There’s never a good time to write a story like this. We know there has been a school shooting in Texas, apparently between Houston and Galveston, and at least eight people have been killed. It’s a tragedy. We can blame security, gun laws, the National Rifle Association, and so on.
That’s not my point right now. We will be learning details in the next few hours and days.
A short time ago, I happened to be up and reading, with the TV on, so I heard what happened.
Of course, I hope I’m in the minority. It’s a Friday in mid-May. Most people were probably at work and school, and concentrating on what they were doing.
What do people do for information these days? They usually go to the internet.
Let’s see what people found on a local news website in the Philadelphia area.
As usual, WTXF-Fox 29 did nothing but take a story from their sister-station. Notice how KRIV-Channel 26 wrote their headline for their own audience. Imagine what people here thought. There’s also a Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla.
Heck, imagine what people in Santa Fe, N.M., thought, for that matter!
But nothing seems to get through to these people to become a valuable information source.
If the stations don’t respond to viewer complaints, maybe the Federal Communications Commission will. Click here for its Consumer Complaint Center. (The FCC admits its “authority to respond to these complaints is narrow in scope.”)
For the record, 6ABC had an original story. NBC 10 and CBS3 both had stories from their networks. All three of their stories had the word Texas in their headlines to avoid reader misunderstandings. People at those stations did more than simply click a button to accept a shared story. So apparently three stations’ websites care about avoiding reader misunderstandings and one does not.
But don’t expect anything different from Fox 29. I don’t think they’re going to change. These are my reasons.
Just three days ago, I posted the exact situation with taking a story and using the same, confusing headline online.
Obviously the message didn’t sink in. They have no shame.
By the way, to make matters worse, they miscategorized it in their “Local News” section!
Let’s go to today. The story is exactly the same sidebar the Texas audience is reading. But of course for them, it’s local news that’s much more likely to involve someone they know in some way. They are expected to feel differently, so the story and placement should reflect that.
Do you see the section title, Local News? Very misleading. No students in our area are able to talk about the subject. They weren’t there!
By the way, was the man crossing Roosevelt Boulevard or the car?
And for those of you who feel any sympathy for the folks at 4th and Market — don’t.
You saw me discuss this stuff recently. I also mentioned this type of stuff when I worked there. I was told on several occasions to stop writing because another station was going to be taking care of it, even though I was faster and usually done or close to it. That was usually a national story with information from the Associated Press forced on the Washington DC station, WTTG-Channel 5, simply due to its location.
Maybe Steve Chung will shake up the irresponsibility in Philadelphia and protect the folks in DC from their extra responsibilities, just because of where they are.
It’s now almost 2pm. I’ve dotted my Is and crossed my Ts. Yet WTXF-Fox 29’s main headline is the same (but the picture is different) and the sidebar is STILL in the Local News section. Does any manager at the station actually look at the website? Isn’t that part of managing? Looks like we’ll leave who does what and who doesn’t to Steve Chung and then perhaps lawyers.
They can’t be equal, much less better, as long as this is true.
Oh, my favorite line of today’s story? The one on the bottom of this Fox 29 article. Look for it in the red box.
Not a single one of you should know me. Or any of my friends. But you do because we come from one of the hot school shootings of the month. Now we have another. Another community attacked that will only be further attacked by the NRA. Welcome to America, folks. This happens here.
First, I want to go thank and apologize to everyone who read my last post. It was way too long. Yes, it contained what I think was good information on several subjects. It happened to be on a snow day and I had nothing better to do then let out some of what I was thinking. It took a good ten hours, but I learned how to use gifs to make the radar show the storm in action in the beginning, and the white leaving Philadelphia at the end.
A lot of what takes so long is gathering all the tags and categories. If you saw the old sitemap page on this site, I had to keep a list of new categories, then publish and go through those new categories you see below the post. I had to physically cut and paste them on the sitemap page, in alphabetical order. The links did come along, but I decided since you already get that on the bottom right (if you’re reading on a desktop, and the very bottom, if not), then I can get rid of that page to save time. That was just a duplicate, so that’s what I did.
Also since that last post, I made changes on the right side (again, if you’re reading on a desktop, and below the posts if not). First, I changed some of the headings and got rid of the link to that sitemap page.
Second, I added a Category Cloud that WordPress is now offering. It shows the 30 categories I’ve used the most. The more I use a category, the bigger it looks. I can’t say I’m very proud of what I’ve written so far, based on the categories I’ve used, if this Category Cloud is correct.
(There is no list of tags but I can assure you, the search box will find anything that has been used in a post. WordPress’ search capability is much, much better than Lakana’s for both users and behind-the-scenes people. Surprisingly, at WTXF-Fox 29, we’ve had to use Google searches to find articles we, ourselves, wrote!)
Third, I really improved weather and it actually updates on its own!
While on the subject of extras on this blog, I also don’t know why the Twitter feed doesn’t appear on tablets, but am looking into it.
I don’t really want to be remembered by writing about a job I had, no matter how good it was. There are other parts of life. Of course, TV news is something that I’d been interested in since I was a child and studied it on my own, from growing up through college and to this day. Then, two years after college, I finally got my first job in the field and spent my career — minus the eight years I took teaching — in news, so it’s natural I will write about that a lot.
That’s a good segue to the headline of today’s post. The Sinclair attempt to buy Tribune has really been bothering me. I don’t know what you think, but I know what you should think. I’ve seen veteran journalists at stations being bought by Sinclair leaving for the competition, stations in other cities, or just retiring so they could keep the benefits they’ve earned at the other company.
Instructions from Corporate (thanks to Esquire):
“Please produce the attached scripts exactly as they are written. This copy has been thoroughly tested and speaks to our Journalistic Responsibility as advocates to seek the truth on behalf of the audience.”
