Saturday, June 16, 2007

Grading the Video: WBRE

What separates television from all other forms of broadcast media is its ability to use great video to tell or enhance a story. Listening to a story about a big fire isn't the same as watching the flames for yourself. If it wasn't for video, television would be radio! Alright, that's a dumb saying, but you get my point: great video is what makes television news.

I bring this up because a blog reader e-mailed me to point out the poor video seen on all three stations in this area. This person stated the quality of video was gradually going downhill across the board, so I decided to check for myself. Tonight, I watched WBRE's 11 p.m. newscast to judge its video. Here's my notes on the video used for each local story (this doesn't include video shot by other sources, i.e. national video).

Scranton Immigration Rally
The video was OK, as it was really just a bunch of people standing around, holding signs. But what made this stand out was the use of different soundbites to show how pissed off each side was. Final grade: B+

Story about some drunk guy
Like any crime story, this one included the requisite perp walk of the guy. It also included what looked like file video of the crime scene in question. It was pretty boring; here's a shot of two state troopers standing on a road, and here's a shot of something on the side of the road. Final grade: C

Another story about some guy in trouble
Same as above: requisite perp walk, and then a file video shot of an ambulance driving away. It doesn't tell me a lot about the story. Final grade: C

Pool Vandalism
It's a story about vandalism, and yes, we do see video of what the vandals did. From graffiti to damaged soda machines, the video really complimented the story. Final grade: A

Martz K9
For a story that mentions police officers patting down people at the Martz bus terminal in downtown Wilkes-Barre, I sure didn't see any video of said officers patting down said people. All you see are the cops, their dog, and a bus pulling away. Final grade: C

Filthy Animal House (with special guest appearance by Vince Sweeney!)
I would've loved to have seen the inside of this apparent hellhole, but I imagine the police didn't want any TV photographers in there. So we get the next best thing: people in hazmat suits carrying cats out of a filthy house that's been roped off. It gives you a great image of just how bad the inside was. Vince didn't want it to be like this! Final grade: A

McKinney Jobs Lost
Eh, this video was nothing home to write about. You see an outside shot of the building, but you do see the fired employees hugging each other in emotion. Final grade: B-

Call Center
This is a PERFECT example of the "wallpaper video" phenomenon. The term is used to describe video that doesn't add anything to the story. It's there for the sake of being there, like plain white wallpaper. This video showed boring shots of a call center, and the sign outside the call center. Final grade: F

Pharmaceutical Plant
More wallpaper video! Did this story really require the viewer see some shots of this plant's sign? Final grade: F

Octane Gas
The story mentions gas, and we see people pumping gas. Can't do better than that. Final grade: B

Make a Difference
The video in this story seemed blurry to me, which detracted from the story itself, which was really just a bunch of people at a college doing some sort of bonding experiments. At least we saw something more than just a bunch of people sitting around. Final grade: C+

Oh boy, more wallpaper video. Here's a shot of downtown Stroudsburg, here's a close-up shot of a clock tower, here's another shot of downtown Stroudsburg, here's another close-up shot of a clock tower. Final grade: D

Movies In the Park
Plenty of people were in the park, watching movies with their families, eating popcorn, all that good stuff. The video captured it. Final grade: B

Tomorrow, I'll take a look at the video in WNEP and WYOU's newscasts. Until then, discuss the results of my review amongst yourself!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How long have we been shooting tape in this market? Since the early 70s, right?

Imagine, all those years and Cholly Hayes has never once white-balanced. Must be a record.

7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cant't believe WBRE had Vince Sweeney on their newscast.

I think this is the first time Vince was mentioned on WBRE since he took over at the SPCA.

I believe WNEP interviewed Vince a about six or eight times regarding the SPCA.

Maybe the animosity WBRE has for Vince is starting to fade.

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that like his "No-Fly Zone" this space has become a
"No Zobel Zone"--no overt bashing of Al Zobel.

EXCEPT--no one at WBRE had a problem with Vince until Zobel started on his "But he's not a meteorologist" kick. Zobel poisoned the top brass (Herbster and Dittmeier) against Vince, and the situation deteriorated from there.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Howard Beale said...

I know that like his "No-Fly Zone" this space has become a
"No Zobel Zone"--no overt bashing of Al Zobel.

I don't mind criticism of Al Zobel, but what I do mind is when said criticism completely derails the original conversation. Let's not let that happen in this post, OK?

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone noticed how bad the video is coming from channel 50? Studio stuff is ok---but the field work looks washed out--too hot or fuzzy---
I guess it's true what they say: junk in--junk out

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The point being missed here is that Sweeney's been gone from WBRE for almost one full year, yet he can easily become the focus of any given conversation regarding local television. Has any other individual ever had that kind of impact on this market? My guess is, no, no they have not. Obviously, Howard, even mentioning the guy turns any thread in his direction. Remarkable, don't you think?

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Obviously, Howard, even mentioning the guy turns any thread in his direction. Remarkable, don't you think?"

Not all that remarkable when you consider that it's one person inserting a mention of Vince into every possible thread here, hoping to stir the pot.

Sure, Vince remains popular. Sure, you can go up to anyone on the street and get a favorable comment, just as you would if you ask someone in Public Square, "Do You Love the Baby Jesus?"

Vince was the most popular personality on an unpopular, unwatched, and (often) unwatchable station. So? Get over it.

Now can we get back to talking about news shooters?

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One former ND had the balls to challenge the conventional wisdom of the vast majority of shooters here by mandating the use of tripods. Seems reasonable, right?

Next he banned all pans and tilts 'cause your eye doesn't do that naturally. Maybe I'm just gifted but, my eyes can scan a scene without having to move my head.

Not every idea can be a home run.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Howard I'm confused...are you making an attempt at critiquing video according to qualtiy (chroma, hue, video-levels), or the content (people and places we see). All due respect it seems you're confused, too. Maybe judging the source (story) would make more sense considering the angle you're taking.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:50 PM,
Vince was mentioned in the original post by Howard regarding a SPCA story.

I do not recall WBRE doing any prior interviews with Vince in his role as executive director of the SPCA since he took over. I have seen WNEP interview Vince several times over the past year.

I think Vince has been mentioned by more then one person regarding his unjust firing by WBRE over the past year.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With banning pans and tilts don't you effectively turn a newscast into well... a slideshow?

12:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mandating the use of tripods because no photog at WBRE could hold a steady shot!

And, it wasn't the pan, it was the slow zoom. I didn't know your eyes could zoom. You must be special, Cholly.

8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 8:43pm,

Thanks for reminding me. The zoom was also out as far as he was concerned. Along with the pan and tilt, in case you don't remember. All were taboo, unless you were Larry Neff.

As for my zooming eyes, I don't think I'm special, but, I can view a full crowd and still "zoom in" on a subject...especially if it's a pretty girl. Can't you?

Finally, thank God I'm not Cholly or I'd have a complex by now.

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the love affair with shooting street signs and police uniform shoulder patches?

8:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What's the love affair with shooting street signs and police uniform shoulder patches?"

8:32 PM

When you're always last to the scene of the spot news, apparently you shoot what's left.

7:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you know maybe some of these great photogs should consult the NPPA handbook.....use the tripod, and pan and tilt ONLY to follow action. with these two rules followed you can still create great video. take a look at any of my stuff, or go to to see examples. what it comes down to is don't be lazy when shooting.

2:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Is all your mdestly fantastic stuff listed as "anonymous"? For when I go to check out your award winning examples.

7:52 AM  

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