The rights of TV station owners vs. the public

tv news advertising

By now, I’m sure you realize I’m a fan of the underdog. Fly, Philadelphia Eagles, fly!

I also strongly believe in holding people in high positions accountable for their acts, even off the clock. Can’t deny that after the recent string of sexual harassment allegations and confessions from some of the smartest and most talented people in America.

That’s why I reacted so strongly when I saw this article by the editor of TVNewsCheck, one of several industry websites.

I’ve written articles condemning the loosening of many regulatory protections, like net neutrality.

Harry Jessell, who I tried to reach privately on LinkedIn (I always try to reach somebody privately before writing about them), wrote a column called “End Discriminatory Regs Against Broadcast” and it’s exactly what you may expect.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

He argued TV stations face too many rules and that Sinclair Broadcast Group should not have to pay a tentative $13.4 million fine to the Federal Communications Commission for “allegedly airing news programming that was paid for by a sponsor.”

fcc federal communications commission

Keep in mind, Sinclair owns 193 TV stations in 89 cities. See if they’re on the air where you live. They may be soon! Not too shabby!

sinclair before tribune
from http://sbgi.net/tv-stations/

That’s because FCC rules were recently loosened — reportedly cheered on by President Trump — so it can buy the Tribune Media stations around the country. That’ll get Sinclair’s controversial perspective on a tremendous number of new screens in big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Miami, among others, for the first time. Not too sympathetic!

It just bought Bonten Media Group‘s five stations including WCYB in the Tri-Cities of TN/VA, where I used to work. Click here and see how the WCYB website’s look seemed to change overnight. It’s like everything is becoming the same and there’s no need nor room for creativity. (Try to be creative and risk being kicked out, even if you’re specifically asked for suggestions during your interview. Companies want their own style and tone.)

wcyb
www.wcyb.com

Sinclair requires conservative commentaries sent from its Maryland headquarters to air during its stations’ local newscasts. That causes viewers to think the biased people they see every night, tossed to by their local anchors, are local as well.

In 2004, Sinclair barred the ABC affiliates it owned from airing the episode of Nightline that profiled American soldiers killed overseas. (It owns stations affiliated with all of the networks.) The same year, it tried to get its stations to carry a pre-election film that bashed presidential candidate John Kerry. (Some might even say the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech is only for station owners, not employees nor the public.)

sinclair broadcast group

Its gargantuan size already has liberals worried about its influence on elections.

tv owner population share
http://www.biakelsey.com

Jessell called the “sponsored news” rule antiquated and discriminatory, and claimed “native advertising has been around forever” under “names like advertorial, sponsored content, promoted content and infomercial.”

He also said it’s everywhere, and that print and digital media companies even get paid to invent it.

Plus, the rules may have been OK decades ago when broadcasters were becoming more powerful, rather than today when they face new competition from “aggressive digital giants.”

And he trusts viewers will eventually spot the advertising and change channels or media.

But I disagree. First, I don’t give viewers as much credit. There needs to be a separation — between news and opinion, as well as advertising — and I’d hate to be a journalist losing credibility by following Sinclair’s unique requirements.

I do admit with more competition, a broadcast license is no longer a license to print money as it used to be.

tv airwaves

But the airwaves belong to the public. TV stations have special responsibilities. Owners who don’t like them should be in a different business.

Anybody can print a newspaper, start a website, or even shoot material for a cable channel if they can get it carried.

Meanwhile, broadcasters get special protection like must-carry on cable systems, or they can demand money to be carried — which is much more common. (Then, of course, the network they’re affiliated with will demand a chunk of cash. It’s called reverse compensation.)

There used to be strict limits as to how many stations an owner can own. They’ve practically disappeared. Orders come from out of the area.

Owners were not allowed to own two stations in the same city. Now they can under certain circumstances.

Owners were not allowed to own two stations in neighboring cities (a grade-B overlap), since people who live in between can pick up both. Now they can.

Station owners are fighting like hell to be able to own newspapers. I believe the only one allowed without being grandfathered in that was OK was WNYW-Fox 5 in New York. Otherwise, the New York Post would’ve gone out of business. But then Fox also bought WWOR-Channel 9 and got rid of its news department — a big blow to New Jersey. (Fox’s newspaper business was later spun off into a different company.)

new york post
from WikiVisually

You give them an inch and they ask for a foot!

