Monday, June 29, 2009

Instant Loss of Credibility???

Really? Instant?

Just by mispronouncing the name of a town, by saying BOO-dah instead of BYOU-duh for Buda, can one experience “instant loss of credibility”. Well, no. Probably not. Not for a one thing, unless that one then is a very big thing. The simple mispronunciation of a word won’t forever damn you in the eyes of the viewers, listeners, friends or strangers.

One of my longtime friends from TV news read the phrase “instant loss of credibility”, the subheadline in my last post, and saw it as a sentence to journalism purgatory, if not hell. Oh sure, a producer might correct you, a friend might kid you, but one muff of a word won’t ruin your career or standing in the community.

Obviously, what will cause an “instant loss of credibility” is a publicized brush with the law. Readers of “TV Spy” have seen lots of it in print lately elsewhere. “Anchor Arrested for DUI”, “City Reporter Seen Socializing with Mayor”, and so forth. You’ve seen it, and you’ve formed an opinion on the spot. People in the public eye must be circumspect. I remember when I was covering crime in the ‘80s for KVUE (ABC), I was single. Like most single people, I’d go to parties. The second or instant that I saw a line on a mirror, I was out the door. I had ugly visions of a police sweep, and I would be caught up in it. Yeah, that would have been an “instant loss of credibility” and, possibly, career.

Credibility is not instant either. It is earned. People get to know you as a journalist or as a person. After knowing someone for a while, comes trust. That trust turns into something larger—call it credibility.

The inverse, therefore, is true. Little things, seemingly tiny things, can chip away at that credibility. One miss pronounced or muffed word won’t kill you, but if it continues, it begins to grind and confidence erodes. It’s the drop on the stone. Poor grammar is probably worse. If you say a word (street name or place) wrong, they may murmur, “This person ain’t from around here,” but they won’t hold it against you. Using poor grammar time and again will wear away credibility. It questions your education and knowledge. The listener will ask, “If this person cannot make subject and verb agree, can this person connect the dots on a complex story? Can I trust this person? Can I trust this person? Can I trust this source—person-to-person or through any communications medium?

Errors in fact are the worst. It won’t take many misstatements to ruin a relationship. Errors in fact can be interpreted as sloppy work, lying, or even bias. Now, we’re talking about near “instant loss of credibility”.

Beyond a personal level, at the institutional level, most of the above is true. People may stop watching a station because of everything from recurring errors in fact, a perceived bias, or constant production snafus, which seem to come with the territory in automated, robotic TV. When the system melts down and starts taking the wrong video, taking the wrong camera, moving the robotic camera like a zombie, and on and on, people may watch while it’s happening because it’s a train wreck. Over the long term, however, the audience may sample a different source. The Austin market is notoriously fickle. It doesn’t take much for them to rise as one and reach for the remote.

None of us sets out to achieve “instant loss of credibility” as individuals. We have our persona created over the years. When that persona is damaged, we hurt. It is the same professionally. Some who suffer career setbacks soldier on, determined to get back what they had. Sometimes they do. Other times, it takes a move to another market—starting over.

As individuals, we are often generous and forgiving. The audience acting individually in email is not nearly as forgiving. I’ve answered viewer email. What the audience perceives as truth sometimes is not fair, but it’s what the audience thinks. Retrieving that goodwill takes time and commitment by management and the professional staff. Fortunately, the audience at the moment may not forgive, but five years from now, it may have forgotten.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Instant Loss of Credibility

Speaking Austin

It came out of the mouth of a TV reporter during the 6 O’clock news last night (Thursday, June 25). I don’t know what the story was about. I’m not quite sure who the reporter was. I think that I know the station, but it doesn’t matter because I was still hung up on what she said. It caught my attention instantly. My head turned like it was on ball bearings. Longtime Austinites could be heard murmuring, “She ain’t from around here.”

She was referring to the former area formerly known as Robert Mueller Municipal Airport, and the reporter called it, “MULE-ur.” There are members of the Mueller family still living here. The name is pronounced “MILL-er”.

Right then, I knew it was time. It was time to recreate my pronunciation guide for new broadcast news reporters, and for anybody else who hasn’t lived in Austin, Texas very long—a lot of people are in that group. Why is this important? For people on the air, mispronunciation results in immediate distraction from the story at hand and loss of credibility.

Somewhere (probably in the attic where you could bake bread this time of the year), I have the original list. I would give it to new reporters and anchors. Let me say, I don't necessarily agree with these localism, but nobody asked me. So, this is the reconstituted list:

Let’s start with towns and places.

Manor is pronounced MAY-nur, not how it looks.

Elgin is pronounced with a hard “g”, not like the watch, like “begin”.

Mexia is Spanish. So, it’s pronounced Mah-HAY-ah.

San Antonio is located in Bexar County. Like Mexia, it is Spanish, pronounced like the aspirin BAY-er.

Lake Buchanan is said “Lake BUCK-annan”.

Llano is also Spanish, but it isn’t pronounced like the Spanish double L. Say “LAN-oh” instead.

Manchaca, the road and town, is Spanish, but isn’t pronounced in Spanish by most locals. Say MAN-shack instead. (I'm not kidding.)

