Monday, September 28, 2009

A Moment on Murderers Row

Journalist’s Chaplain

Murderers are featured on page one of the Austin American-Statesman today (Monday, September 28, 2009) at the start of the trial for accused Hill Country killer Paul DeVoe. His victims allegedly number a half dozen between Central Texas and Pennsylvania. The “jump page” includes five more murders. The number one Austin killer, of course, was Texas Tower shooter Charles Whitman who killed 16 in his 1966 spree. Also, on the list is the man law enforcement called “The Monster”, Kenneth McDuff convicted of abducting, torturing, sexually assaulting, and murdering Colleen Reed in 1990 and six other people.

Noticeably missing from the list is one-eyed drifter Henry Lee Lucas, ultimately convicted of eleven murders including that of a woman known only as “Orange Socks”. Her otherwise nude body was found near the I-35/Walburg exit Halloween eve, 1979, nearly 30 years ago. When Lucas was arrested in June, 1983 in Montague County, he told the judge that he’d killed “about a hundred more women.” Lucas later recanted all of the killings, and his death sentence from the “Orange Socks” murder was commuted to life by then governor George W. Bush. Facts indicate however that Lucas did murder a lot of women starting with this own mother. Having covered him from the day after his arrest in the murder of his landlord through the “Orange Socks” trial in San Angelo, after a change of venue due to so much publicity here, to his appeals, I remain convinced that Lucas killed and killed. The details, sometimes show outside of the jury’s presence, were gruesome.

Anybody who covers crime for any length of time is going to be exposed to this sort of thing. The effects of this exposure can be profound. Maybe journalists need a chaplain.

I find no association between the words “journalist” and “chaplain”. Nothing turns up in a brief Google search. There are, of course, military chaplains, law enforcement chaplains, hospital chaplains, and some corporate chaplains. The corporate chaplain is also the closest kin to what I see as a journalist’s chaplain. Somewhere, there may be a journalist’s or journalism chaplain, but I cannot find one.

I believe, however, there is a need. This belief is born from my 40+ years in communications, much of it covering crime. A journalist cannot become personally involved in a story. I journalist’s job is to communicate that crime in a professional manner. Unable to cope with man’s brutality to his fellow man or woman, many left the news business. They may still be holding in all of that outrage.

A journalist is the eyes and ears of the public. The journalist sees and hears things, however, that the public should never see. The journalist and the photojournalists often see the awful results of violence—human upon human. The journalist then reads the affidavits with all the sordid details of crimes. The eventual trials bring forward even more detail. Journalist also see the sad waste of life and property from all kinds of disasters from hurricanes, tornados, floods, and otherwise.

These same journalists and photojournalists may carry these mental movies with them for the rest of their lives. The nightmarish pictures, cause scars or even wounds that don’t heal and questions that go unanswered.

These experiences may disrupt their lives and relationships. I often sense this in conversations. There is a certain despair.

On top of this, today’s journalism is a stressful profession with constant deadlines. Reporters and photographers are being asked to do more with less. News managers are under constant budget pressures. Editors and mid-managers often feel the most heat because they are mashed from above and below.

It is not the purpose of any chaplain to attempt to counsel the journalists. The job of a chaplain is to be present and available to people who are hurting outwardly and inwardly. A chaplain should be available to all faiths and those without faith. The chaplain may refer the journalists to counseling or their Employee Assistance Program. Of course, all communication would be confidential—journalists understand confidentiality.

Do journalists need a chaplain? Something to consider.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Let’s Blame Somebody Besides Ourselves

It’s the Media’s Fault

Blame it on the media. It’s the media’s fault. What is “It”? It is whatever you want it to be. Whatever “it” is, it’s the media’s fault.

This excuse has deep roots. The Vietnam War was the first television war. Former President Richard Nixon blamed the nightly media coverage of the war as the main reason for the ultimate fall of Saigon.” Of course, Lyndon Johnson said much the same before Nixon’s watch after Walter Cronkite opined that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable.

Cronkite first made a fact-finding trip to the tiny battle-torn country before issuing his opinion: “After his return, Cronkite took an unprecedented step of presenting his "editorial opinion" at the end of the news broadcast on February 27th. "For it seems now more certain than ever," Cronkite said, "that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate." After watching Cronkite's broadcast, LBJ was quoted as saying. "That's it. If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America." (© Dennis Simon, Southern Methodist University)

Well, yeah. The media did its job. To use Mr. Cronkite’s words, the media speaking as one said, “That’s the way it is.” If middle American or a majority of Americans believe it, call it democracy.

