Posts Tagged ‘NBC’

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.   


This is Not the First Time America has Fallen Behind in Education

September 29, 2010


As I watched Brian Williams’ Education Nation  report on the education crisis in America on Nightly News,  I had reflect on the resemblance to the same crisis that we had in 1957, when Dwight Eisenhower was president.  That crisis was the subject of one of the very few actual commentaries I did in my broadcast journalism career.

I was working at WSB Radio in Atlanta at the time.  The Associated Press decided to start an awards program for excellence in broadcast news reporting in Georgia.  WSB Radio took just about all of the first place awards, including commentary, which was something that was not normally done on WSB at that time. Program Manager Elmo Ellis ask me if I wanted to do one. He said we would be sure to win because no one else had entered one.  WSB did one that year, and guess who won the  first AP Award for a commentary on radio in Georgia.  Elmo was right. We were the only station to enter one.

I did that commentary on the emphasis that America had to place on education in order to catch up with the Soviet Union which had shocked the world when it put Sputnik into orbit. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was, I think , something to effect that being a teacher was a very important job and that teacher pay had to be made competitive with other professions in order to get the best people to make teaching their career.

That emphasis did catch on and more money was poured into education and improvement all over the country was quick in coming.  It wasn’t because of my tape recorded editorial.  WSB Radio’s Georgia audience was huge, with more people listening when I did the morning news than all other Atlanta stations combined. And since WSB was a 50,000-watt AM station, it had quite a reach at night and was considered a “national” station, but its national audience was miniscule.  I don’t know when the editorial ran. I didn’t hear it on the air. It could have run at 2 in the morning for all I know. It didn’t matter. It served its purpose by winning the AP Award for Excellence in Broadcast News.    

As you know, the United States caught up with and passed the Soviet Union in space, and the country’s education system benefited from that.  But, we let things slip, and now our education system is behind a number of developed nations.  If something isn’t done, it will have a bad effect on the country’s economic health. Those who can do something about it now realize that, so there is hope.

NASA produced replica of Sputnik 1

Just Because Prime Time Didn’t Work for Leno Doesn’t Mean a Creative Variety Show Wouldn’t Work at 10:00 p.m.

January 23, 2010

So Jay’s coming back and Conan is leaving the “Tonight Show.”  (Poor Conan, he and his staff only get $45 million in severance pay.)  Both of them failed in the ratings game when NBC tried the experiment of putting the Leno  format in prime time. Probably a lot of people will take this to mean that the format just won’t work in prime time.  Maybe Jay’s format won’t work – it didn’t work for me because it came across as tired and contrived – but that doesn’t mean a variety show featuring comedy and music won’t work.

It really depends on how it’s done.  Just look at the roaring success of “America’s Got Talent.”  Sure, it’s a reality show with winners and loser, joy and pain, laughter and tears as the contestants struggle to win the high-tech update of the old amateur show format.  Frankly, I fast forward through a lot of the judge’s nonsense to get to the actual acts. That’s what I am watching and  find entertaining.  As far as I am concerned, they can cut way down on the airtime they give to the judges.

What NBC should really try is not a return to canned, predictable drama series, but a real variety program,  a contemporary version of the Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan shows.  There are plenty of comedians, singers, dancers, actors, and other interesting and entertaining folks out there to make for a ratings blockbuster. 

Just moving Leno into 10 p.m., sticking with the tried and true,  didn’t work. You gotta get a little creative, guys. Take a few chances.

Media in Transition: “Revolution,” or Returning to the Past?

September 15, 2009

Automatically, I thought of the song “Everything Old Is New Again”  as I watched the NBC successful line-up last night. Both The Jay Leno Show and America’s Got Talent had audiences running above 15 million viewers according to the overnight Neilson ratings.  Still, ESPN’s Monday Night Football stayed in the ballgame, if you will, also getting more than 15-million viewers.  I watched some of all three shows.  I watched the game while I was getting in my two-mile treadmill walk.  I like to watch something I don’t have to think about when I walk. 

