Monday, February 28, 2005

A New Infomercial

So I've been over the flu for exactly a week. But since then, I've picked up the worst cough I've ever had. All my stomach muscles hurt... like I've been doing hours on end on that stupid Ab Roller I bought that I', guessing is sitting somewhere in Steve Scheuer's basement (how bout them apples? - just FYI, it didn't work for either of us).

But I can see it now... cough your way to six pack abs in just ten days.

"Don't Be Like That"

The rumor post reminded me of a funny story...

I don't know if the person I'm telling the story about reads this blog, if she even remembers this or would take offense, so I'll leave her name out. If she doesn't care and posts a comment to that effect, I'll share her name.

I'm pretty sure it was Jerry Warfield's going away party. The big group of people started at one bar, then decided to head off to Sully's. Shannon couldn't get out that night, by the way. So "this female TV person" and I are the first to arrive at Sully's and we're chit chatting over a beer when someone recognizes me... looks at her... recognizes that she's not Shannon... then says to me something to the effect of "oh come on now... don't be like that."

Liza Is Staying

Liza Danver checks in with Jeff's blog to let people know she's not leaving. Rumors can be kind of annoying. I think Amy went through something similar once after her tape cycled through and showed up on Today's Talent on Medialine.

This is the nature of television. Everyone is in each others'... stuff. All sorts of rumors flew when I auditioned at WHOI. The truth was my former agent worked with Rebecca to hash out a new deal. Rebecca and I are good friends and I thought it would have been a blast to co-anchor with her. I wasn't sure if going back to TV was for me, but I knew Amanda as she had played on my soccer team. She was good enough to let me give it a shot before they eventually hired Paul. But people will talk and that's to be expected. Comes with the territory.

So Liza is staying, but (just my two cents) from what I've seen, she's probably got a strong enough tape to make a good jump as a reporter. I think she'd be a good addition to the weekend team.

Not that I think this is going to happen, but (I'm pretty sure) WMBD's last two main female anchors (Shelli and Amy) went to Ohio University... where Liza went to school. Coincidence? Hmmmm.

(For those of you lacking a sense of humor, that last part was supposed to be a joke about how rumors get started. I think Liza will eventually move on to another market.)

There Goes John

Here's an interesting former MARKET 117 story.

I worked with John Sanders at WMBD in 97. He was the promotions producer. John had come here from a bigger market, Raleigh, NC... where he had worked as a reporter. Which at the time to be honest, seemed kind of backwards to me. Not because I don't respect what a good promotions producer can do, because I love well done promo campaigns.

But as someone who was working towards doing what he was doing in a market that size, it just didn't make sense. Especially since John's reporter tape kicked butt. He was a solid reporter, strong live etc. But he was just tired of, as he writes, "living my life in a constant state of emergency."

John moved on to promotions in Cincinnati then traveled the world for a while... thus was born the website theregoesjohn.com

I had dinner with him at MacGregor's... I think it was about a year and a half ago. Funny, but when John left Peoria, Shannon and I were dating long distance... when he got back for a visit we were married with kids.

Looks like he has rejoined the working world... but he had quite an adventure. John shared photos from his trip when I saw him... terrific photographer by the way. Check out his site if you get a chance.

Oscar Night Thoughts

If you're new to the blog, Shannon and I used to work with Dina, Clint Eastwood's wife... so it was really neat for us to watch and see her reaction when Million Dollar Baby won several awards.

Props to Amanda for bringing in the main team on what was probably WHOI's biggest captive audience of the year.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Congrats to Jeff and Bliss Muniz

Mary Katelin Muniz was born this weekend. Talked to Dad just a moment ago. He and Mom are doing well.

Jeff has had a chance the past few years when we would occasionally do dinner for Monday Night Football... to see the fun and not-so-fun kids moments, courtesy of mine. Welcome to the club, Jeff... it is the best!

Beginings and Endings

Oscar season is, oddly enough, very connected to my time in Peoria.

I was at Heritage Buick Mazda getting work done on my Miata in early 1996. Still unsure of whether this was the right move, I was watching TV in the waiting room and there it was... the fruits of my labor. After spending the previous six months working on the Miramax Academy Awards campaign, the movies and actors I was pushing were getting recognized with nominations.

This is from an AP article that year:
In order for a film to be considered in the Academy's foreign-language category,
it has to be officially submitted by the country of origin, and Italy elected to
enter another film last year, "L'America." "The Postman," however, is eligible
for best picture (and best actor, director, and so on) in this year's race
because it was released in the United States in 1995. Miramax must thus convince
Oscar voters their instincts are wrong -- "The Postman" should not be treated as
the foreign-language film it is. "We are having to run an explaining campaign,"
says Marcy Granata, Miramax's executive vice president of marketing and
publicity. "The challenge is to tell people, 'We know you love the movie, but
the category you think it's in, it's not.' " To bolster the Academy campaign,
Miramax sent voters "Postman" videocassettes remarkably early, before
Thanksgiving. The company also solicited favorable advertising quotes from some
unlikely critics: renowned authors John Updike, William Styron, Kurt Vonnegut,
Oscar Hijuelos, Isabelle Allende and Taylor Branch. The movie about poet Pablo
Neruda and his daydreaming mail carrier faces long -- but not insurmountable --
odds. Four foreign-language films previously earned best-picture nominations:
1937's "Grand Illusion," 1969's "Z," 1971's "The Emigrants" and 1972's "Cries
and Whispers." None of them won.
I was one of the people doing the "telling." That morning, I felt like my mission was accomplished so to speak and it was time to embrace the new challenge.

My last night at WEEK was also Academy Awards night... 2001. As I mentioned in a previous post, even Gina was off that night hosting her annual Oscar party. New adventures were again on the horizon.

6 Degrees Of Oscar Separation

Tonight is Oscar night. The Pantagraph does a fun quiz about Oscar and Bloomington/Normal.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Now That's Timing

Jenny Li just shared that Jeff Muniz will be leaving the show early tonight because his wife just went into labor. Good luck to Jeff and Bliss! Your real adventure is about to begin!

Update: Had to make dinner for the kids. Basically that means throwing pizzas in the oven.

Seeing the interaction between Jeff and Jenny, and Jenny and Marc's subsequent reactions after he left... brought me back. When Shannon was pregnant with our first, we only told immediate family until Father's Day 2000. That day, she and then photographer Steve Gehlbach shot a Father's Day story. In an interview with her dad, he revealed some thoughts about being exited to be a grandpa. So Steve knew.

Shannon used that soundbite to end her package at 6... and as it ran, the director dissolved out to me and a stunned Gina Morss on the verge of joyful tears. It was a fun way for us to make an announcement to our "extended family" who were also able to follow along with "Pregnant For A Day" that Josh Simon and I did and eventually the birth itself in January of 2001. Fittingly, it was Steve and Josh who came to the hospital to get video.

Spent The Afternoon In Bloomington

An IHSA soccer rules meeting was held at Bloomington High School today. It's a busy time of year for me. As if home and work doesn't keep me busy enough, this is the start of soccer season. This is my second year coaching the Pekin Girls Soccer team. Last year we won the most games ever in a season for the program (six) which isn't a lot, but considering the team averaged three wins a year the previous five seasons, it was a great first step.

A Nice Tribute

Just finished watching the 30 minute special honoring Rollie Keith. A nice tribute to man who touched many in the area.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Secret To Getting On TV

See the second item of Bill Flick's Friday (2/25) column. Shannon loves many of the TLC shows. Tonight at 8:00, "What Not To Wear" will feature someone from State Farm.

We play what not to wear on occasion... just before going out. Shannon will say "is that what you're wearing?" It's not a game I generally win (or should win), but keep in mind single guys, this is one of the perks to marriage. They don't let you leave the house wearing something you shouldn't.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Tough Night For Marquette

Tough loss for the other college hoops team I follow... my alma mater, Marquette. They've lost their all-american candidate, Travis Diener for the rest of the season. Getting killed at Cincy. Looks like they're NIT bound.

Meet Mac

If you didn't catch this Bill Flick story when it first ran last summer, it's a great "day in the life."

