It was 20 years ago tonight. Not exactly. It was actually four days off, on Nov. 25, but what really matters is it was the night before Thanksgiving in 1998.
I had been producing the 11pm news at CBS affiliate WFSB-3 in Connecticut. It was my last newscast there, before moving to Philadelphia – and also the last weathercast for the legendary Hilton Kaderli, who retired that night.
In fact, Hilton and I just got off the phone. He and his family are doing great. He mentioned he had just been doing a bit of work in his study, and his wife is working on their Thanksgiving turkey as I publish this!
The reason for both of us leaving the same night was, back then, TV stations depended on Nielsen ratings. That company picked times around four months to measure viewership. Then, starting on a Thursday and ending on a Wednesday – every November, February, May and July – networks and stations would go all out to show you their best programming along with their sexiest, dirtiest, most dangerous and practically anything to get you to watch. No vacations were allowed, so the A-team would be on every newscast, every day and night.
In 1998 – for the first and last time, I believe – Nielsen ended the ratings period on the night before Thanksgiving rather than the week before, postponing or canceling news people’s vacation plans.
Stations still use those times to have their on-air people announce retirements, reveal health issues, and more to get you to watch – even though Nielsen now realizes there are more than four months in a year, and doesn’t ask randomly selected viewers to fill out diaries about what they watch anymore. Old habits are hard to break.
The 11pm news was arguably most important (financially, why else?) because it followed the network’s huge primetime audience, and had 35 minutes to fill commercials, rather than the typical 30 for a half hour. Stations would then sell ads based on the ratings for at least the next few months, while also looking at year-to-year. People’s jobs depended on good ratings.
This was my first job outside of Florida, my first time in New England cold and my first time living away from home (except for college).
Downtown Hartford was basically a dead center of a doughnut, but not the night before Thanksgiving. (Why weren’t we live from outside?) The day before Thanksgiving was still busy with travel. (Yes, we had a live picture.)
Since then, the station moved from there, two towns south to Rocky Hill. (Yes, Weathersfield and Rocky Hill are towns, while Hartford is a city!)
These days, Al Terzi – the dean of Connecticut TV news, who actually spent some time in West Palm Beach – moderates a weekly political show on WTIC-Fox 61. Denise D’Ascenzo is still at it at Channel 3 after 32 years (and will always be my shiksa sister!), but gets to drive home at a decent hour. No more Nightbeat for her! We can all see and hear Joe Tessitore on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
I thank Tom Lowell, Steve Sabato and Deborah Johnson for the opportunity. I followed Tom up from Miami.
Plus, my friend Megan Robinson who followed me up and started producing weekend mornings, before becoming an executive producer in Charlotte. We went to dinner every Sunday night in a different town so we could study the state we covered.
Reporters Dennis House (now anchoring and also blogging, so I get a weekly email to keep up with the area!), Jennifer Watson (in Atlanta), Melissa Francis (Fox Business) and Susan Raff (still there!) found news or followed up on developing stories, sometimes live so late and further away than they would’ve liked to have been.
Assignment editor Andre Hepkins left WFSB and returned as a reporter. Now, he’s a big-time anchor in Baltimore. And Dana Luby kept getting promotion after promotion and recently went from long-time news director of the station to its general manager! Plus, Mike Guerrieri (Vice President of Creative Services at NBC’s Miami station) with the prime-time teases that kept so many viewers up longer than they would’ve liked.
Of course, I’ll never forget the late, great newscast director Jeff Bright. And I’ll never be able to mention everyone whose work went into making the newscast such a success, so please forgive me.
We were a #1 team. I should’ve made more of it. Come to think of it, I think I fought like hell with every one of the people mentioned at least once (except Gayle)! Every one of cared that much and made each other better.
I mentioned I ended up moving to Philadelphia. I stayed six years, returned to Miami for some time before getting back to Philadelphia (for Part B, as this post’s title suggests).
Click here for how The Hartford Courant reported that day.
Now, to the video!
1 of 3: Lots of touches I remember starting, the New England Patriots’ move to Hartford(!), Hilton’s memories, and perhaps a record number of municipalities mentioned in the first tease instead of the typical three
2 of 3: Michael J. Fox reveals he has Parkinson’s and Hilton’s final forecast
3 of 3: Sports, Hilton’s final good-bye and classic clips
(Why didn’t I get an on-air mention after 19-1/2 months?)
