Posts Tagged ‘WTVM’

The Microphone that Made it to the Columbus Museum

March 5, 2012

The inspiration for this post comes from my PIC QUIZ feature on Facebook. I asked folks to tell me the significance and type of this antique microphone.

Paul  Pierce, artistic director of the Springer Opera House, was the winner of the ATTABOY AWARD because he knew that it is a carbon microphone, and suggested that  it is from the Jim Woodruff era at WRBL. I said that was close enough if he was referring to Jim Woodruff, Sr., not Jim Woodruff, Jr. Jim Woodruff, Jr. ended up running and owning the largest share of the station,  but it was Sr.who bought WRBL in the  early 1930′s and, this mic was being used then. It could even have been used when WRBL went on the air in 1928 in a dressing room of the now gone Royal Theater.  The Royal became the Three Arts Theater before the building became victim of the wrecking ball.

Roy Martin, the man who built  the Royal, a 2,700-seat movie and vaudeville theater, was the first owner of WRBL radio, which went on the air with a 50-watt transmitter built by “Radio” Bill Lewis – hence the call letters WRBL - who continued working as an engineer at WRBL long after Roy Martin sold it. Legend has it that he sold it because he thought it couldn’t be profitable because “you have to pay all those people to be on the radio.”  Over the years it went from a 50-watt independent to a 250-watt, and, finally, a 5,000-watt CBS affiliate that made a lot of profit, and gave birth to WRBL-FM, and, finally WRBL-TV which has made tons of profits over the years. Martin’s theater chain was quite profitable, too. And it got back into the broadcasting business when it became part owner of WDAK-TV, which morphed into WTVM. It became sole owner of WTVM. It’s been sold a number of times since then, as has WRBL-TV.

So you can see that the old carbon mic is an important historical artifact.  It now belongs to the Columbus Museum.  Don Nahley, who was given the mic when he left WRBL-TV as manager, asked me and former broadcast journalist Al Fleming to  join him in presenting the mic to the museum.  Don and I worked together at  WRBL-TV for many years, and we worked with Al there for a short while. Museum Executive Director Tom Butler accepted the microphone for the museum’s collection of historical artifacts. Don, Al, and I are all glad it’s now the property of the museum. We think that is where it  should be.

A View on How Newspapers and TV Differ on “Bean Counter Cannibalism”

March 30, 2011

BY JOHN CORNETT

My friend of many years, John Cornett, who worked in the newspaper business for a long time and ended up as publisher of two papers before he retired, put his interesting comment about yesterday’s post on Kurt  Schmitz’s departure from WTVM on Facebook. In case you don’t read Facebook, I’m posting it here because it gives an interesting perspective on the differences between TV and newspapers. We really don’t know why Kurt no longer works at WTVM. He says the station said he quit, but he denies that. Station management won’t discuss it publically. That leads to speculation, of which there is a lot on Facebook. John’s is based on his many years of newspaper administration.

  Sounds very much like bean counter cannibalism to me. The television world, as opposed to newspapers, and even radio, is vastly different in that regard. In the visual world, age-maybe a few wrinkles, a little too much paunch, maybe a younger, more twinkly personality(male or female), even ethnic considerations and certainly ratings-come into play. The written world knows none of those boundaries. It’s all based on the quality of the writing and the breadth and depth of knowledge, which is usually associated with education, age and on-the-ground, hard-knock experience. In the visual world, sometimes “Hi, I’m Suzie (or Freddie or Jose)-here’s the weather picture tonight” is all it takes to displace good people that don’t meet ratings(bean counter) standards. 

John Cornett

 

 I’m sure I’m telling Noah about the flood here, Richard. You’ve experienced, dealt with, and overcome those kinds of mercenary standards to reach prominence, even dominance, with a station that recognized the merits of experience, news savvy and trust-importantly TRUST- which only comes with age, experience and depth of knowledge-over the latest fresh out of J school show horse qualities. 

I suppose, John,  I should point out that I also had very good ratings over the years, and they climbed steadily when I worked at WTVM.  It was interesting that even though I was 55 years old – Kurt is 55 -  when I switched from WRBL to WTVM in 1986,  that the young demographics that advertisers love stayed high, and if I remember correctly, even got better.  A lot of people were surprised when the Ledger-Enquirer took a poll of teenagers on their favorite local TV news anchor and it turned out to be me.  I had one lady write me to request an autographed picture for her two-year-old granddaughter, saying the little girl would tell everyone in the room to be quiet when I came on the screen. Incredible, but true.  