Look at this example in an ad on Rick Gevers & Associates’ website and newsletter!

many stations

That’s six stations and not a joke!

The two Democrats on the five-member FCC pretty much called the Sinclair fine peanuts because Sinclair aired the sponsored content 1,723 times on 77 stations, has had trouble with the FCC before and grossed $2.7 billion in revenue last year. The fine could’ve been $82 million.

Go to the article’s website and check out the comments. My favorite:

Fair enough Harry. (1) Remove broadcasters’ FCC licenses. (2) Charge broadcasters 8% of gross annual revenue for the right to transmit on the public airwaves. (3) Remove all special treatment regarding cable/satellite “must carry and retrans.”

Jessell’s response:

1) broadcasters could police airwaves privately; 2) station owners paid plenty for most of their frequencies; few got them for free; 3) retrans could be privatized and broadcasters would get the same amount of money. I have no love of must carry.

Did you notice the first part? Somebody else commented:

Broadcasters POLICE THEMSELVES??? haaaaaaaa, hysterical

And that person commented in a separate post:

Harry Jessell – is this particular article “End Discriminatory Regs Against Broadcast” – PAID FOR, in any way, shape or form?

What I wrote (using my own name):

Broadcasters use the public airwaves. Unlike other media, the airwaves broadcasters use belong to the people. They need to be protected, and the government has every right to regulate broadcasters in exchange for letting them use those airwaves. Throughout the decades, the government has been more and more lenient with broadcasters, letting them own more and more stations, and in closer proximity to each other, and licencing them for a longer time. If broadcasters don’t like it, then they should give up using the public’s airwaves that don’t belong to them and get into one of those other businesses you mentioned. Then they won’t have to worry about public service.

I think Sinclair should consider itself lucky. Very lucky.

I hope the underdog Eagles are as lucky in the NFC Championship against Minnesota and make it to the Super Bowl!

Philadelphia Eagles

Advertisements

Follow-up, fewer watching TV news, future president?

color bars

First, I have to thank everybody who looked at Monday’s blog post. The analytics were incredible, the best ever (and that’s all that counts, right? 🙂). If you haven’t seen it yet, it gives a brief overview of the place I worked for 15 months until August. Feel free to comment below it, or on my Twitter page. You can also subscribe to these blogs with your email address and get an email automatically every time I post.

skype

One thing I left out was that during the long interview process, in early 2016, while I was working a great job in the Tri-Cities of TN/VA, the future boss asked me at the end of a Friday Skype interview to write up a critique of the station’s website. I was literally told it was “to see how smart” I am. Two other managers were sitting right there. I was given a week, but finished it that weekend because I was so excited about the possibility of returning to Philadelphia.

Look below and see, it was a very long and thoughtful critique, and included multiple pictures. During my interview at Fox 29 — coincidentally on Leap Day, Feb. 29, 2016 — the boss even joked about still reading it! I guess it was good. Too bad most of it was never implemented. That was a clue of what was to come, but it was too late. I had already moved and started the job. (The document is a slideshow. Click below to move forward, back, or to stop it.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

That’s all I have to say here on the subject of that station.

Just this week, a Pew Research Center report announced fewer Americans rely on TV news, and what type they watch varies by who they are. It found,

“Just 50 percent of U.S. adults now get news regularly from television, down from 57 percent a year prior in early 2016.”

starburst down

That’s a 14 percent decline! Not only that, but the number takes into account local TV (still first place), cable TV (still second place), and also network TV (still third place).

14

I think the demographics are even more interesting. According to Pew, college graduates and high-income people watch much less local TV and network TV news. Cable news varies little.

The research doesn’t say but perhaps these people are working longer hours or have more access to news on electronic devices. Or they find the product dumbed-down. The first two possibilities can’t be changed but the last can.