Article from The Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL)
Meet Mac
Published: July 20, 2003

Not long ago, a tour group was passing through the WEEK television studios, its members craning, ogling, leering, peering, to catch an eye-load of one of the station's on-air personalities.
That's when a rather road-weary, weather-challenged 1988 Toyota Tercel - it's the kind that might also make pizza deliveries there - rambled into the parking lot of the station, located in a far outreach of East Peoria.
Yup, the tour group got its wish.
Within moments, its door creaking open, out popped Tom McIntyre, the station's cornerstone anchor man.
"That Tercel of his," Mike Dimmick chuckles later. "Rust doesn't begin to describe it. It's like I told him the other night when we had all that rain - rain is no problem for him. The water just goes right through the floorboard."
In a world of high-gloss, high-maintenance, blatantly pretentious, Jaguar-driving talking TV heads, we also have one Thomas Allan McIntyre, who on Tuesday will celebrate his 30th anniversary of being a dependable part of the Central Illinois living room.
In an era of 120-channel TV, when viewing options are endless, amazingly more than 30 percent of all 10 o'clock viewers have their sets tuned to McIntyre. The last eight years he's shared with Dimmick.
Theirs is an audience share almost unheard of in times of such TV variety.
Yet the Tom McIntyre ego?
It's more hidden than Waldo.
Or, as he puts it, "Do you know what a 2003 Jag costs?"
Humble, unassuming, even shy in unfamiliar crowds, this man has every right to NOT be.
"I think the true magic of Mac," says Mark DeSantis, the TV-25 general manager, "is that even after all these years, after all his success, he's still paranoid enough to worry just a little about his job. It's that quality - being a little skeptical of the very position he's created - that is the driving force to keep him working even harder."
The McIntyre day begins much like yours and mine.
Up about 7:30 a.m., he catches up on the news and shares time with his wife of 24 years, Mary Mathews.
A little later, McIntyre - he's now only three months shy of 60 - might wander off to the River Plex, a center in downtown Peoria, for a workout on the treadmill, or he might imbibe in an ongoing property-improvement project along Peoria's Moss Avenue, also called his home. It is 105 years old.
But by 3 p.m. while the people of Peoria and Bloomington begin to kick back and exhale after another day, McIntyre is truly beginning.
At the office, even first thing, he is frenetic, "cutting" promotion tapes (the blurbs you see laced throughout an eve to promote that night's newscast) or checking the assignment sheet for calls to make and stories to track.
At 5, as you're readying for supper, McIntyre is absorbed in a battery of flickering TV screens - he's viewing his own station, plus Channel 31, Channel 19, MSNBC, CNN and the Weather Channel - to see what everyone has, also to occasionally blurt something like, "Hey, Channel 19 is doing something on Dalton Mesarchik (the slain Streator 7-year-old whose body was found in March). Is there something we missed?"
By 6, out onto the News 25 "set" (on TV it appears rather quaint but is, in fact, a cavernous, high-ceilinged room that looks like the inside of Lowe's), he guides through the news with co-anchor Denise Heilman.
In the TV world, there are those "face" guys who "perform" the news. Not McIntyre. There is no pretense here. Not off-camera either.
By 7 p.m., he's simply still working.
"I remember," says Eric Shangraw, a fellow reporter and anchor, "one of the first things that struck me about Mac was seeing him every night, popping a meal into the microwave and twisting open his nightly liter of pop. You'd think he'd go out or go home, between newscasts, to get a breather. But he rarely does. He just works more."
If you listen to his news pals long enough, you get that drift.
Nice guy. Kind.
Hard-working.
Reliable. Trustworthy.
And thrifty.
Says the quick-witted Dimmick, who can begin a Tom McIntyre comedy routine if the news shtick ever fails, "Mac still has suits from the Eisenhower administration and, by God, if he can lose enough weight to fit in them again, he'll wear them!"
Born in Bloomington, reared in Chenoa, educated at Illinois State University, where he teethed at WGLT in the days when its closed-circuit waves reached only dorms, McIntyre first bounced around in radio - WIOK in Normal. WIRL and WWCT in Peoria - before one day in 1973, when while cutting a videotape for a job tryout in Lake Charles, La., he discovered that WEEK also had an opening.
That beginning - it was July 22, 1973 - wasn't exactly Walter Cronkite or Walter Winchell.
"When I started," he says, "I think I said, 'Good evening ... in the headlights tonight' at least three times. Several times, I also completely forgot my microphone, after which an engineer would come out and cut off my tie."
Through the more than 12,000 half-hour newscasts, he's waged the anchor seas with familiar names like Tom Connor, Kathy Dancy, John Wingate, Anna Werner and Shelli Dankoff.
His 20-year union with Christine Zak - it remains one of the longest local news-team tenures in America - at one time led to newsroom chuckles that he was with Zak longer than any wife. (McIntyre has wed three times but his marriage to Mary Mathews has now exceeded his job pairing with Zak.)
"Once a year," says Max Jacobs, a WEEK managing editor and close McIntyre friend, "my husband and I have a party at our house. We always invite Mac, and the neighbors all want to meet him, and after they do, they always say - 'Gosh, he's such a regular guy' - and I always say, 'What else would you expect?' "
This week it will be more of the same for the low-key McIntyre as he passes Year 30 - an almost unheard of digit in the transitive world of TV news - but he won't be there to enjoy it. Conveniently, he'll be on vacation.
"Oh, I'll come in and enjoy the cake," he assures.
Then no doubt, he'll hop back into that Tercel, which - who knows - may have another 30 years as well. With McIntyre still in it.
For a man who's constantly in the spotlight, it's all sort of funny. He really doesn't like it focused on him.

Mac facts
High school class: Chenoa, Class of '61.
First paying media job: WIOK-AM in Normal. $90 a week.
Initial goal at WEEK: "I hoped to somehow last two years."
Biggest story: Going to Saudi Arabia in the first Gulf War buildup in 1990.
Worst moments as an anchor: Covering the deaths of Tom Connor, the station's legendary first big-name anchor, who died in 1977, and weatherman Bill Houlihan, who died in 1994 and to this day may be the most known WEEK personality in its 50 years of broadcasting.
Funniest moment on-air: The 10 p.m. cast during which Mike Dimmick, weatherman Jim Barnett and McIntyre tried "Vegamite," the Australian sandwich filling. "Barnett looked like a dog eating peanut butter," says McIntyre.
His body double: Once or twice a year, McIntyre says he is stopped by people who say, "Hey, you're that guy I see on TV all the time ... Jay Janssen."
Years left now that he's nearly 60: "My wife says I can't retire."
Passions: Motorcycles. Owns a 1978 R100/7 BMW motorcycle. Also preoccupied with restoring their 105-year-old home along Peoria's picturesque Moss Avenue.
Number of injuries incurred while doing battle as a homeowner: Two. He broke a collarbone while trimming a tree several years ago and pulled a ligament in a leg two years ago after falling off the garage.
Favorite reads? History, mysteries, bike books, psychology, the broadcast trades.
Favorite TV shows: None really, since he works during prime time. "Mary and I will watch a very few taped shows together, but for the most part, 'prime time' television I know by reputation only."
Favorite color: "You're kidding, right?"
Most-used curse word: "Not going anywhere near that one, either."
If not in TV, I'd be ... "I'm not really trained for any other job. I've thought about something related to motorcycle work ... sales, for example ... but everyone I know who's made their avocation their vocation has regretted it.
Favorite movies: "If I answered that, I'd be e-mailing you back every day saying things like "Add 'Alien.' Add 'The Princess Bride.' Did I include 'The Maltese Falcon'?"
Best advice someone ever gave you: "Take your work seriously but not yourself."
Best vacation spot? "Mary and I both loved Spain. I like Scotland. She thinks it's damp and gray. Feet up on the deck of a cruise ship being doted upon is hard to beat, no matter where the ship is."

You Just Never Know Who Is Reading

Ran into Shelli Dankoff at lunch today at the Adams Street Cafe (that's a shameless, yet unsolicted plug for Dave Slyman). Shelli's doing well and apparently reading what I'm writing, which I find kind of funny because she was a big influence on me when I started writing for a living. A few fun memories...

"Tell me a story", she'd say when I'd come back frustrated, not sure of what I had to cut.

She taught me not to use "over" when I meant "more than."

And she was the first to point out to me that you shouldn't add crutch words to scripts.

See, I was listening. ;)

Shelli was also (and she'll admit this) "jealous" (or maybe just amazed) of my ability to work deals for time off, despite having no seniority.

Much to Shannon's chagrin (before we were dating), she also encouraged my pursuit of a Packers trip with the Newspath producer with the great voice (it never happened).

And Shelli did (along with Rusty Dunn) present the wedding party when Shannon and I got married.

Also heard from Bill Flick via e-mail reply today. I read his column regularly and wanted to see if it would be okay to post his "Meet Mac" story from last summer. I explained "that I have this blog..."

Turns out, he's already been reading. Thanks for stopping by, Bill.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Jessica Checks In

Former WHOI reporter Jessica D'Onofrio checks in via e-mail. She says life in sunny Florida is beautiful and she's always on her toes due to "TONS of crazy breaking news" down there.

In Case You're Curious

TVnewsonline.net has screen captures showing what news looks like at stations in many different markets.

Reports About Rollie

Jeff has compiled a set of links about recent coverage of Rollie Keith's death.

There Will Never Be Enough Time…

I wrote the following after my uncle died unexpectedly a couple of years ago... thought it might be appropriate to share with friends feeling a sense of loss with Rollie's passing.

