Most of you know I was a web producer for the Fox station in Philadelphia, but fewer of you know I haven’t worked there since last August.
The reasons are still to be discussed, and probably won’t be public.
However, I’ve come across some interesting and incorrect content from that station while working on my computer at home — material that would’ve caused me to be questioned, but not everyone there is treated the same.
For example, while I was still working there, a colleague was working on a story about “captured Georgia inmates” but used another picture — one of Bill Cosby, a police officer and a member of the fallen star’s entourage — by accident, instead. The mistake was caught by somebody at another Fox station and corrected. I don’t know how long it was up. The person who did that still works there.
At least in that case, somebody at another Fox station looked at the Philadelphia site better than the Philadelphia people themselves!
I’d love to have nothing to do with a place I used to work, but on Christmas, I accidentally hit Firefox on my home computer and the homepage for WTXF-Fox 29 came up. I never use Firefox and that was the home site for that particular browser.
Since I used to work on the website, I scrolled down to see what they would have on Christmas Day. Most was typical. The web team probably didn’t have its full staff in place on that Monday. (I know the guy who worked Christmas last year wasn’t there this year!)
Then, I got to the section on the homepage about their show The Q, starring Quincy Harris, and it was blank! It simply went from the title, to a link for “More Stories” on the bottom, with no links to the latest videos from his show in between. It looked bad for the station, the show, and the star. Didn’t anybody know?
Quincy may have been on vacation for some time since Thanksgiving, but that shouldn’t matter. The latest should have remained there. Instead, there was nothing — just blank space that was an obvious error.
Quincy is a great guy, like so many of my former co-workers, and also incredibly talented. It was just a few of the managers who made my life a living hell. The living hell part has been brought up and will be discussed ASAP.
So I privately tweeted to Quincy and his team about the computer situation but if they told anyone, then nobody cared.
The next day, I was back on the computer and decided to check in again. Maybe a member of the station’s web team repaired Quincy’s section, which was probably a really quick fix. Still nothing.
I tweeted that publicly with a big circle where the missing links should’ve been. Maybe you saw it. I also supplied a link to Quincy’s page that contains his content. I hope it helped. Quincy shouldn’t have had to suffer.
Then, on Day 3, I was prepared to do something similar, like put a CBS3 logo in that area, but it didn’t come to that. Somebody, somewhere, changed the section to Entertainment. So the good news is, at least there’s content instead of blank space. The bad news is, there’s nothing special in that feed section that’s not on dozens of other websites and our local talent Quincy loses out, along with promotion for his show, weekdays at noon.
Let’s get something straight. I know it was the holidays but this is the fourth largest TV market in the country, based on the number of potential viewers in the area. It’s a TV station owned by one of the big four networks, a company that plans to sell off almost everything it owns (except for the network, TV stations, Fox News, and Fox Business) which makes its 28 stations in 17 cities an even more important part of the company. (And Fox may be buying more over the next few months, so watch out in places like Seattle, San Diego, Kansas City, and who knows where else?)
Local TV stations are going to be much more important to New #Fox if it sells off so many assets to #Disney. Having worked at one, I wonder how many people at those stations think they’re being run right. https://t.co/ZvdB0VGDPl
— Lenny Cohen (@feedbaylenny) January 3, 2018
Was there absolutely nobody at the station to fix it? Nobody who could’ve been called in to fix it? What about emergency procedures, where somebody from another of those 28 stations in 17 cities can get in there and see what’s happening?
Disgraceful. There’s no excuse. I doubt there were even consequences after this major error it seems nobody noticed but should’ve. Well, they can’t try to blame me for this!
So to the Fox 29 web team, which for some reason was moved to the creative services department from the news department, you have issues: planning, scheduling, knowledge, not noticing something big missing from your home page, and not calling for help.
But apparently that’s how your bosses want it. Once, I had to put six job postings on the proper page. Five of the six were either part time or per diem. Only one was full-time. That’s what they budgeted. What did they expect to get? What would the head of Fox Television Stations say? What would Rupert Murdoch say? (Looks like several full-timers left the station since then. Several others left when I did. Notice a trend?)
That’s the problem with many conglomerates. They can’t get anything done. When I was working in the Tri-Cities, we could do almost anything using somebody in the building or calling on one of our four sister stations. Just four.
Too many TV station managers like I worked with talk about how important Facebook is, and say it gets people to the station website which can make money, but putting up crap and doing it badly won’t get people to click. It only destroys any credibility left, and that’s happening faster in the age of Trump.
What people have been seeing is something that does not relay trust and stability.
Let’s take this past Friday as an example. It was a weekday, not a holiday, and a big news and weather day as well — the type of day journalists have to step up to the plate and be at their best.
I follow the station on Twitter and it follows me. First, I found somebody never learned how to use an apostrophe. Honestly, that skill isn’t needed to go on-air, but it’s very important for TV and web producers. Eventually, they got my message and fixed it. Then, it got better! I realized the story underneath was very fitting.
— Lenny Cohen (@feedbaylenny) January 5, 2018
— Lenny Cohen (@feedbaylenny) January 5, 2018
The error couldn’t have happened to better people. It’s just sad for the people of the Philadelphia region and beyond what’s left of this news-gathering group for the web.
Look what else I found they posted that day while I was going through my Facebook feed.
Ever heard of purple drank? Probably not. Does this post tell you anything specific about it? No. Care to guess if the Arlington is in Virginia or Texas? I wouldn’t waste my time. There’s no Arlington around Philadelphia, and I’ll explain where this came from in a moment. Plus, WHOA should probably be followed by an exclamation point.
