People who know me can never, ever say Iâ€™m not loyal to people I like and respect. Youâ€™ll see that in a moment, along with an example of the opposite. (Is your mouth watering yet?)
Yesterday, one of Philadelphiaâ€™s daily newspapers published an article called â€œIs the morning news format that fuels Mike Jerrick’s ‘weird uncle’ shtick on its way out?â€
Iâ€™m going to give the writer the benefit of the doubt because reporters donâ€™t usually write headlines, and the headline goes after the format rather than the person.
The article started by criticizing Mike Jerrickâ€™s on-air behavior on International Womenâ€™s Day, March 8. It quoted Peter Jaroff â€“ assistant professor of media studies and production at Temple University and a former WPVI-6ABC producer â€“ who described the situation perfectly.
Jaroff told the paper,
â€œYouâ€™re supposed to chat and fill up time and be engaging to your audience, and that can get you in a lot of trouble.â€
Let me repeat: â€œFill up time and be engaging.â€
He didn’t say for how long or how often. Letâ€™s look at the situation.
WTXF-Fox 29 puts on a six-hour morning show.
(I mentioned people who know me. They also know I hate the phrase â€œshowâ€ rather than â€œnewscastâ€ because a newscast is special with the responsibility of informing people about important current events and controversies â€“ even though they typically air too much crime and too many fires, often without putting any of it in perspective. A â€œshowâ€ can be anything.)
Jerrick is on the air for four hours straight, from 6 to 10am. His broadcast, Good Day Philadelphia, actually starts at 4. (Yes, it’s the same name as all the other local Fox stations call their morning shows because they copy.)
Speaking of copying: Today, were we supposed to look at this and know where St. Mary’s County is? No clues. The company itself owns three Fox 5s. That doesn’t include affiliates. But this didn’t cost a cent!
It begins with hard news. Certainly, a lot of the content is from the day before because very little happens between 11:30pm and 4am, except for the crime and fires.
Jerrick is as good as anybody when he goes on the air at 6.
But letâ€™s start before 6.
I worked with him for 15 months. Iâ€™ve seen him at 5:30am daily, before the public at 6, telling producers and an executive producer his intelligent, educated, experienced opinion â€“ usually right â€“ on what stories he should be talking about and which shouldnâ€™t air. Four hours, or actually six, can be a long, long time â€“ and a lot can happen to change things.
There will never be a TV station that has the staffing it really needs.
Jerrick would start out doing the news, correcting mistakes in scripts based on what aired earlier, what has changed since then and what he knows is the truth. (In other words, somebody elseâ€™s mistake.) He wonâ€™t let a live reporter go without making sure viewers have all the facts they need.
That may throw off the time, and producers have to go almost by the second â€“ which probably makes them crazy â€“ but realize Good Day Philadelphia producers do two straight hours in the control room. Thatâ€™s a lot, even for the most disciplined, attentive, anal person trying to get as much new material on as possible.
The producers canâ€™t read every script before they air. Scripts are still being written moments before, especially in breaking news situations. Jerrick and his counterpart, Alex Holley, may be told a few quick points in their earpieces and given a line or two. Very few TV news anchors can do that as flawlessly as they do multiple times every morning, while keeping tabs on what the live picture is showing, or if the signal goes bad.
At 7:30am, thereâ€™s often a live interview with a newsmaker, victim, etc. Jerrick and Holley consistently show the right tone, depending on the situation.
I havenâ€™t forgotten their great job with the return of a station intern, wounded in the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, who lost a loved one. Or the controversial Philadelphia sugar tax that mostly affects soda. Or the superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia about needing 1,000 new teachers when the other teachers hadnâ€™t gotten a raise in five years and put up a billboard on busy I-95, making sure everyone sees the claim Philadelphia doesnâ€™t value its students. I remember Jerrick and Holley making sure to present both sides, playing devilâ€™s advocate when necessary, and give everyone a fair shot â€“ for journalism and conscience.
I know because in each of those situations, I took notes and when each was over, I quickly got in and out points to put the video on the web, and wrote stories that started with the new information Jerrick and Holley were able to gather. Often, they made the interviews memorable experiences and thatâ€™s exactly what TV goes for: memorable experiences involving people associated with your station. The bosses get credit, the station makes money, but it’s Jerrick, Holley and company who actually do the work.
Iâ€™ll tell you now, I have not watched for a moment since I left last Aug. 10. Too painful. And that personal story is far from over. The people Iâ€™m writing about may not know that but their bosses sure do!
So how can Jerrick and Holley go from being hard news people â€“ bringing viewers every new fact possible while guaranteeing their accuracy, while sitting inside a studio â€“ and suddenly become time fillers at 9? Theyâ€™d have to be extremely talented and well-rounded, or bipolar!
