Monday, August 6, 2012

I'm Not Kidding...

The End

This is possibly the last newsmcnabb post. I’m hanging it up. I say “possibly the last post.” Something may be so juicy or troublesome that I could feel compelled to write, but I think four years of periodic posts is possibly enough.

At the outset, I wanted the blog to be more than a recitation of comings and goings. That can be accomplished in much the same manner as “Transactions” in the sports pages of the Austin American-Statesman. Comings and goings seem to be more and more frequent nowadays for a variety of reasons.

I wanted to go deeper, digging into all media in the market, and I think I did.

This doesn’t mean that there is no longer anything to write about. Just look at the almost daily “corrections” on Page 2 of the American-Statesman. Some of them are glaring. The most common and possibly the most heinous are misidentifications. Misidentifications can sometimes result in lawsuits!

I thought about writing something about the new owners of KEYE TV, and Sinclair’s history in politics. I decided to take a “wait and see” approach. If you are curious, just Google Sinclair Media.

New owners and TV news consultants are also an interesting subject. Many think what worked in another television market will work in Austin. It probably won’t. Austin is not a “cookie-cutter” market. Yet, these managers who “ain’t from around here” will keep trying until the audience/the ratings prove it to them.

Consultants would be more useful in coaching new staff members some of whom seem to be working their first TV jobs. Somebody needs to tell them to stop yelling at the audience; just talk. Be conversational. Your voice in your live shot should match your delivery in the voice track. It would be mean and possibly hurtful to be specific, so I didn’t write about that.

I could have written more about the online, hyper-local media such as CultureMapAustin, Austin Post, the Austinist, and several others. I’ve wondered if folks glean their news from these sites as much or more than so-called “main stream media.”

Taking stock, my 272 posts over four years is probably plenty.

When I started writing newsmcnabb, I felt like I was filling a void. There is still a void, but it is smaller. Gary Dinges of the Statesman, whom I’ve never met, is doing a good job of covering local broadcast media now. No, he’s not going to criticize his own newspaper, and he’s not going to take a point of view, but he is doing good reporting. It’s his full time job.

Writing newsmcnabb is not my full-time job. Right now, I’m more interested and even obsessed with the coming semester at St. Edward’s University. For the next nine months, my energy, creativity, and priority will be focused on preparing solid content for my students. It must be said, it is so very, very satisfying when those students succeed!

So, “newsmcnabb” will remain in cyberspace for archival purposes for a while, but it’s time to turn the page. Turn the page without even so much as creasing the corner.

One final and important thing: To those who followed or subscribed to my missives, thank you!

Wage peace.


© Jim McNabb, 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Media: Texas is a One-Party State

An incredible feeling of freedom swept over me when I walked out of a newsroom for the last time. For the first time in decades, I could openly express a political preference and opinion. Journalists, bound by ethical standards, keep those views to themselves.

The campaign manager for a mayoral candidate years ago was convinced that I hated her candidate when in fact, I voted for him. I could not let it show. Reporters must be objective. Reporters must stick to reporting facts.

So, I’ve been disturbed by the reportage of the Ted Cruz/David Dewhurst runoff. I was shaken by this assertion by The Austin American-Statesman’s Ken Herman: “There’s no doubt we’re a one-party state.” Really? That news may come as a surprise to former lawmaker, Democrat Paul Sadler who will face Ted Cruz in November.

True, no Democrat has won a statewide office since 1994, but does that mean that Texas is a one-party state? Does that mean that the Democratic Party in Texas should simply save its money, bolt the doors, and move to New England where the colors are shades of blue? Should journalists make these leaps of logic?

I don’t want to hammer Herman alone. After all, much of what he writes nowadays is opinion, and it’s great stuff. The problem is that the piece in today’s paper (August 1, 2012) wasn’t presented as a column. Herman is an excellent reporter, and the story appeared as analysis. Opinions, however, should be put in the context of a quotation from a source.

I’m boiling over now after having stewed in this political pot for several weeks. During the Belo runoff debate between Cruz and Dewhurst seen in Austin on KVUE-TV (ABC), one of the moderators was trying to frame a question. He said something like this, “One of you will be the next Junior Senator from Texas, and …” I gasped. I might imagine that Paul Sadler might have thrown a shoe at his television if he was watching.