Gayle King’s friend Oprah joins Hilton on weather in 1992
And click here to read and watch the most memorable moment in WFSB history (at least involving Hilton)!
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Aug. 26, 2018 UPDATE: Grave marker raised and leveled, in early August. I may be back in a few weeks.
I don’t go on many vacations and didn’t plan to write a blog on this one, but the most unusual thing happened while trying to visit my grandfather’s grave at the cemetery in Royal Oak, Michigan.
Pedro and I had gone to Flint to visit, and for me to meet his family for the first time.
We decided today, we would drive to Detroit and possibly visit an aquarium on the way back.
First stop was going to be visiting the grave of my Grandpa Leo, my father’s father who died in 1954. That means he lived 52 years and has been gone for 64. There wasn’t much warning. After that, my father moved to Florida, at 13, along with my Grandma Lillie and then my Aunt Diane.
I’ve been to the Oakview Cemetery twice before. First, I was with the family in 1989.
Then, I went by myself in 2001, while I was on a job interview and ended up getting offered the job to produce the 11:00 news at CBS-owned WWJ-Channel 62 in Detroit. Good thing I got the opportunity to stay in Philadelphia because not only did Channel 62 get rid of its newscasts, it also canceled the 10:00 news on its new sister-station WKBD-Channel 50, which was UPN and now The CW.
Anyway, I was with Pedro, his sister Olga, and their mother. We stopped off at the cemetery office and got directions to the grave. And we looked. And looked. And looked.
No sign of the headstone.
I had some idea of the area and was able to find some cousins, the Coltons, but no sign of my grandfather. Eventually, Pedro called the cemetery office and a guy named Peter came out to try to help us find it. And he couldn’t.
Then, he called a woman from the office who has a good reputation for finding missing graves. She was able to locate some stone markers but they’d been covered with dirt and were very dry, so we had trouble reading them.
Eventually, we figured out numbers 85, 86 and 87 in the area. I went to the place and started digging with my fingers, trying to find grave number 1 in the right section.
And there it was, under at least four inches of dirt! There were others completely covered, and pretty deep, as well.
Uncovering all the dirt wasn’t easy. Pedro found some sticks that we used to try to get the dirt off the headstone. Even his elderly mother was on the ground, pulling grass out of the way!
Finally, the cemetery people called a worker with a shovel to lift the stone up a few inches.
We had baby wipes in the car and used those to clean the stone, and were finally able to read it clearly.
Peter said he put a work order in and tomorrow morning, the stone should have extra dirt underneath to keep it above ground. Pedro and I have a few more days here and will fly out of Detroit, so we’ll probably be back to check.
This just goes to show what regular visits to cemeteries mean. They’re supposed to provide perpetual care, but how do you know? How often do you visit?
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are popular. So are birthdays, anniversaries and Memorial Day. The time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for Jews.
Of course, it’s not easy traveling from Philadelphia to Michigan, or my family from Miami to Michigan. What about all the people in Florida with loved ones buried in New York?
The decision to have my Grandpa Leo buried at that location was made many years ago. Then came the decision to move to Florida, and my Grandma Lillie died and was buried down south in 1976. She has an upright headstone. He has a flat one. Times changed a lot in those almost 20 years, and there’s nothing I can do — or have the right to do — to change anything.
It gets me thinking that people have to decide what they want, and make sure their wishes are known, and will be followed. And also make sure the money is there.
Thanks to Pedro, his sister and their mother for digging, patience and other help with the search. And I’m sorry that what should’ve been a 15-20 minute stop, including directions at the office, turned into a two-hour ordeal.
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“In 2016, it had been 31 years since our last national championship for basketball, and now, just two years later, Villanova is once again the national champion! What a remarkable accomplishment for the players and for Coach (Jay) Wright and his staff, and what a wonderful time to be a Villanovan!”
It was around this time, two years ago, I was waiting for WTXF-Fox 29 to officially hire me. Of course, when you’re dealing with corporations, everything gets in the way.
I got this email from the news director, the day after the game.
Of course, the first line didn’t end with a question mark or exclamation point. Different people are held to different standards.
Of course, he didn’t let me know “either way by Friday,” as he said. Villanova won on Monday, April 4, 2016. You can see he emailed this the next day, April 5. That Friday would’ve been April 8. Instead, I did not find out until Tuesday, April 12.