Menchaca Elementary School is in Manchaca. The school is pronounced the way it looks in Spanish.

Burnet is pronounced BURN-it.

Blanco is not pronounced in Spanish. It’s said, “BLANK-oh”.

San Marcos would seem easy, but locals say, “San MARK-us”, not “ohs”.

Andice is actually the way it looks: AN-dice with a long “I”.

Buda is pronounced BYOU-duh. Not the way you think.

Bastrop is pronounced BASS-strop.

Pedernales - The street, the river, and the state park are pronounced by locals as PURR-di-NAL-es. I don't know why.

Dripping Springs may also be called “Drippin’”

A little background: South Austin is historically looked upon with scorn by North Austinites. Over the years, South Austinites were called “Bubba’s”. South Austinites would never, ever live north of the river because they believe the people there live life in the fast lane, except during rush hour when they just sit in the fast lane. (I’ve lived only in South Austin for, well, er, decades.)

Now, we’ll move to Austin streets.

I – 35 is not IH-35. Longtime locals called it “Interregional Highway”, but most people wouldn’t know what you were talking about if you said that.

The signs for the other north-south thoroughfare say “Loop 1”, but everyone calls it MOPAC, even though the tracks are now owned by Union-Pacific. I keep thinking it will be named after someone famous.

Coming from the east, Texas Highway 71 becomes Ben White Blvd. before it turns in to US 290 West (unless you’re in the wrong lane and have to go straight. If you go straight, you’ll be on Loop 360.) At the “Y” in Oak Hill (Southwest Austin) you’ll have a choice again of 290 West or 71 West.

Guadalupe may be called “The Drag” where it runs past The (with a capital “T”) University of Texas at Austin. Elsewhere, the street is not pronounced in Spanish. Locals say GUA-dah-loop. Really. However, the river and the county are pronounced in Spanish, which is much nicer.

Some streets have different names, depending on where you are. Ranch Road 2222 is Koenig Lane (Pronounced KEY-nig.) It is also Northland near MOPAC and Allendale east of MOPAC.

US 183 is more confusing. Depending on where you are in Austin, it might be Research Blvd or Anderson Lane or Ed Bluestein on the south end. If you go all of the way north to Cedar Park, it’s Bell Blvd.

Airport Blvd. back in Austin used to run parallel to the airport when the airport was Mueller. It still has little signs showing airplanes because if you go south on Airport, you will eventually get to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Manor Road. (See Manor, the town above. Same thing.)

Duval occurs in two places: North of UT and way north off of MOPAC.

Got all of that? I’ve probably left out a few. I welcome additions. Just click on “Comments” and share them with everyone.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A New Austin News Source

Austin Post

In this era of change and upheaval in the news and information industry, who would want to start up an online news presence out of thin air?—especially, a not-for-profit online publication. What are they thinking?

“They” are successful Internet enabler and software creator Trilogy, and they’re thinking, why not.

The Austin Post official goes online July 1, 2009, but the “Alpha” version of the site is up now at

What does Austin Post offer that you may not find on the other commercial media sites in town? Think of it as a hyper-local Huffington Post relying on unpaid, local contributors/writers/bloggers for content. “Find the best blogs. Pull them together. Put them into a familiar context. Could you create something that would be a viable alternative to the Austin American-Statesman,” mused Scott Brighton, Trilogy president? Brighton said he and his colleagues have been watching what’s happening with the newspaper industry. “When the newspaper [Austin A/S] went up for sale, we sniffed around,” Brighton says.

They looked at the existing models and decided to create something new to Austin out of whole cloth. “Not because we think it's a good business,” says Brighton. “We're trying to create a model.” There are similar sites elsewhere, but one big thing that sets Austin Post apart is that it underwritten by Trilogy Employee Foundation, a nonprofit venture.

“We are breaking a few traditions of journalism,” says Austin Post editor in chief, Lyssa Myska Allen. She promises only very little, “light” editing of the copy. “People are the writers, and the people are the editors.” “We’re not there yet,” agrees Brighton. “Ultimately, there will be community engagement around them [the articles]. You will get a conversation. Articles that get voted down, will go to the back. We're betting that the process of what a traditional editor might do, will be done by the readers themselves.”

Just because Austin Post is nonprofit does not mean that there will be no ads or subscriptions. “Any money we make we're going to plow back into it,” Brighton says.

Will readers pay for content? Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News earlier this year wrote a pessimistic editorial with a gloomy outlook for the online news business. “Unfortunately, most of our new customers want our services for free,” Rivard writes.

“As my son, Nick, a regular reader of the New York Times online, once told me, “Dad, my generation doesn't pay for its media.”

The editor’s son does pay for his media, like many others. I’m betting that he downloads music from iTunes. That is paid-for content. The editor’s son didn’t pay for Twitter, but somebody bought the phone he is using for texting his tweets, if he tweets. Maybe the cell phone includes proprietary items at a cost, like the Apple phone apps and games. And it will cost to go online using the phone. The cost is determined by the contract or by the amount of media used. If the editor’s son isn’t paying for it, the editor is.

