Monday, August 6, 2012

I'm Not Kidding...


The End



This is possibly the last newsmcnabb post. I’m hanging it up. I say “possibly the last post.” Something may be so juicy or troublesome that I could feel compelled to write, but I think four years of periodic posts is possibly enough.

At the outset, I wanted the blog to be more than a recitation of comings and goings. That can be accomplished in much the same manner as “Transactions” in the sports pages of the Austin American-Statesman. Comings and goings seem to be more and more frequent nowadays for a variety of reasons.

I wanted to go deeper, digging into all media in the market, and I think I did.

This doesn’t mean that there is no longer anything to write about. Just look at the almost daily “corrections” on Page 2 of the American-Statesman. Some of them are glaring. The most common and possibly the most heinous are misidentifications. Misidentifications can sometimes result in lawsuits!

I thought about writing something about the new owners of KEYE TV, and Sinclair’s history in politics. I decided to take a “wait and see” approach. If you are curious, just Google Sinclair Media.

New owners and TV news consultants are also an interesting subject. Many think what worked in another television market will work in Austin. It probably won’t. Austin is not a “cookie-cutter” market. Yet, these managers who “ain’t from around here” will keep trying until the audience/the ratings prove it to them.

Consultants would be more useful in coaching new staff members some of whom seem to be working their first TV jobs. Somebody needs to tell them to stop yelling at the audience; just talk. Be conversational. Your voice in your live shot should match your delivery in the voice track. It would be mean and possibly hurtful to be specific, so I didn’t write about that.

I could have written more about the online, hyper-local media such as CultureMapAustin, Austin Post, the Austinist, and several others. I’ve wondered if folks glean their news from these sites as much or more than so-called “main stream media.”

Taking stock, my 272 posts over four years is probably plenty.

When I started writing newsmcnabb, I felt like I was filling a void. There is still a void, but it is smaller. Gary Dinges of the Statesman, whom I’ve never met, is doing a good job of covering local broadcast media now. No, he’s not going to criticize his own newspaper, and he’s not going to take a point of view, but he is doing good reporting. It’s his full time job.

Writing newsmcnabb is not my full-time job. Right now, I’m more interested and even obsessed with the coming semester at St. Edward’s University. For the next nine months, my energy, creativity, and priority will be focused on preparing solid content for my students. It must be said, it is so very, very satisfying when those students succeed!

So, “newsmcnabb” will remain in cyberspace for archival purposes for a while, but it’s time to turn the page. Turn the page without even so much as creasing the corner.

One final and important thing: To those who followed or subscribed to my missives, thank you!

Wage peace.

-30-

© Jim McNabb, 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Really?



Media: Texas is a One-Party State


An incredible feeling of freedom swept over me when I walked out of a newsroom for the last time. For the first time in decades, I could openly express a political preference and opinion. Journalists, bound by ethical standards, keep those views to themselves.

The campaign manager for a mayoral candidate years ago was convinced that I hated her candidate when in fact, I voted for him. I could not let it show. Reporters must be objective. Reporters must stick to reporting facts.

So, I’ve been disturbed by the reportage of the Ted Cruz/David Dewhurst runoff. I was shaken by this assertion by The Austin American-Statesman’s Ken Herman: “There’s no doubt we’re a one-party state.” Really? That news may come as a surprise to former lawmaker, Democrat Paul Sadler who will face Ted Cruz in November.

True, no Democrat has won a statewide office since 1994, but does that mean that Texas is a one-party state? Does that mean that the Democratic Party in Texas should simply save its money, bolt the doors, and move to New England where the colors are shades of blue? Should journalists make these leaps of logic?

I don’t want to hammer Herman alone. After all, much of what he writes nowadays is opinion, and it’s great stuff. The problem is that the piece in today’s paper (August 1, 2012) wasn’t presented as a column. Herman is an excellent reporter, and the story appeared as analysis. Opinions, however, should be put in the context of a quotation from a source.

I’m boiling over now after having stewed in this political pot for several weeks. During the Belo runoff debate between Cruz and Dewhurst seen in Austin on KVUE-TV (ABC), one of the moderators was trying to frame a question. He said something like this, “One of you will be the next Junior Senator from Texas, and …” I gasped. I might imagine that Paul Sadler might have thrown a shoe at his television if he was watching.

Did that TV talking head forget that we have an election the first Tuesday in November, and that election will decide who is the next junior US Senator from Texas?

Back to the Statesman stories concerning the runoff election. The front page story by Kate Alexander stuck to the facts, but mention of the Democratic Party opposition was one paragraph on the “jump page”. It acknowledged that Sadler “handily” won his contest. Then, she couldn’t resist throwing in the fact that “a Democrat last won a statewide seat in Texas in 1994.