But I think the biggest finding has to do with age. Pew divided the population into four groups, from 18-29 through 65+. It found across all groups, the younger a person is makes them much, much less likely to watch local, network, and also cable TV news. That sounds ominous for the future.

old tv sets

Again, the research doesn’t say, but I’ve learned from working with people young enough to be my children they have no history of getting the news from a scheduled TV newscast, or even cable. They were raised with technology that hadn’t been invented when the older people were growing up. They have no special tie to the TV set, having to watch on schedule, and probably can’t imagine watching in black and white.

pexels-photo-261510.jpeg

(To go along with that, a huge majority of my students — who were younger around the year 2010, plus or minus a few — hadn’t even heard of a typewriter!) Also notice radio and newspapers were not even considered in the research.

radio newspaper

Note the research was not done on web reading but following my train of thought, Americans will continue to use newer technology to get their news, which makes the web — whether desktop, tablet, phone, or whatever comes next — more and more important. We cannot continue to dumb it down, make mistakes, and hire cheap, good-looking but inexperienced people in big cities. We also need to root out the so-called journalists that lack ethics.

desktop phone tablet

Click here to see the results in a chart, which also divides the American population by gender, race, and politics.

The Radio Television Digital News Association — and we know its agenda — asks, “Is the news for local TV stations all bad?”

Its former chair Kevin Benz admits, “Stations are producing more newscasts because local production is cheap with higher payback potential from selling local advertisers.” Let’s not forget we’re coming off an election year with lots of ads.

The organization claims “profitability has been trending level or up since 2010” and “This is also far from the first time local news has been written off due to changing consumption habits … but newsrooms have been slow to adapt.”

pexels-photo-267482.jpeg

Back in the Tri-Cities, I was told many people get their news from their Facebook feed. That’s pitiful and of course, Facebook benefits but the publishers really don’t, other than a click to their own websites.

In the past year, not much has come out of the Facebook Journalism Project led by former news anchor Campbell Brown — who has since shown her true politics with The 74 Million, advocating for charter and private schools by taking money away from public schools. (I wrote about that in “Why teaching isn’t for me anymore” here, almost two years ago.)

According to Digiday, problems are that publishers have different business models and want different things from Facebook. And Facebook has mostly let publishers see new products before they launched, and listen to their feedback on various subjects at twice-annual meetings with nice meals. Subjects have included Instant Articles and starting a subscription product so you can’t read unlimited articles for free. There’s also discussion about separating factual news from somebody posting fiction.

oprah
File: Oprah Winfrey

It didn’t help that NBC tweeted about Oprah Winfrey possibly becoming president in the future during Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards.

NBC’s website has now clips of her speech and this description:

“The media mogul received the Cecil B. DeMille award at the A-list event, and brought the crowd to its feet with a rallying cry for solidarity amid the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.”

The harassment scandals were huge. That’s what Oprah addressed. I’ve even written about it twice: here (“What is conscience? Elusive in the media, unfortunately”) and here (“Hey, you accused! Would Mom say, wait until your father gets home?”).

I’ve also tweeted about women who weren’t getting paid the same as men.

Variety reported, “Host Seth Meyers even joked about the prospect in his opening monologue. The tweet from NBC said, ‘Nothing but respect for OUR future president. #GoldenGlobes.’”

The next morning, the network put out a statement, blaming outsourcing. Of course, the first tweet was removed.

How horrible! Oprah hadn’t yet spoken at the time, she never mentioned anything about becoming president, viewers won’t know the difference between a tweet from NBC Entertainment or NBC News if it doesn’t say, and why would the network let a third-party vendor tweet on its account, especially without overseeing? The network has no competent employee in-house? Disappointing!

nbc sad
The peacock isn’t proud

And late-breaking Thursday morning, we learned 18-year Fox News veteran James Rosen left the network – without Fox giving a reason – after eight of his former colleagues claimed he “had an established pattern of flirting aggressively with many peers and had made sexual advances toward three female Fox News journalists,” according to TVNewser.

Mediaite reports,

“One accusation involved him groping a female colleague in a shared-cab—an action she did not consent to. He then reportedly attempted to retaliate after his sexual advances were denied by attempting to take her sources, which would serve to damage her professional image.”

Also, the Washington Post says it suspended 28-year reporter Joel Achenbach for 90 days what it called “inappropriate workplace conduct” involving current and former female colleagues. He apologized in a statement, but the paper will continue to investigate.