Further, yesterday (June 24, 2009), venerable “Editor and Publisher” magazine reported that the Journalism Online initiative wants to help content providers with a wide set of tools. “Its platform allows for an array of options allowing publishers to charge in numerous ways including: micropayments, sampling, …” and others.

Allen is familiar with the concept of paying for content. She came to Trilogy from Austin-based, a geopolitical and economic intelligence site. She says subscribers pay $349 per year for “intel and analysis.”

The content must be compelling for people to pay for it. Allen and Brighton know that. One thing that may be missing is the run-of-the-mill news of the day found on sites like For instance, today’s page contained nothing about the Longhorns loss of the national championship at the College World Series. “We are reliant on the writers to write. If nobody covers it, it won't be there,” Allen says.

The Austin Post has been recruiting writers since March with a goal of having about 100. “Once we get enough writers involved, the daily stories will be covered,” Allen says. It is a work in progress. “One of the reasons we're in alpha now is that we want to get it out there and get feedback and learn,” Brighton says. “We want to make the site great. That's where our energy is going. The site will change. If we create a great product, then maybe we'll hire “reporters”.

One of the well-known names in the Austin blogosphere is which focuses on Texas politics. is signing on with Austin Post, and so is This journalism/media criticism blog will continue, but I will also contribute regular content to the Austin Post.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Update and Apology

Omaha Update

When I didn’t hear from Frank Volpicella, KVUE TV (ABC) news director, I wondered why. I thought that I had emailed him June 18th asking about his station’s plans for covering The University of Texas at Austin at the College World Series. Mr. Volpicella always answers my email. I was on deadline, and I proceeded with my recent post “Who’s In Omaha”.

At that time, only the Austin American-Statesman, News 8, and KEYE TV (CBS) were there. KVUE , KXAN, and KTBC were noticeably absent. In that post I said, “NewsMcNabb got no response from #1 KVUE (ABC).” Well, that’s true, because Volpicella never got the email. It went to another “Frank” with a dead email address, and I never got an “Undeliverable” notice. When Volpicella read the post yesterday, he brought it to my attention.

So, I apologize to him and KVUE. The good-natured guy that he is, Volpicella did tell me what I surmised. “No, we haven’t traveled with the Horns this spring/summer,” he said. That does not mean that there is no coverage. TV stations always have access to regional feeds and video from other ABC or Belo stations. They do not have a physical presence. A live physical presence is almost always better.

As I expected KXAN TV (NBC) did send Roger Wallace, sports director when the Horns made it into the championship bracket against LSU.

KXAN had to act fast during a thunderstorm in Omaha Tuesday night (last night). A satellite shot was impossible because of the dangerous weather, so they attempted a broadband live shot inside the media room at Rosenblatt Stadium. It froze. Within seconds, sports reporter/anchor Leila Rahimi
was on the set telling the audience what Roger had wanted to say.

It will all be over tonight. Now, I shall show my bias—Hook ‘Em!

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why The Austin American-Statesman Lives On




While doing some research, I ran across an Austin blogger who insists that the end is near for newspapers. He was ready to write RIP on the walls of the Austin American-Statesman.

Well, it is true that these are challenging times of transition for the Austin American-Statesman and others. Some, indeed, will not survive. Some have already gone to that great periodical library in the sky. Just because some newspapers are gone and others are in trouble does not mean that all of them are. Further, this transition may mean change, and what emerges may be a different medium than the one that lands in the driveway (if you’re lucky) every day. I am not ready to predict the newspaper product’s characteristics. I do believe that it will include subscribers and advertising.

The blogger pointed out the obvious. Classified ads and real estate ads have all but disappeared from the American-Statesman. True. Craig’s list and Internet sites do the job better and cheaper. I, however, did sell a guitar using the classifieds. Call it loyalty. And, since I wasn’t asking much, it was free. I also sold a truck through Craig’s List. Whatever works.

Corresponding today with an online journalist, I used these words, which I consider to be truisms:
> Content is king. When an audience finds the content that they want and need, they'll use/read that medium.

> Also, there must be a clear difference between these online destinations. The difference will develop into a personality, a brand.

> And finally, there must be a revenue stream to maintain presence.

The Austin American-Statesman printed version is constantly driving the audience to statesman .com or Their email headlines send readers both places. Readers know what they are going to get with they arrive. What are they going to get? Content. Demographics may determine which medium the reader uses, but the reader is looking for content. That makes the A/S the gorilla in the room, and the room is the Austin market. As noted in a post a few months ago, the American-Statesman is actually growing a consuming audience for its content.

Now some of this is a necessary rehash. The final point, the need for a revenue stream, is new and possibly unique to the A/S. The American-Statesman has monster printing presses and they are used for far more things that printing its own newspaper. Yes, we’re talking about printing, not posting.