That same Tuesday, I gave my two weeks at WCYB, leaving there after April 26, and starting at Fox less than a week later, on May 2. I had been given the option of starting May 9 but knew there was a ratings period and wanted to be as much help as possible, as soon as possible. So I quickly got mover and cleaner estimates, and my friend Scott found a temporary place for me to stay. The good folks at WCYB made sure to honor me with a cake. Lots of people involved with my departure and arrival!
I’m sure Fox management appreciated that move I rushed – just like I appreciated the imaginary transportation, hotel and lunch they provided during my interview! (What’s the best emoji for sarcasm that covers everything about them in that last, long sentence?)
My time at Fox was not pleasant because they seemed to care more about nonsense social media that would pull at people’s heartstrings, rather than real, relevant news. They also did not take the 11-page critique they had asked me for into consideration. (Click here to see it.)
They did take my advice to use Facebook more often, but never thanked or acknowledged me in any way. I remember being told during my one face-to-face interview (Feb. 29, 2016) that one Facebook post an hour may be too much! In other words, exactly the opposite. Some people can never be satisfied. Maybe they’re too insecure.
Note: I think I’ve kept every emailed promise, accusation, etc. Some people won’t look very good if-when it all comes out. That’ll be up to our representatives. Same thing when all the witnesses start talking about their experiences. I left that place in the middle of nothing short of an exodus.
I must make public I hope I’m not infringing on the NCAA’s trademark nastiness by using words like Villanova and phrases like national championship.
I also don’t think certain lawyers would agree there are “informal” uses, either!
The Main Line’s Villanova University was named after Saint Thomas of Villanova. It was founded in 1842 by the Order of Saint Augustine. The other school
“traces its roots to the Universidad de Santo Tomas de Villanueva (Saint Thomas of Villanova), founded in 1946 in Havana, Cuba, by American Augustinians with assistance from European Augustinians. When the Castro government expelled the Augustinians from Cuba in 1961, several of the American Augustinians came to Miami where they founded Biscayne College. … When University status was attained (in 1984), the name of the institution was changed to St. Thomas University to reflect its Cuban heritage.”
Another thing, friends, is you know I have a long memory.
That last line I quoted isn’t exactly true. Biscayne College didn’t become St. Thomas University; it became St. Thomas of Villanova University, but folks on the Main Line didn’t like that competition, so the name – How did they put it? – was shortened. I found it didn’t take more than a few months, and the second change wasn’t even mentioned in The Voice, Miami’s Catholic newspaper. I checked the 1984 issues. Seems they went through a lot of trouble for nothing.
The shortened name used for such a short time even has an unofficial Facebook page, but not much is on it, as you probably would’ve expected!
As for me, I’ve never been a college basketball fan. Growing up in Miami, the University of Miami didn’t even have a team from around the time I was born until I was in 9th grade (you look the dates up!), so I didn’t grow up with it. Also, if you blink, the players are gone – either graduating, dropping out, or a few going professional. There’s no chance to remember more than a few individual players, unless you’re a die-hard fan or journalist (or live in Connecticut, where any high school stars are remembered forever).
But I loved when somebody I consider a mentor – Miami news legend Eliott Rodriguez – put his live shot from Vilanova’s 1985 championship up on Facebook, this morning. It happened while he worked for WPVI’s Channel 6 Action News, during a break from the Miami market.
You’ll have to watch. I commented jokingly, “Full of information! But other things never change.”
He responded, “The pictures tell the story,” but couldn’t remember whether he or his photographer suggested doing the live shot from the top of the van. Turns out, maybe they should’ve! And Jim Gardner always had the perfect response.
Jim is still there today and still in first place, even against the Super Bowl and Olympics on NBC in February. Says something about stability and being true to yourself, and what you stand for.
See who was referred to as a “distant fourth” twice in the above article! Let’s just agree it was well-deserved. Heck, they changed their Facebook policy between the time of my interview and the time I started. That wasn’t much more than two months!
And to leave you on a much more pleasant note, here’s a much more recent picture Eliott posted: Two former Philadelphia folks, including one who worked at KYW-TV3. It was taken in March. Glad to see Eliott and Marc Howard looking happy! Goes to show there is life after TV news!
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I got up extremely early this morning to take Pedro to work, since he didn’t get the holiday off.
Soon after getting home, I noticed my Facebook friend Mark Segal — founder, owner and publisher of the renowned Philadelphia Gay News — had posted his column from last week. I’m two weeks behind in reading.
I love and respect Mark because he’s amazing: the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) media.