“I’m [we are] extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that [proper news brand name of local station] produces. But I’m [we are] concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.”
“The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media. More alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’ … This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”
Then the anchors are supposed to strike a more positive tone and say that their local station pursues the truth.
“We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left or right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.”
CNN reports, “Internal documents call the new initiative an ‘anchor delivered journalistic responsibility message.'”
But some TV news anchors forced to read it at Sinclair’s 173 stations said,
* “At my station, everyone was uncomfortable doing it,”
* “so manipulative” and
* “I felt like a POW recording a message.”
Also according to CNN, “The instructions sent to station news directors say that the 60- and 75-second spots should run frequently ‘to create maximum reach and frequency.'”
It’s apparently the brainchild of Scott Livingston, the company’s senior vice president of news. Last year, he starred in an almost identical one, which you’ll be able to see shortly. This year, the local news anchors get that extra attention.
“Promo messages, like the one you are referring to, are very common in our industry. … “This promo addresses the troubling trend of false stories on social media [Livingston’s emphasis], and distinguishes our trusted local stations as news destinations where we are committed to honest and accurate reporting. This promo reminds our viewers of this mission.”
Then CNN reports, “After this story was published, Livingston sent CNN another copy of the script. It had one big difference: The word ‘national’ was missing. Instead, it said ‘some media outlets’ publish ‘fake stories.’
You work so hard on something and then realize there’s something wrong with it.
Wait. It gets worse.
CNN says another document went into great detail about how the promos “should look and sound.”
“Talent should dress in jewel tones — however they should not look political in their dress or attire. … Avoid total red, blue and purples dresses and suits. Avoid totally red, blue and purple ties, the goal is to look apolitical, neutral, nonpartisan yet professional. Black or charcoal suits for men…females should wear yellow, gold, magenta, cyan, but avoid red, blue or purple.”
“At the end of the promo, viewers are encouraged to send in feedback ‘if you believe our coverage is unfair’ and ‘Corporate will monitor the comments and send replies to your audience on your behalf,’ so ‘In other words, local stations are cut out of the interactions with viewers. Management will handle it instead.'”
This is just indicative of the type of company Sinclair is. I strongly feel TV stations are there to serve the public interest. They use the public airwaves and therefore the rules are different. TV stations should be run by their general managers who live in and are part of the community.And this is exactly the opposite.
So should other department heads like news directors. At least one in the Philadelphia market lives in the northern half of Monmouth County, which looks right up at New York. If cities and states can have residency requirements, I think there should be one here, too — not for the financial reasons governments have, but to live among the citizens and serve them better. I wonder whether people in the neighborhood watch New York or Philadelphia TV (if they even get both), and whether they care more about New York or Philadelphia issues and events.
It shouldn’t matter much whether GMs come from the sales side or the news side, as long as they’re serving the public interest. There should be hardly any interference from a major corporation’s headquarters.
Sinclair ordered all of its ABC stations not to air April 30, 2004’s episode of Nightline in which Ted Koppel read the names of the more than U.S. troops killed in action in the Iraq war, while their pictures are shown to viewers. According to CNN, ABC News said in a statement:
“We respectfully disagree with Sinclair’s decision to pre-empt ‘Nightline’s’ tribute to America’s fallen soldiers. …The Nightline broadcast is an expression of respect which simply seeks to honor those who have laid down their lives for this country.”
Sinclair saw it differently. In the same article, CNN wrote the Sinclair group put a statement online that said the Nightline program
“appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq. … Mr. Koppel and Nightline are hiding behind this so-called tribute in an effort to highlight only one aspect of the war effort and in doing so to influence public opinion against the military action in Iraq.”
It also quoted Sinclair general counsel Barry Faber confirming his company told its ABC affiliates not to air the program because, “We find it to be contrary to public interest.”
Of course, those TV stations not airing the program the rest of the country got to see got many complaints from people who could not.
ABC said it aired the names and pictures of all those killed during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, on the first anniversary.
The CNN article found,
“According to campaign finance records, four of Sinclair’s top executives each have given the maximum campaign contribution of $2,000 to the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. The executives have not given any donations to the campaign of Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, the records showed.”
Keep in mind this was more than six months before the election.
Sinclair should not have the right to do what it did. The decision should’ve been made on the local level. It appears Sinclair’s owners are far right-wingers using their assets (and our airwaves) to get what they want politically. That’s not the public interest.
“Most notoriously, the company ordered its stations to air a documentary critical of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry right before the 2004 election. … After an uproar, the stations ended up airing just a few minutes of the documentary, Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal, as well as excerpts from a pro-Kerry documentary and interviews with veterans.”
But Sinclair did not care to learn. It fired Washington bureau chief and reporter Jon Leiberman for publicly questioning the company’s decision to air it! The article continued,
“In 2010, several Sinclair stations aired an infomercial about President Obama intended to sway voters in midterm elections. The 25-minute piece, funded by a Republican political-action group, said Obama “displays tendencies some would call socialist” and claimed the president had accepted campaign donations from Middle Eastern terrorist organizations.
“In 2012, on the Monday before the election, viewers in some swing states found their nightly news or other programs replaced on Sinclair channels by an ‘election special’ produced by Sinclair that was biased against Democrats.”
Pretty sneaky! Like those examples weren’t “to influence public opinion,” as Sinclair said about Nightline way back in 2004?
The Seattle newspaper article, more than eight years after Sinclair was forced to cave in on the Kerry documentary controversy, came as Sinclair was preparing to buy that city’s ABC affiliate, along with Fisher Broadcasting’s other stations.
The article back then added,
“Even without the Fisher stations, Sinclair is the largest independent TV broadcaster in the country, according to its website.”
