Posts Tagged ‘CBS’

“Think About That for a Moment”

August 7, 2018

That’s what Gayle King, a co-anchor on CBS This Morning, advised us to do as she reported on the largest forest fire in California history during the rapid-fire, tightly-edited Your World in 90 Seconds opening segment on the show. (At one time, I did not like newscasts to be referred to as “shows.” I thought of them as being serious business. That was during the Walter Cronkite era. Now, unfortunately, the term “show” is accurate.” None of today’s news shows comes close to the numbers Cronkite, Brokaw, or Jennings newscasts pulled on CBS, NBC, and ABC. Admittedly, there were fewer choices then. But, I digress. Back to MS King and her advice.) If we had stopped to “think about that,” we would have missed the beginning of the next story.

That is one advantage that newspapers and magazines had over broadcast news. We could stop to think about a story before we went on to read the next one.  However, there is now something that lessens that advantage. It’s called a DVR, which stands for “digital video recorder.” Miss a story because you’re thinking about the one you just watched, just hit the rewind. I wouldn’t be without a DVR.  The latest stats I could find online show a little more than half of TV households have a DVR. Commercial TV stations and networks probably weren’t too pleased with them when they came into use because a lot of folks, including me, record most of what they watch so they can fast forward through the commercials. I do watch some commercials, the clever ones that give me a little entertainment or important information for my time spent watching their sales pitch. They have to come at the beginning of the break to hook me.

What’s the Hurry?

December 8, 2017

If I didn’t have a DVR, I would miss a lot of what is said on the CBS This Morning newscasts.  I find myself rewinding a lot to be able to understand some reports. And sometimes even that doesn’t work because the information isn’t properly explained. Not only do the anchors rush a lot of their copy and run words together, but the production of the reports is often too tight..  Maybe the editors should cut down on the number of stories and give each one a little more breathing room.  Also, in my view,  there needs to be a brief pause between the reports, and transitions help the viewer stay on track.

Any basic course in writing for broadcast news makes it clear that writing for broadcasts is different from writing for newspapers and magazines. Readers can pick their speed and can easily reread the copy.  Listeners and viewers have to be able to understand what is reported the first time around, especially if they don’t have DVRs.  Perhaps it’s time for some producers to get back to the basics.

For some reason, the three major network producers seem to better understand this on the evening flagship newscasts.

CBS Sunday Morning in the Limelight

November 10, 2014

As I sat watching the illuminating CBS magazine program CBS Sunday Morning,  which has been on the air for  35 years, I learned the roots of the word “limelight,”  which, besides meaning “the center of public attention,” also means an actual light used to illuminate a stage, providing the first following spotlights,  I had to reflect on what an entertainment and informative  treasure CBS gives us every Sunday morning.

The program’s Almanac feature spotlighted Scottish inventor Thomas Drummond who, on November 9th, 1825,  successfully demonstrated a brilliant light produced by a white-hot flame from burning calcium oxide. (Calcium oxide is lime.)  He used a parabolic reflector to direct the light. Theaters quickly embraced the limelight to light stages and provide spotlights before the advent of electric lights. (Wikipedia tells us that Drummond didn’t actually invent limelight. Sir Goldsworthy Gurnery did that. Drummond made it work.)

This is one TV news magazine that leaves you feeling good after watching it. You can’t say that  about the others.  I get tired of being depressed by reports of the bad things going on in the world, so I  look  forward to this program, which I record every week.  Sometimes I actually watch part of it  when it airs. (more…)

No Need to Sensationalize Sensational Stories

September 16, 2013

Because it’s “bringing  back the news in news,”  I have switched from the Today show to  CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and  from the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams to the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.  Charlie Rose has a warm tone of voice and is easy to follow and understand.  He has the avuncular quality that served  Walter Cronkite so well. Scott Pelly is also easy to follow and sounds less of a news announcer like Brian Williams, and more like a good neighbor doing what legendary Atlanta WSB Radio Manager Elmo Ellis taught me when worked for him.  He said, “Tell a story the same way you would when talking to a neighbor over the backyard fence.”  Pelly also has great credentials as a news reporter. 

ABC’s Dianne Sawyer also has a warm, conversational delivery, but I stopped watching the  ABC’s World news Tonight  when I felt  that it became “news light,” with the emphasis more on soft than hard news.  When I watch  the evening news, I want news.

Both Sayer and Pelley are gaining on ratings leader Williams He’s still ahead but not as much as he was.  I like him and have no problem watching him, especially when he ad-libs.  He sounds conversational when he ad-libs, but not when he reads.  

I suppose what I like about them most is that they don’t sound rushed.  I sampled ABC’s Good Morning America when the big flooding stories hit and could not believe the sensationalized reporting.  The reporters were talking as fast as they could  and were almost yelling as they wildly gesticulated doing their standups in front of raging creeks and rivers. The video editing of the flooding was done in rapid-fire takes.  That’s really not necessary.  There is certainly no need to sensationalize a story that is already sensational.

As I watched the sensationalized reporting, it occurred to me that the on-air personalities were probably following the directions of some broadcast consultant firm’s coaches.  I remember when some out-of-town consultant  coaches would tell me I needed to pick up the pacing of my delivery, and should  gesticulate  more to emphasize what I was saying.  They really wanted rapid-fire delivery. I would politely listen to them, but I knew they would be leaving the next day, and I continued to deliver the news at my own conversational pace and style.  What did they know about what people wanted in the market  that I had lived and worked in for a lot of years?  One size doesn’t fit all.   

