Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Catenya McHenry Gone

What are They Thinking?

According to Catenya McHenry’s Facebook page, she’s gone as the weekend morning anchor and everything else at KXAN TV (NBC).

“Well, everyone, I'm no longer at KXAN. My contract was terminated last week. It's so unfortunate, especially at this time of year, but I thank you all my friends and fans for making our show #1 this year. It's been amazing telling your stories and being a part of your lives. Thank you for what you've given me. Pray my family will be blessed in the future. Merry Christmas!!”

Frankly, I’m astounded. Ms. McHenry is a pro. She is smooth and concise in a live shot. She had a fun morning program. I don’t know who will be on the air in her place.

As a 40-plus year veteran of Austin broadcast news, I find it a sad, sad solution for these stations. No, I don’t know what precipitated the decision-making, and it’s impossible to find out at midnight. I do know that I recommended Ms. McHenry for hire.

Yes, I did post, “Damn TV news” in response to her post. TV news is like a predator that chews off its arm when caught in a trap.

After getting good, if not great, weekday ratings, the “suits” do something like this. In my opinion it was capricious and ill conceived.

It smacks of the same mentality KXAN had some years ago when they ran off or laid-off veteran staff members, people who know where to find stories and knew how to report them. It looks like the same kind of mentality found at today’s Austin American-Statesman.

Of course, these actions don’t just take place here in Austin/Central Texas. They are industry-wide.

The viewing, reading, consuming public is not well served by them.

How do I really feel?

© Jim McNabb, December 13, 2011.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Longhorns Online`

Inferred in my last Longhorn Network Post (LHN) was the possibility that the programming would soon be available on the Internet. In a Wednesday, November 30, 2011 news release, that inference is now reality. I don't have time to edit and research it right now. So, here's the release:


November 30, 2011

Verizon FiOS and Longhorn Network Launch New Online Service Broadband Service Offers Live Streaming of University of Texas Sports Programming to FiOS TV Customers Nationwide

AUSTIN, Texas and NEW YORK – Verizon has launched a live online simulcast of the Longhorn Network – the 24/7 channel devoted to athletic programming and related activities at the University of Texas – and is making it available to Verizon FiOS TV customers across the country. Verizon FiOS is the first provider to launch the online broadband companion of the Longhorn Network.

FiOS TV customers who receive Longhorn Network as part of their video subscription service will be able to enjoy the network’s exclusive live events and content on their laptops or personal computers – at home or away – using any broadband connection. Using their Verizon Online user names and passwords, FiOS customers can access a live stream of the network online at either or

“No question, Texas Longhorn fans are some of the most enthusiastic in college sports, and we’re providing another option to catch the latest developments on the field – anywhere, anytime,’’ said Terry Denson, vice president, global strategy for Verizon. “This enhancement builds on Verizon’s commitment to bring the best in sports and entertainment and overall video content to our customers.”

David Preschlack, executive vice president, Disney and ESPN Media Networks added, “With this launch, Verizon FiOS customers will be able to watch UT content from the convenience of their PC. It’s a great new way for students, alumni and UT fans everywhere to access Longhorn Network around-the-clock.”

Upcoming programming highlights include a robust slate of men’s and women’s basketball games, the nationally ranked women’s volleyball program, and content-rich studio and original programming such as “Longhorn Extra,” “Game Plan with Mack Brown,” “Texas All-Access,” as well as “Texas GameDay” and “Texas GameDay Final.” Verizon FiOS and Longhorn Network expect to extend online streaming to tablets and smartphones sometime next year.

This new content joins Verizon’s high-quality, online video entertainment, which the company has been delivering since 2005. FiOS also offers a broad collection of programming on TV, with more than 540 all-digital channels including more than 130 HD channels, and 30,000 monthly video-on-demand titles. FiOS also provides next-generation interactive services based on a long series of innovations, including Flex View and FiOS TV Online, which extend FiOS TV beyond the home to the Internet and a range of mobile devices; an advanced interactive media guide; free interactive applications like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others; Media Manager, which allows customers to access on their TVs personal photos, music and videos from their computers; and more.

For the latest news, updates and information about FiOS TV, visit and

Consumers can obtain more information on the FiOS TV plans available in their area by visiting or calling 1-800-VERIZON (1-800-837-4966).

About Longhorn Network

ESPN has a 20-year agreement to own and operate a year-round, 24-hour network dedicated to the University of Texas in partnership with UT and IMG College. Longhorn Network will offer a variety of content, highlighted by more than 200 exclusive events annually from 20 sports, original series and studio shows, historical programming and academic and cultural happenings. Additionally, the broadband companion to the TV network will offer extensive content, particularly live games not carried on the linear TV network due to scheduling conflicts.

About Verizon

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ), headquartered in New York, is a global leader in delivering broadband and other wireless and wireline communications services to consumer, business, government and wholesale customers. Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, with more than 107 million total connections nationwide. Verizon also provides converged communications, information and entertainment services over America's most advanced fiber-optic network, and delivers integrated business solutions to customers in more than 150 countries, including all of the Fortune 500. A Dow 30 company with $106.6 billion in 2010 revenues, Verizon employs a diverse workforce of more than 195,000. For more information, visit

(c) Jim McNabb, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NewsMcNabb Investigates

Which News Medium Really Does Investigative Journalism?

KXAN TV (NBC) proclaims in its promotional spots that it has the only investigative team in town. Anchor/reporter Chris Willis Monday (November 21, 2001), became the new leader of the news department investigative efforts.

That distinction did belong to Nanci Wilson, an award-winning investigative reporter who, along with Keith Elkins, formed the core of the investigative team at KEYE TV (CBS) years ago. Elkins now heads a lobby group advocating open government. Wilson came to KXAN in 2009, but left a few months ago after winning two Lone Star Chapter Emmy Awards for her investigative work.

Willis, who has been with KXAN since 1999, has strong investigative credentials. The station is making good use of his talents by taking him out from behind the morning and noon anchor desk.

