Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Who's really "on your side?"

Despite the demise of beat reporting in this market, the consumer reporting beat is still active, with good reason. It's definitely one of the most-popular things among viewers; it gets results. Businesses are more likely to see things the consumer's way once a TV station gets involved and starts asking questions. Admittedly, I've even turned to calling a company's PR department and identifying myself as a reporter, if the usual "talk to someone in a call center" method goes nowhere.

So, who's really getting results for you? If you ask me, it's not WNEP, the station that pioneered consumer reporting in this market. I've seen quite a few "Action 16" segments, and it's nothing but product tests and rip-and-read stories from the wires. It's quite a big change from when Bill O'Reilly was getting "thank you" signs hammered onto telephone poles in Scranton. You might as well call it "Inaction 16."

WBRE, surprisingly, has taken the consumer reporting format, and made it work. Since they revived the format around 2000, they've relied heavily on complaints from everyday people. You tell WBRE about that car dealership that sold you a lemon, and they'll go to the dealership and ask questions. You get the problem resolved, and WBRE turns around and makes it into a "Look at the results we're getting for you" promo. Everyone wins.

What WBRE does with consumer reporting is a perfect example of how the beat should work, and is the only time when the station's "On Your Side" slogan makes perfect sense. It's also the only time that WNEP should actually look at WBRE, and ask, "Why aren't we doing what they're doing?"

MIA no more

The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Who won?

This has certainly been an interesting week for our three local news stations. The first major winter storm of the season came thundering in, and by the time it was over, it was traffic mayhem all over the place. From stranded drivers to piled-high snow, each station went all out.

It's hard to say which station owned the snow coverage, as each had its high points and low points:

WNEP had reporters and photographers stationed all over the place, and Skycam was flying high over the closed interstates. Clearly, a good effort that reached all corners of the market. But at times, WNEP forgot something important: this storm isn't about what some talking-head official thinks, it's all about the everyday people who are getting screwed by the storm.

WBRE and WYOU really surprised me. Both stations seemed to be in the right place, at the right time, when all hell broke loose on the interstates, to the point that they ended up catching the market's longtime leader off guard. But when you see the station's meteorologist and anchor making snow angels on the station roof, it really cuts at the credibility behind the coverage.

Overall, all three stations did a good job this week. I just hope that, when the next major storm rolls in, everyone will leave the snow angels and "French Toast" stories in the newsroom wastebasket, where it belongs.

Now it's your turn to stand on the soapbox. Hit the comment button, or shoot me an e-mail about your thoughts on the snow storm coverage.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How a newsroom makes french toast...

Snow storms are some of the best things to happen in television news. Why? It's an easy story to cover -- just have your meteorologist make their predictions, and then send the reporters out to the grocery store to see if anyone has ransacked the bread and dairy aisles. It's the typical tried-and-true crutch formula, so much so that one former news director refered to it as "french toast weather."

To be fair, you can only cover a snow storm so many ways. But I couldn't help but roll my eyes when I saw everyone go on bread, egg, and milk patrol. Yes, we know, some people stock up on food during an impending storm. Why should the viewers care? Were any of them hoping to make french toast tonight or tomorrow?

That said, let's see what each station is predicting when it comes to snow:

  • WNEP: Up to 16" in northern PA, up to 12" in central PA, up to 8" in southern PA
  • WBRE: Up to 20" in northern PA, up to 15" in central PA, up to 10" in southern PA
  • WYOU: Up to 16" in northern PA, up to 13" in central PA, up to 7" in southern PA

    WBRE seems to be more liberal in its predictions, while the other two are holding back a bit. Either way, the difference doesn't appear to be that drastic, so it's not as if one station is going out on a limb with a drastically-different forecast.