That said, I’m going to bury the details. There’s a reason and it’s because this week, he came up short.
“Mark, Israel’s oppression of Palestine? Who are these people of Palestine? The ones who massacred the Jews of Hebron in 1929? The ones who refused the U.N. partition plan in 1947? The ones who support terrorism, teach hate, and have turned down every peace opportunity? The ones you failed to include in your list of so many homophobic groups of people.
Why do the gay “Palestinians” try to sneak into Israel? Freedom to be themselves, or so their own families don’t kill them? Why do most of the straight ones in Jerusalem want to stay Israeli citizens? That doesn’t sound like oppression to me.”
Then, he gave a quick response: “I’ve written time and time again all that you have stated. Point is most in our community try to tie international issues to our struggle for equality without understanding the issues.”
To Mark’s credit, he “liked” my response.
However, I don’t think it went far enough. That’s why I wrote back, and I’m also doing so here because I feel strongly the point is so important:
Yes, Mark. You have “written time and time again all (I) have stated.” (Your words.)
And yes, Mark. “Most in our community try to tie international issues to our struggle for equality without understanding the issues.”
In other words, unfortunately, most in our community are ignorant because they don’t understand the issues.
That’s a disappointment and shows your writing “time and time again” has not gotten through.
For example, take this column. You were pretty clear about most of the countries you mentioned.
However, when it came to Israel, you wrote the longest of your 10 paragraphs (159 words). You focused on “a powder keg of dispute” rather than “There is no question that Israel is the most gay-friendly country in the Middle East” and I think that was a mistake.
Then you spent the rest of the paragraph (135 words, or 85 percent) being negative towards Israel. You condemned its current government (that allows it to be “the most gay-friendly country in the Middle East”). You said the worst thing about them is “they work in collaboration with the Trump administration to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem” which is perfectly within its rights.
Like it or not, Jerusalem is Israel’s seat of government, the Knesset (parliament) is there, and every country decides the site of its capital. This is one call President Trump got right, and former presidents for more than 20 years have not.
It is not a gay rights issue.
Then, you wasted 89 words (66 percent, which is nearly two-thirds of the paragraph) doing the job of Israel-bashers and anti-Semites (if there’s a difference) bringing up a vicious boycott that hasn’t worked, and comparing Israel to South Africa under apartheid.
You failed to clearly teach our community that does not understand the issues there is no apartheid in Israel, that Israel rescued so much of the Ethiopian Jewish population which is black and that black Israelis and non-Jewish Israelis have the same rights as everyone else. All types of Israelis get elected to the Knesset, serve on the Supreme Court, join the army, become beauty queens, etc.
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (page 9 in link) and that great man said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
That is Israel.
That paragraph in your column — its largest — was a wasted opportunity to inform, which we both know is the point of a news organization. You did not state unequivocally that Israel is morally right as a supporter of the LGBT community, and the Palestinians are morally wrong for being homophobic — plus all the history I stated in my previous post.
Not strictly differentiating between right and wrong — and allowing the less educated, simple among us to continue to use intersectionality, and their prejudices towards Israel and the Jewish people — was a disservice. Ignoring it allowed misinformation to continue.
Mark, you are usually a terrific writer. I bought your book. You were nice enough to autograph the portion of Larry Kane’s book, Larry Kane’s Philadelphia, about you for me and also for my parents.
You’ve done a ton of creative and constant protesting for the LGBT community over five decades. You’ve traveled extensively and know better. This was not your best column.
Oh, and the anti-Israel reaction since the story was misleadingly brought up after more than two years. And how Israel is constantly being treated differently than every other country in the world. (By the way, look for the part that reads “a fair and just immigration policy in our own country.” Who knew we’d still be discussing that?)
That makes some of us very defensive.
A month earlier, there was my very first blog. Three years and four days ago, I wrote how reaction to a terror attack in France was different than terror attacks in Israel, and what it would look like with the shoe on the other foot.
(Side note: Anniversary missed. Can’t let that happen again!)
Here is some more on Dr. King and Israel, thanks to the group Stand With Us.
Click here to watch Dr. King state, “The whole world must see that Israel must exist and has the right to exist, and is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world.”
Other examples of his positions on Zionism and Israel include:
— “Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.”
— “Israel’s right to exist as a state in security is incontestable.”
— “When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism.”
Clarence B. Jones, personal attorney and close adviser to Dr. King, said:
— “I can say with absolute certainty that Martin abhorred anti-Semitism in all its forms, including anti-Zionism.”