“His experiences in the field and from behind the anchor desk have allowed Chris the opportunity to develop unmatched relationships with our audience and the newsmakers of Austin,” KXAN news director Michael Fabac said in a statement.

Is KXAN the only “investigative” news medium in the Austin market? Hmmmm.

Have you seen the teamwork of KVUE TV (ABC) and the Austin American-Statesman on a series of recent stories? Under the title, “Statesman Investigates”, Statesman reporter Tony Plohetski worked with KVUE on a series of stories appearing both on the air and in the paper about the City of Austin’s costly use of outside attorneys. Keli Rabon is now KVUE’s Chief Investigative Reporter.*

Rabon, who grew up in Schulenburg and attended Texas Lutheran University, lists multiple investigative awards in her relatively short career including a Murrow Award. She returns to Central Texas after two years in Mississippi and three years in Memphis, Tennessee. “The Defenders” is the moniker for KVUE’s investigative efforts.

Teaming with Plohetski at the newspaper is really a plus. It is sort of a shame taking Plohetski off of the streets for intensive investigative work when it seemed that every daily story he did was investigative.

Some news managers believe that every reporter on the staff is an investigative reporter. It’s redundant to say otherwise. If any reporter came to me with a cool idea, I would give that reporter the extra time and resources to develop it.

So, KXAN’s slogan is “In-Depth. Investigative”. KVUE calls its time the “Defenders”. KEYE’s Chris Coffey was the investigative reporter for KTBC-TV (Fox), but he does more general assignments reporting now. The Austin American-Statesman prints the slug “Statesman Investigates”.

So, does KXAN really have “Austin’s only dedicated investigative team.” You decide.

(*For the most part I’ve stopped trying to keep up with all the comings and goings of reporters in Austin news media. While the anchors at all the stations have been stable for years, it’s another story with the reporting staffs. Yes, over the years many reporters decided that Austin was their destination. Now, however, it seems like I see a new face every day, and Austin is a weigh station. Perhaps that’s a future post.)

© Jim McNabb, November, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Want My LHN ...

If You Can’t See It, You Don’t Miss it

It’s obvious. The Longhorn Network’s (LHN) reasoning is that the viewing public doesn’t know what it’s missing because they’ve never seen it. So, if the potential users/consumers/viewers in Austin and elsewhere could see it, they’d clamor for it. They’d raise holy hell with Time-Warner and other carriers to get it.

So, the LHN announced Wednesday, November 09, 2011, Longhorn Network for All-Access Weekend. Beginning Friday, November 11 at 9.a.m. CT and running through midnight Sunday, Nov. 13, a broadband simulcast of Longhorn Network will be available to fans nationwide as part of All-Access Weekend presented by Grande Communications and Verizon FiOS. During this time, fans with a broadband connection, regardless of their provider may access the network in real time.

Just go to

Buried in the news release is a revealing sentence indicating that the LHN may be hatching a plan to circumvent cable providers while creating a cash flow from a subscription service. “Longhorn Network will be available online at, on tablets and on smartphones to fans with an affiliated video subscription in the near future.” No other details were offered.

For the coming weekend, however, the gateway opens for free. The news release reads:

“All-Access Weekend coincides with several high profile UT sporting events, including men’s and women’s basketball season tip offs and a Big 12 matchup of the school’s No. 8-ranked women’s volleyball team. Additionally, fans will see the network’s content-rich studio and original programming such as Longhorn Extra, re-airs of Game Plan with Mack Brown and Texas All-Access, as well as Texas GameDay’s pre-game women’s basketball show and exclusive pre- and post-game and halftime football shows.”

The focus of the all-access hype is mainly about the beginning of UT’s basketball season. While LHN only telecast two football games, several round-ball games are on the schedule. “We urge all Texas Basketball fans, and really college basketball fans in general, to call your cable provider and ask that they carry Longhorn Network,” said UT’s basketball coach Rick Barnes. “It should provide great insight into how hard our guys work, both on and off the court, and the pride they have in representing The University of Texas.”

Women’s head basketball coach Gail Goestenkors echoed Barnes plea for fans to call their programming providers saying, “Longhorn Network provides an in-depth view of our program that makes fans of the game feel like they're on our bench, in our practices and truly a part of our program.”

Here’s what to expect online this weekend:

Time (all times CT) - Show/Sport - Teams

Fri, Nov. 11

Noon & 5 p.m. - Game Plan with Mack Brown

6:30 p.m. - Texas GameDay - Stanford vs. Texas

7 p.m. - Women’s Basketball (Rebecca Lobo & Andrew Monaco) - Stanford vs. Texas

9 p.m. - Texas All-Access

10 p.m. - Longhorn Extra

Sat, Nov 12

9 a.m. - Texas GameDay - Texas vs. Missouri Halftime - Halftime Show - Texas vs. Missouri Immediately following game - Texas GameDay - Texas vs. Missouri

4 p.m. - Women’s Volleyball - Kansas State vs. Texas

8 p.m. - The Season: 2005 Texas Longhorns

Sun, Nov 13

5:30 p.m. - Longhorn Legends: Texas Basketball Roundtable

6 p.m. - Men’s Basketball (Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Followill, Samantha Steele) - Boston University vs. Texas

Longhorn Network women’s basketball

A half hour prior to tipoff of Stanford vs. Texas women’s basketball on Friday, Nov. 11, Texas GameDay will be aired live from the Frank Erwin Center to preview the matchup. Fran Harris, a senior on the undefeated 1986 UT national championship team, will host GameDay with analysts Jody Conradt, former UT women’s basketball coach, and Clarissa Davis, also from the undefeated 1986 UT national championship team. At 7 p.m., Andrew Monaco, team broadcaster for the San Antonio Spurs, will provide play-by-play commentary for the game alongside analyst Rebecca Lobo, women’s basketball analyst and reporter for ESPN.