There will never be enough time…
Never enough seconds…
Or minutes…
Or hours.
There aren’t enough…
Thoughts…
Or hugs…
Or kisses...
Or days… or ways…
To let the people close to our hearts know how we truly feel.
Because whenever someone leaves for good, it will always be too soon.
It doesn’t mean that we can’t…
Disagree…
Or argue…
Or fight.
It doesn’t mean that we should live like there’s no tomorrow.
And it doesn’t mean we should ignore the every day stuff just in case the worst were to happen.
What it does mean is that we should try as best as we can, not to put off…
A letter…
Or a phone call…
Or an e-mail… and never put off a reply.
Make it a priority to take trips and welcome visitors with open arms.
Savor the good times we do have together.
Life is a gift.
So work…
And play…
And sing…
And dance…
And cry…
And laugh… long and hard… whenever you get the chance.
And never, ever pass up the opportunity to say, “I love you.”
Don’t let anyone wonder about it.
Embrace what life has in store.
Because even if we do all of this…
In the end… we’ll still feel like there was never enough time.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

When News Can't Take A Break

Watching WMBD's 5:00 show tonight. Tough show for the cast and crew, no doubt. When you work in news part of the job is covering death. However when it happens to someone you know well, you still need to do your job... but do so with a heavy heart and so many emotions running around inside. I can only imagine how hard it was for Chuck to voice the tribute package. Tonight's show was done with grace and class.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Retired Weatherman Rollie Keith Dies

WMBD and WEEK report some sad news. Retired weatherman Rollie Keith died tonight. Jeff has what from people at both stations said on air tonight.

I got to work with Rollie for a short time when I first moved here, but I can tell you he was as well liked by his co-workers as he was by his viewers. And he was always quick with a smile when you'd see him around Pekin. Shannon and I send our condolences to his family.

Hunter S. Thompson

ESPN is reporting that author Hunter S. Thompson fatally shot himself Sunday night. He was 67. Thompson once wrote:
The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some
kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism
industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men
die like dogs, for no good reason.
Always stuck with me for some reason. Sad. Read/see "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" when you get a chance. As their headline put it, he had a "style all his own."

Can't Sleep

Little girl crying. I'm coughing so hard I can't sleep.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

NBA All Star Weekend

I'm a huge sports fan, but the only all-star festivities I make an actual effort to watch is the NBA (and actually I don't actually pay much attention to the "League" until this weekend.) The slam dunk contest was finally good for the first time in years. Still, I'd still like to see the marquee dunkers take part. Come on guys, you won't lose credibility if you lose the contest to someone who never dunks in games (although, I think that's the only way this year's winner scores cause he has yet to develop a jumper, but he's just out of high school)!

Yes, I know they don't play much defense in this game, but still some of the stuff they can do is pretty amazing. Thrilled to see Dwyane Wade from my alma mater make it to this stage in just his second year. I look forward to Shaun Livingston playing in the rookie/sophomore game next year and hopefully in the big game one day.

When Is It Time To Leave?

At some point newsies look to leave... and there are lots of reasons. New challenges, more money, better hours are usually at the top of the list. Actually those were my top three reasons as I got to do a new kind of television with top of the line equipment, I worked most days until 4:30 and it was for a lot more money.

I was not however, disgruntled or fed up, like many who get frustrated and look to leave for one reason or another. Nor was I in a bad situation as I really did enjoy my time working for Jim Garrott at WEEK.

Alan Heymann, who it looks like happens to be on his way to law school, writes about leaving on his website. If you're on the fence, I think what he writes could inspire you to stay or go. All how you look at it.

What Exactly Is "Breaking News" Anyway?

A good thread is starting up on Medialine asking "what is breaking news?" I personally hate the "boy who cried wolf" mentality of some who will slap "breaking news" on anything just to make people think a story is more important.

Speaking Of Reading

Segue. (reading... and agents from the other day... although I hate when people on TV say "speaking of...")

I've started re-reading Ken Lindner's book "Broadcasting Realities." If you work in the business or are thinking about it, it is an excellent read.

When I was looking for an agent, Karen Wang was nice enough to meet with me at their very impressive Century City office. But they focus mostly on big markets and while St. Louis and Indy were places I'd have been thrilled with, Madison and Champaign seemed like better targets for our situation personally and professionally at the time. As it turns out, when Shannon got the job at 25, unemployment called until I started anchoring weekends with Gina.

Lindner has been called a "super agent" as his list of clients tends to be headlined by high profile broadcasters. Anyway, the book gives you a lot of insight into building a career and the behind the scenes relationship between talent and management.

Thanks For Reading

I really wanted to do a sweeps breakdown of shows a few times this month. But between family (new baby), work, illness and getting ready for the upcoming soccer season, I just haven't had the time. And I want to do it right, or not at all. It's a lot easier to shoot out a few posts a night in a few minutes versus actually going through tape. (Speaking of which, Steve G., when you read this, Shannon and I both watched yours and we have some thoughts... I did have time to watch that).

Maybe I'll find some help. Jeff's done some of it on his blog. I'll get to it eventually.

FYI: according to my site meter, most people google or yahoo MARKET 117 to find the site. Lots of people are looking for Aimee Nuzzo, Rebecca Somach and Kristyn Hartman and other current and former MARKET 117ers... but sometimes an odd combination of keywords leads people here. Thought you might find this funny. For example:
  • Dougie Houser MD TV series
  • Knoxville, TN hardcore married ladies
  • spiked hairstyles
  • KFMB beach metal detector
  • Nicolet High
  • ten of the most common hairstyles
I'm not sure how on some of these, but whatever.

I know we've got readers from all three stations, Bradley, ISU as well as some of the larger companies in central Illinois. Anyway, if you're working in news or a viewer... thanks for reading. We'll soon be up to 4000 visits in less than 2 months.

Update: If you've noticed the surge in posts... the kids have been doing a lot of napping and I no longer have to hold a tissue to my nose for hours on end.

Thanks To WHOI

For airing the Marquette game today. Seeing them win makes me feel better. But I'm still not convinced they're a tournament team.

Thanks To The Well Wishers

Thanks to friends and bloggers who have wished us well via the blog, e-mail and phone.

I'm the best I've been since Wednesday, but I still have a horrible cough that kept me awake till 4. The sore throat is a bit better. Nose is still raw, but the headaches are finally gone.

Shannon is doing the best of any of us. All three kids are coughing, have fevers and runny noses. It's a pretty sad sight, but hopefully we're turning the corner.

Jeff's View As The Above Average Viewer

This morning Jeff posted his thoughts about the similarities between local 5PM newscasts. I state "above average" in the title because clearly, as owner of the peoria television blog, he pays closer attention than the average viewer. I thought I'd pull back "Oz's curtain" for a moment as he shares some good thougths. He writes:

They all start the newscast with your days news, but as the show goes on I
notice much of the same.Health News... where Dr. Dean Adell at one time gave me
the health news for the day now Sandy Gallant from WEEK-TV, Jen Christensen from WHOI-TV, and Amy Paul from WMBD-TV give me the report. Of course they try to drag me in by calling the health report Medical Edge, Healthbeat, or Healthlink. As I watch the health report, which clearly is being reported on from not around here, I think what is the reason for this? Is this information really supposed
to help me someday? Maybe, but most likely it's wasting my time.
The answer is resources. Stations across the country subscribe to various feed services where a story is sent for local reporters to add their voices. The same goes for items like Consumer Reports. It is much less of a stress on resources to do it this way. Is the information still good. Sure. It's just not local. To be fair, many stations will work hard to finding good local medical stories which you will see from time to time... especially around here with several strong hospitals in the viewing area.

He also writes:

WHY NOT TRY SOMETHING THAT'S DIFFERENT THAN ANY OTHER STATION IN THE AREA! Stay with me here... maybe try a newscast that is dedicated to nothing but local news... I mean you have a national and world news program that comes on at 5:30pm. I'm sure I'll get a comment that says this is impossible! That really is unfortunate. A TV news station that is willing to be as bold as to offer viewers nothing but local news... I know would, excuse me, play in Peoria.

Excellent concept. However, again, it comes down to resources. If you look at bigger markets, their coverage might have more "local" news, but consider too they have more resources: more reporters, photographers, live trucks, sat trucks (with edit equipment in the truck) and engineers.

Let me give you an example (please, those of you who are nitpickers, it's just an off the top of my head example). Let's say a producer here wants a package (longer form story) and a live shot from something in 45 minutes away from Peoria... that starts at 7:00 PM. Your crew is there on time and by luck of the draw, they don't also have high school sports highlights to shoot. Getting this together would involve shooting what you could, rushing back, writing in the car on your way back, logging your sound, cutting your narration and having your photographer stay to edit... while you take another photographer and a live truck. You'll have to leave no later than 9:00 so the photog has time to set up the live shot. This means you had to get back by 8:30 or so... which means you spent 45 minutes at the story... and this is provided it started on time and you were able to talk to all the people you needed to talk to in that 45 minutes. This is also based on the idea that there's an extra photographer to spare at 9:00.

(Editor's note: I've been gone so long, I don't know if any of the stations have editing equipment in the truck. When I first got to WMBD, we had wires hanging out. Still, the manpower issue should be the same.)

In a bigger market (or at least one with better equipment) you'd shoot the story with a photographer. You'd be able to take your time because at, oh say, 7:30, an engineer leaves the station with a truck. The engineer meets you and the photog at a set location. You write your story and pick your sound in a nice truck, one that probably has a fridge and air or heat depending on what you need based on the weather. When you and your photog are done editing, you feed the package to the station and get ready for the live shot, which the engineer has already set up, lights and everything.