Including the Austin American-Statesman, they print nearly 30 other publications, according to Bob Tucker, vice president of operations: AAS, ahora si, Bastrop Advertiser, Lake Travis View, North Lake Travis Log, Pflugerville Pflag, Round Rock Leader, Smithville Times, West Lake Picayune, Leander Ledger, Cedar Park Citizen, New York Times, Austin Chronicle, The Onion, The San Antonio Current, Rumbo, Houston, Tiger Weekly, Baton Rouge, Slaughter Creek Reporter, Boy Scouts-Austin area, Brushy Creek Parks and Recreation, Texas Workforce Commission-3 titles, State of Texas Comptrollers Department, Southwest Cycling, The Jewish Outlook, Aviva (name changed to ToDo Austin), and starting this month- The Daily Texan.

Cox, the American-Statesman’s parent company right now owns several of those suburban newspapers, but note that the A/S also prints The Austin Chronicle and The Daily Texan.

Wait. I am not finished. The A/S has a built-in distribution system, right? So, in addition to delivery of their newspaper, they deliver nearly two-dozen publications, according to Harry Davis, vice-president of circulation: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Journal, San Antonio Express News, Financial Times, Barron’s, Jewish Outlook, River Cities Daily Tribune, Bastrop Advertiser, Cedar Park Citizen, Leander Ledger, Lake Travis Log, Lave Travis View, Round Rock Leader, Pflugerville Pflag, Smithville Times, Westlake Picayune, Ahora Si, Tribeza Magazine, Austin Women Magazine, Country Living (local), Apartment Newsletters (to 11,000 units), and Brilliant Magazine.

Seen enough? There is one other aspect of the Austin American-Statesman that often goes overlooked—Its location. If for no other reason than location, location, location, the A/S is worth a ton of money. The newspaper headquarters is on the south shores of Lady Bird Lake just east of Congress Avenue. I remember when they were downtown around the 400 block of Guadalupe. That was a pretty good location back then too.

This gorilla may change; it is not going away any time soon. It also explains why it is taking such a long time to consumate the sale of the newspaper.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

What's the Score?

Who’s in Omaha?

What a difference four years make. Four years ago when The University of Texas at Austin last made it to the College World Series in Omaha and many years before that, it was automatic for all local television newsrooms to send a crew. It was in the budget. I mean, UT always went to the College World Series year after year. Put it
in the budget and plan on it.

In four short years times have changed. Now, it appears that only KEYE TV (CBS) sports director Bob Ballou, News 8’s (Time-Warner) Lesley McCaslin and Mike Berman, and Austin American-Statesman reporters Kirk Bohls and Alan Trubow are there, at least so far.

News 8 is making the biggest commitment. “We have a news crew, our satellite truck and 2 sports members… Lesley McCaslin and Mike Berman, says Kevin Benz, News 8 news director and acting manager. “Mike and Lesley have been there since before the first game, [and] our news crew and sat
truck were there yesterday.”

“No one commits to Texas sports like we do,” Benz adds.

It was automatic for KEYE too. “Pretty simple decision,” says Suzanne Black, KEYE’s news director. “The College World Series is important to the Longhorns and the Longhorns are important to Austin. We thought this was a good opportunity to support the home-town team. And logistically, it worked out that we could work with our Nexstar sister station from Fayetteville.” Arkansas was in the hunt until this week.

Noticeably absent are the #1, #2, and #3 TV stations, based on the May sweeps. NewsMcNabb got no response from #1 KVUE (ABC). Michael Fabac, KXAN (NBC) news director, did respond. “I will respectfully decline offering our competitive plans,” Fabac said. KXAN TV was #2. Sports Director Roger Wallace is anchoring coverage from here in Austin. There was no response from #3 KTBC, but that is not unusual.

Why haven’t the other stations been there from the beginning? It goes back to a comment made by KEYE’s Black. “Logistically, it worked out that we could work with our Nexstar sister station from Fayetteville.” It’s about money. In other words, KEYE could share the costs with another station. This sort of mutual back-scratching always helps the bottom line.

Championships, tournaments, and bowl games are budgeted just like the political conventions used to be. My educated guess is that the sports departments who are not represented in Omaha either did not budget for full coverage or (more likely) saw their budgets slashed. Budget meetings with your out-of-town owners are never fun, even four years ago and more.

So, News 8, KEYE TV, and the Austin American-Statesman ( shine for Longhorn fans. All of this does not mean that the other sportscasters will not show up should the Longhorns make it to the championship bracket. In fact, they probably will. It is worth shining a spot light on those who were there at the beginning.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

California, Here She Comes!

Laura Skirde



The sun is about to shine a little brighter in Sacramento, California. Laura Skirde is coming to town.

It took several months, of patient searching, but Skirde believes that she found what she is looking for in another state Capitol at KOVR-TV (CBS 13), a CBS owned and operated station. “I have decided to accept the morning Meteorologist position,” Skirde said. “It's a great opportunity because I will not only be doing mornings and noons there, but also appearing on Good Day Sacramento on their CW sister station. So, basically [I’ll be] on air about 5-6 hours each day.” She starts at the end of July.

Laura Skirde left Austin and decided to return home to Colorado last December, leaving a contract with KXAN TV (NBC) on the table. Jim Spencer is ensconced as the main meteorologist there and opportunity for futher growth was limited. “The job search in this market did take a little longer than I expected, but I also had very specific career goals in mind and I was prepared to wait until the right opportunity came along,” Skirde said.