So who has been running Sinclair the whole time? The article reports, “The company’s top executives are the four sons of Sinclair founder Julian Sinclair Smith.” He died in 1993, but he and his family incorporated Sinclair Broadcast Group earlier, in 1986, and one of his four sons, David, became CEO in 1988.
SIDEBAR: The Baltimore Sun reported David Smith was arrested “and charged with committing a perverted sex act in a company-owned Mercedes” in August, 1996. It happened “in an undercover sting at Read and St. Paul streets, a downtown corner frequented by prostitutes.” Smith and Mary DiPaulo “were charged with committing unnatural and perverted sex act.” Police said “they witnessed the two engage in oral sex while Smith drove north” on Baltimore’s Jones Falls Expressway. Neither Sinclair nor its local flagship station WBFF-45 would comment.
People in the media have lost jobs over less. It looks like Smith used his power and influence to keep most of the media quiet. How do you think Sinclair would have handled another company’s executive in a similar situation?
BACK TO BUSINESS: The Seattle Times article described the four sons.
“They have contributed thousands to the Republican National Committee and conservative candidates, even forming a political-action group more than a decade ago to donate to the campaigns of former President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, among others.”
That said, I should note McCain was angry at the company’s 2004 decision forcing its ABC stations to preempt Nightline due to our victims in Iraq. The CNN article reported McCain, a Vietnam veteran and prisoner of war, wrote in a letter to David Smith:
“Your decision to deny your viewers an opportunity to be reminded of war’s terrible costs, in all their heartbreaking detail, is a gross disservice to the public, and to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. … It is, in short, sir, unpatriotic. I hope it meets with the public opprobrium it most certainly deserves.”
There is no more Fairness Doctrine, which from 1949 to 1987 required the broadcast license holders to present controversial issues of public importance, and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable, and balanced. Turns out, the FCC ended it because it supposedly violated those owners’ First Amendment rights! In other words, to hell with the public and their airwaves.
Even without the Fairness Doctrine formally, what it stood for should be maintained. Good journalism requires both sides to be heard on an important issue.
(To avoid confusion, the equal-time rule deals only with political candidates and has been around, in one form or another, since 1927.)
“short video segments that are centrally produced by the company. Station managers around the country are directed to work them into the broadcast over a period of 24 or 48 hours.”
So much for local control over content! The Times gave these examples:
“Since November 2015, Sinclair has ordered its stations to run a daily segment from a ‘Terrorism Alert Desk’ with updates on terrorism-related news around the world. During the election campaign last year, it sent out a package that suggested in part that voters should not support Hillary Clinton because the Democratic Party was historically pro-slavery. More recently, Sinclair asked stations to run a short segment in which Scott Livingston, the company’s vice president for news, accused the national news media of publishing ‘fake news stories.’”
Does this sound rational or unnerving?
Then, the article mentioned that Seattle station the company bought less than five years ago.
“Eight current and former KOMO employees described a newsroom where some have chafed at Sinclair’s programming directives, especially the must-runs, which they view as too politically tilted and occasionally of poor quality. They also cited features like a daily poll, which they believe sometimes asks leading questions.
“The journalists at KOMO described small acts of rebellion, like airing the segments at times of low viewership or immediately before or after commercial breaks so they blend in with paid spots. They all spoke on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal from the company.
“Those interviewed said that being on the other side of the country from the corporate headquarters outside Baltimore gave them some breathing room. But not always.
“In late 2013, for instance, after The Seattle Times wrote an editorial criticizing Sinclair’s purchase of KOMO, Sinclair ordered KOMO to do a story critical of the newspaper industry, and of The Seattle Times in particular, according to two of the people interviewed.
“KOMO journalists were surprised in January when, at a morning planning meeting, they received what they considered an unusual request. The station’s news director, who normally avoided overtly political stories, instructed his staff to look into an online ad that seemed to be recruiting paid protesters for President Trump’s inauguration. Right-leaning media organizations had seized on the ad, which was later revealed as a hoax, as proof of coordinated efforts by the left to subvert Mr. Trump.
“Only after reporters had left the room did they learn the origin of the assignment, two of them said: The order had come down from Sinclair.”
Seattle is a progressive city. Imagine how all this would fly in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago!
Scott Livingston, the company’s vice president for news, told The Times his company isn’t right-wing. Instead,
“We work very hard to be objective and fair and be in the middle. … I think maybe some other news organizations may be to the left of center, and we work very hard to be in the center.”
I interpret that to mean Sinclair works very hard to be to the right of maybe some other news organizations. And again, refer to what I wrote about local control. (Don’t you think conservatives who insist on local control of children’s schools would also want local control on broadcasting?)
In March, while Sinclair was fighting to take over Tribune, and apparently hoping to sway public opinion, Livingston forced Sinclair stations to run a segment featuring him that blamed everyone else:
Remember, this year, the company is making local news anchors do this work.
Sinclair had its former Vice President for Corporate Relations Mark Hyman give “must air” right-wing commentaries for years, and some still run. Variety magazine said “commentary segments on politics and culture from Mark Hyman … typically offer a deeply conservative perspective.”
Then, last April, it hired former Trump campaign spokesman and advisor Boris Epshteyn as its chief political analyst, a month after he left the White House, according to Variety. His last titles were Special Assistant to the President, and Assistant Communications Director for Surrogate Operations for the Executive Office of President Trump.
Livingston said having Epshteyn serve as a commentator on Sinclair’s 173 television stations’ political news coverage is part of its efforts to provide “political context that goes beyond the podium” for viewers, and
“We understand the frustration with government and traditional institutions. … Mr. Epshteyn brings a unique perspective to the political conversation and will play a pivotal role in our mission to dissect the stories in the headlines and to better inform and empower our viewers.”