Much has been made that Cruz, who has never held elective office, had extra time and, yes, money to tell his story and build a winning campaign because of delays due to redistricting. Between now and November, the electorate will get to know more about who he is what he says he would do if elected.

The same could be said of Paul Sadler’s candidacy and his solid record of accomplishment during his time in the Texas Legislature.

Voters will see a stark contrast in the candidates. Further, in November there will likely be a much greater turnout than there was for this ill-timed, mid-summer runoff election. Finally, there are blue bastions in urban areas of Texas—Dallas, Houston, and Austin. Voter turnout is the key for either candidate.

Maybe Ted Cruz will win in November, but that still will not mean that Texas is a one-party state, no matter what the media says.

© Jim McNabb, 2012


Sunday, July 22, 2012

She's Be Missed ...


ND Suzanne Black Leaving KEYE TV

There is one constant in broadcast journalism. This constant remains in place during the decades of this relatively young profession. That one constant? Change.

It was less than a month ago that I ran into a typically cheery KEYE-TV (CBS) News Director Suzanne Black while enjoying lunch with a former mutual colleague. We talked several minutes about the station’s success in the May “sweeps” and Sinclair Broadcasting, KEYE’s owners as of the first of this year.

Last week, Black announced she was leaving the station.

“I am leaving KEYE. It's a decision I've been weighing for a while,” Black says. “As much as I love it here, it's time devote some attention to my boys. They're only young once and I want to enjoy it.” Black and her husband have two children.

Black says she’s leaving while she’s on top.

“This has been a busy and successful year. We launched a new two-hour morning program, a 5pm newscast, and ended the May book with our 10 p.m. newscast moving into first place for the first time in KEYE history. It has been fun and very rewarding.”

Black came to KEYE seven years ago as assistant news director. Only a year later, she was promoted to the top job in the newsroom when then news director Tim Gardner moved on.

During her time at the station, KEYE had four management groups or owners: CBS, Cerberus Capital Management which eventually signed a local service agreement with the Nexstar Broadcasting Group. September 11, 2011, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced a deal to buy KEYE and its sister Cerberus stations. The station also converted to HDTV during her watch.

As one would expect, each change in ownership and management would result in uncertainty, but Black clung to her journalist values with a commitment to put a quality product on the air every day, changes notwithstanding. She was rewarded with loyalty by many producers, photographers, reporters, and anchors.

“I will miss the people of KEYE tremendously. They are hard-working, loving, passionate people,” Black says. Her last day in the station is this Thursday.

Sinclair posted Black’s job within days if not hours after her announcement.

© Jim McNabb, 2012


Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Cross—KXAN TV’s New News Director

A new news director is headed to KXAN TV (NBC) from an award-winning station in Wichita, Kansas, and he has ties to Austin.

He replaces Michael Fabac who was quickly dismissed in late May during sweeps.

Chad Cross, a University of Texas Broadcast Journalism graduate, is said to be the new leader for Austin’s #2 station. Before going to Kansas, Cross was a producer at KEYE-TV (CBS) here in Austin. He was also a reporter/anchor in Topeka, Kansas.

Chad Cross is used to being #1. Reports say that his station, KWCH TV (CBS) has led the ratings in the Wichita market since 1985!

Cross, KWCH TV’s news director, has been with the station for some ten years. In that time he worked as a producer, reporter, anchor, reporter, and assignment editor. So, it appears that he worked his way up through the ranks. Neither Cross nor KXAN management have responded to inquiries so far.

One thing is certain: As news director he will be younger than many if not most of the people he will manage including his anchors, mid-managers, and reporters. Veteran Jim Swift may be close to twice as old as his new boss!

Apparently, Cross was one of two finalists for the plumb KXAN job. Cross rose above the competition.

“On a 4th grade field trip, Chad Cross toured a television station and watched what happens behind the scenes to produce a live newscast,” according to the KWCH web site. “In awe of it all, he decided on his career that day.”

“It was the ‘magic of TV’ that inspired me then. Now, it’s about the responsibility we have as journalists to ask questions, hold the powerful accountable and use our medium to make a difference in the community,” he said. “It’s also about our service to viewers, relaying vital information for their safety, especially when there’s severe weather in Kansas.”

Those same priorities apply to the Austin market. Wichita is the 68th market. Austin is 44th on the Nielsen list.

KXAN also produces news for the Austin CW station, and Cross is familiar with that arrangement. Sunflower Broadcasting, Inc. owns KWCH and KSCW. So, his department also produces the 9 p.m. news for the local Fox affiliate. Also, in 2011, Cross launched three new newscasts, including one in Spanish for KDCU, a Univision affiliate. The station also has a 24-hour weather channel, four websites and three apps.