In today’s TV market when staff is asked to do more with less, and there is greater parity than ever before among the stations in a given market, finding just the right job can be tough. And, Skirde, said, it is hard not to cave and except less than your dreams, your ideals.

“My advice to others in the job hunt is not to lose faith! When you're off the air for a while you start to get a little edgy, and it's important to remember the skills and experience you have to offer and feel confident in your abilities. Some of the opportunities out there right now are not ideal - let's face it, everyone's being asked to do more for less. We have to be realistic, but I refused to sell myself short and settle for a position that I knew would not make me happy in the long run,” Skirde said.

Instead, as the search continued, she considered the last six months something of a sabbatical. “This "sabbatical" has been incredible! I had the chance to travel and spend long overdue quality time with family and friends, Skirde said. “I feel refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to kick butt in this changing media landscape! There's only so much golf a girl can play (without getting any better I might add!) before it's time to scope out new fairways in a far off land—In my case, northern California.”

One of Skirde’s excursions took her to the Everglades. She helped out with a Gator this spring (Right). She spent time with good friend and former KXAN colleague Donna Rapado in Miami. Of course, she could spend time with old friends and family in her home town, Denver enjoying an outdoor festival just a couple of weeks ago (Right). “Who says the job search has to be hard and boring,” says Skirde.

By the way, the highs in Sacramento this week are expected in the mid 90s. The lows, however, are forecast in the upper 50s and low 60s. Ahhhh.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iran--A Flashback for Silva Harapetian

Been There.

Seen That.

“Watching the images out of Iran takes me back to 1979 when I witnessed it all in person,” said Silva Harapetian, former KXAN TV (NBC) reporter on Facebook today. “With no political connection being caught in the middle of all of that was very difficult to understand,” she continued. “It is really hard to watch. I feel like a child in fear again.”

Harapetian reported for KXAN from August, 2005 to November, 2006. She joined WDIV TV (NBC) in Detroit, Michigan as a reporter in December, 2006.

She was born in Iran and spent the first 12 years of her life there. “For the most part I had a normal life within the four walls of our home. My parents tried very hard to make sure we were not affected and didn’t see too much of the turmoil on the streets. But there was no escaping it,” Harapetian recalls in an interview with NewsMcNabb. “I remember … anxiety in my parents’ voices talking about curfews and threats. We were never a political family as we are Armenian and for the most part felt caught in the cross fire of the revolution and eventually the war between Iran and Iraq.”

The family (Right) picture was taken at her second b-day party in 1977 just two years before the revolution. “After that year, she says, “Nothing was ever the same.”

“As a child I remember the demonstrations, the noise of the protesters, the throwing of the rocks, the sound of the motorcycles,” she tells me. “I remember my family turning off all the lights in the home and sitting in the middle of the living room with a radio and candle light, ready to run to the basement in case of an emergency. I remember falling asleep on the floor on many nights.”

According to, when she was 12 years old her family fled to Germany where they lived for two years awaiting news of passage to the United States. At 14 years old, Harapetian arrived in Los Angeles.

"I feel very blessed to be living in this country. I have had the chance to have an education and a career, something I as a woman may have never been able to pursue,” she says on the web site. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a communication degree. In the process she added English to her first three languages: Armenian, Farsi and German. She is now learning Spanish, the web site says.

All of these personal experiences, plus the stories she has covered, are contributing to a world-view, a broad perspective, Harapetian tells me. “As an adult I realized that I lived in historic times. I realized early on that my experience helps me relate to adversity. It helps me really understand what it’s like not having a voice. I am also able to relate to the human struggle for justice.”

Now, now the world is watching the “human struggle for justice” via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Harapetian identifies with it all thousands of miles away.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

Changing Faces on Central Texas TV Stations

Comings … Goings … Comings Again

Many ask, “Where is Alexis Patterson?” She hasn’t been seen since “Sine Die” of the regular legislative session. Patterson covered the Capitol for KEYE-TV (CBS) this year. “Alexis finished her contract and took a job with ACC’s [Austin Community College] communications department,” says Suzanne Black, KEYE news director. Patterson was also planning a wedding to one of KEYE’s executive producers, Kelly Hanes. A station directive says that employees cannot work under the supervision of a spouse. Patterson did a solid job at the legislature, especially considering she had to follow a tough act, Keith Elkins who was caught in a flurry of layoffs last year.

Also at KEYE, another familiar face appeared within the past few weeks. Stephanie Serna, recently of KXAN TV (NBC) is freelancing for KEYE. She formerly covered Williamson County for KXAN. She is working a shift spanning weekends, and Rebecca Taylor moved to Monday through Friday.

You may have wondered why Troy Kimmel was not on KEYE last weekend. He is filling in while the station searches for a weekend meteorologist. “Troy had a prior commitment,” says Black. “He’ll be back on this weekend and also next week filling in for Susan [Vessell].” Vessell is taking a well-deserved vacation, especially after last night’s storms.