I’m going to end on a better note, in contrast to what I wrote about Monday. Know I’ve been interviewing with different national and international companies here in Philadelphia. Tuesday, I found out I made it to the next round with one firm, and I’m obviously very happy about that. I told the woman on the phone who was simply following up on her morning email that everybody has been so supportive. We’d talked before and her response was simply that they are a partnership, rather than a corporation, and that there is no need for competition amongst (potential) employees.

That’s nice to hear, and it gives me hope.

P.S. On a personal note: Tuesday night in Florida, my mother fell in the kitchen. She hit her face on the floor. There was lots of blood, but no concussion. Turns out, she broke her pelvis in three places: two in the front, and one in the back. No surgery required, but she’ll have to spend another day or two in the hospital. The next two weeks are supposed to be very painful, and it could take her four months to get better. The doctor suggested time rehab since she can’t do much. Please keep her in your thoughts. 😦

The news where I used to work: Unbelievable!

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.

Fox grade sized

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.

cosby

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!)

be right back

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?

Q 1st
fox29.com

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.

talk to q
twitter.com/feedbaylenny and fox29.com

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.

q circled
twitter.com/feedbaylenny and fox29.com

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.

quincy w parents
November, 2016: Quincy with my parents

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?)

Was there absolutely nobody at the station to fix it? Nobody who could’ve been called in to fix it? What about emergency procedures, where somebody from another of those 28 stations in 17 cities can get in there and see what’s happening?

Disgraceful. There’s no excuse. I doubt there were even consequences after this major error it seems nobody noticed but should’ve. Well, they can’t try to blame me for this!

So to the Fox 29 web team, which for some reason was moved to the creative services department from the news department, you have issues: planning, scheduling, knowledge, not noticing something big missing from your home page, and not calling for help.

But apparently that’s how your bosses want it. Once, I had to put six job postings on the proper page. Five of the six were either part time or per diem. Only one was full-time. That’s what they budgeted. What did they expect to get? What would the head of Fox Television Stations say? What would Rupert Murdoch say? (Looks like several full-timers left the station since then. Several others left when I did. Notice a trend?)

That’s the problem with many conglomerates. They can’t get anything done. When I was working in the Tri-Cities, we could do almost anything using somebody in the building or calling on one of our four sister stations. Just four.

wcyb flag
Casey would rather work there than here!

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.

purple drank
facebook.com/fox29philadelphia

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.

connecticut man
facebook.com/fox29philadelphia

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.

police burglar

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.)

kdfw drank
from Dallas
kttv connecticut
from Los Angeles
kdfw chickens
from Dallas
kttv burglar
from Los Angeles

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.

bernardino
facebook.com/fox29philadelphia

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.

kttv bernardino
from Los Angeles

This video, from the Los Angeles area, certainly aired, but the version chosen to put on Facebook is slightly different. For example, it doesn’t have the lower thirds for locators and people who speak, nor the station logo and maybe the time and temperature that are put on live when you see them on TV.

However, you hear an anchor’s voice tossing to a reporter package and the video was clearly edited. In other words, everything here aired but not “100 percent exactly” as you see on Facebook.

But it still has to be captioned, according to the Federal Communications Commission, which licenses TV stations, even though this is on the web rather than TV.

Click here for the FCC’s page on Captioning of Internet Video Programming. It says:

FCC rules require captioned programs shown on TV to be captioned when re-shown on the Internet.

Look at the word re-shown. One would think this video was not not re-shown since it lacks the lower thirds, station logo, and time and temperature.

That got me wondering whether using video that has everything except the bells and whistles that were put on live when the newscast aired is a legal trick to get out of having to caption.

However, click here for the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, which says:

Title 47: Telecommunication
PART 79—ACCESSIBILITY OF VIDEO PROGRAMMING
Subpart A—Video Programming Owners, Providers, and Distributors

  • 79.4   Closed captioning of video programming delivered using Internet protocol.

(a) Definitions. For purposes of this section the following definitions shall apply:

(1) Video programming. Programming provided by, or generally considered comparable to programming provided by, a television broadcast station, but not including consumer-generated media. (The underlining is mine.)

Leaving out bells and whistles that may help the TV viewer is definitely considered comparable to programming. Therefore, it seems to me stations including Fox’s in Philadelphia are putting up video without captioning.