This is not to say that in larger markets they don't push it harder or cut it closer because they can... they do. This is just a basic example of how things are different. Staffs are generally smaller in smaller markets, yet quite often they have similar news "holes" to fill. And this is not to say that larger markets don't use the franchised pieces (P. Allen Smith, Consumer Reports etc.) They do.

Bottom line is there isn't as much to cover and there aren't as many staffers to do all local. Also keep in mind too... that not everyone watches the networks for news, so some people depend on their local teams to give them some perspective as to what else is going on around the world.

Finally, Jeff writes:

I understand I am not someone who works at these stations. But if the same is
what I see on every news station, one can assume that WEEK-TV will be the
ratings king for some time at 5.
Good assumption. I have this theory which has become more clear to me the longer I've been out of television. In markets about this size and smaller, television people are much more accessible to viewers than they are in larger markets. Think about something as simple as the limited number of movie theaters or shopping centers there are in Peoria. Chances are around Christmas time, you'll run into some of your favorite news people.

Things like this give viewers more of a chance to make more personal connections with these people... especially those who have family/put down roots here. Just an example... "So and so's son is my dentist so of course I watch his dad." The longer news people are here the more involved (most likely) you'll see them in the community, the more connections they make... aside from the work they do on camera.

Take a look back at January 26th's big news day. The coverage wasn't all that different, was it? So why do people choose what they choose? Trust is built over time. All things being about equal in terms of what stories are being covered, of course people will turn to what is familiar. People are creatures of habit. What stations have the most people that fit this profile? In order WEEK, WMBD, WHOI. This isn't the only reason people watch, but I know first hand from talking to lots of viewers in the past four years, that it is a big reason.

Don't believe me? I'd be willing to bet that Rural Food Critic Don "Dubbs" Washburn is more recognizable than lots of reporters/politicans around here.

HDTV Q&A

Steve Tarter's column provides some Q&A for those of you in the market (me) for an HDTV. WEEK.com does the same. My ultimate goal would to have an HDTV in place for the upcoming NFL season, but that may come down to a "team" decision. If you've ever seen the NFL in HD, you won't want to go back.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Debbie Downer

Usually Debbie Downer on Saturday Night Live makes me bust a gut... can't tell if its the illness or if it just wasn't that funny tonight.

I've Found Something Positive About Being So Sick

You can't smell poopy diapers.

Job Hunting For Dummies - Agents

A question that comes up for newsies, even in a market this size is do you need an agent? As a professor at MU used to tell me all the time the answer is "it depends."

There are positives and negatives, like with anything else. Let's start out with a couple of positives.

Agents can be connected. Some agents will know well beforehand when a news director isn't going to be renewing someone's contract, so they can be positioning their clients well in advance. Some agents have solid relationships with certain news directors and that can give you the edge you need.

Agents can say what needs to be said. When you have an agent fighting for you in negotiations, they can go to bat for you with all the vigor in the world. Do it yourself and you risk damaging the relationship between you and the management you'll be under contract to for two to three years. This works both ways. For example, say you're putting on weight, which in TV can (depending on the market) actually matter and be fairly noticeable (camera adds ten pounds). Your agent can say something in the course of reviewing your tapes, without management putting themselves in a bad spot.

Now some negatives.

First of all an agent will cost you... probably anywhere from 7-10%. In this day and age of salaries that continue to drop, you have to ask yourself: can you really afford to lose 10% of a $35,000 job?

A big market news director once told me of a high profile agency: if he mentioned he had an anchor opening and was looking to replace the Asian female who recently left, he would get a tape from this agency that contained dozens of Asian females. So in this case, the agent isn't representing you, they're representing their 10%.

So do you need an agent?

I'm a big believer in networking, so for most non-anchor jobs in markets 20ish and below, I'm not convinced you have to have an agent. Just my opinion. I've even heard of news directors who when deciding between two candidates might lean towards the one without an agent cause it'll be less of a pain. But I'm sure there are just as many who don't want to deal with a big search and use agents they know as "filters."

When Shannon's dad was starting chemo, my goal was to get back to the midwest... specifically Milwaukee, Madison, St. Louis, Indy, Champaign/Springfield being the prime targets. I had discussions with three agents... all of whom I was very impressed with. I ended up going with the one with whom I made the best personal connection... someone who also worked into our deal a small, one-time fee, should I get a job in Peoria (which I eventually did). To this day however, I consider my former agent, Steve, a friend and make an effort to see him whenever life takes me to northern California.

The last question to consider is: do agents want you?

You need to not just be good (see previous posts on what it takes to be a good reporter/anchor). You need to be someone that they think they can sell. I had a someone tell me an agent told him he was too "white bread " and that's why they wouldn't take him (this person is at a large market right now, so by all means don't think an agent's word is gold).

I also point to Alan Heymann. Alan was an intern at WMBD and eventually a reporter at WCIA. If you've ever seen his work or worked with him, you know he's very smart, pretty darn close to what Jonathan describes a good reporter should be and his delivery is solid. But on his website, Alan shares the nine rejection letters he got from agents.

Editor's note: I'm not saying any of this post is right, just the way it is/can be.

Illinois Wins, Kansas Loses

Great game and win for Illini. Personally, for all the Bruce Weber doubters, I don't think this team is nearly as successful this year under Bill Self. They'd still be good, but Weber's system is encouraging such sharing of the ball... no stars, just players. Their leading scorer goes for seven and they still win by 10.

Moving On?

Jeff is reporting that Caitlin Weinstein will be leaving WMBD for a job in Iowa. Sources tell me she's not the only MARKET 117 personality who will be leaving at the end of sweeps, but as to not steal that person's thunder, I won't name names, nor will I leave the comment section on this post open.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Worse Before It Gets Better

For those of you following along, now we're all sick. I went to work for a half day, but started to feel worse. Not only that, but Shannon had to take the baby to the doctor with a 103 degree fever. The two older kids are both coughing and burning up. I'm burning up. I don't know if its cold or flu or both (baby was diagnosed with flu) but I probably haven't been this sick since I was a little kid. This is not the way to start a weekend.

Update: I had alternating fever and chills throughout the evening, plus aches and back pain that kept me from sleeping. I'm on antibiotics, ibuprofin, cough drops and throat spray. Today (Saturday) my ears are still ringing and head is still pounding, but I'm actually a bit better. Kids are still sick. Shannon is the best of all of us. Hoping to continue on the road to normal the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Still Sick And I'm Not The Only One

I'm still sick and still at home. I hope those of you reading are staying healthy, but I know it's going around.

From NewsBlues/Robert Feder:
It's practically unheard of for major news talent to be missing during a ratings
sweeps month. But a mini-flu epidemic is ravaging Chicago television newsrooms
this week, sidelining top anchors all over town, including Allison Rosati at
WMAQ-5-NBC, Kathy Brock at WLS-7-ABC and Tamron Hall at WFLD-32-Fox.
Shannon and our oldest boy are feeling better, but our little girl and I are still in PJs. My throat was literally throbbing this morning. I hate missing work, but the last thing I want to do is get my co-workers sick. I'm going back to bed.

Update: I'm feeling a bit better, but I'm also feeling sick after watching my alma mater (Marquette) choke away what would have been their biggest win of the season.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Sidewalk Theory

From the blogger who brought you Future of Television comes a new blog: Sidewalk Theory.

So far only three posts, so let me get in on the ground floor. Something in his first post struck a chord with me.
The fact that broadcast television dominates ad revenue and total media usage
now, doesn't mean it will stay that way. 10 years ago, travel agents
booked nearly 100% of tickets. 10 years ago, book stores accounted for
100% of book sales. 10 years ago, newspapers controlled nearly 100% of
classified advertising.

When I lived in Peoria the first time, I took a lot of trips and I used a travel agent. I haven't used one since 98. Not that they didn't do a good job for me, but like many I eventually found it easier to do it myself online.

My wife does most of our book shopping on Amazon. Not that we don't love to go to Barnes and Noble on occasion, but now with three kids, it is much more of a hassle. I still love the atmosphere at book stores, but I hate ruining it for others when my oldest starts to throw a tantrum cause he doesn't want to leave the Thomas the Train setup.

If someone like Kevin had told me in 97 these things would come to pass, I'm not sure I'd have believed it. I'm looking forward to his future posts.

Watch Your Live Shots

From Roger Armbrust at backstage.com

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) is challenging the constitutionality of new legislation in Congress that would increase broadcast performers' fines for indecency from $11,000 to $500,000. The Screen Actors Guild is also pushing for amendments to protect actors.The 80,000 member-strong AFTRA has expressed puzzlement over H.R. 310, the bill under which "individuals would be fined at the same level as large corporate broadcast stations," according to information provided by AFTRA to its members.

AFTRA noted to its membership that the new legislation would increase fines for a range of AFTRA's members, including:

Broadcast journalists "when a news story includes controversial material or a live stand-up suddenly gets out of hand, because there is no exemption for news coverage."

This is important to keep in mind just in case a college student has a "wardrobe malfunction" during a live shot at a local watering hole.