He must’ve liked what he saw in the “Bottom Line with Boris” segments. Just two months later, Variety reported instead of three per week, Sinclair planned to deliver nine Epshteyn commentaries per week to stations.
According to the magazine:
“His segments have so far been a mix of cheerleading and defensive arguments on behalf of the Trump administration’s agenda.”
That’s not exactly “fair and balanced” as Fox News used to proclaim to be.
Sinclair does not offer commentaries from the other side, but tells you the news programming their network-affiliated stations air is left-wing liberalism.
Also, a month after the presidential election, President Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner said Sinclair executives worked with the campaign to spread pro-Trump messages in Sinclair newscasts. Sinclair vehemently denied that and claimed it offered equal amounts of airtime for in-depth interviews to Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, and she declined the invitation.
“Last April, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, led the charge for his agency to approve rules allowing television broadcasters to greatly increase the number of stations they own.”
It got the UHF discount rule reinstated, and that’s not a sign of the times. These days, most people have access to about 100 stations. It used to matter if your local TV station was VHF or UHF, due to antennas and how old TV sets were made for the UHF band. UHF stations were not as accessible, so the FCC decided the amount towards the cap should only be half for those stations, compared to VHF stations.
“Sinclair’s top lobbyist, a former F.C.C. official, also communicated frequently with former agency colleagues and pushed for the relaxation of media ownership rules. And language the lobbyist used about loosening rules has tracked closely to analysis and language used by Mr. Pai in speeches favoring such changes.”
An FCC spokesman representing Mr. Pai countered the allegations of favoritism were “baseless,” and
“For many years, Chairman Pai has called on the F.C.C. to update its media ownership regulations. … The chairman is sticking to his long-held views, and given the strong case for modernizing these rules, it’s not surprising that those who disagree with him would prefer to do whatever they can to distract from the merits of his proposals.”
And about Cunningham Broadcasting: That company is mostly owned by the family that runs Sinclair, specifically 90 percent by the estate of Carolyn Smith, the late wife of Sinclair founder Julian Sinclair Smith and mother of Sinclair chairman David Smith!
Cunningham has 20 stations, according to its website, but Sinclair is actually the company that runs most of them. That’s a sneaky way to use a shell corporation in order to get around the rules. It’s completely unethical and the FCC should really throw the book at them, but it looks like something similar is about to happen.
Then, Variety reports “The buyer for WGN-TV is listed as Steven B. Fader, chairman of Baltimore-based Atlantic Capital Group. Fader is a business partner of David Smith in Atlantic Automotive Corp., which owns dozens of car dealerships.”
Again, somebody close to the family. Again, a tiny price. This time, $60 million, which is four times as much as the bigger New York station.
Big city stations don’t get bought and sold so often, but according to Variety, “Back in 2002, Fox paid $425 million to acquire WPWR-TV Chicago, a UHF station that was not nearly as strong in the market as WGN-TV” which is on Channel 9 and much more prominent as the former superstation that carried Bozo the Clown and Chicago Cubs baseball games.
Another station part of the deal is KTLA in Los Angeles, which Tribune bought for a record $510 million way back in 1985. NBC bought WTVJ in Miami for $240 million in 1987.
Do WPIX-New York for $15 million or WGN-TV Chicago for $60 million sound at all reasonable?
I think the FCC should insist Sinclair itemize every TV station it plans to buy from Tribune, tell everyone how much it values each and how it adds up to $3.9 billion.
“would put many of the stations in trusts, an arrangement that has raised some concern from consumer groups that the company will try to operate them through partners down the road, because it runs some stations that way now.”
And Sinclair had said WPIX-New York and WGN-TV Chicago would be sold “to third parties that it would partner with later.”
Doesn’t Sinclair running TV stations that are really owned by shell corporations sound familiar, especially for a company that wants to be seen all over the country?
What Sinclair is willing to accept for WPIX and WGN-TV is outrageous and makes no sense. As Judge Judy says, “If it doesn’t make sense, it’s not true.” And if you believe Judge Judy’s phrase, then the people who run the largest broadcaster in America are liars and therefore unfit.
Sinclair is also asking for permission to own more than one station out of the top four in Harrisburg, Indianapolis and Greensboro. It already owns TV stations in those cities. Why should it get special permission to break the rule and own more, after all it has done?
“apparently airing certain public service segments by the Huntsman Cancer Foundation about cancer prevention, treatments and cures, without certain sponsorship identification. … Any absence of sponsorship identification in these public service segments was unintended and a result of simple human error. … We disagree with the FCC’s action and intend to contest this unwarranted fine.”
“The FCC said … Sinclair’s Salt Lake City station produced news story-like programming for local news broadcasts and longer 30-minute TV programs for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. The FCC said these spots that weren’t properly identified as ads aired more than 1,700 times in 2016 across 64 Sinclair-owned TV stations and also for 13 other stations not owned by the company. The FCC said Sinclair apparently didn’t tell these stations that it didn’t own that it was providing an ad.”
“The segments looked just like independent news stories, but Sinclair failed to disclose that they were paid for by the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.”
So Sinclair doesn’t know the difference between public service segments, done out of generosity, and ads they charge to air? If that’s the case, then they’re dumb, and dumb people should not be overseeing news. (Just wait a paragraph!)
The proposed fine is supposed to be a record. Some say that’s evidence the FCC is being tough on Sinclair. On the other hand, considering the severity and number of times they did it, others including two FCC commissioners said the fine was too low.
Also, you would think the largest broadcaster in America would do news right. It claims it buys new equipment and really helps local stations provide the best local news to their audiences.
What about Pittsburgh? It’s a large city and Sinclair owns a Fox affiliate, WPGH-Channel 53. It used to produce its own newscast but no longer does. Instead, it runs a newscast produced by a competitor. That’s one less local television voice. Doesn’t Pittsburgh deserve a fourth station offering its own local news? Isn’t the city and region big enough?