Again, web producers were told anything that aired had to be captioned on the internet (website, Facebook page, etc.), per FCC rules.

Go ahead and look at Fox stations’ Facebook pages. I did on different browsers. Ignore pictures. Ignore raw video that didn’t air, like most long news conferences. Ignore viewer video of something cute that goes on and on.

fb example
facebook.com/fox29philadelphia

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.

caption choices

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.

hub
facebook.com/fox29philadelphia

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.

F caption grade sized

Moving back to Philly!

be right back

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.)

unnamed (2)
May 2002: Not expecting this picture to be taken. The old KYW building was torn down for the National Museum of American Jewish History. I’ll be working a block away.

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!

casey yeti
Casey and Yeti’s bye-bye

Garry and Yeti moved to New York over the weekend.

RebeccaPepin
Yeti REALLY made an impression in the Tri-Cities!

reb

The house I just got six months ago, and had so much work done on (see bathroom and kitchen), is up for sale. It’ll get a good much-needed cleaning right after I leave.

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.

cae2b801-435d-43f4-bf87-c8920cfd2ff8
2001-2004: Lombard Street at 11th
4ccb1a18-34ae-412b-8b39-935f9c78495a
Open the gate…
unnamed (1)
walk down the stairs…
unnamed
and take a load off!

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.

last promo
My last promo for News 5 WCYB

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.

A better bedroom (and bigger blog)

I have to start off by saying this blog post is late. I warned you when I was finishing the last one.

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.

bristol cavernsI took Daniel and Jennifer to Bristol Motor Speedway. We couldn’t get inside. I fell on ice trying.

But we saw Bristol Caverns

a little bit around South Holston Dam (until the roads were closed)…south holston dam

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.holston mountain

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.

map Tri-Cities, TN/VA
from FallonGroup.com

Anyway, since I arrived 10 months ago, my parents visited once, and so did my cousins Barry and Ellen, on their drive from Florida to Boston. None of them saw the house. Hadn’t started looking for it yet.

Daniel and Jennifer are going to be here for a few days and also go skiing in North Carolina.

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.

casey

I know it’s old-fashioned. He doesn’t even spend much time there, except in the box with linens.

8

There are other places to sleep, like the futon in the office…

futon

… 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.)

9

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.

03

The cords weren’t long enough to secure both mattress and box spring…

04

… so we put the mattress inside, had the box spring on top and drove back extra slowly in a flurry or two.05

Saved $60 on delivery. The hard part was over, or so we thought. They had to go upstairs.

07

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.

09

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!

08

You can see we tried.

14

We did everything we could. I even asked on social media, but the box spring wasn’t going up.

10

I knew it would have to be dismembered to some degree. Unfortunately, searches on the subject only dealt with repairing broken box springs.

11

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!

12

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.)

13

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.

garry on box spring

He relaxed and moved everything into place.

bed ready for daniel and jenniferSo, 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!yeti missing them after

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.

Until the next visitors…

One blogging year in review

It’s a big day in Cohen Country. I posted my first blog one year ago today.

A year ago, I was living in Florida, deciding what I wanted to do with my life (and not much else).

I wanted to go back to doing news on the web and had considered blogging. I hoped it could give me a better chance of breaking back in, considering I’d been out of the business for eight years. (And a lot of TV stations use WordPress.)

1st blog
January 11, 2015

What got me started was a wonderful picture someone (I forgot who) posted on Facebook.

The Charlie Hebdo attacks happened a few days earlier in France. Gunmen killed 12 people at the satirical magazine.

The next day, another extremist shot a policewoman dead and went on to kill four people at a Jewish supermarket.

France was the victim, like Israel all too often.

I wrote, “Perhaps the world should put the same demands on France as it does to Israel.” Fascinating thought! In the year since, the subject of Muslim immigrants and phrase “radical Islam” have been in the news a lot.

Also a year ago on this date, I wrote “Probably won’t be the last attack against a Western democracy. The world has to act & put an end to it, wherever it is.” Unfortunately, I was right in both Israel and France.

But it has been a good year personally. John hired me in the Tri-Cities and I started a whole new life, doing what I wanted at a whole new level. I got an actual house and rented out the condo in Miami. So I can’t complain.