Note: WEEK newsroom staffers are members of AFTRA.

I'm Sick

I hate being sick. Been sleeping all day. Woke up with a fever, headache, really sore throat. Think I got it from my son who had to stay home from pre-school on Tuesday. Shannon is sick too. Probably not much blogging tonight. Stay away from our house.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Home Team Support

On Sunday I posted a link to Steve Tarter's column and a letter that criticized WEEK for it's Bradley broadcast... another letter gives them the thumbs up.

Gabrielle Martin leaves WCIA

Thanks to Mike's Champaign, IL Media Blog for the heads up on this. Current and former WMBDers and people involved in the Illinois News Broadcasters Association might be interested in this.

Monday, February 14, 2005

"24"

This show is good every week. Mental note: (actually, a note for Shannon who complains that I'm the hardest person in the world to buy for at Christmas/birthday time) earlier seasons on DVD are a good gift.

Celebrating Valentine's Day

One of the traditions Shannon and I started after we got married was with each wedding we attend to do our best to get a picture of us with the bride and groom.

In celebration of Valentine's Day, look for posts the next two days about fun at these weddings and/or how people who've worked in MARKET 117 found their true love.

Tim and Tracy


Us with Tim and Tracy Posted by Hello

My good friend Tracy is a producer in Chicago now. So it would make sense that Shannon and I thought the wedding was very well "produced." They did the first dance and cut the cake just after everyone was seated. This is something we really liked and have suggested to others.

Tim and Tracy met through a mutual friend which is fairly common, but then they kept running into each other at other restaurants, outings etc. She honestly wasn't really that interested because he was moving to Boston for a job. But, after bumping into each other too many times randomly they decided to go on a date. Boston lasted a couple of months until he moved back to Chicago.

Tracy didn't think the story was too exciting, but it seems like fate to me.

Tim and Tracy Posted by Hello

A Little Inspiration On Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day doesn't have to be what you see on TV... ads for jewelry, flowers, candy... whatever.

Valentine's Day should be about falling in love or falling in love all over again.

It should be, for singles, about taking a chance you might not normally take and conquering the fear of rejection with the promise of something greater in sight.

It should be about kissing your wife/fiance/girlfriend (hopefully you don't have all three) like you did for the first time, even if you've been together forever.

It should be about rediscovering that spark that brought you together in the first place.

It should be a "do over" for couples having trouble to say "I'm sorry" and start over with a clean slate.

It should be about making a commitment to spend less time on work, on hobbies or on the couch... and more time talking, laughing and doing.

This is my Valentine's wish for readers of this blog... and my way of telling my wife how much I love her (she reads my blog when I'm at work).

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Rob and Aimee


Me with Aimee Posted by Hello

Because I had work in New Jersey first thing Monday morning, I was able to attend Aimee's wedding which took place that Sunday. Shannon stayed home as we couldn't figure out what to do with the kids and it was going to be such a quick trip. I had to leave the reception early and we were unable to find the groom for a picture, so it's just me and Aimee here (BTW check out how long my hair was). Chris Curtis and I represented WMBD "back in the day."

I had actually met Rob the year before. I was in New York for a conference... he and Aimee took me out on the town. In getting to talk to him some that night, I got the sense that he was the one.

Aimee replied to my e-mail this weekend and has been gracious enough to share the story of how they met:
Rob and I met in the most unlikely of places... outside the Morris County Jail
in New Jersey. We were there for a "perp walk." That's when they walk the bad
guy out in handcuffs and stuff him into a police car. Rob was a cameraman for
channel 11, I was a reporter for channel 2. We got to talking, then things got
crazy and we were wisked off in different directions. Days later, I kept
thinking about him, so I called up a mutual friend at my station and told her to
feel out the situation. It wasn't for another six months that we wound up at the
same party and he asked me out.

Aimee didn't find the love of her life till she got back home to New Jersey. I would have never guessed it would happen like that. I love the photo I took of the two of them (below).

Rob and Aimee Posted by Hello

Ryan and Darcy


Shannon with Darcy. Posted by Hello

This was another blast of a wedding, but one frustrating thing... our camera kept dying each time we tried to take a picture with Ryan and Darcy. We got this one with Shannon and Darcy, but that was it.

I swear Ryan and Darcy could work for the CIA. Shannon and I started dating in the fall of 97, but Ryan and Darcy actually had been dating for several months before us. And nobody knew. Nobody. If you've worked in a newsroom, you'll know how crazy that is. Sheesh, Ryan and I lived together. But the truth is everybody is in each other's stuff. Heck, Mark predicted that Shannon and I would start dating before we started dating. It's in his journal.

Shannon and Darcy bonded towards the end of 97 and the first half of 98. That's because Ryan and I both left them here... me to Monterey and Ryan to Colorado Springs for jobs. As Shannon likes to say, they were at the WMBD Christmas party together "boo-hoing." But all worked out... Ryan couldn't stay away and a few months later he was back in town. They've since moved on to Memphis and have been blessed with a beautiful girl.

Ryan and Darcy Posted by Hello

Eric And Beth


Us with Eric and Beth. Posted by Hello

Lots of people think the competition in TV is cut throat, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for romance. Eric worked at WMBD... Beth at WEEK. But in the past, many production folks have also gotten into doing freelance work. It was at one such production at Caterpillar that these two would meet and fall for each other over coffee. I would have written fallen in love, but I'm fairly certain Beth would beat the tar out of me the next time she sees me. Today, they're in Chicago kicking butt and taking names.

Doh!!!! Posted by Hello

Mark And Amy


Us with Mark and Amy. Posted by Hello

If you were a fan of the Morning Mix, you probably know the name Mark MacGregor. Mark was the director of the show and continues to do mornings at WMBD. Shannon wasn't part of the wedding, but according to Amy played a big role in helping her down the aisle. Amy focused on her in what is a special, but sometimes nerve wracking moment for many brides. It was a beautiful wedding and we were lucky to have shared in the moment.

Mark and Amy Posted by Hello

Steve and Tanya

I don’t have their wedding picture because we didn’t have a digital camera yet… but Steve and Tanya’s wedding was the first one that Shannon and I went to after we got married. I love to tell the story of how they got together and how Steve owes all his happiness to one reporter’s stupid question.

Steve is a photographer at WGN, but he got his start at WMBD. While here in 1996, he and a reporter who shall remain nameless (a reporter he couldn't stand working with), were doing a story on the opening of an opera in Peoria. So they’re set up to interview the lead, Beth, and the first question the reporter asks out of the gate is: “Do you sing in this?”

I wasn’t there, but I have this mental image of Steve rolling his eyes and shaking his head. He does this often (just never when he was working with me). Although Steve showed us the tape when he got back, I don’t remember exactly what this girl said, but she very nicely and graciously confirmed that… yes… she… the lead in an opera… did in fact “sing in this.”

A few weeks later Steve, Chris Curtis and I are out at Sullys (wow, imagine that). At some point Steve sees Beth and tells me, “That’s the opera chick!” So he goes up to her, strikes up a conversation and she and her two friends and the three of us stay out till 4AM. And we continued to hang out on a regular basis after that.

Long story short… eventually Beth and I started dating and one night she convinced a friend to meet us all out. That friend was Tanya. If I recall, she was studying for finals, she was kind of sick, but she came out anyway... and she and Steve hit it off. The rest as they say… is history.

This is the part I love to give Steve a hard time about. He’s a good friend, so I feel I can say this, but there is no way, I mean no way, he would have ever randomly gone up to Beth that first night. But he had this story… this… “I’m the guy who was working with the reporter who asked you the stupid question” story. And because of this, he had an in. And because of this I like to say that Steve... owes all his happiness to a reporter’s stupid question.

I was a bit disappointed this reporter wasn’t in the wedding party.

Edgar And Shannon


At A Wedding Posted by Hello

So I was telling the Steve and Tanya story to Jonathan before our soccer game on Thursday... but as it turns out, it seems Jonathan is in part responsible for my marriage.

Before she was, my wife she was Shannon Tebben. And before she was a TV reporter, she was a newspaper reporter, covering varous beats including Tazewell County Board for the Pekin Daily Times.

Also covering that board was a young, WMBD radio reporter who was going by the name John Render, now better known to local listeners as Jonathan Ahl. In the spring of 1997, Jim Gee was moving from assignment editor to producer at WMBD and there was an opening for an assignment editor. Jonathan let Shannon know about the opening. She applied, got the job and the rest is history.

Thanks, man.

You Can't Make Everyone Happy

Steve Tarter's column in the Journal Star gives a rundown of what's on local radio, but he also has a comment from a viewer supporting WEEK's decision to air the Bradley game during the state of the union.

Another viewer shares his opinion in the letters to the editor section. I commented on this that night and I understand the point of view, but I'd like to point out that more networks covered Michael Jordan's first retirement live than have ever done a SOTU... and a billion people watched the Super Bowl when they could have been watching C-SPAN or anything more important. There is always something more important than sports on TV.

It's not WEEK's fault that people want to watch the Bradley game. Former WMBD producer Tracy O'Brien used to have a saying for this kind of thing. She'd say, "hey you know what you need to get?" And the unsuspecting person would say "what?"