Back to Leno and America’s Got Talent.  Leno topped the established talent show by actually going over the 17-million mark.  No doubt, being the highly hyped premier broadcast had a lot to do with that.  The weekly average will be the thing to watch with Leno.

NBC is being called revolutionary for putting Leno on at 10 p.m. But, really it’s more reactionary. The comedy/variety show concept was big on TV when it started.  Milton Berle, Ed Sullivan, Martin and Lewis, Imogene Cocker and Syd Caesar and others were staples in the 40’s and 50’s.  I enjoyed those show then and I enjoyed Leno last night.  I have been saying for years that some network should feature some good, live (Leno is recorded “live”), prime time comedy/variety shows.  It’s one of the things television does best.

And as far as America’s Got Talent is concerned, that’s hardly a new concept, either.  Major Bowles “Orignal Amateur Hour” was big on network radio more than 60 years ago, and morphed into a TV show in the 50’s.  Frank Sinatra was “discovered” on the Bowle’s show.

As far as what I thought of the Leno show, basically, I enjoyed it.   I particularly liked the creativity and performance of the car wash skit.  Dan Finnerty and a couple of dancers in business suits offered entertainment to people going through a car wash.  Hilarious.  Let’s hope Jay can keep it up.  Five nights a week?  I don’t know. We’ll see.

Media in Transition: The Jay Leno Show

September 14, 2009


The TV revolution is not coming. It’s here. Jay Leno is leading it. At least, that’s the impression  you get if you read the Time magazine story, “Jay Leno Is Shrinking Your TV.”   Jay’s Monday-through-Friday prime time ten p.m. comedy, variety show, which will be a lot like his Tonight Show gig, is an NBC solution to the problems accompanying the changing world of TV. 

The subject is so big, especially when you bring in the newspapers,  that I can’t approach doing it justice with just one blog post.  That’s why you will be getting a series of reports on how local media is being affected by the realities of today’s media world. We will start with the Leno change because it does represent the problems faced by  NBC and the rest of the media world.

Drew Rhodes, WLTZ Vice President and General Manager, COlumbus, GA (Courtesy: WLTZ)

Drew Rhodes, WLTZ Vice President and General Manager, Columbus, GA (Courtesy: WLTZ)

WLTZ Vice President and General Manager Drew Rhodes,  whose station will be carrying the Leno show in the Columbus area,  agrees with the Time assertion that the Leno move is a gamble.   I asked him what he thought about the NBC experiment.

“Dick,” he says, “I think that it is just that, an experiment.  However, nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I’m very interested to see how Leno plays out.  He has a following.  Can he retain them and pick up more to compete with other prime broadcasts?  I really hope so.”

NBC admits that economics is a factor in its decision. It’s cheaper to produce the Leno show than scripted dramas and comedies that have been running at ten p.m.

“I understand the cost cutting measure,” says Drew. ” All broadcast television companies and parent networks are dealing with the economics at work today.  That does not necessarily mean two years from now, if the economy has returned to 2007 numbers, that we can not loosen the belts somewhat.”

Right now, though, those belts are still being tightened at TV stations and newspapers all over the country.  There are a number of reasons, but one of  the largest is the migration of people to the Internet to get their news.  We’ll look at that and more as we delve into the changing media world. Stay tuned.

NBC Needs to Look at The Big Picture in It’s Olympic Coverage

August 12, 2008

  Like a few billion other people, I’m enjoying the novelty of the Olympics, and, for the most part, I think NBC is doing a good job. However – yes, there is a “however” – I don’t understand why they don’t take a few minutes to update us on the big picture. Who is ahead in the medals and whether they are meeting expectations or not.  I have been able to find out who’s winning the most medals on Google, but the network could do a better job of putting the big picture into persepctive. They should have hired me as a consultant. Maybe you, too.