Longhorn Network men’s basketball

A special edition of Longhorn Legends – a basketball roundtable featuring Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, T.J. Ford, D.J. Augustin, Chris Mihm and coach Rick Barnes – will air Sunday, Nov. 13 at 5:30 p.m., just prior to the Boston University vs. Texas men’s basketball game. Former NBA coach and current ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy will call the game with Mark Followill and Samantha Steele reporting.

How much basketball will be on LHN? By the numbers:

• 12 men’s basketball games in 2011-12, beginning Sunday, Nov. 13 • 14 women’s basketball games in 2011-12, beginning Friday, Nov. 11 • 52 total hours of live UT basketball games on LHN • 9 Big 12 match-ups • 10 incoming freshman players (6 on men’s team, 4 on women’s team).

Meanwhile a University of Texas Exes LinkedIn forum still steams with scorching comments from fans unable to receive LHN from their programming provider. “Creating the LHN will prove to be a poor decision. I will not pay an incremental cost to see UT games on television. Good luck on that concept. Also, it's an embarrassment how it is resulting in the undoing/downgrading of the Big 12,” writes one.

“Frankly, as time goes by, I have come to the realization that while it would be nice to have LHN, I have survived without it for this long, I figure I can survive without it for the foreseeable future. There are plenty of other games on any given Saturday and a lot of them are far batter matchups,” writes another. “UT is making boatloads of cash off its football team without my help, the cost of going to a game is insane, especially if you want to take your family, and I don't see the need for any fan to jump through hoops in an effort to bring them even more revenue.”

The University of Texas teamed with ESPN creating the Longhorn Network. Reportedly, LHN wants to be on a basic tier, while cable providers are balking at both the cost per viewer and the location in the programming line-up.

Jim McNabb

© November 9, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Crying in the Parking Lot

More Statesman Layoffs

The Austin American-Statesman experienced another round of layoffs today (Tuesday, October 11, 2011). Some 53 newspaper employees got pink slips when they arrived at work.

“We did restructure a few departments today but there were no newsroom changes in order to continue providing the same level of commitment to content for our readers,” said Jane Williams, American-Statesman publisher.

There was reportedly weeping in the newspaper’s parking lot as the former employees left the building.

This is third round of layoffs at Austin’s daily newspaper this year alone. Last June, a dozen top-notch staffers left the newsroom, taking with them years of experience, goodwill, talent, and knowledge of Austin and its history. Another 21 one workers accepted voluntary separation or retirement packages also.

Former editor Fred Zipp was another significant loss for the newspaper. After the second round, Zipp commented in an editorial: “We lost a heartbreaking amount of passion, intelligence and experience.”

Zipp, himself, left September 1st after 32 years of editing newspapers in Texas and Florida. “I felt my passion for the job wane,” Zipp said at the time. Debbie Hiott remains the “interim editor” at the American-Statesman.

The layoffs today may result in the consolidation of some jobs and perhaps make those who remain do more with less, but Williams says it will not affect the quality of reporting. Williams stressed that this is a “restructuring”, and the Statesman will be hiring to accomplish the tasks at hand and ahead in several departments.

“The Statesman is constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of our audience and advertisers. We adjust our staffing levels in various departments and functions to meet those needs on an ongoing basis. While we may be evaluating a restructure of specific positions throughout our organization, we continue to make strategic hires and invest in the community,” Williams said.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Hate/Love Relationship

Do You Trust the Media?

When I came home at the end of my first semester in undergraduate school and informed my mother that I had changed my major from business to Oral Communications/Radio and Television, she was mortified.

“Oh no,” she cried! “You don’t want to do that. You’ll work nights, weekends, and holidays. You won’t have any time for family.” She didn’t know or didn’t mention the bad habits one might pick up in “the business”, but she was right about all of her misgivings.

At least at the beginning, I did have to work nights, weekends, and holidays and some of the other stuff too. Over time, if you survive, you get better hours grow out of the bad stuff.

One thing, however, she didn’t know about. She didn’t know that being a journalist might mean people wouldn’t like you, wouldn’t trust you, and might even avoid you.

That’s the continuing findings of Gallup polls. “The majority of Americans still do not have confidence in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. The 44% of Americans who have a great deal or fair amount of trust, and the 55% who have little or no trust remain among the most negative views Gallup has measured,” reads a September 22, 2011 news release. These poll results remain consistently low, varying little over the past decade.

At least journalists are doing better than Congress!

I maintain that there is less bias and more fairness at the local level than there is in the national media, particularly the cable channels. It may be those polarizing cable channels that skew the results of the Gallup poll.
This assertion is also backed by an analysis released Thursday, September 21, 2011 by the respected Pew Research Center.

“The public’s impressions of the national media may be influenced more by their opinions of cable news outlets than their views of other news sources, such as network or local TV news, newspapers or internet news outlets,” the report says. “When asked what first comes to mind when they think of ‘news organizations,’ most name a cable news outlet, with CNN and Fox News receiving the most mentions by far.” Pew has been tracking perceptions of the media since 1985.

Pew and Gallup go hand-in-hand on the issue of whether there is bias in the media. “The majority of Americans (60%) also continue to perceive bias, with 47% saying the media are too liberal and 13% saying they are too conservative, on par with what Gallup found last year. The percentage of Americans who say the media are "just about right" edged up to 36% this year but remains in the range Gallup has found historically,” the Gallup release reads.

“Just about right.” Woooooo-Whooooooooo. We’re getting a little better.

But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder:
“Partisans continue to perceive the media very differently. Seventy-five percent of Republicans and conservatives say the media are too liberal. Democrats and liberals lean more toward saying the media are "just about right," at 57% and 42%, respectively. Moderates and independents diverge, however, with 50% of independents saying the media are too liberal, and 50% of moderates saying they are just about right.”

According to Pew, 66% of Americans still get most of their news from television. Consider, however, more and more Americans, 43%, are getting their news information online or from their mobile devices. To borrow the title of a book on journalism criticism published decades ago, this is “News from Nowhere.”