Now comes the ongoing debate over health care/health insurance reform. Why don’t we have a bill? The current president is blaming whom? The media, of course. He said so in several Sunday shows last weekend. For example, on "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" (ABC), President Obama argued that "the media encourages some of the outliers in behavior, because, let's face it, the easiest way to get on television right now is to be really rude.” (© Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, 9-25-09) President Obama made similar statements on other interview programs. The irony is that a new Sacred Heart University poll indicates: “A large majority, 89.3%, suggested the national media played a very or somewhat strong role in helping to elect President Obama.”

Just Thursday (September 25, 2009) here in Austin, Washington Post colleague E. J. Dionne, speaking at an event sponsored by the Texas Freedom Network, said essentially the same thing, and he is himself part of the media. Dionne is correct in that conflict will make headlines more often than quiet discourse, and he joked about himself being part of the media himself.

"The polarization we are seeing around an issue such as healthcare is being reflected in news media preferences. Those same media outlets are covering, framing, and interpreting the issues for the public, so it becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy," said Dr. James Castongua, associate professor of media studies and digital culture at Sacred Heart University.

So, even a member of the media says the media is part of the problem, and now new research seems to back him up.

Perhaps. I’d rather accept that as truth than having no media watchdogs at all. It is good that there was at least one camera capturing our governor when he made glib statements hinting at secession from the Union. His comments came at one of those run-of-the-mill rallies/protests/whatever on the steps of the state capitol. I’m confident that Mr. Perry, like his friend ex-governor Sarah Palin, doesn’t like the media much either.

Since Austin is the seat of state government, there is a rally/protest/whatever du jour, most of which are routinely ignored by the local media. Some group or somebody is all torque-off about something most of the time in Austin. There was always a vigil outside the governor’s mansion on the evening of planned executions. I don’t know where they are now that the governor isn’t living there. (That’s two other matters.) Anyway, whatever the occasion at the capitol or city hall, I’d tell news photographers to do a “drive-by”, often in an unmarked news car. If there were only a dozen or so citizens there waiting for the media before waving their signs, keep driving. A dozen or so people look mighty lonely on the steps of the capitol.

Viewers in the rest of the state and elsewhere will never know how many rallies/protests/whatever the local Austin media does not cover. If Austin media does not cover it, there is no video of the event to be fed to the rest of the state and on. I’d ask the photographer when he or she returned, “Did you shoot video?” If there was no video, “It didn’t happen,” I declared. That’s what editors do.

The last really good demonstration in Austin was in the early 1970s when the Austin Police used tear gas on the hoard of anti-war marchers on Guadalupe near UT. The literal blow-back also caused reporters and police alike to wet down handkerchiefs to wipe their eyes and cover their faces. That one really did happen, and it didn’t happen because TV cameras exacerbated and escalated the near riot.

Of course, if the media is lax—and the media has been lax or lazy—and doesn’t cover something that turned out to be truly newsworthy, rightly blame the media for that too. The media caught flack for not asking the tough questions about everything from the run-up to Iraq to the financial collapse last year. Local media is criticized for not pursuing Capital Metro with more vigor, for instance. They are catching up as the clock ticks and the trains still aren’t running.

Of course, however, the media, of course, is composed of a bunch of left-leaning, neo-socialists, right? The media are forever known as "nattering nabobs of negativism" according former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, who served under Richard Nixon until resigning in October 1974, after pleading no contest to charges of tax fraud, which was investigated and covered thoroughly by whom? The media.

Another thing Austin viewers will never know is how many politically and personally conservatives there are among the media in this town dubbed “The People’s Republic of Austin”. The media mirrors society. The viewers and readers will never know, because these local broadcasters and writers are professionals. They’re not paid for their opinions. They are paid for presenting truth. The blameless will be blamed by those who feel the white light of truth.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Local News in Spanish Debuts October 1st

Fred Cantu Has a New Co-Anchor

Veteran Austin broadcaster Fred Cantu is now the confirmed co-anchor for the new local Spanish language newscast.Conteo Noticias, on KEYE TV’s Telemundo 42.2 at 5 and 10 p.m. weekdays beginning October 1, 2009. His co-anchor will be new to Austin. She is Karla Leal coming here from the Telemundo station in Bakersfield, California. Joining them will be reporter Erika Gonzalezjoins Conteo Noticias from the Rio Grande Valley where she was an anchor on XRIO-TV, Fox 2 News and reported for Univision 48.