Kurt Says He Was Asked to Leave WTVM

March 29, 2011

When WTVM Chief Meteorologist Kurt Schmitz and I were messaging each other on Facebook, I asked him how things were going at 9.   He explained that he was told to leave WTVM. I told him that nothing surprises me in the world of TV, because, in my opinion, it’s cannibalistic. 

The first time I heard that term used in connection with a work environment was when it was used by the late Jim Woodruff, Jr., who was part owner, president, and general manager of WRBL Radio and TV.  When I told him in 1968 I had accepted a job at WAGA-TV in Atlanta and would be leaving WRBL, he said that I would find it more cannibalistic in Atlanta.  I was flattered that he made an effort to get me to stay at WRBL, but I had already accepted the job so I left, being careful not to burn any bridges with Jim.  I had a good relationship with him, and indeed it turned out that it was a good thing I didn’t burn that bridge, because I came back about five years later as the Vice President of News as well as the evening news anchor.

He was right about Atlanta being more cannibalistic, but I already knew that because I had worked at WSB Radio for four years.  That’s not to say there weren’t really fine people there.  There were, and I had good friends, but I did quickly learn who were the back stabbers and dealt with them accordingly. However, I also found it true to a lesser degree at all the TV stations I worked for.  It just seemed a little more intense in the Atlanta broadcast arena.  The stakes are a lot higher in the really big markets. Of course, the phenomenon isn’t limited to the TV business.  When people are competing for power, status, and recognition, as well as money, it is well known they can play roughly.

That’s not to say anyone is playing roughly in this case, because I really don’t know the details of what is going on with the situation with Kurt, because he is being careful about what he says on advice from counsel, he told me via email. He did tell me this much:

“I reported for work on Friday at my regular time, and after a short meeting I was then asked to leave the station. And after a weekend of uncertainty I found out finally today that my job with the company had been terminated.  I was stunned as this came out of nowhere.”

That’s all he would say, but he added he will have more to say later to stop rumors from flying.

I asked WTVM Vice President and General Manager Lee Brantley about this and he said it is a personnel matter and he cannot comment.

 

Al, Don and I Dine at 79

October 4, 2009

My old broadcasting days co-worker and friend Don Nahley called me recently to asked me to lunch.  The occasion was his birthday. 

 “It’s your birthday.  Well, in that case, I’m paying for it.”

“No.  I’m going to call Al and see if he wants to come, too.”

He did, and the three of us had lunch at a Chinese restaurant.  Don wouldn’t accept my nor Al’s offer to pick up the check.  “I’m not going you invite you to lunch and then let you pay for it.”

“Well, all right,” I said, “but we’ll do the same thing on my birthday. You and Al can come and I’ll pick up the check.”

Al Fleming, Dick McMichael, Don Nahley celebrating Dick's birthday at Fudruckers.

Al Fleming, Dick McMichael, and Don Nahley celebrating Dick's birthday at Fuddruckers. (Photo taken by busboy at Fuddruckers using Don's camera)

And that’s exactly what we did Friday.  Al said he was going to do the same for his next birthday, if he’s still alive next March.  All three of us are 79 years old.  Wonder if Don and Al wanted me to tell you that. Oh, well, too late now.

“I think we ought to put it in our wills that we will pick up the check for our next birthday in case one of us doesn’t live that long,”  he said.

Nobody ever said the three of us are normal and conventional, probably because we’re not.  That’s no fun.

One time when the three of us gathered for lunch at the Mediterranean Cafe (no longer in business), a lady, who was with a group of other ladies leaving the restaurant, stopped at our table and grabbed the check.  I tried to grab it back because it was my turn to pay. She wouldn’t hear of it.  She said, “It’s for all that you guys did for us over the years.” Now, that was special.  I have to confess that I was moved. 

All of us worked in at least two Columbus TV stations, and, at one time, all three of us worked for the same station, WRBL, at the same time.  Al worked at WTVM, WRBL, and WLTZ. (He still does commentaries on WLTZ’s Rise n’ Shine Show with Calvin Floyd.)  Don worked at WRBL for about 29 years, then worked for WXTX for a short period. I worked at WRBL, off and on, from 1953 to 1986, when I switched to WTVM, where I worked until retirement in 2000.