"Over it."

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Fired For Not Making It Miller Time

My favorite reporter back home Colleen Henry reports on a story I'm sure will be making the rounds nationally soon.

"Number 448, green mic."

Took a short trip down memory lane tonight. Before WMBD, even before WISN, I got paid to work behind a mic. "Number 448, green mic."

"Number 448?"

The summer of my freshman year of college, I worked at Kopps Frozen Custard and one of my duties was to call people's numbers out to pick up their orders. Kopps is famous in the Milwaukee area for it's burgers and custard. Culvers is good, but Kopps is number one in my book.

This particular Kopps (Port Washington Road) has a televsion connection to it. This Kopps is said to be the inspiration for "Arnold's" on "Happy Days" (a fun fact for those of you watching the show's reunion tonight) as one of the shows creators grew up there. No, I don't know if there was a Fonz. But one hint is the colors of Jefferson High School are the same as that of Nicolet High which is just a couple miles away.

The guy who runs the place is awesome. I'm sure between Karl's small chain of stands and a couple other restaurants he's done more than well for himself. But what separates him from lots of bosses that employ teens is that if you weren't doing something right, he wouldn't just bark or complain... he'd take the time to show you how to do it right... whether it was scooping custard or sweeping up after close.

Tonight, while waiting for my order I was hypnotized... the hum and grinding noises of the machines churning out the sinful dessert... the sizzle from the grill... black cloth hats for girls, white paper hats for guys... all with black bow ties... the kids behind the counter double checking the bags to make sure the orders were right... before calling the numbers... nothing has changed.

Every kid should work in fast food for at least a summer.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Posting Will Be Sporadic

I've kinda fallen off the news wagon this week. Never got to finish my writeup from the major news day of two weeks ago cause I misplaced one of the tapes. Meant to start doing the sweeps project, but my week has been dedicated to playing and reading with the kids, 24, Ed on TiVo and college basketball.

Busy weekend planned so posting will be sporadic. MARKET 117 looks like it'll get 3000 hits in just about a month since I started to let people know it existed. Thanks for reading!

The Apprentice

Okay, as much as I hate to admit it, I watch "The Apprentice." Guilty pleasure.

For fans of the show: I just want to know how Trump can say one week that someone who is exempt can't be fired because those are the rules... it's all about rules. But the week before, he fired someone without doing the whole three to the boardroom... and this week he had six in the board room. So is it about rules or whims?

Also, both those commercials were beyond brutal. I get that the marathon one was just poorly executed, but how could a bunch of educated people think that the other one was even remotely acceptable? This isn't a comment on lifestyle choice, just watch TV for a second and recognize there is what companies consider "out of the box" (I freakin hate that phrase) and there's crossing the line. As my friend Brett likes to say, look behind you, there it is (the line).

By the way, anyone interested in being Martha Stewart's apprentice can apply online.

I actually have three suggestions from MARKET 117... based on what the show looks for... personality, looks, accomplishments.

1. Amanda Wozniak - WHOI News Director
2. Aaron Schock - Newly Elected 92nd District State Rep
3. Matt Jones - Peoria Attorney (married to WEEK forecaster Sandy Gallant although I don't know if by rule this would disqualify him)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Other Side Of The Story

A good journalist will look at both sides of the story... or in this case the post. The previous post has thoughts about "what makes a good tv reporter" without regard to the presentation/delivery aspect of the medium.

An anchor friend of mine in another market shares the other side. He, in our years of knowing each other, has shared the term "practioner of TV news" to describe some of the people who work in the business. To add some context to some of Jonathan's thoughts, I thought I'd share part of what my other friend shared with me today (a couple names/references have been deleted/changed to avoid any libel issues).
Hi, Ed... You asked: "... explain to me the difference between a
practioner of TV news and a journalist." Someone once told me that after high
school or college, whichever comes last, a person spends five years learning a
craft/trade/profession. Then, they spend the next five years learning the
"tricks" of the trade. And from then on, they just practice the tricks. A
journalist goes out and does productive work. A practitioner practices tricks.

To look at an example we might be able to use... It turns out that "anchor
A" (in a major market) is a practitioner and "B" is a journalist. The
saddest part of that example is....the practitioner is still making seven figures a
year even though "anchor A's" show pulled a 3 rating last night....and the
journalist is scrambling around trying to find venues.

I'm not saying this is right, just reality.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

TV News For Dummies - What Makes A Good Reporter?

For those of you who didn't see it in the comment section, Jonathan Ahl, News director at WCBU posted the following:
I've enjoyed your comments and critiques of some of the TV reporters in the
market, but I think there is one thing you have not addressed that is critical
to someone being a good reporter: general intelligence and an understanding of
the world around them.There are plenty of reporters that have "the look" and use
the latest techniques pushed by consultants, but they just do not understand
what it is they are reporting on.I can't tell you how many times I have seen a
story about a TIF District, business deal, or government process where it was so
obvious the reporter had no idea what they are talking about.Now it's no secret
I'm a public-radio-policy-wonk-government type, so let's take that out of the
equation.How many times have you seen a reporter in Peoria TV:-do a story about
a farm issue when it is clear they don't understand how corn or soybeans are
planted and harvested (or for that matter can tell you what happens to the crops
once they are taken out of the ground.)-reported on a criminal's arrest, and
have no real clue about what the charges mean, what an arraignment is, or how a
plea works. (Is it pleading not guilty or pleading innocent -- I've heard both
on TV in Peoria. Ugh!)-done a piece on some medical procedure and obviously not
had a clue about the nature of the disease, its effects, how it is diagnosed,
etc.My point is that so many reporters forget the fact that if you are going to
explain something to people, you have to understand it. REALLY understand it.
Not just lift some facts from the press release or the interview with the
"spokesperson" and rearrange them with a stand-up that has reporter involvement,
good hair, and "the look" that will get you to the next market.
All excellent points, to which I responded that I've thus far kept my thoughts on delivery and presentation separate from what I feel makes a good journalist.

I'll start with three basic things:

The first thing is curiosity about the world. If you don't wonder about how things work, why things are the way they are or want to find the answers to the world's questions big and small, this probably isn't for you.

Second is knowledge and understanding. To start, if you're a student, and you want to be a reporter, don't major in broadcasting or communications. You can learn all the presentation aspects in your internships and by minoring in one of those areas of study. Take journalism classes, but have a solid foundation. Major in history, political science, economics... whatever... something that will give you a good start into understanding how your world works.

Third is a commitment to fairness and accuracy. Working as a TV reporter, when done well, means so much more than (as Jonathan mentioned) the right look and the latest techniques. It is about taking sometimes complex issues, making them easy for viewers to understand and putting the facts of the story into meaningful context.

There is of course much more than this, but I think the point Jonathan is trying to get at is that people depend on reporters for reliable information and without a solid foundation and deep understanding of the issues the audience, in many cases, is being cheated.

To all this I will say as TV news goes, there needs to be a good balance between the journalism and the presentation. The fact is Jonathan speaks the God's honest truth in his post. It is also the truth that a solid journalist who looks uncomfortable and stumbles through stories with a bad voice won't make it in this part of the business.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

News Directors Can Do It Too

The other day I suggested a reporter or photog blog in Market 117 would be interesting. How about one of the bosses? Peggy Phillip is the news director at WMC in Memphis she's been sharing her thoughts since 2002.

Telling A Good Story

Jeff's blog has some good story telling advice from Karen Brown of WGEM in Quincy.

I recently came across an old e-mail someone sent to me with thoughts on television storytelling from Wayne Freedman of KGO in San Francisco. Steve Gehlbach and I are huge fans of Freedman. Aside from conventions, I got to see his stuff on occasional trips up north when I lived in Monterey.

If you're interested his book is called It Takes More Than Good Looks (To Suceed At TV News Reporting).

SET THE SCENE - Every piece needs a beginning...something to deliver your viewer into the story. Use one sentence or a complex sequence. Your goal is to captivate the viewer. Eliminate other distractions in the room. You want the viewer to think of nothing else.

CAST THE STORY, FIND A REAL PERSON - Television news is a visceral medium. The road to the head runs through the gut. If you can give the viewer a person to care about, he or she will watch and remember the story.

MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR INTERVIEWS - Great interviews are rarely factual. Instead, they amplify those facts with points of view, emotions, moments in time. Work for a good interview. Allow it to happen. Create an intellectual environment. Deliver your subject to the proper frame of mind and in the right situations, let your subject interview himself.

STRIVE FOR SPONTANEITY - Don’t scare your subjects with mic flags and beanie lights. Help them feel natural and comfortable. Don’t let them talk themselves out. Remember you want to hear it fresh the first time. Even if the pictures and light and sound are not perfect, go for the spontaneous moment.

MAXIMIZE STAND-UPS - Make them seamless. Do bridges. Know how and where your appearance will play. Your stand-up should fit the situation, even if it only consists of one word. Write to and from it as you would with any other piece of sound. Use the opportunity to demonstrate, confide, describe or connect. Use your environment. Wear a wireless. Don’t pontificate. Never forget that being on television is a byproduct of all the other work we do.

