Wednesday, April 30, 2008

American Idol-Train Wreck

Unfortunately, it's about this time in the show that it becomes more of a popularity contest than reality/talent show. Never was that more evident than last night, as most of the performances were bad, and halfway through the show, Paula "reviewed" the singers 1st and 2nd songs of the night. Problem was, none of them had sung the second song yet. I like Paula, but her behavior leaves me as puzzled as she is confused.

I thought David Cook once again turned in the strongest performance and has a shot at the finals. Jason, the dreadlocked one, has gone from bad to worse, however I think he's got a shot at the finals, along with David Archuleta, as long as 12 and 13 year old girls have cellphones. Who should go? Brooke. She's grows progressively more tiresome each week, and I have a feeling when she gets voted off, she'll have an emotional meltdown.

This was touted as the strongest group of contestants ever, and while as a group they might have been, they lack the shining talent in years past of Melinda Doolittle or Jennifer Hudson. Of course, neither of them were winners. Not enough mature people vote. I should know! I don't vote either!

Monday, April 28, 2008

It's May Sweeps, and What I Found Out May Surprise You!

It's May sweeps in the TV Biz. One of the most important books in that these ratings are the ones which local TV sales peoples will be "selling" to advertisers for the most part until almost Christmas. I was reading Medialine the other day, and a poster was lamenting about the over used phrases she had already heard on countless promos and news stories. Just so you'll know, there are a lot of "TV Types" who think "TV Hype" is sometimes over the top. Let's count down some of the consultant-inspired, worst offenders heard across the country (not just locally), and urge our local stations (networks too) to at least come up with more original "catch phrases."

1. "Keeping your family safe."
2. "What you need to know"
3. "Danger lurking where you least expect it"
4. "What we found out may surprise you"
5. "What you don't know, could KILL you"
7. "Breaking" (news, weather sports, etc)
8. "This just in to our newsroom"
9. "Here's what we know"
10. "Alert" (traffic, weather, flood, Amber, etc)
11. Live, Local, Late Breaking
12. "....Take a Look"

Nothing wrong with "catch phrases," let's just not be so lazy. Let's change 'em up a bit, so we don't get lumped in with stations in Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, San Diego, Los Angeles, etc. How would I do this???

1. "To keep you from screwing up."
2. "What you better do to keep your spouse from yelling at you."
3. "Bet you didn't think THIS could hurt, but..."
4. " Stay tuned, or you could DIE"
5. "We're the ONLY ones who know this"
6. "We just heard at the beauty shop..."
7. "This is going on RIGHT NOW, Y'all!"
8. "Watch THIS, MAN!"
9. "You ain't gonna believe this"
10. "Didn't we tell ya...."
11. "Things that really, really HURT."
12. "Look at (his/her) mug shot "

13. "Here's what we know, although it ain't much right now..." my "catch phrases" are a little regionalized, but then again, I was always taught to write how people really talk!

Maybe I'm a little rough. Maybe I'm a little redneck. Maybe I'm a little bit ahead of my time.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Why Do We LOVE Paying So Much For Gas?

We Americans must LOVE paying so much for gasoline. We must love the thought of gas going over $4.00 a gallon, and thirst for it to go higher. We must, because we're doing everything we can to make it happen. Sure we give "lip service" to hybrids. biodiesel and ethanol, but with the same two lips we endorse so MANY fuel wasting measures.
We insist on raising the speed limit to 70 mpg, which means we'll drive 79...or 80, or more, even though we could cut our fuel consumption by 20 percent by driving 55 instead of 70. Not to mention the lives that would be saved. In 1975, when speed limits were lowered to 55, fatalities also fell, by more than 9,000. Some studies dispute that slowing down saves lives, although simple physics dictate that it's easier to stop from 55 mph than from 75 mph, and collisions at 55 are not nearly as violent as those at 75 or 80.

I used to be speeder myself. I drive 110 miles every day, round trip, to work, and have for the last 11 years. Finally fuel prices jumped so high I was looking for ways to save money and decided to try simply slowing down. It took some getting used to. At first, I felt like I was crawling, but gradually, I got used to the slower speed. I started enjoying the ride even more as I could listen to the radio, think about what I wanted to get done that day and drive at a leisurely pace. I even avoided a couple of collisions with deer, as I could see them faster and slow down faster. I also started saving money. My fuel economy rose from 19 mpg in my Ford Ranger, to 25 mph. Now I drive a Honda Civic rated at 32 mpg, but I get 40 mph. My commute takes about 5 or 6 minutes longer, but 5 or 6 minutes is worth the money and making my drive safer.

