Sunday, December 26, 2004

Giving Credit

From Steve Tarter's column in the PJ Star

Media resolutions in 2005
1. TV Web sites: With the exception of WEEK-TV, Channel 25, it's a bad scene. WYZZ-TV, Channel 43's site was posting three-day-old headlines the last time I looked. WTVP-TV, Channel 47, needs to do a better job of telling people what's on. I know the station prints a monthly schedule, but that same information should be on its Web site. WTVP connects you to the PBS site for programming, but the national air dates don't always jibe with what the station runs.

He doesn't get credit by name, but props to my friend Glenn Woodard who runs the WEEK website and several others for Granite Broadcasting.. and of course to my former boss, Jim, who makes sure the news on there is... new.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Anchoring For Dummies - Well, Well, Well

I can't stand the overuse of the word "well." This is a "crutch" word which essentially replaces the sound "ummm." Drives me nuts. "Well"... I don't know what to say next and I can't stand even a nanosecond of silence, so I'll say "well." Oh well. Basically it's a symptom of lack of preparation or laziness in transitioning between stories. I know, because when I first started out, I leaned heavily on crutches like this one. But with concentration and work, they can be eliminated. I was far from perfect, but I made it a point to beat the crutch thing out of myself before I left Peoria the first time.

By the way, this isn't just a local thing. I've found in traveling around the country the past few years that you'll see it in every market, which is even more annoying. I think if you're being paid six or seven figures to deliver the news, the least you can do is not "ummm" your way through a newscast. And this is not to say that one doesn't need to use this kind of crutch on occasion, but 5, 6, 7 times a show is just not good.

Something I learned from a good friend in another market is to think: faster, slower, higher, lower. Hopefully, your anchor of choice is reading his/her scripts BEFORE the show. You should get a feel for the beginnings and ends of stories. You should consider: what tone should you be taking as you deliver that story and how does it differ from the next?

Then when it's time to read live, think faster, slower, higher lower. If you're reading a story that reads kind of slow... more down or matter of fact... transition with a change in tone and pace. So if its a lighter story, kick it up a notch to start. This gives your viewers an audio cue that you're changing stories. The only time I want to hear "well" is in the context of "he's in the hospital, but doing..." or as in "baby removed from..."

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Airwaves 2002 Team Photo

Airwaves 2002 Posted by Hello

Front Row: Kathy Topp, Randy Cook, Chris Anderson, Bill Fischer, Scott Barnes
Back Row: Jonathan Ahl, Amy Gehrt, Brad Burke, me, Beth Krug, Gina Morss, Angie Blasek

Introducing The Airwaves

In 2000, I started the Airwaves. It's a co-ed soccer team, originally made up of central Illinois media members, but has expanded to a bunch of people I've met through work. We play in the Peoria Park District outdoor league and the Morton Park District indoor league.

Over the past four years, we've had players from WEEK, WMBD, WHOI, WTVP, WCBU, WMBD radio and the Journal Star. Current team members who might be familiar to readers include Gina Morss, Jeff Muniz, Jonathan Ahl and Brad Burke. In the past we've had Laura Skirde, Kathy Topp, Josh Simon, Steve Gehlbach and Josh Kelly all strap on the shin guards. It's a lot of fun. Jonathan likes to describe it as a chance each week to be a kid again.

I will regularly update this blog with posts about how our team is doing as we've improved quite a bit since many of our former players have left the team or the market.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A Job Well Done

From Steve Tarter's column in the PJ Star

Arvid "Swede" Nelson retired last week from his position as master control operator on WEEK-TV, Channel 25.

We used to joke that Swede was just there and someone built a station around where he was working. Congrats to a nice guy on a wonderful career.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Getting Noticed

From Richard Huff's column in the New York Daily News.

Speaking of Ch. 4, give ace correspondent Aimee Nuzzo a hand for the way she reported on those newfangled lollipops that taste like marijuana.
"Qualified tasters say it tastes like the real thing," she said, over a clip of the two lickers.
"It tastes pretty ... yeah, it does, I swear to God," said one of the two unnamed tasters found in Ozone Park.
So here's the question: Exactly what are the parameters of being a "qualified taster" for pot-flavored pops, and how did Nuzzo check their credentials?