Over at KXAN, you may have noticed a new reporter. Paul Matadeen started Monday. According to a Twitter post, Mattadeen says “Unfortunately, I was recently laid off from WNCN TV (NBC in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina).” His My Space page contains a comment about his life’s journey, “Wow, I didn’t expect it to be this crazy.” His last My Space log-on was May 21, 2009, so he made a quick trip landing on his feet in Austin. Matadeen, 26, brings with him strong academic credentials, a degree from the University of Missouri in Columbia. Michael Fabac, KXAN TV news director, did not respond to my questions. So, the information about Matadeen is all gleaned from the Internet where he has a strong presence.

Returning to changes at KEYE, the station is losing a solid producer and good friend to a good cause. Rosie Gomez is trading the newsroom for the classroom. Today, June 12, is her last day. “The day has come! I am no longer in the news business as I leave KEYE this morning!!! New adventures ahead......(deep breath and a smile)” is what Gomez posted on Facebook this morning. “Rosie is leaving to teach English as a second language to kids in Honduras,” says Black. I’m proud to know Rosie and call her a friend. God’s speed.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Comments, Questions, and Answers

Storm Clean-Up

Lots of comments about Thursday night (6-11-09) TV storm coverage after the NewsMcNabb post. Thank you for your gracious words. I enjoyed “working the story.” As one writer said, “Thanks for the critique... you sound like you were as busy as everyone else but in a slightly different form of coverage... covering those who cover the weather.” It’s true, but I didn’t get wet. My wife feared that I’d be struck by lightning as I unsuccessfully attempted to grab a bolt with my camera. I guess should leave that to the experts.

I’d made a note during the storm, “assignments Manager in the [KXAN TV] newsroom …” I didn’t see it when I was writing, but a reader also made a note: “That guy in the breaking newsroom on 36 was really cool, calm and collected too!”

Other readers had questions. One asked whether Mark Murray, KVUE-TV (ABC) chief meteorologist, was on KVUE 2, their digital channel. The answer is no. “We put the [NBA Finals] game on KVUE 2,” says Frank Volpicella, news director.

Another reader wondered if stations streamed coverage on the Internet? “We didn’t stream on because of our use of the double box. It would have looked tiny at the web,” Volpicella said. Elsewhere, KEYE did stream coverage. “Yes we did,” says Sousa Williams, KEYE TV (CBS) web executive producer. Their web coverage started “a little after she [Susan Vessell, chief meteorologist] went full time.” I noticed that KXAN had real-time radar online, and they put out timely email alerts. However, I didn’t think to fire up my laptop to keep tabs on the web coverage. Next time, I’ll try to add that to the mix.

When weather generates so much chatter it underscores the fact that weather coverage is a driver for the competing newsroom. Many people emailed saying that they were doing much the same sampling that I was, except they were using only one TV. What the consultants say is true—when the audience finds what it wants, it stops surfing. One writer longed for video of damage. KXAN’s Shannon Wolfson showed hail damage during her on-and-off-and-on again live shot, and there was a picture of an overturned light airplane sent in by a viewer. The damage was in the Hill Country. Those pictures will dominate tonight’s [Friday's] news.

Meanwhile, a KXAN email alert moments ago as I write tells of a Tornado Watch for our northern counties. Here we go again.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Cloudy Critique




There was a moment around 8:30 p.m. Thursday night (06-11-09) when I thought it was going to be an awful night in Austin, Texas. KEYE TV (CBS) Chief Meteorologist Susan Vessell identified a “hook” echo or “notch” cloud over Cedar Park, which could be a tornado. Seconds later Jim Spencer at KXAN TV (NBC) also saw the signature cloud just before NOAA weather radio put out a tornado warning. As it turned out, this late spring super-cell cluster of storms was severe, but not disastrous. It turned out to be an interesting measure of how local TV responds. Further, it is evidence that the viewing public needs local television. The Internet, while helpful, cannot now perform at the same level as local TV when there is breaking news. It can supplement. That’s all right now.

Number One KVUE TV (ABC) had a conundrum. They were broadcasting the National Basketball finals on this last night of analog television. News managers had to decide whether this weather phenomenon was dangerous and weigh that against an audience of aroused basketball fans. So, for much of the night, KVUE compromised. They did a split screen with weather and the game. Some of the time there was audio from Mark Murray, KVUE TV chief meteorologist. Some of the time there was game audio. Some of the time, the game was squeezed down in the corner of the screen. Other times, they chose to preempt the game. These are difficult decisions, and there is money on the line. If they went all-weather-all-the-time, they would be blowing out commercials.

KEYE TV was the first on the air, even before NOAA weather radio! Susan Vessell was calm, concise, and engaging. KEYE TV still has the best weather graphics, and Vessel knows how to use them. KXAN TV was on next with an alert. After a break and a little programming, they came back on to stay.

KXAN TV won the night. Why? It was a team effort. Jim Spencer was joined by colleagues Natalie Stoll and Mary Lee. Each took on a task as the evening progressed and performed well downloading viewer pictures and taking calls. Further, KXAN used all of its toys. The station has the second-best weather graphics, and Spencer is a wizard with them. I swear the man can talk forever and always have something to say. KXAN also used its exclusive Llano tower camera and its exclusive “Live Strike” graphics, showing real-time lightning strikes. Why is it exclusive? Morning weather man Shawn Rutherford is a co-inventor of the software. No other station in the world has it! KXAN also used broadband for at least one live shot—a good idea when there is lightning.