It's a tough sell. So many of us are hooked on speed. They whiz by me at 80 mph or more each morning. Every once in a while, I'll see them again, on the side of the road, getting a ticket. That's not too often, though. It seems that for the most part, we don't enforce the higher speed limits we have. Sadly, some of the worst speeders are law enforcement officers themselves......the ones who are supposed to be slowing us down. Let's face it. We're hooked on speed. We're hooked on being in a hurry.We LOVE the vehicles with 300 horsepower and up. They're sexy, and sexy sells...even though sexy also costs. We're seeing more ads featuring fuel economy now, but it's more of a marketing afterthought than a market foreshadow we should have seen years ago.
We complain about what gas costs now, instead of investing in our future years ago by pushing ethanol and biodiesel. There are plenty of ethanol and biodiesel plants under construction now, but when will they come on line? And will we support them once the price of gas slightly drops just to tease us into putting off alternate fuels again. Why would we rather be beholding to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela than our own American farmers for our fuel? I don't know why, but I know we are.
In the meantime, in addition to us loving high fuel prices, we must LOVE paying more for food and other goods, as the fuel surcharges mount. The $4 plus diesel is what delivers our food, medicine, clothes, furniture and plasma TVs. We don't mind.

We SAY we want lower fuel prices, but for decades, we set the stage for higher prices and higher consumption with our habits and preferences. Please don't complain about how the high profits of the oil companies. That must have also been what we wanted. They're only charging what we're willing to pay. That's business 101. One way to lower prices, is to lower demand and we don't want to do that. We'd rather complain, or ask the government to force oil companies to lower prices, instead of taking charge of our own fuel dependence ourselves. We can change our habits by slowing down and support alternate fuels that WE can produce, right here in the good ole USA, but we'd rather pay more for oil from the Middle East and make them even richer, and oh yeah, complain. Why?

Random Sports Thoughts

Danica Patrick made history this past weekend by becoming the first woman to win a major auto race when she won the Indy Racing League race in Japan. It's a great achievement and a monkey off her back. She was in danger of becoming the "Anna Kournikova or racing," thanks to shots like these which for obvious reasons were never done by Richard Petty or Bobby Allison. She certainly has been a marketing whiz and while I always thought she was a great driver, everyone knew it would take a win to stop the Kournikova comparison. Immediately, the talk turned of her jumping to NASCAR (again). I think she will at some point, but for now it's wise for the Indy league to hang onto her as long as they can. She's their poster more ways than one. When she jumps to NASCAR she'll return to having a huge learning curve, a lot of expectations, and a lot of guys in front of her. The question beckons, when she jumps to NASCAR, will she pose in a rebel flag bikini?

I've watched some of the NBA playoffs. There's a soft spot in my heart for New Orleans, and I'm enjoying watching the play of Chris Paul. My "local" team, the Memphis Grizzlies are so awful. Maybe they can get lucky in the lottery and get Derrick Rose. It seems the point guards have been better in recent years than the big men as far as draft picks are concerned. I used to be a big NBA fan back in the day of Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Willis Reed. My favorite players then were Wilt,West, Gale Goodrich and Earl Monroe. I returned as a fan to watch Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, but it lost me when the league devolved into wrestling matches and one on one playground games where "walking" and fouls were not called. It lost it's grace and beauty. Also a buddy of mine drove charters for several NBA teams recently and told me how he had been treated by several of the league's players. Certainly not graceful. These days, when I watch, I'm reminded of what David Brenner said several years ago. "Just give em both 100 points, and 2 minutes to play." It's too bad. It used to be such a beautiful game.

I'm pleasantly surprised by the St. Louis Cardinals' great start! Can they keep it up? I don't think so, but that's the beauty of baseball. You never know.

