Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just In Time for Sweeps or Halloween

The Return of KXAN
Just in Time for Sweeps

KXAN TV (NBC) and sister station KNVA (CW) are back on Time Warner Cable on their former channels.

KXAN TV’s owner, LIN TV, announced today that they had signed retransmission contracts with Time Warner Cable allowing them to carry LIN stations’ analogue and digital signals nationwide. LIN operates 17 stations in a dozen markets where Time Warner is the major cable TV carrier. This means that Lin's separate digital channels will also find homes in slots on TWC.

“We are pleased to have reached a fair market agreement with Time Warner Cable,” said LIN TV’s President and Chief Executive Officer Vincent L. Sadusky in the news release. “This agreement, which represents a mutually acceptable economic agreement between the parties, is further indication of the value of our television stations.”

That’s a big deal. LIN had been seeking compensation of some type. TWC had been trying to avoid setting a costly precedent in the settlement which could have far-reaching effect for future negotiations with other stations.

The bitter struggle laced with ugly assertions on both sides has been no doubt costly over the past month. And the repercussions of the stalemate may be felt in the November sweeps that start tomorrow, October 30th. The TV stations must have struggled with ad sales. LIN stock (TVL) had dropped from an initial purchase price of $22 to an all-time low of $2.02. The stock is up slightly. Meantime, angry TWC customers sought alternatives in droves. Satellite providers said they were installing as fast as they could in Austin. The same was true of Texas-based Grande Communications whose spokesman said, “We can’t build it fast enough.” The biggest winner may be AT&T’s U-verse, but it, like Grande, is not available everywhere in the market.

All of this is like a TV signal now—It’s here, and it’s gone (Unless you have a DVR).

The news now is that this coming November sweeps period may be the most interesting since 1995 when KTBC TV swapped networks with what became KEYE TV. Why? For the past month, many KXAN TV cable viewers have been sampling other local stations’ newscasts. The “soft” audience, those viewers who may not be died-in-the-wool KXAN devotees, may have found a new favorite. TV audiences in Austin are fickle, and the “no preference “group is larger here than in most cities. News viewing can be habitual. If something breaks the rhythm, people may stray and never come back. It happened in 1995. It was after the network switch that viewers found KXAN, making it #1.

KVUE TV’s Tyler Sieswerda has been waiting for a new co-anchor. Terri Gruca should be settling in soon. But, she is unknown to the Austin audience.

I’m thinking that the station that could benefit the most is KEYE TV. KEYE TV has been stable. Judy Maggio and Ron Oliveira have been rock steady. Meantime, Katie Couric may have found her voice with the Sarah Palin interviews. Further, the KEYE TV web site ( has been arguably the best in town.

But, this week, the stars aligned for LIN TV locally: Leslie Cook Rhode returned to anchor with Robert Hadlock after five years in Washington D.C. She seemed very much at home with friends Jim Spencer and Roger Wallace. KXAN also put up a new and truly improved web site ( as we foretold earlier this month. Now, KXAN is back on TWC.

So, my battle of the #1 anchor teams is set to begin just in time for Halloween. Trick or treat, indeed.

Jim McNabb
(C) 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Banned Words

Banned Words and Other Things

I watched too many sports events this weekend. The misuse of the English language finally got to me. I am compelled to pull out and rework a screed I posted elsewhere earlier this year.

In a newsroom where I worked, there was an entire wall devoted to banned words and phrases—words or phrases that were over worked, misunderstood, obscure or otherwise. I think all journalists and critical-thinking individuals need to consider the words they use. Yes, the English language is evolving, but is that evolution moving toward clarity?

Look at what text-messaging is doing to our language. LOL.

As a reporter many years ago, I turned in a script to a producer. The producer changed some words violating basic rules of the “King’s English” that we may have been taught in elementary school. I am talking about the subject of a sentence agreeing with the verb in the sentence. Well, I would have none of it. I told him that I would not record the script because I did not want my voice, my signature, on something that was grammatically wrong. He protested saying, “Well, that’s the way that people talk!” I responded saying, “Those that know, notice. Those that do not know, do not notice.” The disagreement went all the way to the news director, and, yes, I won.