CREATE ILLUSIONS OF INTIMACY AND DEPTH - Humanize, characterize, use file tape and still photographs. Change the scene. Change the light. Change the background in your interviews. Change the camera angles. Keep a story moving forward, both visually and editorially. If the subject is too big, find a little story in the big one.

DESPERATION BREEDS INNOVATION - Never give up. Be the solution, not the problem. No need to lie or hype. If you can’t hit the editorial target, move that target. Even when a story does not match his or her preconceptions, a good reporter can take whatever is there, and make something interesting.

SOUND LIKE A HUMAN, USE ACTIVE VOICE - If you want to sound natural, write that way. Avoid the language known as Newseze. Use simple, declarative sentences. Put subjects before verbs. Someone who hates passive voice shot him. Avoid is, are, was, were...non-descriptive verbs and passive indicators. Remember the bedtime story.

USE NATURAL SOUND. WRITE FROM POINT-TO-POINT. USE YOUR VOICE AS AN INSTRUMENT - In this medium, we should should for both the ear and eye. We should write parallel with pictures. We should write about those pictures. We should set up and deliver to sound, but do it seamlessly.

USE WORDS AND SOUND TO ESTABLISH A RHYTHM - Establish a rhythm in every piece and stay within it. Set a tone. Let the viewer know what to expect. The Rule of Threes can work to your advantage, but not to a point of monotony.

SEEK THE SIMPLE TRUTHS - Step back from the material. Ask yourself, “What is this story really about?” Simple truths are essential, but intangible. Maybe the simple truth isn’t in the forest, or the trees, but the silence. Simple truth stories do not come out of a newspaper or follow a standard line. You can find them on every corner with any person. Simple truths strike a common chord and speak to the human condition.

WRITE UP TO YOUR VIEWERS - Write a story to several levels. Some of your best pieces may be about something other than the obvious. Let your viewers reach their own conclusions. They’ll take more away.

STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE - This applies to wraps within live shots as well as solo packages. Become familiar with and use traditional forms of storytelling. To be more creative, vary the structure, change from a linear timeline. Try prologues, flashbacks, climaxes, denouements. In the same way you build from a beginning, work to an ending. Your story will only be as strong as its conclusion.

Eye For Talent

The hiring process is an inexact science and hit or miss to say the least. Some of the people you're watching have lots of potential and will most likely move on to better paying jobs after spending about two years here. Others may never get another on-air job again, but might be able to continue in the business off air and in many cases have a better choice in where they move to.

I consider myself a pretty good judge of talent. I graduated from Marquette ahead of two really good reporters. Twice, when I was at stations with openings (when they were both getting out of school), I called them up (not for the same opening), had them send a tape and made it a point to personally talk this person up to the boss.

Once, the powers that be liked Jason, but ended up going with someone else who didn't last very long. A second time, the person in charge let the tape sit for more than a month, before finally taking a look at Ben's tape, but by that point, it was too late. Both of them ended up starting in larger markets (Green Bay and Quad Cities) and coincidentally, both ended up at the same station in Minneapolis.

So I'll ask readers what someone asked me over lunch today: what reporters do you like in this market and why? I'll share my thoughts at a later date.

Good Standup

Watching WMBD at 6. Cool standup by Liza Danver for a cloning story... someone in production did a nice job of turning her into three reporters. Now if she can just figure out a way to get some overtime out of that...

Update: got an e-mail from Mary Brown, the photographer on the story, who said they came up with the idea even before they shot. That's the kind of teamwork I like to see.

Monday, February 07, 2005

6 Degrees of my old station or Kevin Bacon

Last week I posted this:

This site isn't new, but if you're a movie buff like me and have never seen it, it's kind of fun.

Updated post: It's not just movies or Kevin Bacon. The longer you work in television, the more you'll realize how small the world really is and the right attitude will go along way.

See if you can folllow along with this:

I went to school for broadcast and electronic communications at Marquette. One of the guys making sure all ran smoothly for us was Jim Polus who is married to Laura Trendle-Polus whom I worked with at WISN... Jim and Laura who happen to be friends with Kurt Pegler from their time at Illinois State… Kurt who I became friends with when we worked at WMBD, where Laura actually worked before she went to WISN.

In Milwaukee, Laura and I worked for Fred D’Ambrosi at a station (WISN) owned by what is now Hearst-Argyle. I moved on to Peoria (WMBD) while he ended up at station in San Diego (KFMB) both of which happened to be owned by Midwest Television. Fred ended up hiring Aimee Nuzzo just before I moved to Monterey to work at a station (KSBW) that was bought soon after by... Hearst Argyle.

While in Monterey I would, on occasion, go out with people from KION (the CBS affiliate) but one of the few people I never met was Chris Manson, who ended up here in Peoria and is the news director at my old station (WMBD)... which is why I got “scissors up” before anyone else.

My late news producer at WMBD, Tracy O’Brien, went to high school with my late news producer at KSBW Jen Lee… not to be confused with Jenny Li from WEEK who like Jen, went to the University of Missouri at about the same time. Jen and her husband Randy Reeves left Monterey for Grand Rapids (WOOD) where they worked with Christine Roher. Now they're professors helping run KOMU at Missouri where Lesley, a girl I coached at Pekin High, is a sophomore in the journalism program.

It's a small... small... world.

Ed

For those of you who liked the NBC show "Ed", TBS is re-running the first season at 11AM weekdays. It didn't have a huge following, but it's fans were/are loyal as evidenced by this website.

Shannon and I love the show... watched a bunch of episodes this weekend via the magic of TiVo. If you've never watched the show, I highly recommend it. Especially to you nightside folks... good viewing over late breakfast. Okay... off to bed.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Basketball Broadcasts

There's an interesting debate on the PJStar.com message board about the production of local college hoops games.

Update: apparently the debate took a turn for the worse and is no longer there.

So What Else Is On?

Steve Tarter runs down some of the other offerings on television this afternoon, if you're not interested in football or expensive commercials.

He also covers the issue of "controversial" cartoon characters. Let me save everyone some time (and please note the sarcasm). All cartoon characters used to be comunists. Now they lead alternative lifestyles... "not that there's anything wrong with that."

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Flipping Tonight

Flipping back and forth between channels tonight.

I like Laura Michels' weekend show. The writing is solid, she reads well and she handles the prompter stalling to the point where only people who work in TV would realize something went bad for a sec. I really liked that when she mispronounced "Kilauea", she corrected herself very graciously at the end of the story.

I hope Jay Verner gets a co-anchor (yes, I know Laura doesn't have one, but she hasn't had one at WHOI). Not that he doesn't do well on his own. In fact, Jay is someone who I would point to as an example of how/why having a radio background is of great value in enhancing one's TV presentation ability. I think people with radio experience have an even stronger foundation in terms of delivery.

That said, when you've had a co-anchor, it's kind of a pain when you have to shoulder the load by yourself. Plus, you lose opportunities for interaction that is valuable for resume tapes. I know from experience... plus the job is more fun with a co-anchor.

Finally, I don't miss working weekends or nights... but I do miss working with Strauss. Marc demands excellence of everyone (despite the nature of the market being a training ground) and I always respected that. He also taught me much about fantasy football and sent me over to his mortage guy about 2 years ago. I got such a good rate that when I looked into going to a ten-year this week, I couldn't do any better than I've already got. Thanks, man!

Now Here is Something I'd Like To See Here

This is a blog from Rusty Surette. He's the morning anchor at KBTV in Beaumont, Texas... the same station, coincidentally, where Aimee Fuller got a job after WHOI. I know Bill Dennis helped Mike Dimmick set up the WEEK link, but that hasn't had any activity in quite some time. I would like to see one our local newspeople maintain a blog.

Maybe a reporter. Think about this, those of you who report on a regular basis: how often is there good stuff you had to leave out of a story due to time constraints? You could put that in your blog. How often did something interesting or funny happen in the course of newsgathering that only you and your photographer know about? For example, I think at least one of my photog friends used to shoot people who would fall asleep at council meetings. Maybe a photog blog would be better.

Yes, there would have to be some ground rules as Mac mentioned on the WEEK blog... it's not like someone is going to comment on their co-workers or share the off color humor and goings on that happens in every, I repeat, EVERY newsroom. But you could still have some fun with it.

Super Sunday

Brad Burke wrote about Super Bowl commercials this week.

58% of our people responding to a recent LA Times survey said they would rather take their bathroom breaks during the game than miss the commercials. Wouldn't it just be easier to set up an extra TV by the toilet?

Some people just watch for the ads. Is that like how some people just read certain publications for the "articles"? Just a couple questions to ponder.

On a side note... when are you coming back to the soccer team, Brad?

Friday, February 04, 2005

Looking Back - The 1996 Pratties

Going through some folders tonight and found a bunch of old TV stuff including:
  • a thank you letter from a kid I followed through his first day at kindergarten
  • my autographed photo from former WHOI reporter (and new mom) Christine Roher
  • WMBD check stubs for $550 (two weeks take home pay)
I also found a newspaper clipping from March of 96, when then Journal Star TV critic Terry Towery handed out the Peoria Radio and Television Awards (Prattie) as voted on by viewers. Thought this might be of interest to some of you.