This weekend, I'll be sneaking a peek at the NFL Draft. It's always fascinated me. There will always be "can't miss" busts, and late round "steals." Trouble is, it usually takes a year or two or three before you really know. My friend Jerry Reese from Tiptonville has done quite well at it, so I'll be watching how he drafts this year, along with the Titans and several other teams. There are so many great athletes. Perhaps the trick is predicting what those great athletes will do once they become millionaires. Will they still be "hungry" even though they'll never be hungry again?

Friday, April 18, 2008

I Always Hated Al Tompkins...

I always hated Al Tompkins. Some might remember Al from his days at WPSD in Paducah, KY and WSMV in Nashville, TN.

I was reading some of the notes coming out of the Radio-TV News Directors Convention this week in Las Vegas, where some news directors come to learn the latest trends in broadcast journalism, others come to network, some come to gamble and drink, and some come to chase co-eds who are angling for their first TV job out of college. At any rate, I came across a Youtube video from Al Tompkins of the Poytner Insitute. The Poytner Institute is a school for journalists, future journalists, and teachers of journalists. It's located in St. Petersburg, Florida. St. Petersburg. That's where he lives now. Another reason to hate Al Tompkins.

Very insightful, as usual from Al. Now for the reasons I hated Al Tompkins. When I was at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, TN, and later at WPSD-TV in Paducah, KY, every once in a while, I was assigned "the big story" as a reporter. Sometimes, the story was so big, WSMV sent Al Tompkins to file their report. He was SO GOOD, the minute he walked up and I saw him, my heart sank, because I knew he would find an angle, an interview or a resource that never occurred to me, and even if I did my best work, chances are, it would PALE in comparison to what Al did. He was a big guy, with an intimidating presence, even though he's since lost weight.

I was just kidding earlier, I never hated Al Tompkins. In reality, I admired him more than any other TV reporter I ever saw. I just hated it when he showed up on MY story! He's a great asset to the Poytner Institute. Any journalist would be wise to soak up as much knowlege as they can from Al. Here's to you, Al!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


So what do viewers watch for on local TV and listeners listen for on local radio? Of course, they want accurate information and insight, but they also want, and the numbers back me up on this, personality.

Personality is what sets reporters, disc jockeys, anchors, meteorologists and sports broadcasters apart from the robotic, brainless, template-haircut/hairdo, stereotypical anchor-boys and anchorettes dominating the airwaves these days. Those with real personality and the knack of spontaneous, quick minds tend to strike a chord with viewers and listeners. They're simply more fun to tune in to. That's why they're so popular. Not many on-air types have "the knack" and the "personality." People enjoy watching natural, real people: the kind of people who make them feel better, make them laugh and make them feel as though they know them. Over the years I saw a lot of reporters, anchors, meteorologists come and go. If they had "the knack," the personality and the experience, they were tops with the viewers. If they didn't, it was impossible to learn. It always came out forced and unnatural, and the viewers picked up on that in no time. "Deer in the headlights" is a popular phrase I heard viewers use to describe these stiffs over the years.

I remember when #1 WMPS in Memphis fired popular personality Rick Dees many years ago. He went across the street to "also ran" WHBQ, and the stations immediately flip flopped in the ratings. WMPS never recovered, and Dees and WHBQ never looked back.

Just last week, WCCO in Minneapolis decided to trim it's payroll by firing longtime popular meteorologist Paul Douglas. They said he was "laid off" due to corporate restructuring. What it was, was a firing. They never offered to "restructure" his contract, but instead just showed him the door. It was part of the massive layoffs at CBS owned and operated stations across the country which dumped a lot of fat salaries, and popular personalities at their stations. There was plenty of outrage among viewers, not that it matters. If the ratings fall far enough though, that it effects the bottom line, it might matter....especially for the manager who recommended pulling the trigger on Douglas.

It's just one of many examples across the country in the biz. It's part of a trend in the changing business that for so long has been built on "giving the viewers what they want." Except now, it's "give Accounting what it needs." It's aimed at keep profits high, or driving them higher, and it will, at least in the short term. It's a business. These days many businesses, no matter what business they're in, are concerned with revenue for the next quarter, not next year, or 5 years.