KEYE also used broadband. KEYE TV followed the storms all of the way through the metro area. Susan Vessell’s only on-air help seemed to be solo anchor Judy Maggio at the anchor desk. Maggio did telephone interviews and tossed to live shots.

What about the other media? KVUE’s Mark Murray sounded like he was losing his voice. He eventually got some help, but they had little more than their third-rate graphics and software. Toward 10 p.m., KVUE aired pictures from viewers off of the Internet.

KTBC TV (Fox) was almost flippant about its coverage. Its maps looked very similar to KVUE’s. KTBC stuck with programming for much of the evening and ran a crawl across the bottom of the screen. KTBC TV woke up around 8:30 p.m. when there were reports of twisters on the ground in the area of US Highway 183 and Anderson Mill in North Austin.

Time-Warner’s News 8 was not up to the task. Meteorologist Maureen McCann did not seem to take the situation very seriously when things started brewing around 7:30 p.m. She may have been having a bad day. More, the News 8 weather graphics were, well, lame, compared to others in town. Further, she did not seem to have any help. You go with what you’ve got, but if you don’t have much it shows. Credit is due Time-Warner in that they did run timely, bilingual crawls over programming such as the Texas Ranger’s baseball game.

At 9:58 p.m. KXAN’s Jim Spencer walked watchers through the evening with deft precision stepping the radar screens as the storm cluster marched across the metro area. It dove-tailed into the late news.

KEYE kept showing the current weather past the top of the hour driving its audience into the news. I don’t know what happened during their news, but Gregg Watson ended up doing an approximate ten-minute interview with the Bertram Police Chief. It was a good interview, but I rather doubt that was the plan. Gregg Watson kept it rolling.

Meantime, KXAN’s Shannon Wolfson kept losing her live shot. Leslie Rhode and Robert Hadlock rolled with it back at the station.

Does all of this heat and light translate into ratings? My opinion of who was best may be blasted to oblivion by the overnights. Let the record show, however, this night I did watch every broadcast or telecast medium in town.

[A note about the photos: What you see on the air depends on the TV station’s software and how well the staff uses it. Looking at four screens, one might think he was seeing different storms at times, but the staff was shifting through different sensitivities and different programs to describe the storm. So, when I rate the weather graphics, I’m talking about these variables.]

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Not "Tagged"


Frankly, I was surprised that there was little comment to my post about
social media. In a lot of ways, I think that so-called social media is and may be the way we get lots of our local news in the future. Facebook and others should not be written off as insignificant ways to fill the blank spots in our days. I find news, real news via social networking. Why did my post not get traffic? I think, perhaps, it is because I buried the lead.

I got email today from an Austin friend about this bunch that I referenced yesterday called "Tagged":

I recently received an email
since we just had a family reunion, I assumed it was legit and went to the site.

However, there were no photos and it is a VIRUS.
If it somehow picks up my address book, please do not register on the site and delete the email immediately.

Well, considering that I'd just written about them, I thought I should check them out. terms Tagged a mixture. "While these messages may not technically fall completely within either the 'virus' or 'scam' classifications, ... the method by which they are spread and their deceptiveness include both elements of both those classes."

In short, they are spam. I read the explanation on Snopes about how they got names and email addresses, but I still wonder. Tagged claims it is the third largest social network. I'm thinking that it is because they are counting all of the people they spammed.

My friend is right. Delete. Bottom line: This is anti-social networking.

(C) Jim McNabb, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009





How many social networks do I need, really? When you get right down to it, do I really need any social networks at all?

First, it was My Space. All the singer/songwriters had to get My Space pages. Upload some songs and fans will flock to your front door. My Space did not seem invasive. I did filled out the form created a page. For a while you could sell CDs straight from the site. I never sold any, but I did get My Space referrals to other sites where visitors could download songs. I got a few emails, most of them from agents or recording studios. It costs nothing. Fine. I still have a My Space presence.

Next comes Last.FM, a sort of social networking, music streaming, music selling site, based in Great Britain. It is sort of a chore, but I bit on it too. I never really figured out how it works. I don’t think that it does, but fine. I still have a Last.FM presence too.

LinikedIn shows up. Arguably, LinkedIn is not a social networking site, but I lump them in with all of the others. It is free unless you want special privileges, and LinkedIn wants money for that. I opted for free. LinkedIn is evolving aggressively adding other groups to its ever-widening circle. So, I’m in the Professional Journalist Society and some professional groups. And, I’m a member of the alumni groups for Baylor and The University of Texas at Austin on LinkedIn.

But wait! Both Baylor and The University of Texas at Austin and its schools have semi-social networking sites of their own, actively posting discussion topics and job openings. The Baylor group yields some contacts from time to time. I do not think that UT has taken full advantage of the opportunities that its alumni group presents. UT-Austin is huge to start with. Further, they already have all graduates email and addresses. Handled like a business, the UT-Austin social networking group could be better that just an email ever now and then. Perhaps, the problem is me—I’m becoming less and less open to groups that generate more and more email in my inbox.