Let’s not forget the home improvements. Thanks to Garry for a lot of that. And good times with Casey and Yeti.

The blog has been a work in progress, like so many other things. I learned more and actually like WordPress more than the web tool Lakana we use at work. And, I even incorporated more A.P.-style writing than I did, but still don’t completely like it.

There was a break for a few months. Work got in the way.

Eventually, this email: “At the end of the year, the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,900 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

So there were 4,900 views through Dec. 31. There were 342 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 196 MB. That’s about 7 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was Feb. 25 with 287 views. Not surprisingly, the post that day was that I could reveal I got a job – and I’m moving!.

In 2015, I wrote 32 posts. My longest streak was 3 days in a row, March 15-17. They were about the move, work and the new city. On the other hand, there was a big break between June and November. And Sunday was my most popular day to post.

What shocked me most was that people read the blog in 48 countries! A close second was that Brazil and the United Kingdom were the countries that followed the U.S.

So… Thank you for reading and following along. I hope I’ve helped or humored in some way.

Getting into the season

It took way too long for Mother Nature, the holiday season and me, but it finally started feeling like winter.

00d667c6-ac4f-47f3-981d-19234734ef4b

Monday, Jan. 4, was the first snowfall of the season. It wasn’t much, at least in Bristol. There was one burst for a few minutes. (You see the view from the newsroom. That’s the Bristol train station.) I didn’t run out like I’ve been known to do, but it was exciting. Joe, the assignment editor who sits next to me, actually put on long sleeves and went outside to shoot it. He never wears long sleeves.

Garry said Yeti liked it, too…

2139a48e-c877-4e95-b1f6-3460e3afa9c0

…but many of you probably think Casey had the right idea.

88154895-c001-492a-a991-16d1a75a5277

Since then, there hasn’t been more snow but it’s still cold.

eb344a54-5a02-48c2-a325-1c75a6466da5

This was my car window, yesterday morning. Skip unless you live in Florida.

e2d4afa9-1d27-4760-82c7-33e502455a53

Saturday night, we went to Speedway in Lights, which is a Bristol Motor Speedway fundraiser for children’s charities. (To be perfectly honest, I got the ticket because the station sponsors it.) It’s a big event around these here parts: lots of lights, most with holiday themes, also an American flag.

430e21a0-42b4-4dc0-bbda-969550fa3aa9

You drive around the speedway and dragway property in your car and can even hear Christmas music on a special radio station. This was the last night. Garry got to drive on the actual track at the Bristol Motor Speedway!

a6bde18b-9766-41db-a813-ced72fddfc3d

And I was just happy to see a menorah at the end.

menorah

Contrary to what I’d been told, they called it menorah and not candelabra. There was a separate candelabra earlier.

Big bathroom news!

It’s not the most appetizing title, but I realized you were craving pictures of the house before the first major renovation.

 

I should also point out it’s before the first major cleaning of the house. That can’t come soon enough. Neither can the rest of the unpacking.

 

Tomorrow morning, workers are going to come and completely redo the bathroom. You may notice, it looks like something out of the 1950s or 60s. Won’t be easy to manage for the week to 10 days of construction. Having a half-bath downstairs will help a little. I’m waiting to hear from any of you locals who can invite me over for a shower, especially those of you I work with really closely.
6
The new bathroom will be much more modern, with both a shower, big bathtub and new floor. Also, a much larger vanity and much better lighting. And there will continue to be space for Casey.

 