Then, what about Sinclair pretty much closing up shop in Toledo, Ohio? Its NBC affiliate there has a few people left in news but production is done out of its CBS/Fox stations in South Bend, Indiana. That includes its anchors and weather people. Who knows if they’ve ever been to Toledo, know anything about it, its history, what’s popular there, etc.? How can they do a decent job and how many people were laid off when Sinclair made that decision? FTV Live’s Scott Jones has shown an example after example of technical problems that happened because of Sinclair going cheap.
(The Fox affiliate in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market is a little different. It’s not as bad since the station finally stopped outsourcing news to the competition and started doing its own for the first time last year, except with those same South Bend anchors who would have the same questionable knowledge of northeast Pennsylvania.)
But those South Bend anchors can’t do three newscasts at once. Some things we see live everyday would have to be recorded. Does the weather person say the current conditions, or are they simply put on the bottom of the screen. Can you see live-shots during snowstorms, or what it was like an hour ago?
When there is breaking news and very little information, a good news anchor will be able to ad-lib around about the area the news is taking place. That anchor will tell you where it is, what’s nearby, major places to avoid, etc. The weather person will know the nuances and micro-climates of that area.
Sinclair has shown none of that matters.
Furthermore, several states’ attorneys general have spoken out against the sale, ironically including Maryland where Sinclair is based and Illinois where Tribune is based. That says a lot!
For all of these reasons, including less competition, the FCC should deny Sinclair the chance to buy Tribune. As Nancy Reagan said, just say no. Let this awful waste of time (ten months so far) and money become history as quickly as possible.
This is information on the FCC. The party of the president gets three of the five commissioners, and the other party gets just two. Two recent votes — bringing back the UHF discount and getting rid of net neutrality – have gone party line. The Sinclair-Tribune decision should not go the same way, although the Justice Department has to also make a decision.
Just copy and paste whatever you do. Then, look at the bottom-left of the FCC’s website under Leadership. You’ll have to click each commissioner and look at the left side to email each one.
Don’t forget Congress created the FCC, oversees it and confirms FCC appointments.
They can even use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to review new federal regulations issued by government agencies and overrule them by passing joint resolutions. Congress enacted it while Newt Gingrich was House Speaker as part of his Contract with America, and President Clinton signed it into law in 1996.
Click here if you need to find your Congressional Representative (you may need your ZIP+4) and click here to find your senators. Just look for your state at the top of the site.
Then, send what you sent the FCC commissioners.
We are the public, the American people. I don’t think we have been listened to by most of the people in government on any level for far too long, with just a few exceptions. It’s time to make a change and take charge. The FCC has revoked licenses before. In Boston, a whole new channel 5 was established in 1972. It forced the owner of New York’s channel 9 to move to New Jersey and then let it sell instead of revoking its license. In the 1960s, after a several-years long investigation, KYW was brought back to Philadelphia from Cleveland. The FCC can do big things. Let’s have them do this as the start of a new era.
Now for the fun. If you don’t believe me, maybe you‘ll believe John Oliver. Watch his take here.
(OK. This was longer than I intended, probably the longest of any blog I’ve published, but there are so many reasons I feel the way I do (hope you agree!), and that’s just what always ends up happening to me!
Why were we supposed to care? That’s a good question I’m still trying to figure out. Let’s just say nobody is perfect, not me for one — especially not the corporate people who run TV station websites — nor the giraffe, of course.
We were all waiting for April to have her baby.
Giraffes give birth after 14-16 months. Labor is short, and takes as little as 30 minutes. There was absolutely nothing abnormal nor unusual when April gave birth, except for the live streaming, and that was the key to their success: people watching live on YouTube.
So why was this important? There’s nothing special about April, 13. This wasn’t her first calf, but her fourth. Her mate was a much younger 3-year-old named Oliver. He became a father for the first time.
And this afternoon, I Googled “giraffe birth,” selected “news” and came up with ten stories, all more recent and have nothing to do with April.
For some reason, the attention lasted way longer than anybody thought. Preparations were made for what to do when she gave birth. Both “It’s a boy!” and “It’s a girl!” graphics were made. The zoo’s owners had a list of dos and don’ts for the media, even though they streamed everything. This was the birth.
I don’t know why other owners of pregnant giraffes don’t do it, or maybe we’re not interested because it has already been done.
Unfortunately, I ended up working the Saturday morning of the birth, April 15, and I hated working weekends. Nobody else was actually there to help with any complications arising from technical and legal aspects of the birth.
It wasn’t my scheduled day anyway (apparently the ONLY THING the misguided station ever appreciated from me, officially on paper), but I hadn’t worked since Monday, April 10, because of Passover.
So I walked into the newsroom after having been off for most of a week, April hadn’t given birth during my time off (unfortunately!), but somebody who worked overnight had live streaming of the YouTube feed on the station’s Facebook page going on, just in case.
There was a lot for me to catch up on after so many days. The zoo’s owners wanted all the free publicity it could get, yet make every cent possible, and the Fox TV Station Group did everything legal to help.
Wouldn’t you love to just walk in and see this?
The whole Fox TV station Group went way overboard with a story that did not deserve it.
Luckily, the zoo changed the YouTube sponsor from Toys”R”Us to Babies”R”Us, which was a clue, and then April gave birth at about 10am, after about 16 months.
AFTERBIRTH ALERT! (Click pictures to enlarge.)
An estimated 1.2 million people around the world watched live. I don’t remember how well we did showing the zoo’s live stream compared to the local competition also showing the zoo’s live stream.