In the meantime, believe it or not, a station in Vegas is locked in contract negotiations with a dog. Not just any dog. A weather dog. Could it be the pup has more "personality" than most on their "on-air" staff? Probably.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Masters Sunday and Hot Fried Chicken

It was a cold, drizzling Sunday. A good day to stay indoors, watch the final round of the Masters and fry up some hot chicken.

The old saying about driving for show and putting for dough couldn't have been more apt on this day. Tiger Woods just couldn't get the putts to drop and could never make a run at the top of the leaderboard. Nevertheless, with every birdie, the announcers would proclaim Tiger had begun his "charge." It's a testament to his reputation for the spectacular, but it was not to be on this day. Sure, Tiger can't win EVERY event, but it's still folly to bet against him at any SINGLE event, especially a major championship. Trevor Immelman faltered a bit down the stretch but had a tremendous lead which give him just enough wiggle room to wiggle into the coveted green jacket. It was not an awe inspiring performance on the final round, but I think the strong winds had a little something to do with that.

In other sports notes: I noticed Bryant Gumbel stepped down as the play-by-play announcer for the NFL network. Perhaps he was nudged to step down, In any event, it's a wise move. Gumbel does a great job on Real Sports, but is NOT a "real" play-by-play announcer. In fact he stunk at it. Prior to his hiring by the NFL Network, Gumbel had never done play-by-play, on any level. Maybe now, the NFL network will take a step forward by hiring a big league announcer to go with their big league. In fact, to take a step forward in credibility, they don't need a big name announcer, just an experienced one.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

March Madness: Championship and Short Takes

I must admit, Bridget took it pretty hard when Memphis lost the championship to Kansas. Within minutes, I received a "Rock Chalk" email from one of my Jayhawk friends. I guess the toughest part is that Tiger High went 1-5 at the free throw line down the stretch. If they had only gone 2-5, they'd be national champs. Oh well, as I've stated before, I cheer them on through thick and thin, although I'll never let my happiness hinge on whether a 20 year old boy does what he's supposed to do, when he's supposed to do it! In the end, her bracket went further than mine! I had North Carolina winning! In the women's bracket, what more can be said about Pat Summitt. I remember her as a gritty player at UT-Martin. She'll finish as the winingest college basketball coach of all time. I've been around Pat enough to know that if she told me to hit myself in the head with a claw hammer, I'd do it without question. Perhaps that's why she's so great and perhaps that's why it's good that she never told me to hit myself in the head with a claw hammer.

My faith in America is at least temporarily restored after Aussie Michael Johns (Lee) was voted off American Idol. Another of the "retreads" is gone. ("retreads" are those who had a record contract earlier in their "career," but lost it....mostly because they just were not that good) That leaves tattooed pop tart Carly Smithson (Hennessy) and hick-chick Kristy Lee Cook. Meanwhile, "Star Search" retread David Archuleta's stage dad will get one more chance to badger his spawn as the teeny-bopper heart-throb hangs in for another week. One wonders when the Idol producers will step in and push Dad out of the way, so they can polish the boy wonder's act without interference. Meanwhile, one of my friends who has an enormous CD collection emailed me to inform me that he did indeed have a CD by the former Carly Hennessy (pre-tattoo and nuptials). I think now I'm pulling for critter-club vet David Cook from Missouri so I can hear the collective drunken roar from Eagles Clubs, Moose Lodges and Elk's Clubs across the Show-Me state when the confetti rains down.

I love the Rolling Stones. Keith Richards still embodies Rock n Roll. Martin Scorsese's new film capturing a Stones concert is out. It includes a great song in which the Stones back Christina Aguilera. Now she's one of the few current pop stars who I feel has genuine "pipes" and I've heard the song and it's really good, however, prior to the pairing, Richards had no idea who she was. I love Keith Richards! Richards and I have perhaps only one thing in common: we both met and shared the stage with the great Chuck Berry in St. Louis. That ain't much, but believe's the coolest!

One my "rites-of-spring" is watching The Masters Golf Championship. Tiger Woods has dug himself a big hole halfway through, 7 strokes off the pace, yet we learned a long time ago to never count him completely out. Europeans seem to do really well in The Masters. Is it because they have, on the whole, better short games than PGA Tour players? If it ever stops raining, I plan to spend A LOT of time on the course. In BREAKING SPORTS NEWS, I've decided to officially announce that I have given up "training" for an attempt to join the PGA Senior Tour in 2 years, and have instead devoted more time to "cracking the code" of the recipe for Prince's Hot Fried Chicken. Guess what? I did it! Guess What Else? I'll share it.....for a PRICE.