Did that TV talking head forget that we have an election the first Tuesday in November, and that election will decide who is the next junior US Senator from Texas?

Back to the Statesman stories concerning the runoff election. The front page story by Kate Alexander stuck to the facts, but mention of the Democratic Party opposition was one paragraph on the “jump page”. It acknowledged that Sadler “handily” won his contest. Then, she couldn’t resist throwing in the fact that “a Democrat last won a statewide seat in Texas in 1994.

Much has been made that Cruz, who has never held elective office, had extra time and, yes, money to tell his story and build a winning campaign because of delays due to redistricting. Between now and November, the electorate will get to know more about who he is what he says he would do if elected.

The same could be said of Paul Sadler’s candidacy and his solid record of accomplishment during his time in the Texas Legislature.

Voters will see a stark contrast in the candidates. Further, in November there will likely be a much greater turnout than there was for this ill-timed, mid-summer runoff election. Finally, there are blue bastions in urban areas of Texas—Dallas, Houston, and Austin. Voter turnout is the key for either candidate.

Maybe Ted Cruz will win in November, but that still will not mean that Texas is a one-party state, no matter what the media says.

© Jim McNabb, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

She's Be Missed ...

ND Suzanne Black Leaving KEYE TV

There is one constant in broadcast journalism. This constant remains in place during the decades of this relatively young profession. That one constant? Change.

It was less than a month ago that I ran into a typically cheery KEYE-TV (CBS) News Director Suzanne Black while enjoying lunch with a former mutual colleague. We talked several minutes about the station’s success in the May “sweeps” and Sinclair Broadcasting, KEYE’s owners as of the first of this year.

Last week, Black announced she was leaving the station.

“I am leaving KEYE. It's a decision I've been weighing for a while,” Black says. “As much as I love it here, it's time devote some attention to my boys. They're only young once and I want to enjoy it.” Black and her husband have two children.

Black says she’s leaving while she’s on top.

“This has been a busy and successful year. We launched a new two-hour morning program, a 5pm newscast, and ended the May book with our 10 p.m. newscast moving into first place for the first time in KEYE history. It has been fun and very rewarding.”

Black came to KEYE seven years ago as assistant news director. Only a year later, she was promoted to the top job in the newsroom when then news director Tim Gardner moved on.

During her time at the station, KEYE had four management groups or owners: CBS, Cerberus Capital Management which eventually signed a local service agreement with the Nexstar Broadcasting Group. September 11, 2011, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced a deal to buy KEYE and its sister Cerberus stations. The station also converted to HDTV during her watch.

As one would expect, each change in ownership and management would result in uncertainty, but Black clung to her journalist values with a commitment to put a quality product on the air every day, changes notwithstanding. She was rewarded with loyalty by many producers, photographers, reporters, and anchors.

“I will miss the people of KEYE tremendously. They are hard-working, loving, passionate people,” Black says. Her last day in the station is this Thursday.

Sinclair posted Black’s job within days if not hours after her announcement.

© Jim McNabb, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cross—KXAN TV’s New News Director

A new news director is headed to KXAN TV (NBC) from an award-winning station in Wichita, Kansas, and he has ties to Austin.

He replaces Michael Fabac who was quickly dismissed in late May during sweeps.

Chad Cross, a University of Texas Broadcast Journalism graduate, is said to be the new leader for Austin’s #2 station. Before going to Kansas, Cross was a producer at KEYE-TV (CBS) here in Austin. He was also a reporter/anchor in Topeka, Kansas.

Chad Cross is used to being #1. Reports say that his station, KWCH TV (CBS) has led the ratings in the Wichita market since 1985!

Cross, KWCH TV’s news director, has been with the station for some ten years. In that time he worked as a producer, reporter, anchor, reporter, and assignment editor. So, it appears that he worked his way up through the ranks. Neither Cross nor KXAN management have responded to inquiries so far.

One thing is certain: As news director he will be younger than many if not most of the people he will manage including his anchors, mid-managers, and reporters. Veteran Jim Swift may be close to twice as old as his new boss!

Apparently, Cross was one of two finalists for the plumb KXAN job. Cross rose above the competition.