In fact, I can’t say anything about the competition except I usually had no time or interest in watching, WPVI usually beat us and the ABC-owned station group really has their act together – as opposed to Fox, as I showed you recently.
It didn’t do much for the main sponsors, the owners of Toys”R”Us and Babies”R”Us, whose cartoon mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe was on screen. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. in September. I hope they paid cash.
This past week, going with her owners’ habit of doing anything for publicity, April ate the lettuce from above a New England Patriots sign, rather than one with the Philadelphia Eagles, and that obviously means she is predicting the Patriots will beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl.
The video runs about a minute, and Animal Adventure Park did say,
“April the Giraffe weighs in, in a very big way, on her prediction for the winners of Super Bowl LII ! We wish both teams and their fans luck!”
because it didn’t want to lose a single tourist or online shop dollar from either side’s fans.
April lives in Harpursville, N.Y. 13787, outside Binghamton. She should’ve known Philadelphia would be her home team, compared to the competition. We’re just 191 miles away and about a three-hour drive (2:59).
On the other hand, Foxboro, Mass., where the Patriots play, is 287 miles and more than four hours (4:10) away. And that’s even closer than Boston!
You’ve seen many parents. It obviously doesn’t take brains to have a baby.
The zoo’s earlier gimmick was making money off a contest to name the baby.
People who paid chose zookeeper Allysa Swilley, who chose the name Tajiri — or “Taj” for short — explaining it stands for king, hope and confidence in Swahili.
Don’t expect any gift from me when Taj turns one in two months and 11 days!
P.S. From what I found, The Courier-Post had the best, most comprehensive list of animals making their Super Bowl predictions. Those seven are really worth checking out!
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
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?)
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.
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.
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.
I hate the story and wish it would go away. Deep, painful wounds are being opened.
Yes, it looks like justice is happening to a degree — and that’s good — but American newsmen (there’s a word from the past, when the behavior may have been looked upon as typical, or maybe even normal and accepted) are making Trump look right in his spat with them and their bosses.
I didn’t hear Trump say so or tweet it, but it really doesn’t help the non-journalist American men who are his base.
And we’re learning way too many other people, including executives, kept the sexual harassment they witnessed or heard about to themselves, afraid of powerful or popular colleagues.
Young women, in or just out of school, are expected to fend for themselves against these wolves — kind of like dangerously going out on stories by themselves in bad neighborhoods at night. These so-called multi-media journalists, or MMJs, shoot, write, edit, and present the news live on TV — and forced to look over their shoulders, as if they don’t have enough to do — and unfortunately this is becoming more popular.
Recently, I’ve been wondering: Has anybody interviewed the mothers of the accused men? Yes, I know the accused tend to be older. Their once-proud mothers may not be around any longer. But several have to be.
I don’t care where these guys worked. Notice I left out network references, since journalists should be friendly competition to find out the truth and make society better. And most have worked in more than one place. (I did the same with politicians’ parties.)
Politically, I’m close to the middle, depending on the issue. Since the 2016 presidential election, political parties have meant less and less to me every day. It seems both sides have folks who are corrupt, and unworthy of trust and respect. (Kind of like the candidates!)
Gingrich, 1995, CBS News
Chung, 1995, CBS News
I’m not justifying Connie Chung’s 1995 interview with new Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s (Newtie’s) mother — and he has a whole lot to answer for, personally — but I’d like to hear some moms’ thoughts on their sons who are accused of sexual harassment these days.
In the Chung-Kathleen ‘Kit’ Gingrich “just between you and me” exchange below, the trusting 68-year-old admitted Newt told her that then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was a “bitch.” Mrs. Gingrich died in 2003 at the age of 77.
Have any of you heard from any of today’s moms?
Lenny with a Brian Williams poster while working at NBC affiliate WCYB. It’s long-gone for a different reason. I don’t remember a Matt Lauer poster. Maybe there was a Today show ensemble instead. I wonder where it is tonight.
Every situation is different, but death always seems to be a hard topic. We could be talking about a close relative, an acquaintance from years ago, a pet, or a famous person. How people respond is unique and usually understandable.
Usually. And I will say it. Tom Petty’s younger daughter seems to be an exception.
Monday afternoon, I heard about her father’s sad situation as a quick breaking story on some local newscast. It all but said he was dead. I think it also credited TMZ which, like it or not, would’ve been sued out of business if it wasn’t so right on the money. Again, it turned out to be true.
Then, since I get emails from People magazine for some reason, this came: “Rock Legend Tom Petty Dead After Full Cardiac Arrest at Age 66.”
I really didn’t think much of it because it had become expected, and being in the news business for decades jaded me. I was tired after watching hours of Las Vegas shooting coverage and if I had thoughts at the moment, they would’ve been to get file video, old facts, and be on top of whatever new was being reported.
But there seemed to be no update on TV for far too long. I’m not so heavily into music but even I was familiar with Tom Petty. Maybe it was the Florida connection.
I became interested. This one-time soap opera fanatic knows real people don’t come back to life, and doesn’t waste time on fake news, or the people and sites that publish it.
My friend Eric, in the media whom I completely trust, posted on Facebook about what he’d done earlier:
“My Petty post was based on information from LAPD. Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office now says: LAPD did not handle Petty call. WE did. Petty has a DNR (legal Do Not Resuscitate order: Lenny) and is “clinging to life,” “not expected to make it through the night.” So, to recap, Petty not dead yet… but soon.”
Then, the LAPD (police department) heard reports of Petty’s passing and tweeted this:
“The LAPD has no information about the passing of singer Tom Petty. Initial information was inadvertantly (sic) provided to some media sources. However, the LAPD has no investigative role in this matter. We apologize for any inconvenience in this reporting.”