Cross was a part of coverage including major events like the tornado that destroyed the town of Greensburg, the capture of Wichita’s “BTK” serial killer, and the Jayhawks’ 2008 national championship. Under his leadership KWCH won national and regional Edward R. Murrow awards, 2011 Kansas Assoc. of Broadcasters' "Station of the Year" and a 2012 Emmy nomination for news excellence.

Cross oversaw all editorial decisions, according to the station’s web site. “I’m fortunate to lead a newsroom that prides itself on thoughtful, ethical decisions about our coverage. Every day we strive for compelling storytelling that focuses on who is directly affected,” he explained.

Cross hales from northern Colorado. He describes himself as a “farm boy.”

© Jim McNabb, 2012


Monday, July 9, 2012

Will America Be The Death of English?


Heard, Read, Gagged

“Strictly Speaking/Will America be the Death of English” is a former #1 best seller by former NBC correspondent Edwin Newman. What we do to the language now is as abominable as it was in 1974 when Newman finished his book.

What follows was written, seen, or said in local and national media within the past few weeks.

The name of the place in England where they play tennis is Wimbledon, not WimbleTon. How many times have you heard the “T”? It is close kin to the mispronunciation of that cathedral in London called Westminster, not Westminister. Sigh.

Brian Williams last month said the retired shuttle “suffered wing damage.” No. Things do not suffer. People suffer. The living suffer. Things are damaged, yes. If you must, things can incur or sustain damage, but they don’t suffer.

Appearing on MSNBC, former GOP chief Michael Steele uttered the phrase, “centered around.” No. It is impossible for something to be centered around. It can be centered on, however.

A local Austin new reporter got a statement from a source. He read it saying, “Quote: Blah, blah, blah …” Any broadcast journalism course will tell you to lose the word “Quote”. After all, the statement is on the screen in quotation marks.

A City of Austin staffer appearing before the City Council stated that something was further away. No. It is farther away, meaning distance. Further has a different definition. Weathercasters say this one wrong often also.

In an NBC Nightly News story on education the reporter said the phrase, “whether or not.” What’s wrong with that, you say? It is redundant. Just say “whether”. For example, I don’t know whether it will rain.

NBC’s medical expert Dr. Nancy Snyderman in a June 11th report confused “fewer” with “less”. Many do. Even the New York Times slipped up and ran an explanation: “The basic rule for precise use of ‘less’ and ‘fewer’ is simple (though we slip often). Use ‘fewer’ with countable, individual things, and ‘less’ with uncountable amounts, volumes, etc. So: ‘I should drink less coffee,’ but ‘I should eat fewer doughnuts.’” (NYT, Philip B. Corbett, March 1, 2011)

“Amount” and “number” are similar. A local Austin reporter got them confused recently. “Use the word amount with quantities that cannot be counted and number with quantities that could be counted one-by-one.” (EnglishPlus.com)

A friend and former newspaper copy editor wonders why people put an apostrophe after the plural of things like CDs, DVDs, or RVs. People wrongly make it look like a possessive by writing “CD’s”, etc. Lose the apostrophe.

Shouldn’t a crime reporter know the difference between a robbery and a burglary? They are not interchangeable.

On MSNBC’s web site, someone wrote that a victim was “electrocuted and died.” Hmmm. Electrocuted indicates death, otherwise they would have been simply shocked. It’s just like saying someone drowned and died. They drowned.

Finally, style books recommend writing news in the active voice rather than passive. For example, copy should say, “Many witnesses saw the accident,” rather than “The accident was seen by many witnesses.” Dadgummit! Write in the active voice.

Further, lose the past perfect and present perfect tenses. The Associated Press wrote July 3, 2012, “Andy Griffith, whose homespun mix of humor and wisdom made ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ an enduring TV favorite, has died.” So, an Austin anchor read, “… Andy Griffith has died.” No. Write and say something like, “Tonight reports out of North Carolina say Andy Griffith is dead. Or it could be, “Beloved actor Andy Griffith died today. All producers and copy editors should pause and think before using the past or present perfect tense of a verb.

It all actually starts on a personal level. You ask someone, “How are you doing?” “Good,” They answer. Hmmm. You know they are a good person, but how are they doing? The answer should be, “I’m well.”

We’re talking mainly about usage here. Grammar? Well, that is another post for another time.

Picky? Perhaps. But, there are there are, oh, so many, many more. Maybe we can clean up this mess one sentence at a time.