I am not saying that I am not guilty of using bad grammar or (more likely) misspelling something. I am saying that it is the responsibility of us in the media—print, web, and broadcast—to use good grammar and avoid trite, cliché, and other over-used words. We only promulgate and validate poor usage when we are lazy and choose to use these incorrect or tattered terms.

So, what set off this language explosion? What put me over the top this weekend? It was the broadcast of the World Series Game Sunday, October 26, 2008. Joe Buck will never hear of this posting or care, but I must get this out of my system. Play-by-play man Joe Buck said:

“We just had a chance to visit with his pitching coach, Jim Hickey, and we’ll play it for you …”

Later in the inning, he said again:

“We had a chance to talk with Jim Hickey, and well bring it to you...”

Later in the game, he said:

“I had a chance the last time I was here in Philadelphia …”

He finally got the usage right later:

Regarding B.J. Upton’s strike out, “He had a chance here in the 7ths inning …”

You get the point. Why not just say, “Why not say, I spoke with whomever?” Or, I visited wherever? The rest is useless, meaningless clutter.

For some reason sportscasters seem to be the worst. Troy Aikman used the hated and feared “I had a chance…” during a football game earlier in the day. This recurring phrase isn’t the only one that drives me nuts.

I shall list of a few that come to mind with some explanation:

> “Centered around” Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!! An argument or anything else cannot be center around something. It may be centered ON something, however.
> “Very unique” If it is unique, it cannot be more than unique.
> “Completely destroyed” If something is destroyed, it is complete.
> “The building suffered major damage…” People suffer; buildings cannot.
> “I would like to thank you for flying X airline.” Well, if you would like to do it, why not just say, “Thank you” and be done with it? (Very similar to “had a chance.”
> “A parent’s worst nightmare…” Fill in the blank.
> From sports: “We overcame adversity.” More often than not, adversity is synonymous with calamity. There is calamity in sports sometimes, but most of the time, it is a game. (I am a certified baseball fan, by the way.)
> From sports: “He went for the homerun with that pass.” The announcer, with a clearly limited vocabulary, mixed up his sports.
> From sports: “So, in that inning, we had one hit batsman…” Unless the announcer is doing play-by-play for cricket, the term in baseball is “batter.” (Yeah, I know that one is picky, but refer to “baseball” earlier.)
> Worn-out words: “Awesome” (Blame generations under 40 years old.) “Paradigm” (How many of us use that word in a conversation?) “Infrastructure” (See the previous question regarding “paradigm.” This one, by the way, was on the wall in the newsroom mentioned earlier.) “Person” (This is a cold term with little meaning. Are we talking about a man, woman, child, teenager, or whom?” (This was on the wall too.)
> From sports more often than not: “Shy” “He’s just shy of the first down marker.” Or, “He’s just shy of his 40th birthday.”
> “I’ve got” or “I have got to blah-blah-blah.” You got it. Now, now you have it.
> Passive instead of active voice when writing news copy. (One of my pet peeves.)

I could fill a book with these. There are many more. You know them. You may love them.

Post the terms, words, and phrases that drive you nuts. Or, you could try making a sentence out of all the terms listed above and post them. Perhaps the exercise will purge them from our brains!

(C) Jim McNabb, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's Not Halloween, but It's Just as Scary!

Hold On To Your Remotes

It’s that time of the year again. No, I’m not talking about autumn. No, I’m not writing about Halloween, although it is similar. I’m talking about the fall sweeps for television! Usually, TV stations “front load” “sweeps stories” (notice all the jargon) before the sweeps begin hoping to entice likely viewers to their shows and newscasts for the coming month. Does it work? Sometimes.

Officially, the Nielsen fall sweeps month is the four weeks from October 30-November 26 this year. There is one BIG potential or perhaps probable problem with this year’s sweeps. It is the continuing stalemate between LIN TV/KXAN TV and Time Warner Cable.

Otherwise, this would/could be a really interesting rating period this year. Why? If KXAN TV and Time Warner can sort out their retransmission issues, it could be the battle of #1 anchor teams.