I heard from my 1st news director the other day, Bob Ramsey. He was named GM at the Tribune station in Sacramento. What a journey from tiny WBBJ-TV in Jackson, TN to there. Along the way he wound his way through Evansville, Omaha, Louisville, West Palm Beach, Miami, Dallas, Chicago, San Diego. He hired me at WBBJ in 1983 to be a reporter and fill-in weather anchor. Before I ever did my 1st weathercast, he gave me a 10 minute "primer" on how to do TV weather. I've always said that was the best instruction I ever got on how to actually communicate the weather. Back then we used magnetic symbols on a painted piece of roofing tin cut out like a map of the USA. Meteorology progressed from there to sophisticated computers, the internet, more forecasting computer models than you could imagine and more. I went back to college to finish my meteorology degree and progressed in all the scientific aspects and nuances of forecasting, but I never got a better education on how to present it than Bob gave me. It was great to hear from him. I'm not surprised that he's done so well in managing stations. He's all Chicago, all SIU-Carbondale, and most of all, he's all right!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Angry Journalists!

These days, the journalistic profession is undergoing some big time changes: shrinking viewership, shrinking readership, competition from the web, 100s of new tv channels on cable and dish, etc. As a result, in an effort to keep profit margins from shrinking at the same rate, journalists are expected to do more, much more, with and for less: time, salary, etc. One of the ways to cut costs is by cutting overly inflated salaries of anchors, reporters and news management. As a result, newroom staffs across the country are getting leaner, meaner and younger. More and more television and newspaper staffs are combining their news staffs to embrace the new media, while cutting overhead.

For some stations, the cuts have been deep and dramatic. CBS is swinging a sharp ax through the heart of it's stations.

But it's not just the big boys feeling the pinch. It's all over, and it's left some journalists very angry. Now it's nothing new for employees to complain about their working conditions. That goes for some at ABC, all the way down to Captain D's, but in this case it might be signaling a change in the business. In at least some cases, expect journalistic quality taking a backseat to journalistic quantity. In most cases, researching, writing and delivering a sound story takes some time. That's time which is not afforded as much in this high-tech and high-speed new world of delivering information, and 24-hour cable news channels.

With so many outlets, the thing that will set the best apart from the rest is credibility. Many already trust the information they get from some outlets more than others. Some outlets concentrate on telling readers what they want to hear instead of a more objective approach. It's a great marketing ploy which breeds customers who trust only those reports which are slanted toward their beliefs and political leanings, but in the long run, the loss of objectivity can lead to the loss of credibility.

Credibility is gained over a long period of time, by seasoned, experienced, professional reporters. It's a marathon, not a sprint. The tricky part is that credibility, just like a reputation, can be earned over years and years, but then lost in a relatively short period of time. Just ask some of the folks at The New York Times. That's why it's even more important these days for news reporters, meteorologist, sports reporters and more importantly, news managers to place a higher priority on "getting it right," than "getting it first," even though "getting it first" is still very important.

By the way, if you work at Captain D's and want to complain, try THIS SITE!

American Idol (Dolly Week): I LOVE Dolly Parton, although I wasn't so fond of some of the versions sung by the American Idol kids. I have to give credit to Dolly for having one of the better plastic surgeons around as she certainly looks nicer than some of the plastic surgery freaks out there these days. Perhaps one of the reasons is that she never really looked "natural" anyway! She's still one of my favorites though, especially "Jolene" and "To Daddy." Contestant wise, David Cook, the critter-club/bar band vet from Missouri is continuing to grow on me. I 'm still puzzled that 3 "retreads" remain: Carly, Michael and Kristy. Am I the only one who finds it odd that a foreigner could win AMERICAN Idol?

On the AI Sidebar:

The Report that Randy Jackson was intrigued with Carly Smithson in 1999 when he was with Artist Development at MCA Records, and Carly Smithson (Hennessy) was signed to....MCA Records. Has this connection played a part in her Idol success?

Is teenybopper-hearthrob David Archuleta's "stage dad" out of control?