Google is sifting our stories according to our preferences. We get email news links from the media we choose. Now, Facebook is looking at getting into the news business, tailoring our news feeds to our preferences. (It’s annoying enough that Facebook is now parsing our friends into different categories, but that’s a different subject for another day.)

Dr. Frank Newport, Gallup’s editor in chief told me that his organization is working toward gathering data regarding our use of things like iPads. “The next challenge is conducting surveys using text and smart phones, but we are not quite there yet.”

(Prime sources for this story may be found at and under “Politics”. Both organizations released their findings September 22, 2011.)

© Jim McNabb, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Still Hacked Off

Texas Exes
Hammer LHN
in Social Media

The Longhorn Network (LHN) is not a worry now. Football games have gone to “normal” channels, but the Longhorn nation is still fuming. Viewers can’t see the custom pregame shows offered by LHN.

A Texas Exes discussion group on LinkedIn continues to distill the discontent fomenting among the Longhorn faithful not just in Austin, but across the state.

“I can't believe UT kicked of the new network without getting carriers lined up. This is a joke,” writes one alumnus. “I have DirecTV. I've written and called. When calling no one even knows anything about the Longhorn Network.” According to published reports, Direct TV is not negotiating with the LHN until next year when their contract is up.”

“I am extremely disappointed with ESPN/LHN over the whole thing! I live in the Houston market and, due to a complete failure by ESPN/LHN to obtain distribution with Comcast, DirecTV and Dish Network, virtually all of Houston was "blacked out" for the UT/Rice game,” reads another post.

Other Houstonians agreed. “I think that ESPN and/or UT should have at a minimum made sure that they had the Texas market locked in at the time of launch. I am, I think understandably, shocked that Houston, the fourth largest city in the US and chock full of Texas Exes, was not "locked in" when LHN launched.”

The story is the same in North Texas. “We live in an area of Garland where you can only get Time Warner or AT&T Uverse. I've called AT&T (my provider) to ask and signed the online petition for Longhorn Network. It shocked and saddened me that the network wasn't secured ahead of time,” she writes. “It was very frustrating. I hope it’s resolved soon. I will happily change providers because the hassle will be worth it.”

And finally, from the Texas Exes: “It is very disappointing to see the university associated with something so poorly executed as the Longhorn Network. With all the hype leading up to it, and all the negative feelings it has caused with the other schools, there is no excuse for such a poor launch.”

It should be noted that several Texas Exes did have access to LHN through Verizon Fios or Grande Communications, and they love it. Further, those who don’t have it, want it.

Potential viewers who don’t have LHN were not impressed that the network this week announced nearly a score of nonconference basketball games beginning in November. Or maybe they didn’t know. The announcement was not featured by most media. (Details of the games are on the Longhorn Network’s web site,

In all fairness, the Rice vs. UT game might not have been televised at all. Given Texas record and Rice’s stature, networks might have put their resources elsewhere. There was, however, the promise of seeing the opening game of the season, and that’s what has Texas Exes ticked.

Once again, the blame should not fall to the providers. ESPN and LHN want too much money and assurances that the LHN will be placed on a standard tier.

Moreover, the bigger issue is whether the creation of the Longhorn Network will indeed break up the Big 12.

© Jim McNabb, 2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

Longhorn Network Makes a Deal

One Deal Down

Yes, the Longhorn Network can be seen in Austin, but you might have to go to a bar or a friend's house.

ESPN and Grande Communications announce that the Longhorn Network (LHN) will be available to University of Texas fans across the state of Texas in time for the Rice vs. Texas game on Saturday, September 3, when the Owls take on the Longhorns from Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. CT (with a re-air at midnight CT). Grande Communications serves the Austin, San Marcos, San Antonio, Midland/Odessa, Waco, Corpus Christi and Dallas markets.

“As a Texas based company, Grande understands the passion our customers have for Texas sports,” said Matt Murphy, President, Grande Communications. “We are pleased and very excited to make Longhorn Network available as part of our cable television offerings.”

Added David Preschlack, executive vice president, Disney and ESPN Media Networks, “Grande customers across the state of Texas will have access to more Longhorn content than ever before.”

Grande doesn’t extend far across Texas. There is still NO agreement with Austin’s biggest programming provider, Time Warner. Neither Direct TV nor Dish has signed up either.

The deal could put pressure on Time Warner, but it’s all about money.

Prior to Saturday’s kick-off, the two-hour Texas GameDay - the only pre-game show exclusively from inside the stadium - at 5 p.m. will give fans all the insights, analysis and excitement they’ve come to know from ESPN’s College GameDay pre-game show. Then, Longhorn fans will see the debut of Texas GameDay Final – a two-hour dedicated post-game show televised immediately after the game exclusively from the field. Monday at 7 p.m., Rewind with Mack Brown will breakdown all the plays and action from the team’s first contest. Finally, Tuesday at 8 p.m., Texas Football Overdrive will present the Rice vs. Texas game in an enhanced format featuring interviews, sound and analysis that bring viewers an inside look at the game.

Longhorn Network Coverage of Sept. 3 Season Opener:
Date Time (CT) Program
Sat, Sept 3 5 p.m. Texas GameDay
Sat, Sept. 3 7 p.m. Rice vs. Texas
Sat, Sept. 3 10 p.m. Texas GameDay Final
Sun, Sept. 4 12 a.m. Re-air Rice vs. Texas
Mon, Sept. 5 7 p.m. Rewind with Mack Brown
Tues, Sept. 6 8 p.m. Texas Football Overdrive

ESPN has a 20-year agreement to own and operate a year-round, 24-hour network dedicated to all things University of Texas.

© Jim McNabb, 2011

The Grind of the News Business

The Statesman without Zipp

“Retirement Day 1: gym, guitar, write something that lasts. Life is good.”—Today’s post by former Austin American-Statesman editor Fred Zipp. Zipp retired at the age of 56.

