Friday, September 29, 2006

Nexstar: Help us own more television stations!

After its retransmission fee fight earlier this year, Nexstar Broadcasting is moving on to bigger things. Commercials now in rotation on WBRE and WYOU direct viewers to this Nexstar-run website, urging them to help "preserve local TV" by telling their elected officials to support media consolidation and let companies, like Nexstar, own more than one station in a market.

Says company bigwigs, "Operating two stations gives companies like ours the ability to deliver another news voice to the market. It means more local news not less. It means more local jobs. It’s good for our community." Just look at everything WBRE and WYOU has done!

The FCC, however, admitted that media consolidation will hurt local TV news coverage. Just look at the memo the agency ordered destroyed. In short, viewers get more local news when they watch a locally-owned station.

As for the Wilkes-Barre duopoly, fundraisers and promotions doesn't hide the negatives. Until recently, WBRE and WYOU were essentially cut from the same template. Both stations even aired the same stories, often within seconds of each other. Let's not forget that both stations now simulcast their morning shows. Less local news, not more.

So much for delivering "another news voice to the market."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

NEPA negativity

If you ask Al Zobel, there's something about Wilkes-Barre and northeast Pennsylvania that breeds negativity. "After four years of it, I just couldn't do it anymore. It was pervasive throughout the community," the former WBRE/WYOU news director told the Wisconsin State Journal.

"I had an employee that was just always complaining and unhappy. I pulled him in and said, 'If it isn't working, if you're that unhappy, you should just go somewhere else. Life is too short.' And he looked at me and said, 'It would just be worse somewhere else.' And I said to myself, 'There you have it,'" said Zobel, who is now news director at WKOW in Madison.

Those of you who read this blog are no stranger to the negativity in this area. Many of the comments posted here (and even more that don't make it out of the moderation queue) complain about certain stations, and certain people. Why does this happen? I'm no psychiatrist, but let's face it, every profession has pissed-off people. Journalism seems to be full of it -- what, with the long hours, low pay, and idiotic management decisions.

I can't say much of the complaining isn't deserved, but at some point, you've got to ask yourself, "If I'm so miserable here, then why haven't I left?" I can think of a few people who either need to deal with their situations, or go find a job in public relations.

That said, show me a profession where nobody complains, and I'll eat my shoes (offer void everywhere).

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Comparing newscasts

Here's a look at what each station had in their first blocks at 11 tonight. If I missed anything, let me know...

  • Amber Alert
  • Bin Laden Dead?
  • Plains Twp. Crash
  • Archbald Arrest
  • Scranton Stabbing
  • Wilkes-Barre Demolition
  • Downs Syndrome Walk

  • Amber Alert
  • Bin Laden Dead?
  • Stroudsburg Fight
  • Scranton Stabbing
  • Plains Twp. Robbery
  • Dickson City Robbery
  • Fatal Luzerne Crash
  • Luzerne House Crash
  • Plains Twp. Crash
  • Sunbury Train Accident
  • Wilkes-Barre Demolition
  • Bloomsburg Fair Begins

    WNEP (newscast delayed an hour due to college football)
  • Amber Alert
  • Bloomsburg Fair Begins
  • Paterno's Stomach Bug
  • Wilkes-Barre Demolition
  • Plymouth Robbery
  • Missing Dog
  • Springbrook Twp. Crash
  • Archbald Accident Correction
  • PennDOT Memorial
  • Fatal Luzerne Crash
  • Sunbury Train Accident
  • Voting 101 Demo

    WYOU has traditionally had shorter first blocks, due mainly to its lack of staff. Things were different tonight, though, as they had the same story count at WNEP. But take a look at the story slugs for WYOU...accident, crash, robbery, stabbing. It reads like a police blotter, as if the stories were just thrown in there to take up space. That's not what I call a newscast that screams "WATCH ME."

    WBRE had the fewest stories of the three tonight. It didn't have the police blotter feel of WYOU's newscast, but the first block was pretty empty and bland. I wonder why?

    WNEP's newscast tended to bounce all over the place. "The Bloomsburg Fair began today!" "Joe Paterno could have the runs!" "Here's Ryan Leckey in a green shirt bouncing around Public Square!" You get the idea. The newscast definitely had a faster pace, which I like, but could we have some sensible story transitions? Is there logic in going from a robbery, to a missing dog, and back to a car crash?

    All three stations did immediately jump on the Amber Alert in Pittston.
  • Monday, September 18, 2006

    Sendoff from Jim Miller

    Jim Miller, WBRE's longtime sports anchorman, gives former co-worker Sid Michaels a sendoff in a letter to the editor in today's Times Leader...