KVUE TV is the #1 station for broadcast news right now, but co-anchor Christine Haas bolted for a bigger market and, probably, a bigger pay check at the Belo station in Houston. (KVUE TV’s web site says she’s still there. Nope.) Now, relative newcomer Tyler Sieswerda will be paired with a genuine newcomer, Terri Gruca. She’s coming from a good station in Minneapolis. She is originally from North Carolina. It remains to be seen if Austinites will murmur, “She ain’t from around here.” She’ll have to win over her audience. Of course, she’s joining the team with meteorologist Mark Murray and sportscaster Mike Barnes, both of whom have been around a while. Murray may be embraced for his appreciation of the Austin music scene as much as he is for his weather acumen.

The potential battle begins here, however. KXAN TV will go into the November sweeps with the same team that took them to #1 earlier in the late 1990s—Robert Hadlock, Leslie Cook, Jim Spencer, and Roger Wallace. Leslie is to return to the air on KXAN this week. One problem: They aren’t on Time Warner Cable right now. Yes, there are many, many other ways to receive KXAN TV, but Austin remains one of the most wired cities in the nation. LIN TV may be trying to change that. (See earlier posts.) Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing them on the set together again. They have great chemistry. Yes, I did work there for 16 years as managing editor; but with them off the cable, I’m just glad I’m not in their sales department right now!

And don’t count out the other powerful and compelling anchors in town who have also been #1: Judy Maggio and Ron Oliveira at KEYE-TV. Judy and Ron were on top of the ratings mountain in the glory days of KVUE TV in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since they teamed together again at KEYE, there has been constant growth in their following, particularly at 10 p.m., rising to #2 at 10 p.m. this year. Katie Couric and the CBS Evening News was a drag on the success of the early newscasts at 5 and 6 p.m., but Katie may have found her voice and audience during this election cycle with the interviews of Republican Party Vice Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin. Judy and Ron are pros and great people. And, yeah, I worked with them too. There is also appreciation for Susan Vessell, who is now the 5, 6, and 10 meteorologist promoted from the morning news, and sportscaster Bob Ballou.

I know that I’m not mentioning Fox and News 8, but their anchor team hasn’t been #1.

What I really, really hope is that the KXAN TV / Time Warner Cable issues are settled somehow before sweeps. Then, we can look beyond all the inane, vacuous sweeps stories that the stations will, no doubt, pull out of the can. It is true that reporters’ sweeps stories can make a difference however. I’ll allude to one continuing sweeps series. James Lynch, an anchor/reporter for KXAN TV in the ‘90s did a series on the “Cabbage Diet” (Remember the “Cabbage Diet”?) It was a roaring success.

That success seems to underscore what Austin news-watching audiences have professed over the years. They don’t care who delivers the news. They just want substance. They want content. The anchors don’t matter. But, if the anchors don’t matter, why do all of the TV stations’ consultants do research on the anchors assessing their recognition and popularity?

Similar to the coming election, the only research that matters are the Nielsen “overnights” and the final “book” analyzing what newscasts and shows worked and, maybe, why. The viewers will be voting with their remotes.

© Jim McNabb

Monday, October 20, 2008

This Just In: Change Coming to

This Just In: Change Coming to

While doing some research for the News McNabb blog, I stumbled on some news! Posted on the LIN TV web site (No, they haven’t settled with Time Warner) is the report of a new “strategic relationship” with none other than a division of News Corp. to jazz their local web site.

In a post earlier today, I referred to the KXAN TV web site as “boring”. That may be about to change. Since it’s late, I can't get details beyond the LIN news release. Here’s what it says in part:

LIN TV Corp. (NYSE: TVL), a local television and digital media company, and Fox Interactive Media (FIM), a division of News Corporation, today announced a new strategic relationship and the launch of LIN TV’s new television station web sites. LIN TV is FIM’s first third-party digital publishing partner and will use FIM’s cutting-edge digital platform technology to provide users with a superior local online experience.
LIN TV has launched and onto FIM’s digital platform and the Company’s other web sites are set to launch over the next few weeks. FIM is delivering both back-end and front-end publishing services to LIN TV’s growing suite of web properties, including content management, video, contextual search and social networking. LIN TV customized the interactive features on its local web sites and unveiled key web site features, including a new video player that is user-friendly and engaging, new weather features, “Map This” programming, new social networking tools, a centralized content management system for seamless content flow and sharing between markets, customized news delivery and user engagement tools.
“We have defined the vision for our New Media business and we are pleased to partner with FIM to provide the best experience of any media or information site in our markets,” said Robb Richter, LIN TV’s senior vice president new media.
LIN TV is an industry leader in the convergence of local broadcast television and digital innovations. The Company’s new media strategy is focused on engaging audiences around its strong brands and across multiple media channels. LIN TV has successfully launched more than 50 web sites and it is estimated that LIN TV’s web sites will serve nearly two billion ad impressions in 2008. LIN TV’s partnership with FIM positions the Company for future online growth and new media success.

Sounds interesting. There is much more to the release. If you want to know more, go to the LIN TV home: Go to “News Room” and click on “News Releases”.

Remember, you saw it first on News McNabb!!!

Better Than TV

Better than TV?

Have you seen the new TV ad for I’ve seen it running on Time-Warner Cable, particularly on MSNBC and ESPN. It is interesting. The ad slams TV news while promoting

Trolling around, I couldn’t find the ad online, or I’d post a link. The ad goes something like this:

“You don’t need to wait until 5 o’clock to get the best news. While they’re doing this ... (The video shows what appears to be a TV reporter getting ready for a live shot. He’s preening, making sure that he looks good.) “We’re doing this.” (The video shows hard-working newspaper reporters and photographers) The narration continues saying something like, “Austin’s biggest and best news staff, delivering it now online.” (The video returns to the TV reporter who is picking his teeth with his fingernail, then he looks at his finger.) The narration says, “You can have it all now at”

Yes, it’s true that the Austin American-Statesman has the largest staff of experienced reporters in the area. And, it’s true that usually has the first email alert for breaking news. But, the ad ignores the fact that ALL of the local television stations also have heavy web presence. In fact, KEYE TV ( won best web site in this year’s Associated Press broadcasters’ competition plus a Murrow award. KEYE regularly runs a live truck to breaking news to send back video for the web, even if the station isn’t planning a live shot with a reporter. KXAN TV ( is usually first or second with email news alerts, although their “uncluttered” site is boring. KVUE TV, and Time Warner’s News 8 deserve honorable mention too. Yeah, I know I am leaving out some others.

So, why is taking on TV stations’ newscasts? TV stations can do things the newspaper cannot do well. The video TV stations post is professional. The video often looks like, well, home movies. The shots are shaky probably because they are not using a tripod. The sound is usually bad, maybe because they don’t run a microphone cable. The lighting is poor, and the shots aren’t framed well, probably because the newspaper photographers basically are not TV photographers. The newspaper photographers must carry tons of gear and do twice the work to feed both beasts, the newspaper and the web site.

Rather than depicting some hapless TV reporter look-alike, I would have written copy accenting’s strengths. Like they say, the newspaper has in many cases the best and most experienced reporters and editors in town. Flash their faces, tell us their names—Arnold Garcia, Eileen Flynn, Andrea Ball, Ben Wear, Cedric Golden, Ken Herman, John Kelso, W. Gardner Selby, Ralph K.M. Haurwitz, and Kirk Bohls, just to name a few. Many of these along with Ben Sargent and Denise Gamino are award winners. You do see Kirk Bohls briefly in the spot, but he is not identified. American-Statesman and readers may see their bylines. Why not show them as real people? It is these people and others create the content, the content that makes the local newspaper and valuable.

But they don’t compete on the same playing field with TV news.

So, why? The answer may be found here: The Austin American-Statesman announced that it is for sale. They also have a new publisher who is charged, I’m sure, with increasing revenue. The Internet is the fertile field for revenue-raising.

This is some of the evidence of changing times at our local newspaper. I worry that staff cuts may be coming to the American-Statesman as they have elsewhere in the nation. All media management should consider this axiom: If you cut staff, you cut content. If you cut content, you cut customers, particularly in this savvy, connected, educated, and well-read market.

And, why did this catch my attention? I don’t know. Maybe I’ve been seeing too many negative TV ads lately.