There is a sense of freedom that comes with early retirement. I remember that feeling of, yes, euphoria increasing with each step toward my truck as I was about to drive away from KXAN TV for the last time having resigned as managing editor at 58.

I hope the same for Zipp.

That Facebook post is the only public comment Zipp has made since his seemingly sudden retirement yesterday (Thursday, September 1, 2011). All three of the things he listed for the day are all healthy and fulfilling. The gym is good for the body. The guitar is good for the soul. “Writing something that lasts” is the only comment that could be construed as a postscript to his days with the Austin American-Statesman.

The news business is transient and unrelenting. You must feed the beast constantly. The beast is always wanting more—more online, more in print, more on the air. The beast is never satisfied. You put out a paper one day. You wrap fish in it the next. That’s why they call it “news”. If it happened yesterday, it’s not news unless people didn’t know about it, and they care to know about it.

There is nothing permanent about it. Not only do the words on the page fade, the people do too.

“We said goodbye to a dozen newsroom colleagues Friday in the second round of voluntary retirements to hit the Austin American-Statesman in a little more than two years. Another 21 employees are leaving from other parts of the paper,” Zipp wrote Sunday, June 26 this year, in a poignant column printed on the Editorial page.

“Some of the names are familiar to our readers, and some less so. Regardless, we lost a heartbreaking amount of passion, intelligence and experience.”

Decades of collective history, goodwill, contacts, at talent walked out of the room. It hurts when you are in a management position. Zipp knew that he could no longer turn to Denise Gamino for another award-winning story or investigative series. He knew that Michael Corcoran was taking with him all of his contacts in this the “Live Music Capital of the World”.

Corcoran, himself, said that is why he came to the American-Statesman. “I came to the Statesman from the Dallas Morning News, a bigger paper, because I wanted to cover music in a town where it was more than just an excuse to meet like-minded souls.”

Corcoran was writing his last pop music column for the American-Statesman. He was listing his favorite stories. “Several of these are stories another paper wouldn't have let its music critic devote the hours and hours it took to research and write. Some of them are sports stories. A couple take first person to the brink. But my editors trusted me, and their editors backed them.” He talked about how he was going to miss the newspaper after 16 years.

Zipp was with Cox newspapers for 26 years. His new publisher, Jane Williams, heaped praise on him in a memo to the American-Statesman staff.

“As Editor of the Statesman for the past three years and previously as Managing Editor, Fred led the newsroom to more rigorous reporting standards, better response to breaking news and in-depth investigative reporting. He was also instrumental in the newspaper's leading edge embrace of digital journalism,” Williams said. Zipp’s leadership also resulted in numerous awards. “Fred had a tremendous drive to make sure the Statesman remained relevant in the years to come.”

Interim Editor will be Debbie Hoitt, the former managing editor. Hoitt is also a top flight journalist.

As Corcoran’s editors backed him, I hope Williams will back Hoitt in her decisions. Newspaper purists will watch, wondering if Zipp’s departure signals any significant changes in content and coverage.

© Jim McNabb, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Big 12 Blues

Still Longing



With much ballyhoo and backslapping, The University of Texas at Austin rolled out its Longhorn Network August 26, 2011. DeLoss Dodds, UT athletic director, looked like the cat who had swallowed the canary.

Now, vultures seem to be circling around the Big 12 (with ten members), and the last straw was this devil’s deal between UT and ESPN.

Oh, UT still thinks the Longhorn Network is a good thing. In email Thursday (September 1, 2011), the university is still applauding the move. “The 24-hour Longhorn Network is the first network of its kind, bringing unprecedented exposure to the University community.”

With just two days to go before the planned televised game against Rice, Saturday, September 3, 2011, the email admits there are too few ways to watch it. “Verizon FiOS TV is the largest service provider to add the network. Distribution deals with other TV providers are in negotiation.”

With the Big 12 in flux and possibly fading, investing in the Longhorn Network is becoming more and more of a risky deal for Time Warner and the rest of the cable or satellite providers serving Austin. Perhaps there will be a one-game arrangement while they continue negotiating. Time is running out.

The UT Exes sent out a rather urgent email earlier in the week asking members to contact their cable TV providers and beg them to buy into the Longhorn Network. ESPN, who promised to pay UT $11-million a year for 20 years, also emailed exes telling them to “demand” access to their Longhorn Network.

The Network instantly ignited criticism and action from UT’s rivals in the Big 12. Texas A&M is outa here by July, 2012 if another conference will having them. The Aggies didn’t like the TV cameras constantly trained on the Horns. Longhorn Network is the first sports network devoted to a single school.

Bill Byrne is the A&M Director of Athletics. “Byrne said Nebraska and Colorado's departure altered the landscape of the Big 12, as did the creation of the Longhorn Network, which, along with partner ESPN, tried to televise high school games,” according to the Bryan-College Station Eagle.

"We anticipate that ESPN will continue to push the envelope with the Longhorn Network, regardless of Texas A&M's conference affiliation," Byrne told the newspaper.

The Oklahoma Sooners could be the next to hitch their wagons and head west to the PAC 10 or elsewhere, leaving the Big 12 with too few teams to be viable. Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe claims that all remaining schools are committed to sticking with the conference. We’ll see.

So, while the Longhorn Network may be a good deal for The University of Texas, at least one longtime rival sees greener pastures. “A&M also could reap financial rewards by switching leagues. The Aggies received a $11.2 million payout from the Big 12 last year. SEC schools collected $18.3 million each. Former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer told The Eagle last week that he believed the addition of A&M would allow the conference to renegotiate its television contracts with CBS and ESPN, meaning possibly even more of a payout.”

Immediately after A&M’s announcement that they would leave the Big 12, their box office experienced a surge in season ticket sales. Meantime, many UT season ticket fans are trying to find buyers.