Of all of them Facebook is probably the most useful. Local TV News is using it to promote stories and coverage. Other bloggers, including this writer, promote new posts, often including a picture and a link. I’ve found or been found by forgotten friends, many of whom are added to the NewsMcNabb email notification list. Of course, I also use Facebook to promote my music with a link to Most of all, however, I simply stay in touch with family and “friends”. I getting together next week with a friend from high school to make some music just for fun after exchanging messages on Facebook.

Then comes Twitter. Yes, I have a Twitter account, and I tweet when I have a new post on NewsMcNabb. A public relations friend recently encouraged me to use Twitter. I replied that I didn’t think that people were interested in the stream of consciousness of a 62-year-old retired journalist and singer/songwriter, and I am not comfortable sharing my every thought either. I tweet some. I see a use for it in news coverage. I also see a danger. A Tweet is not news. A headline perhaps, but not news.

Have you noticed that those who regularly respond to stories/blogs posted by Austin American-Statesman reporters have formed sort of a social (or anti-social) network of their own? They seem to know each other’s names or “handles” and respond to each other. On rare occasions, unwitting readers will post a response to a newspaper story only to be hammered by one of the regulars. It has become a network of sorts. It’s like the Dos XX beer advertisement. They live life vicariously through themselves, but they are not the most interesting people in the world.

I subscribed to a neighborhood association list serv. I do not contribute very often, but I get lots and lots of email. Most of it is deleted, but I do find story ideas, humor, and recommendations for carpenters and such there. It does help create community and an extended, virtual community. The list administrators acknowledge that many on the list serv do not live in the neighborhood. It is a social network in my book.

Now come the pretenders. Within the past week, I’ve received “friend” messages from “Tagged”. After some research, I think “Tagged” is a scam, and I worry about how Tagged got my name and the names of a couple of people I know, assuming it is indeed a scam. Today, Tuesday, June 9th, I get three “friend” invitations from something called iSound so far. Both Tagged and iSound’s “friend” messages have much the same wording as one you would get from Facebook requesting friend status, and access to your information, no doubt.

Do you have enough in your inbox?

Just say, “No.” Click “Delete”.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Slick Start-Up Austin Magazine You May Never See

“M.D. News”

“M.D. News”, is a new, glossy magazine aimed at a very special “niche” audience, the 3,200 doctors in Travis and Williamson Counties. While area readers may never see the magazine, they might find the content interesting.

“It’s a direct mail, non-subscription monthly publication,” said Dale Lane who co-publishes “M.D. News” with his wife Cathleen. “Each month our cover story profiles a local physician who is making an impact in the medical community."

The Texas launch for “M.D. News” was in San Antonio in March, 2008. The Austin “M.D. News” April edition was only the second here. Lane says it is doing well in spite of the economy, probably because of its limited audience. “It enables physicians to market their practices to other doctors,” Lane says. “It’s a way of growing their practice through referrals.”

In June “M. D. News” will launch an interactive web site focusing on the Austin area, its physicians and its medical advertisers, Lane said. A version of the magazine is online at:

The magazine is an arm of Sunshine Media headquartered in Arizona with “M.D. News” publications in some specific 70 markets nationwide. Sunshine media also publishes similar niche magazines for architects, restaurants, and dentists.

The April, 2009 “M.D. News” Austin cover story was an in-depth look at Dr. Vivek Mahendru and Central Texas Pain Institute, P.A. entitled “Providing Solutions for a Pain-Free Society.” The spread featured Dr. Mahendru and his staff on the cover. Inside is a five-page article by health care free-lance writer Paul J. Watkins with five full-color pictures featuring Mahendru and various staff members.

Central Texas Pain Institute specializes in assisting people whose chronic pain has not responded to conventional treatments such as bedrest, medication, physical therapy, and surgery. Patients, along with their physician, are seeking alternative treatment for their unrelenting pain. “We take a very comprehensive approach, because we know that each individual’s pain is different,” says Dr. Mahendru, CTPI medical director. “Our goal is to reduce and eliminate pain and to rehabilitate the patient to a productive lifestyle.”

For instance, Dr. Mahendru is now performing a new procedure called sacroplasty. Sacroplasty is used to treat a fracture of the sacrum (lower back), a debilitating injury for some patients. The treatment of the fractures are done by polymethylmethacrylate injections, so-called sacroplasty. “We are interested in educationing the public as well as fellow colleagues regarding all our procedures,” Mahendru says. The injection “cements” the fractured area and results in almost immediate pain relief.

Elsewhere in the April issue articles on orthopaedic advances and sports medicine. While the prime audience of “M.D. News” is other doctors, patients may also benefit from such stories. I searched and came up with 800 hits on the key words “back pain”.

[Full disclosure here: I learned about this interesting niche publication through Dr. Vivek Mahendru who is a friend of mine. I also helped him and his staff prepare a news release about it and his practice for no fee. So, I have no vested interest. I just found it interesting.]

© Jim McNabb, 2009