“On a 4th grade field trip, Chad Cross toured a television station and watched what happens behind the scenes to produce a live newscast,” according to the KWCH web site. “In awe of it all, he decided on his career that day.”

“It was the ‘magic of TV’ that inspired me then. Now, it’s about the responsibility we have as journalists to ask questions, hold the powerful accountable and use our medium to make a difference in the community,” he said. “It’s also about our service to viewers, relaying vital information for their safety, especially when there’s severe weather in Kansas.”

Those same priorities apply to the Austin market. Wichita is the 68th market. Austin is 44th on the Nielsen list.

KXAN also produces news for the Austin CW station, and Cross is familiar with that arrangement. Sunflower Broadcasting, Inc. owns KWCH and KSCW. So, his department also produces the 9 p.m. news for the local Fox affiliate. Also, in 2011, Cross launched three new newscasts, including one in Spanish for KDCU, a Univision affiliate. The station also has a 24-hour weather channel, four websites and three apps.

Cross was a part of coverage including major events like the tornado that destroyed the town of Greensburg, the capture of Wichita’s “BTK” serial killer, and the Jayhawks’ 2008 national championship. Under his leadership KWCH won national and regional Edward R. Murrow awards, 2011 Kansas Assoc. of Broadcasters' "Station of the Year" and a 2012 Emmy nomination for news excellence.

Cross oversaw all editorial decisions, according to the station’s web site. “I’m fortunate to lead a newsroom that prides itself on thoughtful, ethical decisions about our coverage. Every day we strive for compelling storytelling that focuses on who is directly affected,” he explained.

Cross hales from northern Colorado. He describes himself as a “farm boy.”

© Jim McNabb, 2012

Monday, July 9, 2012

Will America Be The Death of English?

Heard, Read, Gagged

“Strictly Speaking/Will America be the Death of English” is a former #1 best seller by former NBC correspondent Edwin Newman. What we do to the language now is as abominable as it was in 1974 when Newman finished his book.

What follows was written, seen, or said in local and national media within the past few weeks.

The name of the place in England where they play tennis is Wimbledon, not WimbleTon. How many times have you heard the “T”? It is close kin to the mispronunciation of that cathedral in London called Westminster, not Westminister. Sigh.

Brian Williams last month said the retired shuttle “suffered wing damage.” No. Things do not suffer. People suffer. The living suffer. Things are damaged, yes. If you must, things can incur or sustain damage, but they don’t suffer.

Appearing on MSNBC, former GOP chief Michael Steele uttered the phrase, “centered around.” No. It is impossible for something to be centered around. It can be centered on, however.

A local Austin new reporter got a statement from a source. He read it saying, “Quote: Blah, blah, blah …” Any broadcast journalism course will tell you to lose the word “Quote”. After all, the statement is on the screen in quotation marks.

A City of Austin staffer appearing before the City Council stated that something was further away. No. It is farther away, meaning distance. Further has a different definition. Weathercasters say this one wrong often also.

In an NBC Nightly News story on education the reporter said the phrase, “whether or not.” What’s wrong with that, you say? It is redundant. Just say “whether”. For example, I don’t know whether it will rain.

NBC’s medical expert Dr. Nancy Snyderman in a June 11th report confused “fewer” with “less”. Many do. Even the New York Times slipped up and ran an explanation: “The basic rule for precise use of ‘less’ and ‘fewer’ is simple (though we slip often). Use ‘fewer’ with countable, individual things, and ‘less’ with uncountable amounts, volumes, etc. So: ‘I should drink less coffee,’ but ‘I should eat fewer doughnuts.’” (NYT, Philip B. Corbett, March 1, 2011)

“Amount” and “number” are similar. A local Austin reporter got them confused recently. “Use the word amount with quantities that cannot be counted and number with quantities that could be counted one-by-one.” (

A friend and former newspaper copy editor wonders why people put an apostrophe after the plural of things like CDs, DVDs, or RVs. People wrongly make it look like a possessive by writing “CD’s”, etc. Lose the apostrophe.

Shouldn’t a crime reporter know the difference between a robbery and a burglary? They are not interchangeable.

On MSNBC’s web site, someone wrote that a victim was “electrocuted and died.” Hmmm. Electrocuted indicates death, otherwise they would have been simply shocked. It’s just like saying someone drowned and died. They drowned.