© Jim McNabb

Thursday, October 16, 2008

To Err ...

To Err …

“To err is human. To forgive, divine.” That proverb is now part of our everyday language, but is it the norm in everyday journalism? Perhaps even when penned by English poet and satirist Alexander Pope in his “An Essay on Criticism” published in 1711, it was more tongue-in-cheek than truth. I didn’t read all of the poem. I admit it. But, check out the opening couplets:

'Tis hard to say, if greater Want of Skill
Appear in Writing or in Judging ill,
But, of the two, less dang'rous is th' Offence,
To tire our Patience, than mis-lead our Sense:
Some few in that, but Numbers err in this,
Ten Censure wrong for one who Writes amiss;
A Fool might once himself alone expose,
Now One in Verse makes many more in Prose.

American early 20th century journalist Franklin P. Adams (AKA “FPA”) comes closer to the truth:

“To err is human; to forgive, infrequent.”

All of this is to set up a conversation I had with a friend at the Austin American-Statesman regarding corrections to their copy. In an earlier blog I alluded to “… Daily newspapers that daily have a ‘corrections column.’ What’s up with that?”

“Yeah, newspapers do have too many corrections. It's embarrassing, and let me tell you, reporters hate to make the Walk of Shame over to their editors and explain how something got screwed up,” said Andrea Ball, philanthropy editor at the American-Statesman.

In all fairness, daily newspapers cover a lot of territory, and these days they, like many of their colleagues in other news media, are forced to do more with less, leading to occasional errors. Further, Ms. Ball points out some errors appear in print in spite of their best efforts. “Even when it's not our fault (like we got the wrong info from someone), we feel like total losers.” Law enforcement often changes names of victims and suspects after a deadline passes. Or, a public information person will call after deadline with a different title for someone quoted in a story. Stuff like that. Thus, the next day, the newspaper puts these items in the “corrections column”. It is the right thing to do. “However, we don't make any more mistakes than TV reporters do. It's just that we actually have to own up to them -- in print.” Ms. Ball said.

Printed media has a problem. It hangs around for days, even weeks. People can read it and re-read it. In broadcasting a story is run and it is gone. Sure, you can get a copy of it. But, for the most part, only the available audience for that particular newscast may or may not see and/or hear a story. They cannot go back and re-read it. A viewer or listener may ask himself, “Did I really hear that?” Then, their brain may make the correction for them, and they move on. For those people directly connected to the story, however, they care if the media gets it right.

If not from a legal point of view, from an ethical point of view, the media should correct its errors. The American-Statesman, therefore, is to be congratulated for being up front about it, putting the “corrections column” inside Page One. Broadcast media are told by their lawyers to run corrections in the context of when it aired the first time.

Ms. Ball wondered if broadcast media really run corrections and if I remembered any. The fact is that the opportunity for error in broadcast news is less, simply because the medium covers far fewer stories with a smaller staff. But, the answers to her questions are yes and yes. I never had to write one for a story that I wrote. I covered crime, a beat where libel lurked around every corner. I was very, very careful. As a managing editor, however, I wrote several. Here is the disingenuous part: Often times, broadcasters will use a different term. It is not a “correction”; it is a “clarification”. And, the copy might read, “We have a clarification for you. Yesterday, we told you about blah, blah blah. What we should have said was blah, blah, blah. We regret any inconvenience this might have caused.” I think that approach is, well, wrong. And, I, er, admit that I have written or edited a few of those. And, I felt slimy afterward.

Some cannot be termed “clarifications”. They must be “corrections” or even “retractions” if the reporting showed a reckless disregard for the truth, especially when the story results in damages. These are stories where the facts are flat wrong, or someone is put in a false light, or there is misidentification. And, yes, I have seen these types of apologies on the air, worded very carefully and vetted by lawyers. After the damage is done, the retraction may possibly mitigate damages. Ouch.

But, these stories on TV and/or radio are barely noticed. It may be a matter of selective perception or selective exposure. Again, if the story is about you, you care. If it is not about you, you don’t care. You barely hear it.