“We are very excited that our new partnership with Telemundo allows us to serve Central Texas’ growing Hispanic viewer base,” said Amy Villarreal, KEYE TV president and general manager. “We are equally honored to have such reputable on-air talent as Fred, Karla and Erika onboard as the core of the Conteo Noticias Telemundo 42.2 news team. We are confident that their commitment and strong ties to the Hispanic community will be invaluable assets to KEYE and we look forward to having Conteo Noticias serve as the community’s source for local news, weather, sports and traffic.”

Fred Cantu, known as “Uncle Fred” and the resident “Gadget Guy,” has been an anchor in Austin for almost 20 years, beginning his career at TV KTBC-TV in 1990. Cantu was in radio news in Austin before that. He has anchored at KEYE since 2002 and has a large local following from radio to television among the Hispanic community. Until recently, he was co-anchor of KEYE TV’s morning news. When KEYE committed to making the morning team of “JB and Sandy” of Mix 94.7 radio the morning broadcast, it was widely speculated that Cantu would become the Telemundo anchor.

Karla Leal was lead anchor and reporter for KKEY-TV, Telemundo 11. She received Emmy nominations for the “El Arte de la Charreria” reporting series in 2008 and the “El Sueno Mexicano” series in 2007 and began her career with CAN-TV-TV in Chicago, IL in 2004. Ms. Leal earned her BA from Columbia College in Chicago with an emphasis in broadcast journalism in June, 2005. Leal also did TV weather earlier in her career.

Erika Gonzalez joins Conteo Noticias from the Rio Grande Valley where she was an anchor on XRIO-TV, Fox 2 News and reported on Univision 48. She began her career at XRIO-TV in McAllen, TX in 2007.

Telemundo, a U.S. Spanish-language television network, is a leading producer of high quality content for Hispanics in the United States and is recognized for its originally produced primetime novelas, news, and weekend primetime movie showcases. Beginning October 1, KEYE-TV 42.2 viewers will also be able to tune in to Telemundo Sports which includes in-depth soccer coverage including Futbol Liga Mexicana on Futbol Estelar and Futbol Telemundo, as well as the most Mexican League Soccer broadcasts including, the home matches of Atlas, Tigres, Monterrey, U.N.A.M., Atlante and defending champion Toluca.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

What's Up With All the TV Programming Changes?

Local News is Like Beer

Oh, yes, there are several ways to play off of that headline. Let’s take the high road, shall we?

Once upon a time, there was just Budweiser Beer. Bud. That’s it. “I’ll have a Bud.” Nowadays, however, one must be more specific. Do you want a Bud Light? How about some lime? There are other varieties. Why does Budweiser do this? Wasn’t Bud good enough? Well, yes and no. Yes, there were lots of people who just wanted Bud. Competition forced Budweiser to come up with stuff the old brew masters would have never put in a keg.

Eric Lassberg, president and general manager of LIN TV’s (TVL) KXAN-TV, KNVA-TV and KBVO-TV, was not talking about beer in a release announcing the newscast on KNVA TV/CW late last month when he said, “It reflects our ongoing commitment to provide viewers with more options and convenience.” Just think beer instead of TV news. Mr. Lassberg has not commented since then the August release and Michael Fabac, KXAN TV news director says he will not be a source for any stories. They have been asked several times. Fine.

Yeah, it’s about “options and convenience.” It’s also about revenue streams. More about that later.

First, the options: “Beginning Monday, you don't have to stay up late for local news anymore,” the KNVA CW web site says. You have to search for this little tease. It is stashed way down on the right side. KNVA CW is not now known for its news. KXAN TV “Austin News” is the obvious source for the content, and one of its rising stars Shannon Wolfson is the face for the news at 9 p.m. on the CW. She is joined by KXAN’s meteorologist Jim Spencer and sportscaster Roger Wallace.

Ms. Wolfson is an excellent and talented anchor for the younger audience on KNVA. Whether the content is suited for the audience

is another question. Further, will this younger, hip audience hang around for a local newscast after CW programming ends?

Cutting to the chase, Wolfson and her colleagues turned a clean show. She knows her craft and the producer put together good elements. It was not tailored to the CW audience. It was clearly cross-promotion to KXAN “Austin News”. They used the same set. Most of the stories for both newscasts were the same. They sent people to the KXAN web site for more information. Further, it is not direct competition with Fox 7. The KTBC broadcast is an hour long, and the CW newscast is 30-minutes.