–“Martin … warned repeatedly that anti-Semitism would soon be disguised as anti-Zionism.”
According to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), civil rights leader and one of the 13 original Freedom Riders: “(MLK) understood that a special relationship exists between African Americans and Jews … He knew that both peoples were uprooted involuntarily from their homelands. He knew that both peoples were shaped by the tragic experience of slavery. He knew that both peoples were forced to live in ghettoes, victims of segregation … He knew that both peoples were subject to laws passed with the particular intent of oppressing them simply because they were Jewish or black. He knew that both peoples have been subjected to oppression and genocide on a level unprecedented in history.”
I may be wrong, but I’m going to guess Mark is working extra hard since he’s between permanent editors for the first time in years. He definitely means well and usually does well. But notice, since I wrote so little on that, it doesn’t come across as the focus of this blog — just like “There is no question that Israel is the most gay-friendly country in the Middle East” in the column.
Mark has put his own freedom on the line for the cause too many times to count. He knows how to take a stand. I just just wish he’d done so this time, for the issue’s importance, and that more people may be reading PGN if they’re off from work due to the holiday.
P.S. I have a positive update on my mother since Thursday’s post, after she fell in the kitchen and broke her pelvis in three places. Yesterday, she was transferred from the hospital to rehab. She’s expected to be there for physical therapy, two weeks minimum. Then, she and my fathher will need help when she returns home.
Even at Fox 29, the morning news anchors would talk ON THE AIR about the troubles they’ve had with the PPA. These were good, honest, educated hard-working people trying to do the right thing at an ungodly hour. Apparently, they felt so angry, they were forced to offer their opinions which is hardly ever done during a newscast (except “Go Eagles!”).
The most common complaint was about so many people from the station having gotten tickets across the street for parallel parking in a space on Market Street. It has a low meter for handicapped people and is in the middle of the block — unlike any other, which are on corners, they say — and the meter is hard to see in snow. Well done, PPA! Those handicapped violations are supposed to be extra expensive.
The competition reported drivers were urged to look at the color of the sign, along with the days, hours and arrows on it. They even quoted a PPA employee who told them, “We had professional driving instructors on hand and people were taken out to cars and taught to parallel park.” Isn’t that task for the folks at driving school?
The conversation with Hank actually started with us discussing residential parking permits. As you’ll read, I lived in zone 4 with I first arrived, but later moved to zone 6.
Then, across town, I came upon this sign and took a picture. Read what it says carefully. You’ll often find residential zone number exceptions on top or below a parking sign. You’ll even find two different zone numbers if a street is on or near the border between them. But what about the dash between the 5 and the 7?
Google calls the dash “a horizontal stroke in writing or printing to mark a pause or break in sense, or to represent omitted letters or words.” In other words, the 6 that falls between the 5 and the 7!
I followed up with the PPA since their sign clearly allows someone with a 6 sticker like me to park at that location, even though it’s across town.
They tweeted back no, with no explanation — not that certain parking signs are the only bad ones in the city.
One final update before the original blog post, for those of you still with me, is the fact people in South Philadelphia can park wherever the heck they want, with no ramifications. Notice I write they do, because they get away with it. The city chooses not to enforce the law in that part of town which is unfair to everyone else and potentially unsafe.
That last part was used in a lawsuit that was decided less than a month ago. According to Philly.com, the judge ruled police and the PPA can’t stop people from parking their cars or whatevers in the middle of S. Broad Street (nor apparently any other street) because apparently authorities have more important things to do.
We left off May 16, 2016 with a blog post called Not exactly a warm welcome. It was mostly about the awful move, two weeks after I started work here, which was less than a week after I left my job in Virginia. (I’ve moved to a much better place since then.)
The pictures show you’ll enjoy it more than I did!
The move was awful but at least everything is in either the apartment or the storage unit (that’s nearly impossible to get inside). I’m still trying to figure out which.
Now, my biggest problem is the car. I didn’t want a new car but that’s a long story and somebody else will have to answer that.
I don’t have a residential sticker to park on the street in the neighborhood. First, I have to get a driver’s license. Then, use the license to get a license plate. And then, go for the sticker.
So for now, I have a Virginia license plate and have had to park where it’s allowed, a few blocks away, south of South Street.
Unfortunately the good folks at the Philadelphia Parking Authority try to uphold the laws of every state, even though they’re not familiar with the law. In my case, they think all Virginia cars need to have inspection stickers on the front middle of the windshield.