    We'll see who's right tomorrow night. Until then, enjoy all the news stories originating from your local supermarkets or PennDOT sheds!
  • Saturday, February 10, 2007

    WNEP news director heading to Harrisburg

    Several tipsters report WNEP news director Dennis Fisher is leaving the station for the news director's job at Harrisburg ABC affiliate WHTM. Perhaps he doesn't want to stick around and wait to see what happens to WNEP under its new owners?

    (If you have a copy of the memo announcing Fisher's departure, please forward it to me.)

    Beat down

    It seems a rolling camera doesn't stop some people from trying to kick the crap out of a reporter. Here's your latest proof of the phenomenon, where a business owner attacks a Canadian journalist. But unlike another well-known attack on a reporter, this one ends up with a FREAKING SWAT TEAM.

    Reporters and photographers in this market have had their fair share of shoves, pushes, and thrown microphones. But sometimes, things have gotten very physical, such as when a WNEP photographer was attacked while covering a story three years ago.

    Friday, February 09, 2007

    Online musings

    Here's something I discovered by accident: PAHomePage.com will allow you to customize the layout of the website to your personal preference. If you click and drag on the heading bars, like the community calendar, you can drag things around. Check out this before and after picture to see what I mean. I don't know if this is a feature or a mistake, but if you've ever wanted to arrange section categories for the classifieds and the community calendar, this is your chance!

    A reader also notes that people don't seem to be interested in the polls on PAHomePage.com...

    The new (and "improved"?) PaHomePage.com features the "WYOU Interactive Web Poll." Tuesday's question, "Do you think your car insurance rates are too high?" OK, I'll play along, so I click "YES," and I get a results page: As I write this, 77.78% say "YES" (to be expected) and 22.22% say "NO."

    But get this: that's SEVEN "YES" votes and TWO "NOs." That's right--a total of NINE %$^%$ VOTES!

    This person's point?

    A: it seems the polls are useless to measure public opinion if only a handful of people are voting

    B: if nobody's voting, is anybody watching?

    Well, given the elderly demographics of this area (and state), I think Mr. and Mrs. John Public would rather deal with rabbit ears than a cable modem.

    Thursday, February 08, 2007

    Mini Bites

  • How far will WBRE go for a story? How about Binghamton, New York. I understand this is just another angle on the Scranton smoking ban, as New York already bans smoking in public places, but it seems like a wasted trip. Oh, and the audio on that story is bad.

  • It looks like there's not enough room in Bradford County for two NBC affiliates. Comcast, which provides cable service to Towanda, is booting the NBC affiliate in nearby Elmira, New York, since Towanda viewers already get WBRE. What's more noteworty is that the article points out WETM is beating WBRE in their own market...at least when it comes to the 6 p.m. newscast.

  • Did you find a misspelled word on WNEP's website recently? Don't point it out on Talkback 16, as most posters there have no problem with a news organization misspelling words in its stories. These are probably also the same people who shrugged off WNEP's use of a video news release last year.
  • Friday, February 02, 2007


    Well, PAHomePage.com isn't even a week old, and it seems WBRE and WYOU have already screwed up the video on their website. Watch and listen to the following examples of crappy audio.

    Earlier video clips, like this one, sound fine, which makes me think someone decided to crank up the volume when they digitized those video clips, and then didn't check their work afterwards. Or maybe they didn't care.

    No editor, producer, or news director would let a story with such glaring glitches make it on-air, so why let the same bad quality end up on your website?

    Wikipedia picture whacked

    After yours truly pointed out that WNEP misattributed a Citizens' Voice picture of murdered gay pornographer Bryan Kocis in a story, the folks on Montage Mountain Road have suddenly dug up what appears to be a mugshot of him.

    Gone is the original picture that was taken from, and attributed to, Wikipedia. Well, not totally, but I'm sure those pictures will be yanked offline as well.

    It's not so much how WNEP sourced the picture, since some people have noted that the CV doesn't even say who took the picture, but it's the fact that WNEP relied on a sometimes-unreliable Internet encyclopedia for a crucial piece of a story. Someone in that newsroom got lazy.