© Jim McNabb, 2012


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kate and KUT-FM



Two Quick Tidbits …


Two quick newsworthy items:

Austin’s public radio station KUT-FM (NPR) raked in another news award today, June 12, 2012. This time is the national Edward R. Murrow award for continuing coverage of the 2011 drought. This is a big deal! Listen to the winning entry here: http://vimeo.com/36567853. Kudos to KUT-FM again!

Secondly, but not unexpectedly, KXAN-TV (NBC) morning reporter Kate Weidaw, PhD resigned to follow her new dream, teaching full time. She earned her doctorate this spring. (See http://newsmcnab.blogspot.com and scroll down three stories.).

Dr. Weidaw gave notice Monday, June 11, 2012 saying, “I accepted a job at the University of Georgia in Athens to be an assistant professor in their Telecommunications Department. I'll leave KXAN at the end of July beginning of August.” So, she will see the station through the July sweeps month.

Weidaw had been teaching broadcast journalism at St. Edward’s University in Austin.

This is a big deal too!

Congratulations to Kate and KUT-FM.


© Jim McNabb, 2012


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gotta Blame Somebody ...


That Darned Media!

Blame it on the media. When in doubt, blame it on the media. When there is a political campaign crisis, of course, blame it on the media.

If one is a conservative, then it is the fault of the “liberal” media. Conversely, if one is a liberal, blame the “conservative” media.

Instead of blaming it on the media, defeated incumbent Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley took the extraordinary step of barring the media from his election-watch headquarters. He had no comment to the media after his 55-45% defeat by County Attorney Jana Duty. Duty was available to the media all day and all night the day of the primary.

Bradley may be blaming his defeat on the media. There is no way of knowing because he has no comment. “No Comment” is never every acceptable in any circumstance.

The handling of the Michael Morton case was always being thrown in Bradley’s face by his opponent Duty, and by extension, the media. Of course Duty’s ads in the media accenting Morton’s innocence in his wife’s murder due to DNA were also in the media.

That darned media!

And Bradley took media heat in 2010 for when Governor Rick Perry appointed him to head up the Texas Forensic Science Commission. The commission was asked to review evidence that led to the conviction and execution of a Corsicana man in the arson killing of his family. Some have said the conviction was based on “flawed science.”

State Senator Rodney Ellis was critical of Bradley’s response: "It is disconcerting to hear that the Chairman of the Forensic Science Commission would characterize legislators' concern over the use of flawed science to convict Texans as a 'circus sideshow.'” (TexasTribune.com, September 12, 2010)

That darned media! How dare they report emails such as this.

To be fair, County Attorney Duty’s ongoing problems with the Williamson County Commissioners Court also received media attention as did her reprimand by the State Bar of Texas.

That darned media!

Duty isn’t done yet. She still must defeat Democratic Party challenger Ken Crain in the November election. Crain, a Georgetown attorney, was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Little has been heard Mr. Crain so far.

But DA Bradley must want to control the media by not communicating through the media to his constituents. He’ll still be DA for six more months. The news media, after all, are the eyes and ears of the public. Election night, reporters were kept at the curb and left at the curb waiting.

Attacking, avoiding or blaming the media is a common political ploy. Check out former Speaker of the House and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich during the debates in early 2012. Find highlights on You Tube.

This past week, it was Donald Trump’s turn to take on the media again. His recurrent topic: The so-called “birther” movement. On the eve of his Vegas fundraiser with apparent Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Trump again questioned the authenticity of President Obama’s Hawaii certificate of live birth.

"A lot of people do not think it was an authentic certificate," Trump told CNN of Obama's birth certificate. When CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer told Trump he was "beginning to sound a little ridiculous," Trump responded, "I think you sound ridiculous." (The dailycaller.com, May 29, 2012)

That darned media!

“It’s something that bothers Obama very much,” Trump said. “I tell you, it’s not an issue that he likes talking about, so what he does is uses reverse psychology on people like you so that you report, ‘Oh gee, he’s thrilled with it.’ He does not like that issue because it’s hitting close to home, you know it and he knows it.

“You won’t report it, Wolf, but many people do not think it was authentic,” Trump said. “His mother was not in the hospital. There are many other things that came out and, frankly, if you would report it accurately, I think you’d probably get better ratings than you’re getting, which are pretty small.”

The odd thing about it all is that Donald Trump was using the very medium he insults. And, Trump of course ignores newspaper announcements of the president’s birth repeated often in other media, as well as Mr. Trump’s own investigation which produced no reportable results.

Working in news, one must have thick skin, never taking things personally. Wolf Blitzer’s skin is bound to be quite thick.

And regarding Mr. Trump, he certainly doesn’t avoid that darned media.

© Jim McNabb, 2012

Photo Credit: Erich Schlegel for The Texas Tribune