Sure, they report breaking news the executive producer decides is important enough until 10:00, but the *show* transitions from hard news to arguably nonsense and no matter how slowly that process takes, and the audience changes, it still involves the same on-air people.
Itâ€™s very rare, but I remember the morning hero, reporter Steve Keeley, breaking three new stories live at three different locations one morning! Itâ€™s a combination of his sources and reading everyoneâ€™s social media (and I included every police and fire departmentâ€™s tweets in three states when I wrote everyoneâ€™s).
The station is too cheap to hire other people.
STOP FOR A SIDEBAR: All I ever got from the station, other than hard times, was a green t-shirt and hat for the St. Patrickâ€™s Day parade in 2017. Most other places give gift bags when you start.
But I got a Good Day Philadelphia Weekend shirt that one of the anchors, Bill Anderson, actually spent time and money to make all by himself! Donâ€™t believe me? He did that to connect with viewers and increase ratings â€“ and then the bosses took him off the show and gave him a reporting franchise, For Goodnessâ€™ Sake! Some thanks and appreciation!
Bill is still doing what he does, great reporting, substitute anchoring, and wardrobes.
Yes, folks. This is the fourth largest TV market in America and this is what a local native â€“ great person, great at his job â€“ obviously feels forced to do. Somebody should be ashamed, and itâ€™s sure not Bill!
BACK TO THE STORY: At 9, one of the 4-6am anchors usually joins Jerrick and Holley. Theyâ€™re given a list of topics to ad lib about. That means no real scripts for them or their director, who has to make sure the right video is playing. Reporters who were on the air earlier usually change stories â€“ not because of news happening, but planned events. Everyoneâ€™s time is planned out so thereâ€™s no waste, or rest on a bad day.
Thereâ€™s a lot for the anchors to keep track of while making small talk with weathercaster Sue Serio, the most open, genuine human youâ€™ll ever meet â€“ and traffic reporter Bob Kelly, who has to keep track of all roads and transit in the region, get all the facts as they change without getting confused, and then find the live shots or make the graphics you see without any help. Oh, and then itâ€™s Kellyâ€™s Classroom or Camp Kelly, depending on the season, and Breakfast with Bob weekly.
So thereâ€™s a hell of a lot that goes on that viewers donâ€™t see, except for the same faces, over and over again. How they seem to know everything â€“ and at that hour â€“ is incredible! They deserve credit, not scorn.
Of course, the viewers want the local angle, rather than the network or cable morning shows. Thereâ€™s a place for it but honestly, itâ€™s not for me.
Iâ€™ve often thought of Mike Jerrick as Johnny Carson. Who except Dom DeLuise and Joan Rivers ever had a public spat with Johnny?
I mean, Jerrick is from the Great Plains (Kansas), smart, funny, and â€“ yes â€“ older. Thatâ€™s valuable and lacking in too many places today. I wasnâ€™t around when Carson (from Iowa) started on The Tonight Show in 1962 and wasnâ€™t allowed to stay up late enough to see him until I was old enough, and still, a lot was over my head.
No, not everything goes as planned. Thatâ€™s the nature of live TV. How the people on-air react is what separates amateurs from professionals. The anchors you see on that station I really donâ€™t like are professionals.
So Mike and Alexâ€™s job is basically to fill time, and it works because theyâ€™re often #1 in the later time periods. That means they do very, very well â€“ especially because one of their competitors is the nationâ€™s powerhouse station.
Something ironic: The article with the title about a format possibly being on its way out barely touches on history. It used to be a white guy doing the news. Or two white guys. Same with weather and sports. Then came Adam and Eve â€“ a man and a woman. The article quotes University of Maryland journalism professor Linda Steiner as saying network executives see that â€œas the kind of ideal nuclear family.â€
But this isnâ€™t Leave it to Beaver. This is Fox. So you have to expect a little pushing of the boundaries, especially from a station with the brand We Go There.
As seriousness turns to silliness, children have headed out to school. If theyâ€™re home sick, how would you compare Jerrickâ€™s behavior to afternoon soap operas in the past? Or to the lowlifes too often seen on daytime talk and reality shows, these days? Do you want your kid watching Maury (a KYW-TV3 alum) or Springer? The difference is, Mike is the serious newscaster, earlier in the morning. (Iâ€™ve never asked him which role he prefers, if either.)
And HBOâ€™s John Oliver used Jerrick as an example of someone who spent â€œthe entire day (International Womenâ€™s Day) acting inappropriately.â€
Yes, times change. Jerrick â€“ with daughters and grandchildren â€“ would be one of the first to support #MeToo.