    It saddens me that one of the great links emotionally to sports in Northeastern Pennsylvania has to be silenced by the ever-changing bottom line of television, but for those who know and care about Sid, he has made all of us richer for his work and more importantly his personality and touch in the sports world over the years.

    Miller retired from WBRE in the late 1990s after nearly two decades in Wilkes-Barre.

    More weather, more Mehalshick

    WYOU isn't the only station switching up its newscasts. WBRE is also making some changes to its finished product, albeit not as drastic as Dialing for News. For example:

  • "Field meteorologists," forecasters stationed throughout the market, ready to give a more-thorough five-day planner. Josh Hodell will stay in Wilkes-Barre, with Dave Skutnik in Scranton, and newcomers Brian Fitzgerald in East Stroudsburg, and Jeffrey Jumper hanging out in Williamsport.

  • More Andy Mehalshick. The station plans to have him do more reporting, which he did until he was promoted to replace Keith Martin, who left for a job as the state's homeland security boss. Viewers will see more of Mehalshick out in the field. As WBRE news director Ron Krisulevicz puts it, "A la Anderson Cooper on CNN."

    The idea of "field meteorologists" is a bit quirky. It's a great thing to have, when a severe storm or tornado tears through the area, because you have instant coverage at the affected places. But what about the so-so weather days? "It's sunny here in Wilkes-Barre! Dave?" "Josh, it's also sunny here in Scranton! Brian?" "Well Dave, it too is sunny in East Stroudsburg. How's it looking out there Jeffrey?" "Guys, you won't believe it, but it's sunny in Williamsport!"

    I'll give a mixed review to Andy Mehalshick's semi-return to reporting (since he'll keep his anchor seat), if only for the comparison to Anderson Cooper. This may surprise you, but network anchors are more about personality and inserting themselves into the story. Just look at Katie Couric's first week on the CBS Evening News. I don't care who is bringing me the news...I just want to know what's happening, and why I should care. I don't doubt that Mehalshick can do that, but WBRE, please don't promote him as an empty news personality whose presence injects any story with automatic newsworthiness.
  • Tuesday, September 12, 2006

    NYT selling WNEP, other stations

    WNEP is now for sale. The New York Times Company announced today it will sell its broadcast group, which includes the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton ABC affiliate and several other stations across the U.S. A tipster says general manager C. Lou Kirchen gathered employees today to break the news.

    Will a new owner mean big changes at WNEP? From experience, new owners do like to make sweeping changes with their just-purchased stations. We'll have to wait and see.

    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    Editorial: Dialing for News is cool

    So sayeth Casey Jones in the Times Leader. "The set is impressive," he writes, "The interactive call-in format is innovative. And the 'No Wait Weather' is, well, interesting."

    Now all that's left is for WYOU to remember that news also belongs in a newscast. Once they get that down, I think this format could go somewhere.

    New job for ousted WBRE weatherman

    Nearly one month after being fired, former WBRE weather forecaster Vince Sweeney has found a new job outside broadcasting. A press release says he's the new executive director of the Luzerne County SPCA, effective September 18.

    There's still no word on where his fellow fired counterpart, Jason Knapp, has ended up. A Google search turns up a same-named fellow doing wrestling play-by-play for College Sports TV, where former WBRE sports anchorman Adam Zucker is now working.

    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    Caught on tape

    A story from a Fox affiliate in San Diego has been making the rounds across newsrooms today. Why? Perhaps this will explain it...

    That's John Mattes, a reporter for XETV (Yes, the call letters are correct. The station is actually licensed in Tijuana, Mexico.), after he was attacked by an accused scammer. The man wasn't happy with Mattes' reporting on his identity fraud scheme, so he and his wife decided to drop in on Mattes during an interview. The result? Watch and see for yourself.

    Nothing like that has ever happened in this market, but we're not immune to shoves, pushes, and thrown microphones. Why someone would attack or harass a reporter while the camera is rolling...I don't know.

    Dialing for News: My Take

    Have you ever gone out to dinner, and realized you filled up on bread long before your meal came out? That feeling sums up my first impression of Dialing for News - or more formally, WYOU's "interactive" newscasts.

    Where's the news?

    The 11 p.m. show only had six news stories in the first block. Here's some voice overs, a soundbite, and a package about local students reacting to Katie Couric. Honestly, I felt cheated. Were those the only stories WYOU covered, or rewrote from WBRE's rundowns? Come on!


    Gone are the days where you had to wait until the end of the block for your weather...WYOU is throwing it at you STRAIGHT FROM THE GET-GO! And it's a good idea. Many studies will tell you that weather is the number one reason why people watch local news. Of course, if half of Scranton suddenly catches fire, I would hope WYOU lets "No Wait Weather" wait for a few minutes.