The house was built in 1930. This is the outside on closing day in September…
1
… and Yeti marking her new territory in front.
0
Below is the living room. Pretty comfy. Only the loveseat in the back, and the cocktail table, are new. Eventually, the TV set will be replaced by a big flatscreen above the fireplace.12The other side of the living room, with the front door.11
This is the dining room. Pictures are only temporary, where pictures had previously been. Will have to hang up all my stuff at once. Kitchen is to the right.13
The dining room and kitchen have perfect windows to see Yeti downstairs in her yard.
untitled
More of Yeti in her yard. I’ve only been down there twice.
backyard
That’s an alley, a neighbor and Holston Mountain in the back.holston mountain.png
The first snowfall we saw in Bristol was when “Sheddy Yeti” got raked, brushed, or whatever you want to call it.
shed.png
The bedroom. Yes, the walls have to be redone. They are what they are. At least the boy on the bed doesn’t seem to mind. The headboard, nightstand and chest of drawers are new.14
The bedroom leads to the closet, and closet within a closet. 15
It also has stairs leading up to the attic.atticattic2
Then there’s the office where so much brilliance takes place. Also convenient for work. I can do anything here that I can do there. Again, I had nothing to do with any paint on any walls here.
8
We call this Casey’s room because it’s blue and has checkered flag racing curtains. He also likes to relax in the box in the lower right. There should be a bed in here by the time you visit.
caseys.png
And this is the basement, getting into shape, where I’d like to spend more time. We finally made space in the middle, and got rid of a ton of boxes and packing paper, so it’s walkable. And Garry finally finished putting the cover on the couch (from Bob’s Discount Furniture in another Bristol, this one in Connecticut) that Casey clawed thoroughly before he learned his manners.
9
The basement leads to the garage.garage.png
And the only other real work done already has been installing a dishwasher. See before, then after. That’s the half bath in the back.
3
I’m thinking about moving the table to where the refrigerator and washer/dryer are. That’ll let a lot more light in. Then, the fridge would go where the table is, and there’s a hook-up for the washer/dryer in the garage. What do you think?5
The dishwasher sticks out a few inches, but that preserves everything else. Eventually, the counters will be redone and a few inches added. Everything else in here is fine.
2
So lots more work to do. One last thing: This is a neighbor’s door, a few blocks away. Not mine. Happy Hanukkah!

From the Tri-Cities to the Tri-States

It’s me again. I have to write more often. It doesn’t have to be a book. Saving stuff up is too time-consuming, anyway. I’d be thrilled with something simple, once or twice a week.

I’m just back from New York. Was there for my cousin Danika’s bat mitzvah. Had a great time. Was nice seeing the extended family.

Right after I left: (back, l-r) brother Josh, sister-in-law Randi, cousin Jonathan, cousin-in-law Ali, nephew Preston, sister Liza, cousin Leo (front, l-r) cousin Danika (of bat mitzvah fame), nephew Logan
Right after I left: (back, l-r) brother Josh, sister-in-law Randi, cousin Jonathan, cousin-in-law Ali, nephew Preston, sister Liza, cousin Leo (front, l-r) cousin Danika (of bat mitzvah fame), nephew Logan

The service was outdoors at the beach club. Danika did great! Luckily, the weather held out. (Okay, it got a little windy for the Havdalah candle at the end.)

2015-06-06 Danika's bat mitzvah

I drove, which was a bit of a pain. (Actually, a lot of a pain. Two full days of driving for one day in New York and the first thing I did after breakfast was take a nap.) I don’t know if I’ll do the drive again. At least that’s how I feel right now. I wish I lived closer. Virginia is too big of a state: 324 miles up I-81. (I start at Exit 1.) There were lots of spots without radio stations. And signs for lots of places I’ve written about.

trip map

I don’t have a northern E-ZPass. The Florida one only works there, and in Georgia and North Carolina. And who knew the George Washington Bridge costs $14 to cross?

on the G.W. Bridge
on the G.W. Bridge

I have a wedding in August in New Hampshire. I don’t know if I’m going to drive or fly. If I fly, I have to drive a few hours to an airport anyway. I wish I lived closer to an airport, one that goes to more than four destinations, all south of here. (Atlanta, Charlotte, Sanford near Orlando, and St. Petersburg near Tampa.) The Tri-Cities is really an out-of-the-way location. (I am getting great experience here, and learning a lot. More on that next time.)

And I hope to be in Florida at some point in July when Daniel and Jennifer have their baby. Yes, the cat is out of the bag. Apparently, as I learned at the bat mitzvah, not everybody knew. Now everyone does (or should).

P.S. Garry and Yeti were with me for the first half of the trip. They are actually staying in New York, and I will miss them. I’m sure the car will smell like Yeti for a while.