There was only one “CW” type of story, one involving an astronaut on the latest shuttle mission and a connection with a future U2 album. Otherwise, it was a standard newscast. Two things stood out: A news set piece fronted by KXAN anchor Robert Hadlock and a newsroom piece from KXAN anchor Leslie Rhode. All three of these things were good. Two of these things were cross-promotion to the KXAN “Austin News” at 10 O’clock.

I couldn’t help but smile when a KXAN 10 p.m. story intro read, “New at 10!” when it was a retread of a story that ran in the 9 O’clock show. Yeah, it was “New at 10”.

Breaking news could be a problem if it requires relocating a live shot in the 30-minutes between the newscasts. From another point of view, running an “exclusive” story at 9 p.m. might be too late for other TV newsrooms to react. Another interesting facet is that the newscast appears opposite the new Monday-Friday Jay Leno show. If he doesn’t deliver a news-viewing audience at 10 p.m., much the same news product might be found on CW at 9 p.m.

At 9 O’clock, KNVA was airing “MyNetworkTV” programming. It appears that the “MyNetworkTV” shows will be shifted to one of their digital channels where it might find its own audience. CW will air reruns of “The Office” following the 9 O’clock news at 9:30 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

So much for the opening night. Here’s the rest of the story where the Austin audience is concerned:

All of these shifts and changes are attempts to find an audience that will produce potential audiences and, therefore, revenues, something that has been hard to come by for all stations in recent days, although LIN stock has managed to crawl up off of the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in recent weeks. Still revenues lag. Some blame some blame the phlegmatic flow of revenue on the recession, but it started long before that. Others blame it on the Internet, yet all of the stations have their own web sites with ads. Are the online ads paying their own way? That’s hard to say. It’s more of a total package approach with new and distinct revenue streams.

So, the Austin audience is being dissected in dozens of different ways.

Sure, there are the traditional network stations still pumping out local news on KEYE TV (CBS), KTBC TV (Fox), KVUE TV (ABC), and KXAN TV (NBC). For the most part everyone goes head-to-head, except for Fox. As of Monday, September 21, 2009, Fox has a competitor at the 9 O’clock hour. KEYE TV abandoned the chase at 5 p.m., opting for an hour-long newscast opposite Oprah and 4 p.m.

Even the 4 O’clock on KEYE is an opportunity for more revenue. The TV station controls the breaks, and every one of the breaks is for sale. It appears that even some of the segments themselves are for sale since they often focus on local businesses and their products. News never was a major emphasis in KEYE’s 4 O’clock.

Soon, KEYE TV.2 will offer news in Spanish as a part of its new programming from Telemundo. Former Morning Anchor Fred Cantu is said to be the local news anchor for these newscasts at 5 and 10 p.m., Monday-Friday. KXAN apparently is planning to launch Spanish programming on a digital channel. KVUE TV.2 began broadcasting programming from Estrella network earlier this month. All of these local stations going after new revenue streams. First, however, they like all of the rest must attract an audience.

And after finding an audience, all of these local programs hope to find a revenue stream. Oh yeah. They’re competing with cable for a slice of the pie.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Today's Journalism Pitting Religion Vs. Secular

Religion is Losing

It was said to be the largest gathering ever for a luncheon of the local Religion Communicators Council to meet and hear the new religion writer for the Austin American-Statesman. It also turned out to be a revealing look inside the local newspaper’s newsroom.

Joshunda Sanders took over the religion beat after long time Faith pages writer Eileen Flynn left to take care of her new baby and teach at The University of Texas. Coincidentally, in was the UT-Austin Graduate School that brought Sanders to Austin and the American-Statesman.

More than 30 Central Texans representing several faith traditions and denominations expected to learn Ms. Sanders’ approach to her beat. They got that and more. The attendees got a rare glimpse through the newsroom door.

“It’s rough in there,” Ms. Sanders said. “We’re doing more with less.” Sanders talked about the need to multi-task adding blogging and video to her duties as she attempts to stay up with correspondence and current trends in religion reporting.

“We don’t do to conferences,” she said. Recently, there was a national conference for religion writers. “We can’t let anybody go. We don’t have enough people to do what we are supposed to be doing which is covering Central Texas.” Sanders cited buy-outs and attrition in the reporting ranks over the past year, and she couldn’t rule out more in the future. Meanwhile, there is a hiring freeze at the newspaper, she says.