My friend Aimee is getting noticed.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A Class Act


Chicago area native KRISTYN HARTMAN has been named General Assignment Reporter for WBBM/CBS 2 Chicago. Hartman has served as per diem general assignment reporter for CBS 2 since September, 2004. Before joining CBS 2, Hartman served as anchor/reporter for WCCB-TV in Charlotte, NC (2001-2004). Prior to that, she worked for KTVK-TV in Phoenix, AZ as a reporter (1997-2000) and at WMBD-TV in Peoria, IL as an anchor/reporter (1993-1997). She began her broadcasting career at KSNF-TV in Joplin, MO as an anchor/reporter in 1993. Hartman graduated from the school of communication at Northwestern University in 1992. She lives in Chicago with her husband. In her spare time Hartman enjoys reading and cooking.

Congratuations to a talented reporter and good person. Kristyn was the 5PM anchor at WMBD when I first started. You knew she was going to go far, not just because she was talented, but because she was always pushing herself. Before I started getting fill in work, she came in on a weekend (as a favor to me) to cut an anchor audition, so I would have the on set interaction segments that news directors look for on resume tapes. I wouldn't be suprised to see her start filling in on the anchor desk up there in the near future.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Holding Your Tongue

From Steve Tarter's column in the PJ Star

Amy Paul, news anchor on WMBD-TV, Channel 31, has a suggestion for viewers with programming complaints: Call during the day. "There are about four of us there trying to work on the 10 p.m. news, and people are complaining about 'why is Billy Graham on,' and they accuse us of changing programs because of a political agenda," she said. "There is no one in authority to complain about programming, commercials or network cut-ins after 5 p.m. I think people would be interested to know that there is only a handful of people working at each TV (and radio) station after 6 p.m. If they want results, they should wait until normal business hours to call," Paul said.

Amy got to vent frustration that just about everyone in working in TV news has had to deal with at one time or another. The problem is some people just don't care. They don't. These are probably the same people who complain that you're interrupting their "show" with information about a tornado coming through the area. They're basically saying, "I don't care if I bite it, I want to see who got voted off!"

I especially used to love when people would call and scream at me about something they saw... on another channel. I always handled these calls politely, (unless they started using foul language) but when someone called to complain about another station, I always wanted to say "I'm sorry, if McDonald's screws up your hamburger, do you take it out on Burger King?"

After my wife announced she was pregnant with our first, she filled in on the anchor desk one night wearing khaki pants. One woman e-mailed and called complaining about how she didn't want to see Shannon's belly and how horribly unprofessional my wife was. What that woman needed was glasses and to count to ten. Some people just yell to hear themselves... but if you work in television it comes with the territory.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Old Newscasters Never Leave... They Just Go Corporate

If you work in television, leave, but stay in the market, people do remember you. I left broadcast TV in 2001 and it still happens, like at dinner the other night. The most common statements/questions I get (and my answers) are some forms of the following:

1. "We miss you on the news." To which I very genuinely reply, "thank you." It means a lot that people appreciated my work.

2. "Do you miss it?" Some days, sure. But the stories that are most important to me now are the ones I read to my kids before they go to bed. I miss doing features and producing/anchoring a show. I don't miss working nights, weekends and holidays, nor do I miss talking to people after they've experienced personal loss.

3. "Would I go back?" I’ll never say never, but the truth is, as much as I enjoyed working in television, it would be difficult. I now work at a Fortune 500 company that offers all I need to raise a family and more. And unless you’re a frontline anchor or in sales, the money isn't great. My first reporting job paid $400 a week. Plus, if you’re a frontliner, generally that means working till 11 PM. (Yes, I know money is better in bigger markets, but the cost of living is much higher too. I have the best of both worlds here and now.)

4. "Whatever happened to (so and so)?" If I know the answer, I will share it.

5. 'What is (so and so) like?" Like any business, there are genuinely nice people and there are others. I won’t lie, but I won’t say anything negative when asked this question.

Remember what MacArthur said about old soldiers? Old newscasters never leave... they just go corporate. From the people who've left local TV for marketing communications/public affairs positions at the two Fortune 500 companies in this market, you could have yourself one heck of a newsroom. You just couldn't afford it based on the budgets the three affiliate news directors get to work with.