Monday, October 20, 2008

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

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