Virginia lets new cars go without inspection stickers for the first year. But I got two tickets (so far) and the fine is up from about $15 when I left town 12 years ago, to $41 now. Hopefully this note with information will keep me from getting a third. (So far, so good. I’ll know for sure when I see the car again.)
So I need to get a Pennsylvania license, to switch from Virginia license plates to Pennsylvania, to get a sticker for parking.
Easier said than done. I mentioned the move was horrible and I don’t know where things are.
To get the driver’s license, I need my passport and other proof of residency. The passport was in the file cabinet, and the file cabinet was deep inside that storage unit. I’ll say something for those packers: They know how to get stuff in!
Saturday was a waste. I was hoping to get the passport, but that didn’t happen. And losing the keys to the storage lock is not something I want to remember or write about.
Sunday, Tony and I took out a mattress, box spring and top of a heavy dining room table. We maneuvered half the large couch out and got access to the file cabinet. Of course, the two drawers I needed were in the middle.
I got what I needed in about 15 minutes and am hoping the driver’s license, license plate and parking sticker will be easier to get.
UPDATE: I got the driver’s license. Waited a little while and had more documentation than necessary.
So I walked a block to the traffic school that would take care of the license plate and found out I’d need the car’s title. I had that for my old car but as I’ve said repeatedly, “I didn’t want a new car but that’s a long story and somebody else will have to answer that.” So I’m in a holding pattern.
It all worked out.
Now, back to 2017, and another big challenge and fight. I hope I’ll be able to fill you in next week.
I’ve mentioned the sad state of the U.S. broadcasting industry these days, with big companies eating up smaller ones like never before. There are too few independently-owned stations left — run by business people, some better meaning than others — who actually live in the market they are supposed to serve on the public airwaves. Decisions were made in the building. The buck stopped there. (Last February, I wrote about the state of the media and especially journalism, bringing up President Harry Truman.) Now, it’s mostly shareholders, money and politics that rule the roost.
Speaking of politics, government limits have been loosened or eliminated. For example, it used to be a group could not own more than five TV stations. Now, some own well over 100, having their say — often too much — in dozens of cities. Since going digital, a single station can have five subchannels and some of that spectrum was recently auctioned off in an event held by the feds themselves! Conglomerates say they can do more, but the reality is fewer people are working for them than the earlier owners and they will do whatever they can to save a dime. (To too many, the goal of storm coverage means being first and then promoting the hell out of it.)
Bonten’s Tri-Cities stations, from the signature below my work email
That brings me to our former ABC competition in the Tri-Cities. For 13 months, I was digital manager at the #1 station, WCYB, and it was probably the best job I ever had. I participated in daily department head meetings, learned from great news directors and taught new reporters. It was part of the five-city Bonten Media Group that was bought by Sinclair after I suddenly and unexpectedly moved back to Philadelphia.
No, WKPT-ABC19 was far from the best but they returned to having a local newscast for their last several years, at least on weekdays. They deserved credit for that. They’re also locally owned, which is so rare these days. That means they had no sister-TV stations to help, no opportunity to benefit from economy of scale, they were the only one of the big three network affiliates on UHF, and it all hurt. But they continued until their partner since the 1960s, ABC, pulled the rug from under them and switched to a subchannel of the conglomerate Media General-owned (now swallowed up by Nexstar) CBS affiliate. So no more newscasts there, and the Tri-Cities have had just two instead of three local sources of TV news for the past year and a half. The people deserve choices and this limits competition in a pretty poor, rural, conservative region.
The reason I’m writing now is I happened to find this 6pm, next-to-last newscast of their main anchor retiring on Thanksgiving, 2015. It happened about two months before the surprise and everyone still doing news lost their jobs. The 11pm newscast segment was too long to email. I didn’t know about Dropbox in those days. You’ve probably never seen anything like this sendoff!
Posted for educational and historical purposes only. All material is under the copyright of their original holders. No copyright infringement is intended.
This was the press release from Monday, Jan. 4, 2016:
ABC Moves Its Affiliation in Tri-Cities TN/VA TV Market
George DeVault, President of Holston Valley Broadcasting, announced today that the ABC Television Network affiliation for the Tri-Cities market is being moved from WKPT-TV.1 in Kingsport to WJHL.2 in Johnson City. The change becomes effective February 1.
