Wednesday, November 3, 2010

And the Winner Is ...

So, Who Won on TV?

Now that the votes are in, it’s time to consider who did the best job of reporting the election. It must be said that since I only have four TVs, and I can’t watch all stations and some networks all at the same time. So, since KTBC TV (Fox) coverage is at 9 p.m. when things are just heating up in other parts of the nation, KTBC was left out. I’m sure they did a fine job.

Locally, I’m going to give my nod to KXAN TV (NBC) despite some hiccups and one ill-advised decision. (Yeah, I know that some will sneer saying he’s just picking them because he worked there. Remember, I worked, er, everywhere, and I have friends at all stations.) Part of the reason that I picked KXAN is NBC. NBC provided the local station with ample windows for reporting results. KXAN promised to be everywhere in their promos, and they seemed to be everywhere, using several forms of technology throughout the evening reporting local and state election results. KEYE TV (CBS) stuck to programming until its 10 O’clock.

The 6 O’clock dry run with Robert Hadlock and Leslie Cook had a highlight and a low light. The high light was taking advantage of a live report via broadband from Elise Hu of the non-for-profit web portal Texas Tribune. Hu was formerly the capitol reporter for KVUE TV (ABC). She’s a polished pro providing depth to the coverage. The Texas Tribune makes its content available to all at no charge, but this is the first time I’ve seen their content used in broadcast media. Hu identified herself with the Trib, but then did a custom KXAN tag or “sig out” at the end. I generally don’t like broadband coverage except during spot news coverage, but the report from the Trib worked well.

The 6 O’clock low light was an awkward loss of a live shot. Anchor Robert Hadlock read the intro to pitch to Shannon Wolfson at the Bill White election night party in Houston, and poor Mr. Hadlock was left with his face hanging out. Hadlock, also a pro, handled it well and moved on. They were successful in going to the Houston later in the broadcast. Here’s a producer’s rule: Have the talent talking on camera doing a microphone check well before you go to the shot. That way, if there is a problem, the producer can tell the anchor to skip that page, and no one is the wiser.

True, live shots go down unexpectedly, but KXAN has a long, long history of shooting itself in the technical foot. These technical problems are sometimes due to today’s TV production automation, but we’re talking about technical problems over the decades long before today’s automation.

Throughout the evening, KXAN seemed to have more cut-ins and more election reports that the competitors. I didn’t count them or time them. KXAN sometimes would scroll through the races so fast, it was close to impossible to read them. Maybe it was just me trying to watch four TVs at once.

One other thing KXAN did was a live report from their web producer telling what viewers were saying about the election. She handled it well.

It was really hard to decide whether KXAN was better than KVUE because of KXAN’s “issues”. It’s all rather subjective anyway. Yes, KXAN had flaws, but they took some chances. Some worked, some didn’t. I thought about calling it a tie, but I decided that was the “chicken” way out.

The 10 O’clock show—always hectic on election nights—was smooth on KXAN compared to the 6 O’clock, but the producers made one bad decision. They took the live victory speech from Rick Perry off the top instead of giving election results. KEYE-TV (CBS) did the same.

This is where KVUE and KEYE made the right choice. KVUE quickly ran through the “numbers”, giving the audience what it really wants first before going to the governor. "KEYE did the governor’s numbers first, followed by a liveshot from Jason Wheeler," says Suzanne Black, KEYE news director. "We then went back to Ron and Judy who pitched to the Governor’s speech." There is no reason to let the governor run the TV station. Stations can always record the speech from the beginning or join it in progress. The users/viewers/consumers/audience wants to know all of the election results. So, stations should show them off the top of the show with very rare exceptions.

As usual, KVUE’s production anchored by Terri Gruca and Tyler Seiswerda was clean and professional. There were no obvious distractions, although I’m sure that there was chaos behind the scenes. There always is chaos on election night.

KEYE’s Judy Maggio and Ron Oliviera, Austin’s most experienced anchors, did an admirable job with their available resources.

Nationally, as I said, NBC seemed to have the best coverage going “wall-to-wall” before anyone else. ABC started up its coverage a little later. NBC had superior sets and graphics. Those same graphics and reporter resources were utilized by MSNBC—a huge advantage to the cable channel. MSNBC was wall-to-wall all evening long, as was CNN and Fox. MSNBC was the most nimble, interrupting interviews at times to “call” another contest. They had constant results. CNN’s picture was so cluttered, one really needed a 60-inch HD flat screen to read it all. I don’t.

It was MSNBC that took the entire Rand Paul victory speech live. They do that kind of thing often.

Yeah, some people may not like the MSNBC anchors and analysts. Yeah, they can be considered “liberal”, but they also can be considered good journalists and reporters when they’re not giving commentary. So, MSNBC is my choice for best coverage at the national level.

The Washington Post is the hands-down winner for timely alerts calling winners in races nationwide. I thought my phone was going to melt down. It did need a re-charge.

We all do.

© Jim McNabb, 2010


NewsMcNabb said...

EDITOR'S NOTE: "KEYE did the governor’s numbers first, followed by a liveshot from Jason Wheeler. We then went back to Ron and Judy who pitched to the Governor’s speech," says Suzanne Black, KEYE News Director.

Sorry, I missed it.

Jim McNabb

Gerald Jackson said...


Most of the time I agree with your opinion, but I beg to differ on your thoughts on taking Governor Perry on the top of KXAN's newscast.

They're bringing you live TV, and nothing can beat the history of the moment as it occurs.

I would have chosen to take the Governor, had it been my newscast, too.

Gerald Jackson

Anonymous said...

The number of technical glitches KXAN has is insane. I can't recall the last time I saw them put out a clean show. Moving cameras, wrong graphics, botched liveshots, clipped audio ... you name it, it happens nightly. They're just lucky they've got someone like Robert who can tap dance until things fall into place.