So, what does this mean to religious communicators? Competition. “Religion is special,” Sanders said, “But it’s [the beat] going away across the country.” Looking through the lens of an editor, can one justify not covering an important story of the day so that the religion writer can work on what might be considered a “feature” piece? Speaking of faith and religion, “It’s significant,” Sanders says, “but people love reading about crime. People love reading about the Longhorns.” So, religion stories must compete for space with all of the other secular stories.

Participants were asked with a show of hands how many were bloggers and how many were using social media? It is a telling and essential question nowadays for folks who want to share the word about their faiths. The traditional media may not have the time, the reporters, or the space. There are days when religion writer Sanders must be a “general assignments” reporter instead.

It should be said that the former religion writer Eileen Flynn also covered general assignments. Some of what may have been her best work were stories written when she rotated into New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Flynn continues to contribute a column to the newspaper’s Faith pages every other week.

So, even by job description, Sanders cannot be not a full-time religion writer. “At least I get to spend half of my time on religion,” She says.

Austin is a long way from the Bronx, New York where she calls home. After a bachelor’s degree from Vassar, she interned and worked for several newspapers nationwide, ending up at the San Francisco Chronicle. There, she began thinking about leaving journalism. She researched library schools and chose The University of Texas at Austin. She refers to her master’s in Information Science as “a back-up plan.”

© Jim McNabb, 2009

*Editor’s note: Not expecting much more than a luncheon, this writer didn’t bring a
camera. So, the picture is from his camera phone.

Mary Travers of Peter, Paul, and Mary Remembered

Mary’s Music

A little piece of my fabric is missing. It was woven tightly, but now it has come unraveled. It was a piece that I didn’t even think twice about, because it has been there for more than 40 years. It was integral. I learned that Mary Travers died today.

My dad played guitar. When he was a teenager, he and two other guys played on WRR AM in Dallas. He tells me that the grandparents who raised him in the country out in Navarro County were afraid that he might become a musician. He did for one summer. Then, he went to business college in Dallas. He became a successful businessman, but he passed the love guitars and music on to me. He still has a couple. I have his first guitar, the one that he played on the air.

He was influenced by “Pappy” Lee O’Daniel and the Light Crust Dough Boys, predecessors of Bob Wills. They played the songs of the day in the early 1930s. We might even those songs “folk songs” today. Some of them were. Others were, of course, the songs that people loved to hear, the precursors to Texas Swing.

My dad and his band would set up on a flatbed trailer and draw a crowd in the small downs of Navarro County. Once the crowd was warmed up, politicians would speak. It sounds like something we should try again in this era. Perhaps it would result in more civil discourse. I digress.

I need to ask him how his band drew the attention of WRR Radio. The radio station paid them for their gasoline and oil to drive up from Corsicana and play for 15-minutes or so every Saturday. I don’t think that they got much more money than that.

It was my dad who taught me my first chords on the guitar and songs that went with them. “Down in the Valley” can be played with only two chords, although I rearranged it in later years. “You Are My Sunshine” has three chords.

He and another man who used to have a band played their music often on Sunday afternoons after church and lunch in Dallas. I watched, sang, and learned. It wasn’t long before I was playing along with them.

The Kingston Trio and Simon and Garfunkel got my attention first in the folk music explosion of the 1960s, but it was Peter, Paul, and Mary who captured the era before the Beatles. Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey were the musicians. Mary’s only instrument was her voice. They were never afraid to sing about civil rights and injustice. For that generation, they made it OK to bring a rational discussion of a whole list of subjects to the table.

Further, their music was approachable. High school kids could pick up a guitar and learn the songs and harmonies in a matter of hours. I’d read the album jackets and learn who wrote the music. I’d follow those leads to the record store to discover the source of those lyrics and melodies. Those lyrics and melodies, picking patterns, and themes led me to write my own stuff.

Peter, Paul, and Mary played Bass Concert Hall at UT some 20 years ago. I bought two tickets, one for me and one for my son. He’d grown up listening to the records and listening to my versions. He needed to see them in person.

Now, we may hear Peter Yarrow. He is a sometimes Austin resident and a regular at the Kerrville Folk Festival. When I was on the air in the 1980s, I did a story with Yarrow on the occasion of this 50th birthday at the folk festival. We may also hear Noel Paul Stookey. Yarrow brought him to the festival several times too. As I recall, Mary Travers came once, but she won’t come again.