Spring cleaning and Passover food

FB full of food
FB full of food

It’s April and there’s a lot of spring cleaning going on in the Tri-Cities and other places. Garry and I really aren’t doing any of it because we’ve only been here for a month and are still putting stuff I paid to move away. (Or trying to find space for it all!) But I digress. We Jews did our cleaning more than a week ago, before Passover, and that’s what a lot of this week’s edition will be about. Food.

Passover could’ve been a whole lot worse. It’s never really a pleasure with the special brands of everything and out-of-control prices. I really like matzah and can eat more than most, even (especially) plain. And living where I am, I thought I’d have to. There’s not much of a selection in these here parts. (Plain matzah was my breakfast for a week.)

April 6, 2015
April 6, 2015

I haven’t been one of those people who takes pictures of their food and posts it on Facebook right away. I leave that to others. Yes, there was this one on my first Passover day at work (matzah with jelly).

Luckily, Garry has really become a yiddishe mama, a ballabusta. (Note to Garry: Look them up.) He quenched my hunger with matzah ball soup, apple and raisin kugel that was so sweet he thought it was a dessert (delicious!), so many fruits and potatoes, not to mention matzah! He didn’t think we needed the five pound set of boxes and we fought over it, but I was right.

before
before
after
after

I mean, three variations of matzah brei, until he found what I like. (Not too hard, and definitely not too soft.)

gnocchi
That’s the laptop on the left!

A lot of thanks goes to the computer and, of course, Garry’s good sense to use it. There are multiple recipes for everything, which really shouldn’t be surprising, considering a population that invented agreeing to disagree. He even found kosher delivery services that are less expensive than the kosher Winn-Dixie in Aventura! My mother said she is proud of him.

Some other holiday highlights: Gnocchi and sauce from actual tomatoes, because tomato sauce from a can is not kosher for Passover.tomato sauce

Also, fresh basil chopped up (nothing processed) and kosher salt. Plus, lots of fruits and vegetables. Not to mention more matzah.

2015-03-08 Garry Food City wide
file photo
2015-03-08 Garry Food City tight
file photo

In case you were wondering, this is the first time Garry actually asked to be in the blog (the text, not the pics). You’ve seen him at Food City before. Now, he wants a fryer. I think he earned it.

should arrive this week
should arrive this week

In other news, this week, one of the reporters asked me how I am liking it here. She is relatively new also. Started in September. I told her I like it but I haven’t seen so much. Usually, I wake up and rush to work. When I get home, I’m exhausted, eat what Garry prepared, and go to sleep. I told her I needed to get out and see the other two of the Tri-Cities!2015-04-11 road to Johnson City

Last night, Garry and I discovered Johnson City and ate our first non-Passover meal there. We’d actually driven through J.C. (as they call it, not Jesus Christ or Julius Caesar) on the highway with ice and sleet on the way up. It’s nice to see places I’ve written about (the woman from Piney Flats arrested, etc.). We even got to see the airport in Blountville along the way (okay, drive through it, my fault). It was tiny and looked closed! Anyway, that makes 2 of the 3 Tri-Cities. Kingsport, you’re next!

framed amber aert
Framing is an issue when the police give you a vertical picture and you have a horizontal box.

Luckily, I like most of the work and all of the people, even if I don’t know all their names.2015-04-10 Emory Henry NCAA probation

Some accomplishments this week: getting into a routine with breaking news (Emory & Henry’s NCAA probation) and reframing images that don’t fit every type of box (the Amber Alert girl, who was found safe after two hours, by the way). I learned to take national IB Lakana stories and localize them, so I can manipulate sections, and also change the Job Opportunities page which is harder than it looks.

Let’s not forget the “Watch News 5 Live” button. It’s a big deal. People couldn’t find the live stream under News on the navigation bar, so thelive button sales and promotions departments wanted it. Anything that helps!

One other event from this week to note: There hadn’t been any decent offers to rent the Miami condo, so I’m now considering selling it. We’ll see which happens first. (Did I mention the pool? Or that pets are allowed?)

buy?
buy?
rent?
rent?

Time to wrap (takes hours to make this perfect) and eat lunch (pasta and beans, which I couldn’t have for a week), then get rid of a few more boxes. Less than a month until Mom and Dad come to visit. Don’t worry, you’ll be safe!

Yeti, the neighborhood crime watch
Yeti, the neighborhood crime watch