Best overall television newscast - WHOI by six votes over WEEK (400+ people voted)
Best television news anchor M-F - Frank Vascellaro
Best television weather forecaster M-F - Lee Ranson
Worst area newscast - (tie) WHOI and WMBD
Best reporter (non-anchor) - (tie) Adam Nielsen (WEEK) and Tim Seymour (WHOI)
Best hair - Kristyn Hartman
Worst hair - Kelly Morgan
Best weekend newscast - WEEK
Best weekend news anchor - Fraser Engerman
Best weekend weather forecaster - Jim Barnett
Best sportscaster - Jim Mattson

Sweeping Up - Attracting An Audience

So what's it going to take for there to be a major change?

For the time being, I don't see a major shift in the cards. I have a philosophy about smaller/diary markets. The game is more about not offending viewers than outright capturing them. If you can accept that premise, you'll understand how that makes the road tougher when you're number two or number three.

Having worked at both WEEK and WMBD, I've seen the battle from two sides. WEEK has a lot of experienced news managers (Mac and Mike are EP and Assistant ND FYI). They will do their best to make sure nothing is done to offend what is a large viewing base... a base they are familiar with having worked here for so long. Jim Garrott, the news director, jokes about "just not being the one who crashed the ship", but that's just him being modest. I've worked for five news directors and he was by far the best.

The other two stations have their loyal viewers to be sure. Since I've left TV, I've met people who just prefer 31 or 19 for various reasons and both stations are in good hands.

When I was at KSBW, I heard nothing but good things about Chris Manson, news director at WMBD. At the time, he was the assistant news director at KION across town.

WHOI is led by Amanda Wozniak and Jolie Alois (yes, she's married to WMBD weekend sports guy, John). Amanda worked her way up from producer to the top spot, while Jolie brings experience from a couple of larger markets (Champaign and St. Louis).

But here is the challenge. How do you attract more viewers when:
  1. Being a market of this size, there isn't much difference in what you're covering (look at the big news day last Wednesday to see how similar the "A blocks" were produced).
  2. You can't take the large market "if it bleeds it leads" approach (not suggesting they'd want to, just saying it is a reality in other places) as there is relatively little crime or breaking news (last Wednesday isn't the norm).
  3. And if you accept my premise, too much of "crime and grime" might offend people while the number one station isn't doing anything to offend or make it's viewers want to sample something else makes a shift unlikely.
There was some thought while I was at WMBD, that the Twin Cities was the battleground where viewers could be taken, if you focus more coverage over there. Yes, everyone has/has had active bureaus, but in 97, while Maria was doing solid work dayside M-F, I spent the entire February sweeps period working nights and weekends and going live out of Bloomington (as a one man band, shooting my own live bureau shots for anyone who wants to complain BTW and doing the same live shot for WCIA). And it was combined with an agressive promotional campaign... promising more Bloomington/Normal news. Even that proved to be a less than successful push... at least ratings wise... but I'm sure the B/N viewers appreciated it and the people who followed me full time... Mark Goldman and Melissa Crabtree.

I know there are some people at all three stations who won't like any of this. I know deep down you want to think "if we just kick butt today, more people will watch." But having worked at station at a time when we did kick butt, we had significantly more staff and the ratings barely moved... I submit to you that the challenge is much greater than just doing a good job.

All three stations do well covering the market. The challenge is about differentiation and promotion... without offending. Not an easy task, but an interesting one.

My message to news crews: do your best for your viewers. That's all you can control. Leave the strategy to the bosses, pray your network has done it's job and hope viewers will choose you.

Sweeping Up - 1999

The last time we saw a real tightening of the local news ratings race was February of 1999. WEEK was still on top, but WMBD temporarily cut into the lead. All of WMBD's newscast ratings were up.

And while there are all sorts of reasons for shifts, some pointed to WHOI's cancelation of Good Morning HOI. WEEK General Manger Mark DeSantis was quoted in the Journal Star.
If a station cancels a newscast in a key time period, it displaces the rest of
the news shows. There is no bigger growth market in news right now than in
the morning. We're seeing the direct result of HOI getting out of the news
business in the morning.

WHOI eventually brought back their morning show and brought in new anchors. With the exception of a handful of people the news department has totally turned over. Still, it was an exciting time ratings wise, however brief. WMBD was pulling in a 12/24 at 10:00 to WEEK's 14/28.

Airwaves Tie Twice

The Airwaves tied twice Thursday night. I scored to put us up 3-1 but choked away what would have been number 4 (sorry guys). They came back to score 2 including 1 in the last two minutes.

I didn't play in the second game, but reports from the team have Gina getting body slammed, and Fran taking a ball to the head and Bart spraining an ankle. Why do we play again? Down 3-1, we came back to tie the game 5-5. Great effort in both games!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Do Sweeps Stories Make A Difference?

Last year, a friend of mine in Kansas City did a series where he set up shop at a house and set up meetings with internet predators who thought they were going to meet teenagers. When they arrived there, all they got was Steve and his camera crews, lights on etc.

Does it work in terms of attracting viewers? I think his station's ratings "spiked" a bit during his series, but overall for the month if I remember correctly, they were unable to over take the number one station. Also, KC is a metered market... Peoria/Bloomington still relies on diaries.

The story was done before in other markets, but from what I understand, Steve took it to another level. On a personal note: as a father and a coach, I applaud his efforts. Yeah, I realize there is debate about doing these kinds of stories and dangers in how they're done, but there are few things that anger me more than people who abuse children.

Sweeping Up

Welcome to sweeps.

That means no reruns, lots of specials and special guest stars. It means local stations doing call in contests, giving away money or prizes all in an effort to get you to watch and hopefully, if you have a Nielsen diary, write down that you watched their station.

This is also the time of year when nobody in television news can take vacation. Happens four times a year, February, May, July and November although with network in reruns in July, some stations aren't as hardcore about the vacation thing. The idea is to be fully staffed so in case people watch because of a specific person, that person is there.

And at full staff, stations are more able to do special reports... all in an effort to attract as many viewers as possible and drive ratings as the ratings from this month are used to determine ad rates.It used to be sweeps was about doing the multiple part series, but as a whole, it seems to have evolved into heavliy promotable one night stories.

It used to be (way back when) that these "specials" were more often than not... harder news, investigative, "scare the heck out of you" into watching kinds of stories (that's a generalization, not all stations did this). While some stations do the harder story today, I really think it's more about attracting an audience. So to that end you'll see stories on where to find the cheapest groceries, as seen on TV or one tank trips... or what's it like for a man to be pregnant.

Many of these stories are already tested/done in other markets, put into a booklet and on tape by consulting firms and spread around the country before each rating period, so a station can do their own version of the story. By the way, just so there's no confusion... I can guarantee you that ice tea is bad everywhere, people don't shred important documents and reporters will be able to find them in the trash in every market and, get this, people speed... yes, they break the speed limit (I'm not cracking on anyone in particular because I've done two of those three stories).

By the way, I'm not saying there's no value to any of this. Its just that while I was working in news, it seemed a bit silly that newsrooms would bend over backwards this time of year just because Nielsen is "keeping score" so to speak. Shouldn't we be putting forth the effort ALL year? And some do... so I give credit to news directors who will spend the money/resources/effort for the special reports throughout the year.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Serving The Public Interest

WEEK is running the Bradley game tonight, but Shannon informs me they just ran a crawl that lets people know if they want to watch the State of the Union address live, they can turn to MSNBC or any of the other local channels. They could have left it at MSNBC, but they didn't. Kind of like the Macy's Santa sending folks to Gimbels...

Just flipped over to game for a minute.

Although, before anyone complains, they didn't have Lee plug the other stations at the last break, but still a nice effort. Now if we can get a better effort out of Bradley.

Beth And Eric

One half of a former Peoria TV couple checked in via e-mail today.

Former 31 director Eric Peterson wants to let everyone know that he and former 25er Beth (formerly known as Krug) are doing well in the Windy City.

Eric got a job with Comcast sports last summer and loves working in sports. He hopes to direct some NCAA hoops this spring. Beth has been working a lot lately for the production house that does work with Pampered Chef and is looking to do some producing in the near future.

The Airwaves really miss Beth, by the way.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

What Happens When Nielsen Counts Again?

Former WMBD weekend anchor Lee Ross checked in via e-mail today. He posed a question I just happened to be discussing with my friend Sam.

The blog is titled MARKET117, but Lee asks, what happens when more people (viewers, not news people) leave the market and the size changes? Market is short for Designated Market Area (DMA) which Nielsen Media Research uses to determine the number of viewers in your area.

Just yesterday I was explaining to Sam (also pointed out by Steve Gehlbach in a previous post) that when I first got here, the market was bigger. It was market 110. Sam asked what happened and I told him:

Everyone's moving to Dunlap.

(For those with no sense of humor, yes, I know Dunlap is part of this market.)

As for Lee's question, I'll jump off that bridge when I come to it.