Mike Wallace and Me

April 9, 2012

When a broadcast journalist giant like Mike Wallace dies,  the natural reaction is to think about the time I met him.  Al Fleming and I had gone to the CBS studios in Manhattan to record promos with him and Dan Rather.  While we did them together with Dan, we recorded them separately with Mike.

This is a CBS still photo that was sent to me and Al following our promo recording session with Dan Rather in New York. There was also one of Al and me individually with Mike Wallace, but that was lost years ago.

Dan was quite sociable and we had a nice chat with him when we recorded the promos with him on the CBS Evening News set. I reminded him of the time he had visited the WRBL studios to edit an interview he had done with a West Point mill executive on brown lung disease for 60 Minutes, and we talked about that. Dan had time for us. That was not the case with Mike.  He was stationed on the set of a new daytime show (which tanked) that he was doing for CBS.  The set was dwarfed by the cavernous studio in which it had been erected. When I walked up to shake hands with him, he smiled and said hello, but immediately started yelling kiddingly across the huge studio to a pretty young co-worker, completely ignoring his guest, who happened to be me.  He carried on a yelling conversation with her until she had left the studio. He then turned to the studio crew and authoritatively said, “All right let’s do this.” We read the promos on the teleprompter screen, doing it in one take. Then he gave me a condescending smile as we said our goodbyes as he and his crew waited for the next CBS affiliate’s news anchor to come to do another promo that would run on the affiliate’s station.

So Mike had lived up to his tough, brusque reputation in my encounter with him. Al told me later that Mike hadn’t been friendly with him. Even though I reflected that to me he was an egotistical, rude man who wasn’t interested in a conversation with a small-market anchor, I nevertheless admired his ability to solicit dynamic interviews with some very important people, including a lot of crooks whom he confronted on 60 Minutes.  Just as Morley Safer and Steve Croft, who worked for years with Mike on 60 Minutes, said on CBS This Morning, Mike was highly confrontational and abrasive, but he knew how to use those qualities to get all sorts of famous, and often villanous, people to say things that would make news. And like so many others in the business, I used that direct technique from time to time to get the news subject to do the same thing.  Once, when I was doing the news for WSB in Atlanta, the late Senator Herman Talmadge called the president of Cox Broadcasting  and said that I was trying to embarrass him with a question I asked him.  I really didn’t care, because I knew the question got right to crux of the story.

Safer, whose CBS office was next door to Mike’s, said at one point that he and Mike didn’t communicate for months, because Mike, who was highly competative , would steal stories from him. Croft said the same thing.  Both also said they liked him and admired his journalistic abilities, creditin g him with being the main reason that 60 Minutes  was one of the most succesful prime time news magazine programs in broadcasting history.

I remember when he first broke into the national broadcasting scene with his highly confrontational interviews on the Mike Wallace Show on ABC in the later fifties.  His subjects would actually break into a visible sweat during the interview. I had to admit it was highly entertaining, though sometimes cruel.  Those interviews made such an impact that they were parodied on the Sid Caesar Show. Sid Caesar was one of my favorite comedians.

As CBS was showing the long list of world-famous celebrities that Mike interviewed over the  years, they said, “He even interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt.” S0 did I. I was working at WSB at the time. It aired on NBC.

All in all, I admired Mike’s journalistic ability, thought him highly entertaining, and appreciated the fact that he didn’t appear to be afraid of anyone he interviewed, including heads of state and powerful politicians and businessmen.  He indeed was a giant in broadcasting.

Interesting Night for me to Sample Keith Olbermann’s Show

January 22, 2011

I almost never watch either Keith Olbermann or Bill O’Reilly.  I rarely watch any of the verbal bomb throwers whether they are on the right or the left.  I like my pundits to show a little class, and that’s something you don’t get much of on the cable news channels. But, last night I did decide to sample Olbermann’s show and lo and behold it turned out to be his last one.

Even though I don’t often play in  the mud puddles that the vociferous talkers wallow in, I must admit that I was glad that there was a counter to O’Reilly.  He and Olbermann were both on at  8 p.m Eastern Time.  For a while there was no alternative to the Fox right-wing propagandists, but MSNBC discovered there is an audience on the left and now has a nightly schedule of them.  Since there is no longer a Fairness Doctrine to make sure broadcasters air opinions on both side of an issue, we certainly need for the cable news outfits to provide us with right and left alternatives. 

What do I watch regularly? Nationally, it’s NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, and I do sometimes record either the ABC or CBS newscast and watch them also to compare coverage. While I am not completely happy with any of  the big three network newscasts because I think they spend way too much time on soft stories, I think  they come closer to really being fair and balanced than the cable news channels.  Fox saying it is “fair and balanced” reminds me of Nixon saying ,”I am not a crook.”  If you are “fair and balanced” or “not a crook” you don’t have to say it, just be it.

Also, I watch the Daily Show regularly.  It is satirical, but quite often, in my view, its admittedly “fake news”  gets to the real truth of major stories more than the “real news” channels.  Yes, Jon Stewart does come across as a  liberal, but he also takes liberals to task when they go overboard.  He did that with Olbermann a couple of nights. Also, he often interviews conservatives like Bill O’Reilly on his show, and O’Reilly has even had Stewart on his show. Stewart has even invited Glenn Beck, but he won’t come.  

We still really don’t know why Olbermann left or was forced out. We do know that he has had  confrontations with some MSNBC higher-ups, but that’s all we know.  He didn’t tell us why he was leaving when he announced his departure last night, which I thought was really strange. but we will probably find out soon.  I must admit that I am curious about it.