Thursday, January 28, 2010

Awkward ...

A Yawner?

“Yawn”, KXAN TV (NBC) anchor Robert Hadlock posted as this “Status” on Facebook at 8:23 p.m. Was it mere coincidence that his post was in the beginning few moments of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, carried on NBC and all the other major networks? Was his status “an editorial comment”, I asked, but he didn’t respond. Others online with us offered alternative programming such as the UT vs. Texas Tech basketball game or PBS, if Mr. Hadlock was bored with the President’s speech, a speech that was hardly boring.

Asked about his “status” post last night again today, Hadlock brushed it aside. “I was sleepy last night. It’s interesting how people interpret a simple comment posted on Facebook.” Misinterpretations can happen, particularly in things like email or in a running dialogue on Facebook.

Journalists are people. All people have personal political positions. Such is the same for journalists. At the same time, however, journalists are held to a higher standard, at least by their peers. Journalists should appear apolitical in print, on the air, and even in person. Novice reporters as well as politicians are taught early on that one should assume that everything is “on the record” and every microphone is hot. One cannot have a professional lapse. An anchor or reporter can also show slant with a voiced inflection, a raised eyebrow, or by adlibbing away from the newscast script. It happens. It behooves a journalist to be circumspect.

Now comes social media, and many journalists have Facebook pages to promote programming, tease the next news stories, or as Mr. Hadlock does most of the time, praise the Texas Longhorns. Co-anchor Leslie Rhode foreshadows stories from time to time. KVUE TV (ABC) Meteorologist Mark Murray often uses Facebook for a synopsis of future weather forecasts or events in the “Live Music Capital of the World”. Michelle Valles of KEYE TV (CBS) is very active on Facebook, especially since the start of her 4 O’Clock show with Jason Wheeler. Ms. Valles has nearly 3,800 “friends”.

Other main anchors eschew social media, possibly preferring to keep their thoughts to themselves. They may be private people who do not want to put themselves “out there”. That’s totally understandable.

Hadlock, however, has 607 Facebook friends. He has been a fixture in Austin and Central Texas TV since 1987 when the UT grad came back to Austin to be part of the team at KVUE TV. He moved to the anchor chair at KXAN TV in 1990. He’s covered a little bit of everything. Of course, elections and politics are always when a TV station shows its best efforts, particularly here in the state capital.

Presidential addresses always should be items of high interest to journalists, whatever their private political stripe. What will the President propose? How will the Congress react? Will somebody shout, “Liar!” Will the President lose it in front of God and everybody? Particularly in this strange year with so many issues on the national agenda, a State of the Union address should rank high in interest—jobs, two wars, bank bail-outs, the deficit, etc.


President Obama is fully capable of soaring oratory, and he used those talents at times in the State of the Union. In this address, however, he also took a different tact trying to overcome what he called a “deficit of trust” which has driven a wedge between the political parties and the people of the country. The President also called out the media for facilitating this sort of polarization. In the coming news cycles we’ll here the pundits’ and loyal opposition’s take on the speech.

One would expect Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olbermann, or Rachel Maddow to possibly take their shots from the left or the right. Olbermann has begun labeling portions of his program with a graphic saying “Comment”. That’s okay. Commentary has long been part of the media’s role in the political process. Long before those mentioned above, Eric Sevareid regularly delivered commentary during the CBS evening news. Even Walter Cronkite commented. Cronkite’s most controversial commentary was of course when he came out in opposition to continuing the war in Vietnam. Cronkite’s comments were not a “yawner” to the sitting President at the time.

While some things are constant, communications is changing constantly. Social media is at the hub of much of the change. One might wonder what Sevareid would have thought of Facebook. Would he have written a blog? I’m pretty sure that he would have had a massive following on Twitter.

One week ago, January 19, 2010 at 8:25 p.m. Robert Hadlock posted another “Status” on Facebook saying simply, “God Bless America”—hardly an over-the-top political statement. President Obama said the same sentence last night. January 19, 2010 was the day of the Massachusetts special election to select a successor to Senator Edward Kennedy. Democrat Martha Coakley lost to Republican Scott Brown ending the Democrats commanding 60 votes in the Senate. The outcome of the election was clear by 8:25 p.m. The online discussion had to do with the difficulty of passing health insurance reform without the Democrat’s so-called “super majority”.

Former television reporter and author James Moore read into Robert Hadlock’s blessing a political message. “Careful there, Mr. Anchor,” Moore wrote on Facebook. “The thing about FB is [that] it reveals the politics of someone in a public venue….which ain’t a big deal unless you do the news on the (sic) tee vee.”

“I’m bemused that some see ‘God Bless America’ as a political statement, but hey, it’s only Facebook!” Hadlock responded.