You are right, Andrea. Viewers do not see some corrections at all. Those affected by the story realize that a correction would require retelling the story. Sometimes people don’t want to revisit it. It was already confusing once. Retelling it, they fear would compound the confusion. An “I’m sorry.” was good enough. The viewers didn’t see it, but one can be sure that their bosses did.

After all of this, here is the bottom line: We have a responsibility as journalists to get it right. Call it attention to detail. It is what we were taught hopefully in school. Most of the time, all journalists print, Internet and broadcast DO get it right. Those who don’t get it right also don’t last long.

“To err is human; to forgive, infrequent.”

© Jim McNabb

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Can't See Must See TV

Can't See Must See TV Can’t See Must See TV
There Is an Easy Solution

The stalemate between Time-Warner cable and local NBC affiliate KXAN TV annoys many Austin and Central Texas viewers. As if the stock market and credit crunch were not enough, you may not be able to enjoy your favorite news, weather, or mind candy on KXAN TV or the other stations owned by LIN TV in the Austin area. If you would rather read the newspaper or get your news from the Internet, you would have no problem. However, if you, like most Americans, still get most of your news from television, and you happen to like KXAN TV/NBC, their stand-off is just one more reason for playing guitar, spending quality time with your family, or taking a cooling-off walk in the Hill Country autumn air. Even then, however, there is the problem of ragweed and red-berry juniper allergens.

The Background: The KXAN TV Time Warner Cable is more than a small spat. KXAN TV’s owner, LIN TV is battling Time-Warner in eleven markets where they coexist. This battle is not confined to Central Texas. With eleven markets, 15 TV stations, and 2.7-million Time Warner subscribers in the mix, this makes for a lot of negotiating. The stand-off with LIN TV has been brewing for decades. For years, Time Warner in Austin took KXAN’s signal off the air with an antenna, explaining why the KXAN picture appeared inferior. Finally, about a decade ago, Time Warner agreed to a direct feed. It was in KXAN’s best interest to be hard-wired.

Now, with most all media stocks in a downward spiral, LIN is looking for revenue wherever it can find it. So, LIN is demanding compensation for the “free” programming Time-Warner is using. TWC knows that any agreement with LIN could create a far-reaching precedent for future negotiations.

In San Antonio, Time Warner and ABC affiliate KSAT say they reached an “agreement in principle” keeping that station on cable. But in Austin, negotiators for neither side are blinking. This disagreement could last a while.

Both LIN and TWC are trying to make more money in an era when “new media” are slicing off chunks of revenue. The revenue pie is getting smaller, and the so-called “new media” facilitated by the Internet are taking a larger and larger piece of the revenue pie. It is ironic that TWC encouraged disgruntled viewers to go to the Internet to watch NBC programming, when it is the new media that are contributing heavily to the slow cash flow at both the cable and TV station.
Of course, TWC is an Internet service provider, and KXAN is often streaming video of its newscasts over those same high-speed cable wires.

The Alternatives: The problem for many, especially those not living in Central Austin, is that there may be few alternative television providers. Also, in the Hill Country, there may be limited Internet provider service. So, the choice is either Time-Warner Cable or satellite TV. KXAN is suggesting that viewers saw off Time Warner and hook up to Dish. Satellite TV may not satisfy everyone’s needs, however. What about Grande Cable, AT&T U-verse, or Verizon FiOS?

Verizon FiOS’ Central Texas penetration is limited. AT&T’s U-verse appears very useful and promising. AT&T is working furiously, trying to reach more and more in the Austin market. Their DVR records up to four shows at one time, and the show recorded on the one DVR can be watched on any TV in the house. Nice. “We've been expanding U-verse availability at a rapid pace, and now we're expanding the number of consumers who can learn about the benefits of AT&T U-verse and order the service,” said Glenn Lurie, president of national distribution for AT&T.Whether you have U-verse in your area is hard to say. The best advice is to check with AT&T U-verse on a case-by-case, address-by-address basis. AT&T must be making progress, judging from the expensive ads running now in the local newspaper. Further, it can be “bundled” with other services, possibly saving money. Possibly not, depending on choices and phone fees.

Grande Communications likewise is still in the process of building out its network, but if there is demand, they might come. “People making calls requesting service drives our expansion.” A customer service representative said.

