John Bugby were a powerful one - two punch as well.

And folks... "money DOES change everything..."

12:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was looking through my college text books and read a line about the media determining how the readers see an issue and how it's our job to be objective in our reporting. A couple of words can have a tremendous effect on the public's perception of an issue.

Such is the case with the reporting in the Scranton area. It's easy to opinionate with one or two words.

For example, when certain council speakers are referred to as "crazies."

Consider, on the other hand, those nutjob union construction guys who were paraded before council prior to the election, praising the mayor with scripted love letters. After the election, they disappeared.

Now, the work on the new restaurant in the parking garage is allegedly being done by non-union workers.

Classic.

Perhaps the readers should be given the chance to decide if the complaints of the people who live in a neighborhood and saw political favors being handed out, were told political favors were being handed out and were called crazies when they complained to council about an alleged political favor, are real.

The people do have a right to know whether their government is using their tax monies to support the campaigns of elected officials. This is the kind of investigating newspapers are supposed to do. At least that's what they taught in my JN130 class.

It's amazing how some people who complain are "crazies" and some are the mayor's "supporters."

Who decides the difference between crazies and citizens exercising their first amendment right to redress grievances with their government?

Apparently it has something to do with who you support.

Want a classic example of what is wrong with a one-newspaper city? Want a classic example of what happens in a democracy when the media loses its objectivity and gets in bed with the people it is supposed to watch over.

Well, come on down to Scranton and bring fifty cents.

Just don't complain.

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terry McNulty is a nice guy but we all make mistakes ;-)
WARM had a bad habit of hearing something on the police scanner and rushing it to air as breaking news without getting the information confirmed.
One day Terry heard scanner talk about a nursing home being evacuated and the injured being laid on on the front lawn. He aired it. Turns out what he didn't hear that it was just a drill LOL

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terry McNulty was also, once upon a time, the de facto emcee for WNEP's Labor Day Telethon. After Terry, Jim Ward pretty much assumed the role. Interesting how WNEP at one time distanced their on-air people from the begging...

2:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's state the obvious... we all choose to be in this industry. No one is holding a gun to your head, even if you did sign a contract. If you can't take it... get out!

6:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That Terry story is not only a classic, it's 100% true. Your facts as to what and where things happened might need a bit of tweaking, but he did rush to air with what amounted to an emergency drill, and not an actual emergency.

For my money(and I did like Terry), Ray Magwyre was the consumate radio newsman; sensational baritone pipes without equal, a marvelous and clever writer, the ability to take you from tears to laughter in the same sentence with his voice and delivery, and one hell of a nice guy on top of that. Just one extremely talented man who, and I'm not the only one who believes this, should have been in NYC, Chicago, LA, or anchoring network radio.

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops. Confirm, confirm and then confirm again.

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WNEP always used on air people to beg for money on telethons, but that meant Miss Judy, Uncle Ted, John Glawe, Manny Gordon, Jim Ward, PM Magazine hosts and others who weren't news anchors and reporters. Those in the news department appeared on the telethons, but mostly did interviews or offered taped stories.

Over the years, "Bowling for Dollars", "Hatchy Milatchy", etc., went off the air and almost every local program on 16 is now news.

There's Don Jacobs from the outdoors show, but few other personalities aren't part of the news department. That means news people do the begging and WNEP management ignores the ethical issues.

11:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WHAts with all of 16's live phoners including Sarah B. @ noon for the dead body found in Clarks Summit. 2 phoners at noon on the ground, yet 16 in the air? Why dont they go live?

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many times does Mike Lewis has to say "tonight" during the 11 p.m. newscast. Has anyone noticed? Count how many time he says, "tonight."

LEWIS: "A car crashed here 'tonight' on the Scranton Expressway. Police say tonight that one person was taken to a hospital. No word on the person's condition 'tonight.'

In other news 'tonight,' the Dunmore fire department is fighting to get its bench back 'tonight.' It seems council 'tonight' took it away when some people in the community believed it made the firefighers lazy. No word from the fire department 'tonight.'

Hey, how about we go in the back yard and see what's happening 'tonight.' Tom Clark is in the back yard 'tonight' where it's hot and humid. Hey Tom, how you doin' 'tonight."

CLARK: Hi Mike. Man, it sure is hot out here 'tonight.' Back to you Mike.

LEWIS: Thanks Tom. Here's what you'll see later 'tonight' on WNEP.

"blah, blah, blah, blah"

COMMERCIAL

LEWIS: Ok, welcome back 'tonight" yada, yada, yada

LEWIS: Good night.

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two questions about the Citizen's Voice:

One, why do they still have a Vince Sweeney in the WBRE Weatherpeople picture on page two?

Two, why doesn't their television columnist know about the new man WBRE hired to do weather? I thought they were on the same team, yet Geri Ann does not seem to know about the hire. Sounds like she did not get the company memo on that, or never bothered to make a phone call.

12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regards to:

It ain't what we thought it would be, is it?

It sure as hell isn't. Sadly, it's no different in any other market in the country. Our pathetic state here simply reflects the state of the industry nationwide. And it explains why local news gets lampooned so often.

1:13 PM

That's why I'm out.

3:31 PM  

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