© Jim McNabb, 2010

I’ve known Robert since 1987, and we worked together close to 20 years. I’m one of the 137 FB “friends” that we have in common. If one is going to write about the news media with a critical eye, one cannot allow personal feelings to stand in the way of a story or while writing tempt one to shrink back from difficult analysis. JMc


Anonymous said...

An article about an anchor being tired? Yawn indeed. You're really reaching Jim.

Anonymous said...

I yawned. But I'm not on TV. His Facebook page does not say "Robert Hadlock, KXAN TV"... it's just Robert Hadlock. (you must dig into his profile to learn that if you didn't know it already) My point is even if he directly meant to comment that Obama was boring him, so what. It's not like it was posted on A fine line yes, but good enough for me. Btw, I'm still yawning.

Anonymous said...

Hadlock posts the word "yawn" and you conclude he's biased? And you think Keith Overbite is an objective journalist when he's not "commenting?" Please spare me the holier than thou stuff. If Facebook is looking for leftist "thought police" you should apply.

Anonymous said...

Right on, Jim! You are 100% correct -- RH has no business putting his snide thoughts on FB. What he says in the newsroom and at home is one thing ... but in public, he should play it down the middle.

NewsMcNabb said...

Editor's Note:

Some of the "Anonymous" writers should read the post again.

It is not meant to be a slam on Robert's talents, brains, and character. He is a class act, a pro.

"Anonymouses", I'm afraid you are letting your biases overide the purpose of the post.

It is meant to show the tension between professional journalism and social media.


H. Soliz said...

New to your blog. I agree with you but your mention of Valles makes me wonder why you focused just on Hadlock. Not only did Valles show us her backside before being show the exit at KXAN but she has gone over the top in revealing a lot of inappropriate information on Facebook many times. With over 6x the "friends" aka viewers than he has. Do your concerns about the tension between social media and professional journalism not apply since she is only doing the infomercial format now?

NewsMcNabb said...

Editor's Note:

To H. Soliz ...

Two different issues ...

I'm on the record regarding the KEYE TV 4 p.m. show starring Ms. Valles. (I have great personal affection for her too.) I'm on the record in previous posts about the 4 p.m. broadcast. The show is 60% wretched if not more. It is not, however, political, and Ms. Valles' promotion of it on Facebook is not commercial. She promote musical acts and other noncommercial features on FB.

The program, as I have intimated in the past, is beneath her talents. This, certainly, applies to Jason Wheeler, an excellent journalist.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

You need a life, Jim.

1) Hadlock's yawn could have referred to plenty of things. YOU are making the assumption that just b/c he posted when he did, he was referring to the SOTU speech. Aren't good journalists taught to never assume? Oops.

2) It's clear why you're writing this post. You're OBVIOUSLY an Obama fan, and since you made the assumption that Hadlock was yawning at Obama, you've taken offense. So now you're doing what a good journalist shouldn't do: making a story where there is none.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. If you want to be a news critic, you're going to have to find more substantive content than this.

I periodically check your blog in the hopes that that day has come, but nope. Still nothing worth reading.

NewsMcNabb said...

Editor's Note:

To the last "Anonymous":

I have a life. I'm thinking that you need another one.

You are so intent on exposing me as a liberal or something that you totally missed the point of my post.

I recognize your shallow style because I've read it before.

The tension between professional journalism and social media is fertile ground for discussion, but you cannot or will not participate in it. You have another agenda.

You're the one who is making the empty assumptions.

Further, you don't have the courage to be anybody other than "Anonymous". Why should anyone pay attention to you?


Anonymous said...

The thought police are out. Hugo Chavez is shutting down television stations in Caracas that choose not to show his Obama-like marathon speeches. Obama's minions in congress are working to effectively eliminate talk radio stations in America by reinstituting the "Fairness Doctrine." It's definately not a yawner. Freedom of speech is under assault. Jumping to ridiculous conclusions based on a Facebook posting is dangerous in this climate.

Anonymous said...

Utilizing a rather passive Facebook comment in an attempt to call out Robert Hadlock? I'm sorry, Jim...but that's a cheap shot.

Robert is indeed a pro. Like all reporters/anchors (people), he has his own views and opinions. But to my knowledge, he's never let that impact how he approaches his job or how he reports the news.

You could have utilized multiple (and more direct) examples from other reporters/anchors as the basis for your journalism/social media tension post. Instead, you elected this one. As a result, you should be prepared for people to question your intentions and/or motives.

Have known Robert for years. He is indeed a class act. Have no doubt he will brush this off and maintain his friendship with you.

But if I were in his shoes, I would have "de-friended" you on FB as of yesterday...and then urge every reporter/anchor in the city to do the same.

If FB is going to be a source for future material, there's no telling what you may read into the next post.