According to DeVault, “ABC presented to us a proposal that would have had us paying the network at least 15 million dollars over the next 5 years. Although we ultimately agreed to meet the network’s terms, ABC told us a few days ago that it had decided to explore other options in the market. WKPT-TV had been negotiating in good faith with ABC since October of last year,” DeVault said.
“A large source of revenue for network-affiliated TV stations has become fees paid by cable and satellite carriers in return for consent for them to carry the local affiliate’s signal,” DeVault explained. “A large portion of those fees ultimately goes to the network, however. If the cable or satellite carrier refuses to meet the affiliate’s fees demand, the affiliate can pull its signal from the system.”
“The big systems operate in all or a great many TV markets. We operate in one,” DeVault said.
“Media General, which owns WJHL, operates in almost 50 markets and owns or effectively controls more than 70 stations. If it threatens to pull its network affiliate signals in every market where both it and the cable or satellite carrier operate, it has immensely more bargaining power than one independently-owned, family-owned station like WKPT-TV operating only in market number 97. That is why small operators like us are disappearing or being bought up by big group owners, and that is why networks like ABC prefer to be affiliated with the powerful group owners,” DeVault said.
WKPT-TV will become an independent TV station, not affiliated with a major network, effective February 1. “To stay in the TV business will be a tough financial challenge,” DeVault said. “Many among our present staff will lose their jobs. Most notably we will be going out of the local TV News business.”
“It all boils down to power and money,” DeVault concluded. “Our friends at WJHL did not precipitate this. It was all negotiated at the corporate level by ABC, of which we have been a loyal affiliate for over 46 years, and Media General’s corporate headquarters. The networks and their affiliates used to be loyal partners. We have been loyal to ABC to the end.”
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!”
I got to Philadelphia and it rained. For a week. And it was much colder than normal for late April. And I saw my new apartment for the first time.
Then, the movers couldn’t get into little Quince Street. That was a disaster. Anything that could’ve gone wrong that day did. Read on.
They called when they were close, but their truck was eight feet wide. Vehicles more than seven feet wide won’t fit past poles or trees on the sides of the street. Then they walked over and saw how they’d have to maneuver things inside the basement-level unit from the outside.
The movers said it would cost $1,300 or so to load everything into a smaller truck and get close, but they couldn’t guarantee everything would fit inside.
I didn’t want to go along with that, so they said they’d take everything to the Atlas warehouse in Wayne, which was also bad. The stuff would have to be lifted by forklift at that place’s convenience and I wouldn’t be able to get to any of it. And I was supposed to start work in three days. With no clue when and how I’d pick it all up, or how much it would cost.
Turns out, the driver didn’t know what he was talking about.
It would simply cost $130 for another stop, so they took everything to a U-Haul storage facility in South Philadelphia.
Of course, the big unit I wanted — and had an online reservation for — didn’t exist. I could’ve gotten two smaller units next to each other, but the moving guy’s boss back in Bristol didn’t think it would be necessary to get both. It was. By far. So somebody else took it. And the place was completely booked otherwise. (Still was, a week later.)
So the unit was way too small for my stuff. My friend Scott had been a big help. He spent a week looking for a place for me to live.
Scott suggested renting a U-Haul moving truck since we were already there, but that also filled up quickly. Then we got a second moving truck. (Both were seven feet wide. Luckily, I didn’t have to back up. That wouldn’t have happened.)
Eventually, the movers loaded everything into the storage unit, the two moving trucks and also Scott’s car (which had more room than mine) – and it was still tight.
We did alright watching the movers, monitoring what went into the storage unit, and took most of what I needed. But not all. (See next post.)
Then we drove off. My friend Tony helped with the heavy lifting from the car and trucks into the apartment.
Eventually, everything was inside.
And we drove the trucks back.
Coming up next: the car situation. (And yes, things improve somewhat.)
Yes, you read correctly! I’m headed back after more than 12 years. I didn’t really think it was going to happen, especially considering the roller coaster my life has been over the past several years.
I left Philadelphia for family issues back in 2004. Got a good deal on my house. (But would’ve never expected real estate prices to skyrocket! That’s another story.)
Several good things followed. I got to do the web full time and loved that. I tried and succeeded in a whole new teaching career, and still can’t believe that ever happened! I met several wonderful people I would’ve never met had I not returned to Florida, and worked for one who took a chance on me in a place I’d never heard of.