He also keeps colleagues on their toes and the audience interested. I give management and the parent company no credit for that. Absolutely none. Itâ€™s the people you see, and I donâ€™t have a bad thing to say about any of them. And when the show is over, they clean up (if necessary), meet to discuss the good and the bad of the morning, plan the next show, and then go out to shoot all the special segments viewers see. Itâ€™s usually not far from 12-hour days.
Do you think all the pre-NFL Draft features happened on their own or by magic? It was big planning, changing clothes and going with the flow â€“ just like at the newsdesk but with a little more wiggle room.
So he said â€œbullshitâ€ when President Trumpâ€™s assistant Kellyanne Conway â€“ a local woman â€“ used the phrase â€œalternative factsâ€ about the Trump inauguration’s crowd size. WHO WASNâ€™T THINKING THAT? And he took his punishment knowing he shouldnâ€™t have used the word, and knowing the station had to pretend to care about Federal Communications Commission rules.
Tom Snyder â€“ who anchored here at KYW-TV3 in the late 1960s â€“ shot a bird on WABC in New York, in the early 1980s. This is how he remembered it, years later, on CNBC.
I can imagine the same situation here.
And who was totally honest about needing to take a few months off?
Nobody is perfect but Mike Jerrick â€“ with the job he has â€“ is pretty damn close. (I can say the same about Alex Holley who, among so much else, has made her own family out in Texas, our own family.) It has earned him promotions and made him a national figure. And I sure hope heâ€™s not working for the money. (Iâ€™ve always said money is freedom.)
And donâ€™t tell me Ryan Lochte (pre-2016, Rio) didnâ€™t deserve to be laughed at after his interview,
along with anything to do with the Kardashian family. (See the newspaper article link.) When I hear that name, I still think about lawyer Robert from my O.J. Simpson days, rather than his unbelievable ex and offspring. (So Iâ€™m also a fuddy duddy. Act surprised.)
Iâ€™d never put any of them on my show and I doubt Mike would either, unless they did something SO ridiculous that everyone was talking about it.
The article pretty much says Jerrick found his niche and compares him to the Today showâ€™s first host, Dave Garroway, buried here at West Laurel Hill Cemetery.
So bottom line: Mike Jerrick is the right person for the job, the station is lucky to have him and I will blame any future fall in ratings with changes in front of and behind the camera, or the end of an era â€“ not Mike.
(For the record, I was NOT in contact with ANYBODY associated with the station for weeks before, or while writing. The thoughts are completely my own.)
Speaking of people I like, I canâ€™t say enough about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre survivors outside Fort Lauderdale. Theyâ€™ve spoken forcefully and eloquently about the need for stricter gun laws.
Just wait, but some of them and other high school students will be old enough to vote by this yearâ€™s midterm elections. Mark your calendar for Tuesday, Nov. 6. Every member of Congress will be up for (re)election, along with about a third of the Senate.
Plus, 39 states including Pennsylvania and New York (Iâ€™ll get to that one in a few moments) will be (re)electing governors, and there will be many state legislature elections. (If I remember correctly, in ancient times in Florida, you could register to vote at 17 but not actually vote until your 18th birthday.)
Then, in two (hopefully) short years, more than half of todayâ€™s high school students will be able to vote in the 2020 presidential election.
Anyone who dismisses the Stoneman Douglas student group over their ages is stupid because theyâ€™ll be voting before you know it, and are already convincing other voters! Same for that Fox News host, Todd Starnes, who was troubled by how Cameron Kasky took down Sen. Marco Rubio, the one-time presidential candidate, over whether he would agree to refuse further political contributions from the National Rifle Association during a CNN Town Hall. (Click here to watch and read it all.)
The young people are absolutely right about the need to make gun laws stricter. As for what changes, there are many so I wonâ€™t be specific. However, as powerful as this group and their supporters become, I worry about all the federal judges President Trump is appointing, and at least one justice so far on the Supreme Court. The young people and 100 million other Americans may convince some legislatures to vote their way, but those bills-turned-laws will have to be upheld if challenged.
Iâ€™ve mentioned Kasky’s mother has been a friend for many years. Besides beating a sitting senator in a debate, heâ€™s the one who had to leave the 60 Minutes interview that aired last Sunday for a family dinner. (Ask them, not me.)
TVNewser called that episode “on pace to finish with 10 million viewers, which would make it one of the most-watched episodes of 2018.”
Itâ€™s not my place to name Kaskyâ€™s mother because she has not spoken out publicly (nor does she have to, with her son doing the job much more than adequately), but for those who are getting over school shootings or need a reminder of how devastating the situation has been for not only the community but 17 families, his mother shared this post on Facebook on Sunday.
No, there are no words that could comfort that father â€“ certainly not from this NRA woman…
nor people who come up with crap like this…
nor this self-proclaimed “physical education instructon and football coach” in an outer Atlanta suburb with whom I have two friends in common. He apparently feels it necessary to use some dumb “gun permit” that never expires, that somebody made up, as his profile picture. I’ve read his take on gun issues too many times. I think his priorities are off and he has too much time on his hands. I hope we never meet.