The three of us have personally experienced the evolution of television broadcasting in Columbus.  What’s the difference between then and now?  Stay tuned.

Media in Transition: The Internet’s Impact on Local TV

September 23, 2009

 It seems clear.  The future of the newspaper is online – Time reports that media mogul Rupert Murdoch gleefully anticipates the end of newspaper presses and the unions that can accompany them – but, the Internet’s effect on television doesn’t seem that clear.

Surveys show that the local television newscasts still attract the largest news audiences in America.  However,  those audiences have been in steady decline for the past few years.  However, when the TV website audience is added, it helps make up for the TV audience loss. 

WLTZ VP and GM Drew Rhodes (COurtesy: Jim Cathorne, Camera 1)

WLTZ VP and GM Drew Rhodes (Courtesy: Jim Cawthorne, Camera 1)

TV stations are basically facing the same problems as newspapers in getting their websites to produce impressive revenues. WLTZ VP and GM Drew Rhodes puts it this way: ” The  Internet is still somewhat of an experiment for television stations.  Of course we stream video of news stories and you can see a lot of your favorite shows on the Internet.  However, nobody in the television world is making any substantial money purely via Internet.”

WTVM VP and GM Lee Brantley (Courtesy: Jim Cawthorne, Camera 1)

WTVM VP and GM Lee Brantley (Courtesy: Jim Cawthorne, Camera 1)

When I put the same questions about the Internet to WTVM’s VP and GM Lee Brantley, he said,  “A lot of what you ask is competitive and confidential. I will tell you in one month this year we topped a million page views on our website for that month. Revenues are increasing nicely for our website. At the same time our on-air news numbers are steady and have a larger share of news viewing in the market.” He also said, “The Internet has made us a better news organization, able to provide more news though multiple mediums.”

There are other factors involved with the change of television stations.  The switch from analogue to digital has added side bans, which, in effect are additional channels. Stations use them for specialized programming, such as all-weather channels. Still, the main source of revenue is from the established TV channels.  

What about the future?

Lee Brantley:  “The strong news stations will be better positioned for a brighter future. We can offer multiple channels and more local news than any other source. “

Drew Rhodes:  ” I think the future for television stations is bright.  I think you will see more consolidation as the years go along.  Look at radio world and its consolidation over the last few years.  The re-transmission consent fees have changed the way television stations make money.  Most analysts project they will continue to grow for years.  I think the future lies with ‘local’ television.  Who can do ‘local’ better?  That station or group of stations will be the winner.  I’m not just talking about news either.  I think we are going to see a resurgence of locally produced shows like we did when television was in its infancy.”

Now that could be fun. It conjures up images of children’s shows like WTVM’s “Miss Pasty’s Playhouse, ” with Patsy Avery,  and WRBL’s “Bob Brandy Show,”  and “Colonel Chick,”  and home shows like “Rozell,” with the late Rozell Fabiani, and weatherman icon Doug Wallace,  and the not-late Don Nahley.  TV commentator, former newsman, and nightclub owner Al Fleming and I joined Don at lunch yesterday to celebrate his birthday.  How old is he?  And Al? And me? Stay tuned.

Wayne Bennett’s First Retirement Party

May 10, 2009
(Left to right) Dave Platta, Jason Dennis, Paul Therrien,  Cheryl Morgan Myers, Wayne Bennett, Borden Black,  Kurt Schmitz, Bob Jeswald,  Columbus, GA TV personalities

(Left to right) Dave Platta, Jason Dennis, Paul Therrien, Cheryl Morgan Myers, Wayne Bennett, Borden Black, Kurt Schmitz, Bob Jeswald, Columbus, GA TV personalities

It was like a family reunion at the Borden Black and Cheryl Morgan Myers “oldtimers” retirement party for WTVM anchorman Wayne Bennett . Wayne’s last night on WTVM will be Friday,  May 15, 2009.  Just as it did for me when I retired in 2000,  the station will give Wayne a few minutes at the end of the 6 p.m. newscast to say goodbye. 
Wayne Bennett, retiring WTVM anchor,  Jason Dennis, Fox 54 anchor and Fox 54/WTVM reporter

Wayne Bennett, retiring WTVM anchor, Jason Dennis, WXTX Fox 54 anchor and WXTX/WTVM reporter

Jason Dennis,  who anchors the 10 p.m. news on WXTX, Fox 54 and also does some reporting that airs on both WTVM and WXTX,  has been preparing reports on Wayne’s broadcasting career.  Wayne is happy with that.  “I requested that he be the one to do it,” he said.  “I asked him to keep it light,  not make it into an obituary.  I’m not dead.”  That could be a clue that Wayne will keep his goodbye light Friday evening. 