I was asked not to put this news on social media until well after it became official, but I can tell because it’s only days away. I’m going to be a web producer at WTXF-Fox 29 and work with people I’ve already worked with twice, and some I watched and admired all those years ago. (So please take a moment. Click here to like the Facebook page and click here to follow on Twitter. They’re already doing great! Click here for the news, just out today.)
I leave work in the Tri-Cities on Tuesday, pack and have everything taken on Wednesday, and make the move Thursday. Hopefully everything will be delivered Friday!
Garry and Yeti moved to New York over the weekend.
I’m going to downsize and rent a one-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia, a block-and-a-half from where I used to live. I’m also going to put stuff in storage.
I really enjoyed working in the Tri-Cities, getting to run the digital operations at the number one station in the market. Changes will be coming to the desktop and mobile websites over the summer but I was the one who helped set up the migration to a new CMS.
I helped train new people out of school who know how to do SO much, took part in daily management meetings and was listened to, and learned the culture of a place that was very foreign to me.
But Philadelphia and the Tri-Cities are different places, and opportunities like this don’t come along often. It’s the only place I would ever consider moving and I have to do what’s best long-term.
So please wish me luck and I’ll let the Realtor know if you know anyone who wants to buy a house in far southwestern Virginia.
It wasn’t entirely my fault. We got the bed for my brother and sister-in-law’s visit, and that took a while. We got it upstairs, but that took a while. And then we were too tired to get it ready, or having too much fun with the staple gun, so that took a while. (Details coming up.)
Then, there was a snowstorm. Then, Daniel and Jennifer visited, had a good time and left two days ago! Garry and I dropped them off at the airport in Asheville and finally bought kosher food at Trader Joe’s.
I took Daniel and Jennifer to Bristol Motor Speedway. We couldn’t get inside. I fell on ice trying.
and of course the newsroom. (Everyone gets that, but Jennifer actually asked!)
They saw Yeti and Casey, and also snow.
So that’s the background and this is the blog:
My brother Daniel and his wife Jennifer are going to be visiting in a few weeks. It’s going to be nice seeing some familiar faces in town.
It seems not many people visit the Tri-Cities. I don’t know why. We’re conveniently located off I-81, just north of I-26. We have mountains, a moderate climate with change of seasons, and a pretty low cost of living.
We’re going to set Casey’s room up as the guest bedroom. I started calling it Casey’s room right away because it has blue walls and checkered-flag curtains, and Casey is a boy.
I know it’s old-fashioned. He doesn’t even spend much time there, except in the box with linens.
There are other places to sleep, like the futon in the office…
… and the pull-out couch in the basement I’ve had almost 19 years. (I bought it in Connecticut and it looked a lot different before Casey stuck his fingernails into it repeatedly.)
But Casey’s room is going to be much more comfortable, and it’s close to the new and improved bathroom! (Let me know if you ever get locked out or kicked out of your own place.)
So we’re looking for a queen-size bed and Garry found someone advertising on Craigslist. The price sounded good, so we went to Johnson City to check it out.
Sunday (Jan. 10), we prepared with ratchet tie-downs (bungee cables to normal people) and drove the truck over to get it. (We had the truck at the time, but replaced it just before the snowstorm.) Easier said than done.
The cords weren’t long enough to secure both mattress and box spring…
… so we put the mattress inside, had the box spring on top and drove back extra slowly in a flurry or two.
Saved $60 on delivery. The hard part was over, or so we thought. They had to go upstairs.
Neither Garry nor I expected a problem. The movers did a fine job getting a mattress and box spring of the same size up when we moved in.
I was at work and Garry didn’t know what those movers did, but there was no way the box spring was going to make it up!
You can see we tried.
We did everything we could. I even asked on social media, but the box spring wasn’t going up.
I knew it would have to be dismembered to some degree. Unfortunately, searches on the subject only dealt with repairing broken box springs.
We brought it down and Garry had the brilliant idea to take out the staples on one side so it would fold enough and make it upstairs. It worked!
Of course, we had to get the right nails to put the box spring back together, but that wasn’t such a big deal. (Remember, this is Lenny writing.)
Garry did the work. I’m not sure how much should be considered “work” when he was holding a staple gun. But he’s finally done.
He relaxed and moved everything into place.
So, we looked forward to giving Daniel and Jennifer a comfortable place to stay. Everything worked out nicely. I just wish they didn’t leave my nephews at home!
Now they’re back home, and Yeti misses having them around and protecting them. She has been spending more time upstairs, waiting for them by their room.