If an Austin or Central Texas viewer is stuck with Time-Warner because of availability a “bundling” deal or by choice, there is still a good way of dealing with the absence of KXAN TV.

The Solution is of Necessity: At midnight February 17th, 2009 all analogue TV channels will go dark, and TV stations will be broadcasting only on digital frequencies. If a viewer has a cable, fiber optic, or satellite provider, there is no problem. But, if someone is still using an old-fashioned antenna, the sets will show “snow”. In anticipation of that, the Federal Communications Commission is making it relatively easy to see your favorite local stations and much more. Every household is eligible to get two $40 digital converter box coupons from the government. ( They come in the form of credit cards. The boxes cost about $50. So, you will pay about $10 for each box. A cable customer may want the boxes as a back-up in case TW Cable goes out.

Now, however, viewers may use the boxes to receive KXAN/NBC broadcasts. They work best with amplified "rabbit ears" and connected through the AV ports. That way you can leave your cable hooked up. Directions come with the boxes. All you have to do is click the A/V or Video button on your remote, and there is KXAN!

Viewers can pick up much more than KXAN TV and its NBC programming using the converter box. The local stations have extra channels in the digital spectrum. KVUE 2 has weather 24/7. KEYE has “retro” TV shows. KXAN’s sister station KNVA is available too. KLRU is broadcasting KLRU 2. Another cool thing about the converter box is that there is no “ghosting” (Remember the foil on the antenna?) If you do not want to wait for the coupon, you can just go buy one.

With this option, you might not care how long it takes before someone blinks in the KXAN V Time Warner war.

© Jim McNabb

Monday, October 13, 2008

There is SO Much--NewsMcNabb's First Blog

There is SO Much

So, what is a semi-retired journalist (There are no retired journalists.) to do where there is no medium and no deadline. No problem in this day and age. Blog. And, for a journalist, there is so much to blog about:

What passes for radio news is said in one sentence, maybe two, punctuated
by some local “pundit”. Television broadcasts that present the same, tired stuff
generated by news releases and the police. Daily newspapers that daily have a
“corrections” column? (What’s up with that?)

But, those are the ordinary, easy targets. Nowadays before the national election, there is so much more, not to mention the credit crunch or whatever it is. Or, at least there could be so much more. There could be stories that would grip attention, eyes, and ears, if reporters and their editors would look beyond the obvious.

I’ll be the first to say that there are certainly some stories that scream, “Cover me!” And, well, “spot news” is one of them. The reporters and photographers arrive at the scene and everyone gets the same stuff. It is, indeed, harder now to find a different angle on a spot news story, just as it is equally has hard for a journalist to get a jump on a story from a “stump speech” campaign event. It is harder, but it is NOT impossible.

I see jewels found among the weeds now and then. A reporter or a photographer who is just a little more observant, a little more curious, a little more persistent than his or her peers. And, you know what? The readers, viewers, and listeners do notice the difference, especially when they’re standing around the water cooler later in the day. One says, “Guess what I saw? Blah, blah, blah…”

The colleague says, “Really, where’d you see that."

“On such-and-such media’s web site,” They might say. Or it could have been on the noon news. The point is that one news outlet had it, and the others didn’t. After the water cooler, the computer is the next stop. And, it was a TV station’s site, and people may make an appointment for 5, 6 and 10 o’clock. It can happen.

As media revenues tank, the competition is more feverish than ever. (Oh yeah, there’s that KXAN TV. Time-Warner stand-off. There’s SO much more. A later blog.) Some TV stations are forced to compete, trying to do more with less (A later blog.). Other stations don’t seem to know how to make the most of what they have (A later blog). We’re headed into the fall sweeps period, and it’s going to get worse. Believe me. There is SO much. Am I becoming redundant?

I’m serious about this blog examining Austin news media and the state of journalism in general. I welcome your support, your comments directly to me at, and I encourage your posts to the site. Tell your friends. I hope in many ways, this becomes your site, a place where you can air out what’s on the air, or should be on the air, or shouldn’t be on the air. I think I have it set up for an RSS feed.

This is the first blast. We’ll see where it goes from here. Anyway, I feel better now.
(c) Jim McNabb