Yes, this was a huge story. Also, keep in mind most of the east coast media had been woken up early that morning for the Las Vegas massacre I alluded to, and members of the west coast media may have been up 20 hours. And nobody is perfect.
Back to a family tragedy. Loved ones rush to a hospital room. Nobody knows what’s going to happen, or when. There’s panic and confusion. People aren’t thinking clearly.
Then, between early Monday afternoon until about midnight (Pacific time), seeing the network’s first tweet caused other major media outlets and celebrities to react incorrectly.
Maybe Rolling Stone had something to do with it. I don’t know why Violette, in her 30s, picked on them, but the barrage of vulgarity was completely unreasonable to do by her dying dad’s bedside. I can’t think of any reason for her to be interacting with anyone she doesn’t know personally at that time, much less constantly be interacting with the whole world. (Last warning is over comments below this picture.)
I don’t know what she was doing besides typing but if I was there with reason, I would’ve wanted her out of that hospital room.
Could anyone imagine Tom Petty wanting any of us to think about her misbehavior when they remember the end of his life?
Sorry to break it to you, AnnaKim, but your father was your father and also a human being, and he was also a celebrity whose premature death was news, whether you like it or not. A family statement would’ve solved a lot of this and you had too much time on your hands.
So take your inheritance (including any possible genetic gifts) and consider it the price of being born into a famous family, not that you chose to. Others would’ve appreciated your luck. You’re far from the only mourner out there. Millions are. You just seem to be the angriest and most out of line. Let’s hope.
P.S. The media should be embarrassed enough. At least this time, they’d been given incorrect information and had been up too many hours. They were wrong. Maybe there’s no excuse, but this comes close.
I also thank the 21 Facebook friends from all over the country, with different backgrounds and different political views, who shared the link — which I’m sure Facebook’s algorithm, whatever it may be these days, used to help me come across it. I really don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook, outside of work. I may click and see the first few personal posts, and check for birthdays. So please don’t feel bad if I don’t comment or “like” something you put on there.
Besides, I’m grateful for the opportunity to get some deep thoughts out, once and for all, since everything stays on the internet forever. And I’m about to pay for another year of having this site.
(I should add, I spent most of Thursday writing this. Then I slept on it. Now, Friday, I’m adding two brand new items that occurred after the author published her original article.)
Since I figured out how to post again, I won’t say I agree with the article 100 percent, nor would I expect to, but I’ve studied, read, traveled, worked in several newsrooms in different cities with different managers with different companies, and noticed over two decades:
First, what everyone wants answered.
We are definitely aware of and have access to the latest ratings, so we know what you choose to see, when you change the channel, and when you turn your TV off. Online, we know what you click on and what you don’t. Plus, what you comment about and react to. The numbers we get cannot be perfect but they are the best available and the only thing the industry plus advertisers have to go by. They are certainly not the Bible, but we and our bosses certainly look at what works, what doesn’t, and try to please you. Honestly.
At the same time, while we have the responsibility to report the issues, the public has the civic duty to pay attention to what’s going on. If the people choose fluff, nonsense and BS, then it’s their fault and the industry will ultimately provide more. It’ll end up being society’s loss. So please stay away from that. Besides, I don’t feel fulfilled writing it.
Nobody is perfect. Experience as an employee taught me when to ask questions, when to bother people, and when to know when something is going wrong, or could be about to go wrong.
Even if you’re perfect, you can’t please everyone. People will always complain, way too many thrive on it, and often the people who bitch and moan have different opinions for opposite reasons. (One: “You’re too liberal.” The other: “You’re too conservative.” My reaction: We were probably fair.)
Sometimes the people who complain are right and we learn from whatever we did wrong, or could’ve done better, or what to think about the next time the situation arises. (And it will.) Sometimes it’s an accident and sometimes it’s technical. We apologize and correct. And every industry has a few bad apples. Hopefully they don’t last long.
We do the best we can to provide the best content, often under difficult situations. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a big city or small town. Recognize that. Say something nice and encourage, rather than complain. This article just came out TODAY.
Computers are slow or break down. Programs have bugs that providers have to fix. Not every day is everyone’s best. And I can’t even begin to talk for my colleagues who have to travel far out in the field, despite weather conditions, and gather information, get a signal out, be completely accurate while getting both sides across, and perform calmly while making their slot in the newscast.
These days, it’s a shame there are so many cowards who hide behind their keyboards and tell us we are wrong. They should grow up and make themselves known, provide evidence of the error and a suggestion to make it better. Then, they would earn people’s respect and be the real influence they supposedly want to be.
In the newsroom, I frequently take opportunities to walk up to higher-ups, knock on doors, and email others at home when necessary to ask questions or get clarifications. And never has anyone taken sincerity badly in any way. I actually like it when people ask me to explain myself, because there is always a reason for what I do. Everything should be done professionally, not randomly.
At least in America, when you make yourself famous by running for office, or powerful for running a company that does big business, or rich for having a contract with the government, or even by receiving a paycheck from taxpayers, you are putting yourself out there and the public has the right to reasonably scrutinize you for answers. Those people don’t always like it and have tried lots of ways to avoid publicity. Public relations people know that getting ahead of a situation honestly is often the best course. People respect others coming clean, asking for forgiveness and showing improvement over time, because they tend to like underdogs and are usually willing to give second chances.
In this case I just learned about, did the commentator ask a follow-up to an untruth? Or tell her he’d never heard of what she was talking about on his broadcast? Or become adversarial, play devil’s advocate because it never happened? Or was he just happy one of his producers booked her and she showed up, so she got to say whatever she wanted?
That’s a media error by not challenging the person on the media’s air, and that goes for public call-in shows and comments on social media sites, as well. It this case, it’s ironic because it started with a prominent member of a team that has been criticizing the media.