    Having viewers e-mail their weather-related pictures is also a good idea. Plenty of stations do this already, and it brings in more viewers, espcially those hoping to see the picture of the basketball-sized hail impacted in their Corvette's hood.


    The interview segments about Katie Couric were too long, and too boring. I realize Eric Scheiner isn't grilling a politician here, but "What did you think?" is as exciting a question as "White or wheat bread with your sandwich?" Rather than a glorified man-on-the-street interview, I'd rather see WYOU bring in local newsmakers and grill them on particular subjects.

    How about relevant people to speak with? The communications professor was a decent stab, but the other two - whom I believe were business owners - had nothing to say other than "Katie Couric is a woman making strides." I'll tell you who WYOU should have brought in on the panel: Debbie Dunleavy.

    The callers were somewhat predictable: "I like Katie," "Go Katie," "Whee Katie!" No duh. The highlights were Scheiner cutting off the talkative "Rose," and the self-described octogenarian who likely grew up watching Tom Powell and the Million Dollar Movie.


    I realize this is only the first day of Dialing for can only work with what you have, and it takes a while for new things to get running. But after watching tonight, I'm just not impressed. The local news content was thin, and the roundtable discussion made lumpy oatmeal seem appealing. Remember, if you take the news out of a newscast, you've got nothing to offer.

    But to be fair, it's too early to not give Dialing for News a chance.

    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    What's your take?

    I haven't had a chance to catch Dialing for News yet, so I'll be critiquing the 11 p.m. show. But for those of you who caught the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. broadcasts, what did you think? Feel free to post here with your thoughts of those two broadcasts, and I'll see you in two hours!

    Sunday, September 03, 2006

    The WDAU Review

    With all the talk of "interactive newscasts" at WYOU, it can be hard to imagine a time when the news was simple. No fancy graphics, gimmicks, promotions, or meddling consultants...just the news you wanted to know, and needed to know.

    That's why I'm pleased to offer a complete edition of the WDAU Review from December 1961. It was a promotional newsletter of sorts, much like the WNEP Extra newsletter mailed out last year. I believe WDAU sent this newsletter until the 1970s.

    What makes this edition such a valuable piece of local television history is a complete photographic roster of the employees at WDAU (and WGBI radio). From the anchors, to the directors, to the engineers, to the secretaries, and even the mailroom boy, it's all here.

    If you're on a modem, these images will take a while to load. Enjoy!

    (For those who don't koow, WYOU was formerly called WDAU.)

    Saturday, September 02, 2006

    A sneak peek at Dialing for News

    It looks like WYOU is giving us a sneak peek of what to expect with its Dialing for News format, scheduled to launch on Tuesday.

    First, we have a revamped website, which includes previews of Tuesday's "interactive" news segments on gambling and Katie Couric. Presumably, these "interactive" topics are where viewers will call in and ask questions. (So, it's like Larry King Live?) There's also No Wait Weather, where you can have weather forecaster Scott Stuccio say hello to your aged Aunt Mary during a forecast. (Like Willard Scott, except without the Smuckers endorsement.)

    Oh, and did I mention there's pictures of the revamped news set? This is the same set a tipster described as the Starship Enterprise. I don't quite see the resemblance, but perhaps you will. Note the phone bank behind the chairs, where I'm guessing people can call in to support Pennsylvania, ask questions about the discussion topic. There's also a giant plasma screen, where the anchor will stand. And if you didn't think you were watching WYOU, that weather set will clear up any confusion!

    The station's staff bios page has been appropriately updated. Well, they forgot reporter Laurie Monteforte and weekend weather forecaster Les Still.

    All that's left now is to see what happens on Tuesday...

    EDIT: Actually, it looks like WBRE traded Candice Grossklaus for Monteforte.

    Friday, September 01, 2006

    Mini Bites

  • With the blood-letting at Nexstar's Wilkes-Barre duopoly, WYOU managed to keep one of its reporters from jumping ship. A tipster says longtime newsman David DeCosmo was THIS CLOSE to quitting "because of a proposed crazy schedule," but "somehow things worked out."

  • Former WYOU sports anchorman Sid Michaels has left the business, again, for a PR job. He's now working for the state Senate Democratic Caucus.

  • Someone's getting a little out of control with their copy of Adobe Photoshop. A tipster says someone altered copies of Bloomsburg's Press Enterprise to make it look like a local businessman was accused of sex crimes, and mailed it to several businesses around Shamokin. Cops don't know who's behind it.