© Jim McNabb, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Can't Forget Cactus

Cactus Pryor—The Voice of Austin

He was the voice of Austin, Texas. Richard “Cactus” Pryor’s voice is now silent.

No, it’s not really silent—too many people remember.

OK. Maybe this is a page from “Old Austin”. A lot of people are Austin residents now who may have never hear his voice, but Cactus Pryor is an integral part of Austin broadcast history and Austin itself.

There will be many memorials over the coming days about him. This is not one. I’ll leave that to others.

I’m talking about the voice that was and is Austin.

In Austin’s broadcast history, there have been several distinctive voices. Paul Bolton, a former KTBC AM, FM & TV news director. Neal Spelce won national awards for coverage of the shootings from the UT Tower in 1966 for KTBC AM. He later anchored at both KTBC and KEYE TV. These are news voices. What about others?

There was Joyce Isaacs at what was KTVT-TV, now KXAN-TV. She was on radio too. There are Bob Cole, Jodie Denberg, John Aielli, and Sammy Allred

Jim Swift continues at KXAN TV.

One could consider Dave Jarrott, Larry Todd, Judy Maggio, and Kevin Conner. All moved from station to station, but stayed in Austin becoming part of the fabric of the city.

So far none has achieved the level of Richard “Cactus” Pryor. He worked for KTBC/KLBJ for some 60 years. Yes, Cactus appeared on TV, but he didn’t do news.

For years, he was a morning staple. The “Cac and Jack” show followed the morning news block on KTBC-AM and later KLBJ-AM. He and “Packer” Jack Wallace exchanged barbs for a couple of hours. They might play a little music. It was sometimes irreverent, and it was “don’t miss” AM radio in Austin. It was nothing, nothing like talk radio nowadays—or maybe it was. Jack left us in the 1980s.

Cactus continued his morning “commentaries” on KLBJ. I became news director of KLBJ AM & FM in the early 1970s. When Cactus would go on vacation, he’d ask me to fill in.

No, I could never fill in for Cactus Pryor, but I had lots of fun being able to write stuff in the first person. News is almost always in the third person. I could actually say something rather than report something. I’m not witty, however. After Cactus was on vacation once, I asked him if he’d heard any of what I’d aired. He said that he had. I asked him if it was OK. He smiled graciously.

Gracious. That’s one of the adjectives one could use to describe Cactus Pryor.

Besides being Austin’s voice, he was Austin’s Bard. There are many, many venues where he held forth and held important people’s feet to the fire, including Lyndon Johnson. (Lady Bird Johnson owned KTBC AM-FM-TV).

Liz Carpenter, Lady Bird Johnson’s press secretary, wrote in her book “Start with a Laugh”, “Well, that’s Cactus. I love him, the whole state loves him, and well they should because he never has forsaken us for the big time and the bright lights. Let use lift our glasses, our flasks, or coffee cups to Cactus.”

© Jim McNabb, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lost Longhorns

What if the Longhorns Suck?

The Longhorn Network is out there, but the Longhorn network isn’t here where the Longhorns live. It’s debut was yesterday, Friday, August 26, 2001. Its studios are right here in Austin, yet we can’t view it. I can’t even review it.


We’re talking about big money and uncertainty. ESPN promised to plunk down nearly $11-million a year for all Longhorns all the time over the next 20-years. Now, ESPN is looking for program carriers like Time Warner Cable, Grande Cable, AT&T Uverse, Dish, and Direct to pay them for that programming. In turn subscribers to those services will cover those costs.

That’s why I say that the Longhorn Network will end up on an upper tier at Time Warner and perhaps a premium channel costing extra. Are subscribers willing to pay more for the Rice vs. UT football game and eight men's basketball games? Oh, there will be other sports too—softball, volleyball, and the Mack Brown Show, all repeated several times. Are these worth the extra cost?

The question of the costs and return on the investment are why no carrier has signed a deal to bring the Longhorn Network to the Austin market.

Yes, “Several operators in the state of Texas – Consolidated Communications, En-Touch Systems, E-Tex Communications, Bay City Cablevision, Mid-Coast Cablevision and Texas Mid-Gulf Cablevision -- will make the Longhorn Network (LHN) available to University of Texas fans,” according to a release issued Friday (August 26, 2011). “This network is dedicated to serving the passionate fans of the University of Texas, and we appreciate the support of these operators in that effort,” said David Preschlack, executive vice president, Disney and ESPN Media Networks.

Whoopie for them.

I’ve berated Time Warner in the past for failure to come to table and negotiate “must carry” contracts with local stations or other proven programming services. TW still won’t carry the NFL Network, and there is an obvious audience for those games. What to do with the Longhorn Network is different however. The Longhorn network is a gamble.

What if the vaunted University of Texas Longhorns football team sucks? Will anybody watch? Will anybody care, even in Austin? The Horns were a woeful 5-7 last year, hardly a record that would attract viewers other than the faithful if they can’t do any better.

In a valid comparison Darrell Rovell reporting for CNBC compares the network possibilities with the University’s inability to sell seats to the Rice game. “With hundreds of tickets under $50 for the Rice game, Texas sent out an e-mail to its season ticket holders this week offering half-price seats on its non-marquee games. Some of those seats are in areas where people have paid a donation on top of the face value, showing just how overpriced some of its tickets are,” Rovell writes.

I’ve seen notices where season-ticket holders are trying to ditch their seats to the Rice game. Who wants to sit in the stands and roast while watching an unranked Longhorn team? It’s bound to be at least in the 90s when the game starts at 7 p.m., and sunset isn’t for about another hour.

There will be a way to watch the Longhorn Network in Austin. If had been launched in a national championship year, people would care. People would pay. This year, it’s hard to say—hard for everyone involved.

© Jim McNabb, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hello? Robot Calling

Polls, Pundits, Politicians, and Reporters

The conservative-leaning Rasmussen poll reports today (Tuesday, August 23, 2011) that “Most voters (53%) oppose public schooling ... for illegal immigrants. Some politician is going to pick up this statement and the supporting statistics and run with it. It might be somebody from the State of Texas. Then, the media will dutifully report it.