So besides knowing our stuff and being well-rounded, we in the media have to be good, honest people, and above the board on everything. No appearances of any dishonesty, ulterior motives, etc. Always open with the highest standards.
We are often a diverse group in every sense of the word, and I don’t mean the automatic liberal, bean-counting way many would first assume. Consider so many different backgrounds, hometowns, families, experiences, friends, connections, etc. But we all tend to be curious, ask questions and tell stories. And everywhere, I’ve quickly learned who to defer to for background information on a subject. We should all listen more to each others’ stories.
I agree with the part of the article about news happening too fast. With technology these days, and the 24-hour cable world, decisions have to be made faster. That means there’s less time for thinking, planning, asking other opinions, and other important tasks. We’re not just TV or radio or newspaper people. There are also the websites and the social media that goes along with it. Like it or not, it’s social media that gets people to the web. Don’t automatically believe something if you don’t know the source.
Unfortunately, it costs money to run a newsroom and I wish that was out of the equation. News directors would love to have the best coverage and most crews on every story, especially the most important, yet they also have budgets and bosses to answer to. Unlike the past, we’re on most of the time from morning to night, and always on call for emergencies. There is never enough of something, but the results are usually darn good.
We have journalistic ethics and responsibilities. Journalists should be trained and reminded about these regularly, like politicians should reread the Constitution now and again, but that takes time and money. There are also specific procedures, which vary by station. But, as a former boss put it, there should be guidelines rather than rules, since every situation, story, and circumstance is different.
Like the public, journalists should know who to trust, in and out of the newsroom. People and organizations earn their reputations over time and often generations. Of course, things change. Organizations that were once good are sold, or there is other turnover. And newer organizations can bring in the right people. Look at everything and be skeptical.
The FCC loosening regulations over the decades led to most TV stations being owned by out-of-town corporations. There used to be a limit of five stations per company, and only one in a market, and not in the next city, because people living in between can watch you in both places (a grade B overlap). But the government loosed the rules, companies slowly started to own or run stations in 100 places, and local decisions about public airwaves are made and enforced by layers of strangers, who lack of knowledge of certain communities, and require paperwork be sent (electronically), profits rise every quarter despite local conditions, etc. Whose fault is that and what would any business do?
Still, we are responsible for the public airwaves in the areas our stations are licensed to cover. Deregulation and relaxing the rules created a lot more sharing between stations, and blindly relying on others, rather each station doing its own independent work. Not to mention vertical integration and controlling both the means of getting the signal (cable, satellite, internet), plus providing the original content and perhaps denying the competition a fair shot.
Budgets mean sacrificing the best, the experienced, and the most connected. This past year, one of the biggest media companies offered the bulk of theirs golden parachutes and nearly everyone accepted, knowing their contracts will eventually end and likely not be renewed, so they’d work longer and leave with much less. Instead, cheaper, inexperienced replacements are doing their jobs. Hopefully, they have potential and are getting great mentoring.
It would be nice if hard workers could grow old in the industry. I learned early on to respect my elders and their staying power. These are the folks who have been there and done it many times before, learned from long-ago mistakes and earned their respect. Yes, the technology always changes but gathering the facts to put on the news has not. Media corporations seemed to get rich with last year’s election, even if Donald Trump didn’t spend as much money as they would’ve liked during the primaries. NBC stations did especially well with the Olympics. Playing poor in 2017 doesn’t cut it and the public should know and be angry about it.
On the other hand, all other industries play the same game. Shareholders invest to make money, and that’s not helping the product. Times have changed and there are so few sole-proprietors or family-owned businesses. Another bad thing about that is not knowing where the buck stops. Huge corporations have layers upon layers of managers, in-house, regional and at headquarters. We need another Harry Truman.
It’s always good to check out the competition, but just out of curiosity. There are good folks on every team. Some of what another station does may be better and some not. Everyone has good and not-so-good days. We can learn from each other and each other’s mistakes. But every organization has to be true to itself, its values and its audience. It’s another reason why more independence for stations would be a good thing.
The author’s views on breaking news are correct. It seems to take too much time to get to the truth. We want facts and video as soon as possible, before anyone else, and we’re doing it faster than ever before. Almost anyone can send pictures with their smartphones. We can describe what we see. We can discuss the area around it because we should be familiar with all parts of our region. We can call neighbors around the situation to ask what they see and hear from their homes, because we should have contacts around the region we are responsible to cover. However, there are time, coordination, and safety issues to consider before arriving at a breaking news story. Sometimes we are lucky to be in the right place at the right time, and sometimes the competition is. That’s life.
I’m blessed to be working on the web and not going out, meeting new people in person and having to remember their names. I stink at that and also did as a teacher. (“Is that kid one of mine?”) I’ve come to dislike being in the spotlight, and love learning new stuff every day.
I usually like what I do and want to keep doing it indefinitely, but I also regret I can’t do more. I’m pretty fast, but there are only a certain number of hours in a day and too many stories to do correctly, at least where I live. Nobody can be everything to everyone and trying is impossible and detrimental. Right now, I’m doing what I like best and learning other skills that support it, my organization, and also others should the need ever arise. In this business, you never know, and that’s also unfortunate.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I haven’t blogged in months. Actually, it’s getting close to a year. Between moving and working, I haven’t had time to fully explain myself. But spending most of my day off on this is worth it. I thank the author of the article for writing, also my friends who shared it on Facebook for arousing my thoughts, and of course everyone over the years who taught me something. I hope you know who you are because I have recognized you for it.
I’m going to stay in the middle, avoid extremes and remain questioning while keeping an open mind. And I’m going to end by stealing the author’s last line, which I think may be the best and totally sums up this imperfect industry: “The truth is, we don’t even have time to create an agenda if we wanted to… and if we found extra time, we’d eat!”