“How would you sum up your 20 years at WTVM?” I asked him.

“That’s a loaded question, Dick.  I have to be careful because you’ll put it on your website,” he quipped.

I smiled and suggested, “Just tell the truth.”

“Well,  the truth is that television has been good to me.  I have enjoyed it,  but,  I don’t like the direction television [news] is taking so I am glad to be getting out at this time.  That’s the truth”

The sentiment that TV news has been and continues to go downhill was prevelent among the oldtimers who are no longer in the business. 

But, the serious stuff didn’t dominate the party.  There were plenty of laughs, and folks had a good time remembering stories they had covered over the years.  Though there is concern about the future direction of TV news,  it was clear that the oldtimers love the business.  Like I have always said,  one thing is for sure,  you won’t be bored if you work in television news.  It does, indeed, get very exciting.

Wayne and Betty Bennett, Wayne Bennett's  "oldtimers" retirement party

Wayne and Betty Bennett, Wayne Bennett's "oldtimers" retirement party

Now, like me,  and Dee,  Wayne gets to kiss the crushing deadlines goodbye  and to relax a little.  And that’s what he plans to do.  He and wife Betty, after a brief stay in Florida, are heading for Panama, where they plan to live. The cost of living there is a third less than in the United States, Wayne told me.  How long?  “Well, that depends on how well we like it.  If we don’t like it, we’ll go somewhere else,”  Betty  said. 

“Sounds like you are going on an adventure.”

“That’s right,” she said. “We are going on adventure and we look forward to it.”

Sounds like a fine plan to me.  After all, life is for living, as the cliche’ goes.  Bon voyage to both of you.    

For years, Wayne sported a mustache, but shaved it off a few years ago.    I asked him, “Are you going to grow a mustache now?”

“I’m probably going to grow a full beard,” he said.

He gets one more retirement party.  WTVM is having one for him Saturday.

Answer the Phone, Darn It!

March 26, 2009

I couldn’t beleive my ears when I called the Ledger-Enquirer, WTVM and WRBL  newsrooms and got an answering machine.  An answering machine in a newsroom for crying out loud!  I could have been calling in a hot tip about a disaster that was happening at that moment, and by the time someone got around to listening to the call, the action could have been over.

Crystal Johnston,  who served as a receptionist at WTVM for more than 18 years,  wrote in a comment on the post about Dee Armstrong’s take on the state of local news about the time she called in a hot tip: 

“I will give you a prime example of an experience of mine. That is, when the two homeless guys fought under the bridge in Phenix City about a year and half ago. One of them was killed. I tried to call the station several times, but no one answered. All I got was a voice mail. Yes, voice mail. That is what is taking over these days. I remember that an assignment editor used to always be at the desk all the time. It wasn’t until after the fact that they did a blurb on the story. If someone had answered my phone call, the station would of been on top of it as it was going on. I placed that call around 7:45 p.m. that night.”

I realize  it’s all about economics.  Answering machines are a lot cheaper than a real live human being, but using one to anwser calls to a newsroom seems penny wise and pound foolish to me.

At least you get a real live person at the TV stations if you call the main number during business hours,  but not the Ledger-Enquirer.  I called the other day on a subscription matter and I got a person in the Philippines.  When I told that person what I wanted,  she said she couldn’t handle it, but gave me another number for someone who could.

“Is that person actually in Columbus, or am I going to get another person in the Phillipines?”

“Oh, it’ll be in Columbus.”

I called the number. You guessed it,  a Philpino answered the phone.  However, she did take my message, and I did get get a call today, two days later, from someone actually in Columbus.  It took a little while to get to the right person, but once I did she took care of the problem.  

Oh for the days when people just answered the darn phone!

My answering machine

My answering machine

Dee Armstrong on the State of Local Television News

March 23, 2009

Speaking, at my invitation, to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus,  former Columbus TV news anchor Dee  Armstrong drew sharp contrast to the way news was reported in years past and the way it is reported now.