A Connecticut man? I think I’m seeing two. Unless one is from a different state. Am I supposed to guess? Does this post tell who the second guy is? No. Does it matter? No. Would I click? Not unless I’m into the gruesome. And what’s with the MORE and link at the end when someone can simply click like in the purple drank article? We called those MORON teases. A real tease would tell me at least one new thing I’d learn if I clicked.
Here, it’s as if adding the word “police” somewhere near the top, even if it makes absolutely no sense, counts as attribution. Of course, the headline says he started out as a burglar. I don’t buy it. Probably an attempted burglar. Seems he was too busy to steal before he was caught! By the way, this was the only one of those three posts that did decently for the station. Viewers saw through the others.
None of these stories were exclusives, nor anything you’ll remember long-term. But you’ll find them on many of the other Fox-owned stations’ Facebook pages and websites because the stations share. I just looked at Los Angeles and Dallas. (LA mentioned the guy accused of breaking into the home happened in the Bay Area, and Dallas mentioned Arlington is theirs.)
The competition does, too, but there’s no verifying and the Fox stations that “borrowed” the article cannot change it, and that includes fixing mistakes. As for Facebook, the teases for those stories vary slightly but often not much. Too much trouble. Stations also repeat their posts, hoping they work better at a different time.
See for yourself. Click here for the Fox-owned stations website (rather than separately-owned affiliates around the country in places like Miami). Unfortunately, you may need to search by city name and the word Fox because the Fox Television Stations Group website doesn’t bother to list its stations nor their websites! (But you can complain, because there is press contact information listed: a phone number and email address!)
Then, go to their websites and Facebook pages. You won’t be overwhelmed by originality.
But there’s another issue at play here, and it’s a legal matter.
I seem to remember back on June 30, 2017, at 12:37pm, the senior web producer emailed:
Please be aware, new captioning guidelines go into effect tomorrow. If anything appears on TV and is then cut for the web or social, it MUST have captions. Reporter packages, short clips, what have you. All must have captions. (From Lenny: For the record, the emailed version’s bold part was in bright red.)
There’s video, rather than just a picture, in this Facebook post, and I’m impressed they spelled San Bernardino correctly, with the R in the middle. Of course, they tagged the sheriff’s department’s Facebook site, which knows how to spell its own name.
Shouldn’t the video have been captioned, like this example from Sunday night?
Those of us old enough have known about closed-captioning since the 1980’s. It replaced a person using sign language for people who are deaf or hearing impaired. It’s nice to have during entertainment programming but necessary during news — whatever you define that as, these days — especially emergencies.
These days, stations offer real-time closed-captioning. That means there’s somebody listening live, probably in another city, and getting all the words on screen.
Closed-captioning means you can turn it off if you don’t want it, and open-captioning means it’s there and you have no choice. Back in the 1990s, some stations used captioning that wasn’t real-time. In other words, if it was in the newsroom computer, then it appeared, misspellings and all. Ad libbing and live shots were not captioned.
This video, from the Los Angeles area, certainly aired, but the version chosen to put on Facebook is slightly different. For example, it doesn’t have the lower thirds for locators and people who speak, nor the station logo and maybe the time and temperature that are put on live when you see them on TV.
However, you hear an anchor’s voice tossing to a reporter package and the video was clearly edited. In other words, everything here aired but not “100 percent exactly” as you see on Facebook.
But it still has to be captioned, according to the Federal Communications Commission, which licenses TV stations, even though this is on the web rather than TV.
Click here for the FCC’s page on Captioning of Internet Video Programming. It says:
FCC rules require captioned programs shown on TV to be captioned when re-shown on the Internet.
Look at the word re-shown. One would think this video was not not re-shown since it lacks the lower thirds, station logo, and time and temperature.
That got me wondering whether using video that has everything except the bells and whistles that were put on live when the newscast aired is a legal trick to get out of having to caption.
However, click here for the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, which says:
Title 47: Telecommunication
PART 79—ACCESSIBILITY OF VIDEO PROGRAMMING
Subpart A—Video Programming Owners, Providers, and Distributors
- 79.4 Closed captioning of video programming delivered using Internet protocol.
(a) Definitions. For purposes of this section the following definitions shall apply:
(1) Video programming. Programming provided by, or generally considered comparable to programming provided by, a television broadcast station, but not including consumer-generated media. (The underlining is mine.)
Leaving out bells and whistles that may help the TV viewer is definitely considered comparable to programming. Therefore, it seems to me stations including Fox’s in Philadelphia are putting up video without captioning.
Again, web producers were told anything that aired had to be captioned on the internet (website, Facebook page, etc.), per FCC rules.
Go ahead and look at Fox stations’ Facebook pages. I did on different browsers. Ignore pictures. Ignore raw video that didn’t air, like most long news conferences. Ignore viewer video of something cute that goes on and on.
Then, as you see above, put your cursor on the playing video and click the Captions button. Nothing? Then click More Settings, which is just below Captions. On this next screen, make sure your settings are correct.
If you’re still having trouble, you may want to click here and go down to the section ‘Video Programming on Television and Other Equipment’ for details on filing a complaint.
Keep in mind, video with graphics like this are NOT captioned. They are put on by a central hub for all Fox-owned stations as decoration. The sound is NOT transcribed.
I suggest you do it, if not for yourself, then millions of other Americans. Besides, who knows what can happen to you one day?
President Trump has talked and talked about getting rid of regulations. His allies in the FCC already gutted net neutrality. It would be another shame if they decide to get rid of the captioning rules as well. It would be a shame for our hearing impaired neighbors, especially as the American population ages.