The question was “If a family is not in this country legally, should their children be allowed to attend public schools?” That’s a fair question, a question being asked often these days, but who is on the phone.

Recently, I wrote about polling and its place in the political process. Those running for office live and die by research. It was more than that stupid straw poll in Iowa that made former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty that brought his Presidential campaign to an end.

“Obviously the pathway forward for me doesn't really exist so we are going to end the campaign," Pawlenty said on ABC's "This Week". He read the Tea Party leaves and left. It had to do with polling, and polling leads to money. If you’re running out of money, you can’t campaign.

Back to Rasmussen and schooling for children of illegal immigrants, the poll didn’t ask what should be done with these kids. If they’re not in school, where are they? Are they on the street? Are they in gangs? Are they headed for jail, jails and prisons supported by our tax dollars.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to give them an education? Then, they could become tax-payers contributing to society rather than taking from society.
Again, remember the demographic answering questions for Rasmussen. Rasmussen makes calls to land line telephones. The number of people with land lines is shrinking. People still using land lines are an older demographic.

That older demographic often argues against school taxes since their children have already graduated. So, they ask, why should we be paying for someone else’s children—legal or illegal? The answer, of course, is that we are paying forward. We, our society and cities, need an educated population.

While Rasmussen claims accuracy of +/- 3 percent, plus or minus three percent of what?

As I wrote two weeks ago, one and four households were cellphone only, no land line, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Forty-four percent of those wireless-only users were between 18 and 30 years old.

Now, here’s something new: Rasmussen can’t call those wireless numbers. Why? A live person isn’t making the call.

“Rasmussen is a robo-pollster, which means that he calls people with automated equipment and has a robot voice ask the questions, to which respondents punch in numbers on their touch pad. By law, robo-pollsters cannot call cell phones,” says Dr. Frank Newport, Editor in Chief of the Gallup Poll. “So his methods are fast becoming obsolete,” Newport continues. “They attempt to make up for this by adding in online polls, but they are of dubious randomness.”

Newport, author of the book “Polling Matters”, tells me some 40-percent of the calls Gallup’s people make are to cell phones and the percentage will likely go up. “Gallup and the industry have been focused on dealing with the changes in how people communicate for years and are generally keeping abreast of it. The next challenge is conducting surveys using text and smart phones, but we are not quite there yet,” Newport says.

I could find no recent Gallup polls asking the same question as the Rasmussen poll, but when journalists, viewers, readers, and consumers of media see statistics, they should consider the source and the methodology.
Further, if we poll the parents of these children now attending public school, children who are learning English, history, civics, and other subjects citizens take for granted, there is a Gallup poll saying that illegal immigrants are coming to the United States for precisely this reason, education.

Note: Frank Newport, PhD is a Texan, a graduate of Baylor University, and a former broadcast journalist in Houston, now living in Princeton, New Jersey.

© Jim McNabb, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Big Night for Sports

Saints Vs. Texans and More

Wish you could see West Lake’s Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints take on the surging Houston Texans tonight (Saturday, August 20, 2011)? Can’t find a listing in the Austin American-Statesman’s Sports pages? Worried that it’s not being broadcast/telecast in Austin?

No worries.

The game is being shown at 7 p.m. on KNVA TV (CW), a place where you not expect.

The newspaper does list the game in its TV schedule and KNVA and Time Warner both confirm it.

So, if you have three TVs, you can watch the Saints vs. the Texans on KNVA, the Texas Rangers vs. the Chicago White Sox on WGN or TW 77, and the streaking Houston Astros (Yes, they have a winning streak going. Shocking!) on Fox Southwest—all at 7 p.m.

Find something cold in a 12 ounce can and pull up a chair.

© Jim McNabb, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

All Longhorns All the Time

Longing for Longhorns

The email subject line says: “Don't Make Bevo Angry. Call Time-Warner Today.” The sender is sports network ESPN.

The launch of the Longhorn Network powered by ESPN is only a week away. Yet there is no deal and no announcement of where or whether you will be able to see the Longhorn Network right here in the middle of Texas, Longhorn Nation, the Capital City, Austin, Texas.

“Time Warner Cable continues to have ongoing discussions with ESPN about the Longhorn Network, [and] we are hopeful to have an agreement in the near future,” said Eddie Diroff a TW customer service representative when asked about the Longhorn Network during an online “chat” session.

The email mentioned above leads me to think that ESPN negotiations may not be going well with the largest cable company in town and the second largest in the nation. Time Warner has a long history of going down to the wire with local TV stations and networks while arguing over the costs and revenue.

Now, it appears that ESPN is attempting to put pressure on the cable company by emailing subscribers. “Let Time Warner Know You Want the Longhorn Network Added to Your Cable Line-Up,” the email says. The statement is actually a link to Time Warner’s Facebook page where you are expected to post a plea for the cable to carry the Longhorn Network.

It may be also an attempt to ascertain demand for the fledgling channel. Demand could help answer the question of how much the channel is worth and possibly how many people might be willing to pay for its programming, including the Rice vs. UT game, September 3rd, scheduled to be shown exclusively on the Longhorn Network.

Diroff expects his “chats” to increase.

“With the upcoming launch of ESPN’s Longhorn Network on August 26, 2011 we anticipate increased calls from customers about the status of carriage on Time Warner Cable as customers [who] have seen advertising from ESPN creating awareness of the channel,” Diroff says. “As of today, no video provider has announced a deal to carry the Longhorn Network.”

Well, we all know that the Longhorn Network will be available on Time Warner Cable and probably Grande. Throw in Dish and Direct too.

I’d be willing to bet the farm that it will be a premium pay-to-view channel on Time Warner. Certainly, it will be in the digital tier where TW wishes all channels lived, but you will be able to see all Longhorns all the time.