She doesn’t think experience counts for much any more,  decrying the way young reporters,  she believes,  have no respect for veterans who have decades of experience, veterans who could help them become  effective, mature  reporters.  

She said that when she was a young reporter she revered the veterans who had proven themselves in the business,  citing her formative years working for Ed Wilson and me.  Ed,  who was news director at WDAK at one time,  taught her how to be a radio reporter when she was still in Columbus High School.  She learned how to think in terms of telling stories with pictures when I hired her away from Ed – sorry Ed – to report for WRBL-TV.  I was news director at WRBL-TV at the time.

That background and her talent enabled her to become a very successful anchor at WTVM.  She and I co-anhored the news on WTVM from about 1987 to 2000 when I retired.  We had impressive ratings.  After I retired she continued at WTVM, co-anchoring with Wayne Bennett,  who will retire in May.  They also had good ratings. 

She pointed out that in years past news departments came up with enterprise reports,  digging into issues that affect people.  I can remember those days.  In Columbus, it appears that they are gone.

Dee’s leaving television news,  and Wayne’s leaving,  as well as mine,  represents, I beleive,  the end of an era.  The torch has been passed,  but it could be that it has been rejected.

On TV Station Suspensions

January 14, 2009

  If you are looking for drama, look no further than WTVM.  No, not dramatic shows on the air,  but the drama that is going on with established on-air personalities and management.  

 WTVM, as you may know, suspended two of its most popular personalities.   I learned about the suspensions on  Richard Hyatt’s Columbus .   Chuck Leonard, who after almost two months suspension for making what some considered an insensitive racial remark on radio, is now back on the air, and meteorologist Kurt Schmitz,  who just got a five day suspension without pay.  Kurt told me he was suspended  over an interpretation of a contract dispute about his duties.  He didn’t want to say anything else about it, and I can understand that.

All of this reminded me that I had been suspended once in my career, and that I suspended someone myself.  Back in the early 1970′s, I was suspended for a week when working at WIS-TV in Columbia, SC, but because the general manager was not certain I was in the wrong,  it was with pay.  “Why don’t you take a week off and we’ll both think this over?” he said.  “You’ll continue to be paid.”

A lot of people came to my defense, including just about everyone in the newsroom where I was assignment editor.  Though not unionized,  a group of them threatened to strike.  The general manager decided that I could stay, but it was too late. I had used the week off to get another job, and there was no way I would have stayed there after that incident.

The job I got was news director and evening TV news anchor at WRBL Radio and TV.  One of my news personalities,  a man well established in the community,  didn’t show up for a radio newscast he was supposed to do because, as he told me,  he was having a beer at a bar with some buddies.  I wanted to tell him goodbye,  but he had a long association with Jim Woodruff, Jr. , part owner, president and general manager of WRBL Radio and TV.  Woodruff suggested I suspend him for a week without pay.  I said, “He won’t take it. He’ll leave.”  He replied, “Well.”

I was wrong. He didn’t leave, but he was very bitter and tried to undermine my authority, which he did not do, but his actions were a distraction.  So, you can see that I can identify with both sides of the suspension drama.

Ledger-Enquirer Vs. Local TV On-line

January 6, 2009

  It appears the Ledger-Enquirer is getting serious about its online edition.  It’s not waiting  for the morning print edition to release some important stories. The latest impressive example is the story of CB&T buying the  Bill Heard mansion at auction for $7.65 million. CB&T foreclosed on the $18 million dollar Hollywood type celebrity palace when Bill Heard Chevrolet went under.

  No doubt the future for newspapers will be on-line.  But, on-line is a different ball game than the  traditional print editions. The paper recognizes this with a nod to video streaming, but it’s going  to take more than a nod.  Television stations are making a lot of headway with  their websites. WTVM also has the Heard mansion  story online right now.

  WTVM, Lee Brantley tells me, got a million hits the day the story about the murders at Doctor’s Hospital got national attention. CNN credited WTVM’s website with the story and the hits poured in.  Since television stations like WTVM heavily invest in television news coverage they have quite an edge over local newspapers that are putting minimal effort into video coverage.

  Still, the paper also has a huge edge over the television stations. It provides more in-depth coverage of subtantive stories, especially local business, government, and other non-crime stories. The  TV stations are crime oriented. The paper, as I have said, also covers crime, but it also gives more attention to other important stories.

  It’s going to be interesting how this all shakes down.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,400 other followers