Before leaving the topic, a possible solution to the guns-in-schools problem.
This morning, Axios reported â€œHow urban schools avoid mass shootingsâ€ (thatâ€™s the headline) via the Associated Press that
â€œAs schools around the U.S. look for ways to impose tougher security measures, … they don’t have to look further than urban districts such as Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York that installed metal detectors and other security in the 1980s and 1990s to combat gang and drug violenceâ€
â€œSecurity experts believe these measures have made urban districts less prone to mass shootings, which have mostly occurred in suburban and rural districts.â€
â€œOfficials in some suburban and rural school districts are now considering detectors as they rethink their security plans after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.â€
Letâ€™s hope tougher security measures including installing metal detectors is a solution to save lives.
Now, a slightly less vicious political story (and I mean slightly):
Yesterday, I mentioned Sex and the Cityâ€™s Cynthia Nixon running for governor of New York against fellow Democrat Andrew Cuomo. (I’m shocked this politician doesn’t have his picture at the top of his official webpage!)
People magazine reported she tweeted alongside a two-minute video,
â€œNew York is my home. Iâ€™ve never lived anywhere else. â€¦ I was given chances I just donâ€™t see for most of New Yorkâ€™s kids today. â€¦Our leaders are letting us down.â€
In the video, Nixon noted she grew up with her single mom in a one-bedroom fifth-floor walkup.
She has been a vocal critic of Gov. Cuomoâ€™s educational policies. According to People, she accused the two-termer of being the main cause of the divide between the stateâ€™s â€œrichestâ€ and â€œpoorest schools.â€
Today, JTA reported, â€œHer two eldest children from her first marriage are Jewish and have both been bar- and bat-mitzvahed.â€ (I hate that phrase! You canâ€™t simply add an â€“ed to a word thatâ€™s not English!)
It also said sheâ€™s
â€œan active member of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, Manhattanâ€™s most prominent LGBTQ synagogue, and has spoken there multiple timesâ€
including her June 2011 Friday night sermon, the same day same-sex marriage became legal in New York state.
Back then, she lavishly praised Gov. Cuomo for his leadership in making that happen. I wonder if she changed her mind.
Nixon is getting support from former co-star Kristin Davis…
and fellow lesbian actress/activist Rosie O’Donnell…
but now, the New York Post is reporting Nixon is being “denounced” by arguably the Big Apple’s most prominent lesbian politician, former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Besides being the first openly lesbian governor in the U.S., I think Nixon would be the first governor in the U.S. to go topless. Just a thought, for those interested. Or would you have preferred to see Richard Nixon topless?
And rather than me leave you on that last note, thereâ€™s an update after I showed you:
* how Rupert Murdoch wanted money from Facebook for having his content on its site (no, people who work for him put it up, in hopes the public will click and see his websitesâ€™ articles and advertisements, and help his businesses), and
* how CNNâ€™s Jeff Zucker accused Facebook and Google of having a duopoly or monopoly on money from digital content, and wanted regulators to look into the two companies (even though CNN was a monopoly on 24-hour cable news from June 1, 1980 to 1996 when MSNBC started on July 15, and Fox News Channel went on the air on Oct. 7, except for the 16 months ABC/Westinghouseâ€™s Satellite News Channel competed).
Today, there are two articles that ask, â€œCan Amazon Chip Away at Google and Facebookâ€™s Digital Ad Dominance?â€
â€œData aggregator eMarketer â€¦ released a report indicating Google and Facebookâ€™s (aka â€œthe duopolyâ€) dominance of the digital ad market is about to be less dominant, as â€œsmaller playersâ€ like Amazon and Snapchat are on the rise.â€
â€œGoogleâ€™s share is expected to decline from 38.6 percent last year to 37.2 percent in 2018, while Facebook could shrink slightly from 19.9 percent to 19.6 percent.â€
I guess that should make Zucker, who I compared to a sore loser, pretty happy. Heâ€™ll have less of a problem!
Meanwhile, Recode also reported Facebook and Google banned cryptocurrency advertisements, and Twitter is planning to do the same.
Ironically, it says Sky News â€“ which Murdoch owns a minority interest in and is competing with Comcast/NBC to buy the rest, so he can sell it to Disney/ABC â€“ first reported Twitterâ€™s plan late Sunday night!
So let these crypto companies call good â€˜ol Rupert and advertise on 21st Century Fox and News Corp. websites. Thatâ€™s even though Recode says,
â€œthe crypto industry is still new, unregulated and fraught with fraud.â€
Shouldnâ€™t stop the mogul from accepting a dollar, or pound, you think?
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