© Jim McNabb 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Is Rev. Al Sharpton a Journalist?

Who Is A Journalist?

New post at

newsmcnabb is now posting to CultureMap.Austin.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Headlines and Statistics--Bad Methods

What do you think of Obama? If you have a cell phone, the surveys don't care.

See the post at

newsmcnabb is now posting to CultureMap.Austin.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

KVUE TV's Olga Campos Leave TV

Anchor change: Olga Campos leaving KVUE and TV news


NewsMcNabb is now posting to CultureMapAustin.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Pundits Slept Through Civics Class. New Post at URL:

(Bloomberg's Jonathan Alter (above) got it right.

NewsMcNabb posts at Culture Map Austin.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Not Your Father's News

You're Not Watching the News

Furthermore, the 6 O'clock news is really the 5:59 p.m. news, and it ends at 6:27.

A new content analysis by newsmcnabb:

Newsmcnabb is now posting to CultureMap Austin.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Subtle Changes for Sweeps

Subtle Changes for Summer Sweeps

Sharp-eye, savvy viewers already notice the changes at KXAN TV (NBC).

Just in time for the relatively unimportant July “sweeps”, KXAN trotted out a new look—new graphics for everything—from the weather, to the background on the set, to the front of the set, to the “supers” or identifiers on the screen, to the sports.

[“Supers” are the old-school term for the identifiers that viewers see over someone speaking during a story. The words were literally superimposed. Two pictures, one with the person talking, and another with the letters on a card, were mixed for a moment. A little TV trivia.]

Anyway, back to KXAN’s new graphics: It’s a clean, uncluttered look. It’s an attempt to repackage their news product.

And, oh, there is one other significant change in the KXAN identity. No longer do reporters say, “Live from wherever, Tina Great-Tan, for KXAN Austin News.” Now, they simply say, “…Tina Great-Tan, KXAN News.” Why is that significant? While KEYE TV (CBS) uses the phrase, “We are Austin”, KXAN wanted viewers to hear that KXAN New IS Austin news. It was the battle for the best slogans.

Personally, I always thought that it was silly saying, “In Georgetown, I’m Tina Great-Tan for KXAN AUSTIN News.” Or my all-time favorite: “In the studio, Tina Great-Tan for KXAN Austin News. It’s TV. Viewers can see where you are, especially if you were just talking to the anchors.

The theme music seems to be the same as it was before. It’s important to keep some things constant. Otherwise, viewers wonder what’s going on behind the scenes.

What’s going on behind the scenes is this: KVUE TV (ABC) remains the dominate station for news in the Austin market. KXAN had chipped into KVUE’s weekday morning ratings for a while, but KVUE won them back, even though KXAN got the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters’ award for best morning news team. Now, both stations are starting their day at 4:30 a.m., pushed back from 5 p.m.

Noteworthy too in the morning TV wars, KEYE-TV (CBS) pulled the plug on their radio-on-TV morning experiment. They’re back with a two person morning team promising to be “different from anything else” on the air in the mornings. KEYE hopes to pull itself out of last place. It’s going to be tough.

In the all-important May ratings, KVUE won almost every hour of the broadcast day.

There was one glimmer of glory, tinged with a bit of irony. KXAN News was #1 at 6 and 10 p.m. on Saturday nights. The irony is that those newscasts are anchored by David Scott. Scott was the weekday 6 and 10 anchor in the 1990s when KXAN News was “perennial number three” in the words of former Austin American-Statesman TV writer Diane Holloway.

We’ll see if the repackaging changes anything.

© Jim McNabb, 2011

You May Have Noticed ...


NewsMcNabb is now posting to CultureMap Austin.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


One Question Unanswered About the Longhorn Network

The Longhorn Network powered by ESPN will launch August 26, 2011, but where will you see it?

UT announced Thursday, July 07, 2011 that the Longhorn Network’s studios will be in the University Park development, 3300 N. I-35. The network disclosed some 50 employees are hired to run the 24/7 network, but how can you see it in Austin?

Three “nationally known” personalities will be the faces of the Longhorn Network, Lowell Galindo now of ESPNU, Westlake High graduate Kevin Dunn of ESPN Radio, and Samantha Steele of Fox Sports, but where can you find them on the dial, assuming your TV still has a dial, which it probably doesn’t.

Announced yesterday, the UT vs. Rice and one Big 12 game will be telecast exclusively on the Longhorn Network, but what will it take to watch them.

Will they be on a tier with Fox Southwest or will they be pay-per-view? Pay-per-view would be wrong in this writer’s opinion.

The big question goes unanswered. Will you find the Longhorn Network on Time Warner Cable, Grande, or AT&T U-verse or where? What about Dish or Direct TV. Silence.

Posed the above question, “Negotiations are ongoing,” said Kari Potts of ESPN. “Active discussions are ongoing,” said Nick Voinis, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Communications at The University of Texas.

Asked whether there is a timetable for an announcement, ESPN’s Potts was silent. She again referred me to her earlier statement using the word “ongoing”, but promised to add me to the media list, as did Melanie Sorola, Time Warner Cable Texas Region Communications Director.

Sorola’s full statement was a little more enlightening, if one reads between the lines: “Time Warner Cable continues to have ongoing discussions with ESPN about the Longhorn Network. We have been and remain proud of our long term relationship with the University of Texas,” Sorola said. The second sentence could be seen as one expressing assurance that viewers will be satisfied.

“It’s too early [to announce any agreement for telecasting],” Voinis said.

It appears that all concerned made a pact to say the word “ongoing” when referring to negotiations and nothing more.

So, for now, viewers must go to where it tells you to “Request the Longhorn Network today.”

I would expect that Austin, the center of the Longhorn nation, will be able to see the Longhorn Network. I fear that it will be found where viewers will have to pay more for the privilege. Everyone concerned in these “ongoing negotiations” is interested in making more money.

© Jim McNabb, 2011