I still have the vinyl. I have CDs and MP3s. I have my guitars. I don’t have Mary. That piece of my fabric is missing.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009



You have a beautiful, award-winning, and very sweet female news anchor. You have a great reporter and established hard news weekend anchor/reporter. You have a veteran, award-winning reporter. You decide to throw them all into what KEYE-TV (CBS) calls a lifestyle show at 4 p.m.

What do you get? Well, I hope it gets better. It’s not my cup of tea. Perhaps I’m not the right demographic, but I’m having a heck of a time trying to figure out who is the demographic for this new hour-long broadcast called “We Are Austin Live”.

Give points for being different. Anchors Michelle Valles and Jason Wheeler open the show live on the station’s patio (Yeah, they have a patio.) Immediately, Valles commits one of my language arts sins: She says the show is going to be “centered around “ things Austin. No. No. One cannot be “centered around”. One can be centered on, but that’s nit-picky.

At 4:01 p.m. they toss to their lead story—the story that is going to grab viewers by the face, freeze their hand next to the remote, and carry them further into the show. The lead story was a live shot with veteran reporter Bettie Cross at a place called the Tea Embassy. Live for the next two deadly minutes, she discusses different types of teas with a guest. He kept showing us bowls of tea leaves. I could read them.

Everything I’ve ever learned about story telling for TV is that you lead with your strongest, most compelling video to engage viewers and want them to hang around. This applies to producing a TV show or writing a story. Tea leaves in a bowl doesn’t cut it. Bettie Cross did the best she could with what she had.

After that segment there was cross-talk with Michelle and Jason. They tossed to news. Ron Oliveira did two minutes of news from the anchor desk. Then, they tossed to Troy Kimmel for one minute of weather each hour.

That’s the way this hour-long show started and continued in the second half-hour. Now, let’s break it down. There were 18-minutes of commercials, counting the end break. That leaves 42 minutes for other stuff. Although it seemed like more, there was about five minutes of Bettie Cross in the first and second half hours talking about tea. There were about two minutes of news in each half hour segment for news with Ron. A total of FOUR minutes for an hour show! That’s all the news there was. There were carbon copy live shots from Stephanie Serna in each half hour about a child pornography case. (At 5 KXAN had the mother of the children in question. KEYE did not—probably an instance of trying to do more with less.) Troy Kimmel had four or so, not counting “bumps”, for weather totaling around four minutes.

So, what did the show have otherwise?

The mantra always is: Content equals Ratings. So, what was the content? Well, it was very, very commercial. Guests included segments each half hour with folks from Sea World in San Antonio, a fashion expert from Macy’s, the Tea Embassy, and The Lofty Dog, a store for dog stuff in downtown Austin. She was really the best guest, but I don’t remember seeing a live dog in the story! Gotta have at least one live dog!!!

There were the two tea store stories. Again, Bettie Cross did the best that she could with what she had. I’m sorry. It could have been a good newspaper or magazine story. I mean, the tea leaves just sat there in the bowls. Even when they steeped them, the fragrance did not translate to TV.

And, yes, they had animals from Sea World. OK, animals can work on TV. The live hit in the first segment included a nasty-looking lizard and a boa. The second hit was with an owl and a wallaby. Michelle commented that looking at an owl in the Mexican culture was bad luck. The wallaby was cute, but it just sat there. Michelle played with it at the end of the show.

Toward the end, they had a live barbershop quartet. They sang into the break after about two minutes. To my way of thinking, Michelle and Jason could have spent a productive five minutes with them talking about the tradition of barbershop quartet singing. They could have let them sing and sing.

OK. They need to settle down. They needed a stronger lead. They used five locations. They popped up pictures from their downtown camera. They were all over the place. It was very fast paced—too fast. Michelle sounded and acted like she was on “Entertainment Tonight”. Jason, a yeoman, seemed uncomfortable.

In creating this program, KEYE killed its 5 O’clock hard news broadcast. “Austin Live” is followed by “Insider” and the CBS network news. This, viewers, may be the future. If the networks pull the plug on local stations, local stations will have to come up with inexpensive stuff to feed the beast. The beast must be fed every day.

This was billed as a lifestyle show. Whose lifestyle? Who is the audience? It was not my cup of tea.

© Jim McNabb, 2009