Finally, style books recommend writing news in the active voice rather than passive. For example, copy should say, “Many witnesses saw the accident,” rather than “The accident was seen by many witnesses.” Dadgummit! Write in the active voice.

Further, lose the past perfect and present perfect tenses. The Associated Press wrote July 3, 2012, “Andy Griffith, whose homespun mix of humor and wisdom made ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ an enduring TV favorite, has died.” So, an Austin anchor read, “… Andy Griffith has died.” No. Write and say something like, “Tonight reports out of North Carolina say Andy Griffith is dead. Or it could be, “Beloved actor Andy Griffith died today. All producers and copy editors should pause and think before using the past or present perfect tense of a verb.

It all actually starts on a personal level. You ask someone, “How are you doing?” “Good,” They answer. Hmmm. You know they are a good person, but how are they doing? The answer should be, “I’m well.”

We’re talking mainly about usage here. Grammar? Well, that is another post for another time.

Picky? Perhaps. But, there are there are, oh, so many, many more. Maybe we can clean up this mess one sentence at a time.

© Jim McNabb, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kate and KUT-FM

Two Quick Tidbits …

Two quick newsworthy items:

Austin’s public radio station KUT-FM (NPR) raked in another news award today, June 12, 2012. This time is the national Edward R. Murrow award for continuing coverage of the 2011 drought. This is a big deal! Listen to the winning entry here: Kudos to KUT-FM again!

Secondly, but not unexpectedly, KXAN-TV (NBC) morning reporter Kate Weidaw, PhD resigned to follow her new dream, teaching full time. She earned her doctorate this spring. (See and scroll down three stories.).

Dr. Weidaw gave notice Monday, June 11, 2012 saying, “I accepted a job at the University of Georgia in Athens to be an assistant professor in their Telecommunications Department. I'll leave KXAN at the end of July beginning of August.” So, she will see the station through the July sweeps month.

Weidaw had been teaching broadcast journalism at St. Edward’s University in Austin.

This is a big deal too!

Congratulations to Kate and KUT-FM.

© Jim McNabb, 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gotta Blame Somebody ...

That Darned Media!

Blame it on the media. When in doubt, blame it on the media. When there is a political campaign crisis, of course, blame it on the media.

If one is a conservative, then it is the fault of the “liberal” media. Conversely, if one is a liberal, blame the “conservative” media.

Instead of blaming it on the media, defeated incumbent Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley took the extraordinary step of barring the media from his election-watch headquarters. He had no comment to the media after his 55-45% defeat by County Attorney Jana Duty. Duty was available to the media all day and all night the day of the primary.

Bradley may be blaming his defeat on the media. There is no way of knowing because he has no comment. “No Comment” is never every acceptable in any circumstance.

The handling of the Michael Morton case was always being thrown in Bradley’s face by his opponent Duty, and by extension, the media. Of course Duty’s ads in the media accenting Morton’s innocence in his wife’s murder due to DNA were also in the media.

That darned media!

And Bradley took media heat in 2010 for when Governor Rick Perry appointed him to head up the Texas Forensic Science Commission. The commission was asked to review evidence that led to the conviction and execution of a Corsicana man in the arson killing of his family. Some have said the conviction was based on “flawed science.”

State Senator Rodney Ellis was critical of Bradley’s response: "It is disconcerting to hear that the Chairman of the Forensic Science Commission would characterize legislators' concern over the use of flawed science to convict Texans as a 'circus sideshow.'” (, September 12, 2010)

That darned media! How dare they report emails such as this.

To be fair, County Attorney Duty’s ongoing problems with the Williamson County Commissioners Court also received media attention as did her reprimand by the State Bar of Texas.

That darned media!

Duty isn’t done yet. She still must defeat Democratic Party challenger Ken Crain in the November election. Crain, a Georgetown attorney, was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Little has been heard Mr. Crain so far.

But DA Bradley must want to control the media by not communicating through the media to his constituents. He’ll still be DA for six more months. The news media, after all, are the eyes and ears of the public. Election night, reporters were kept at the curb and left at the curb waiting.

Attacking, avoiding or blaming the media is a common political ploy. Check out former Speaker of the House and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich during the debates in early 2012. Find highlights on You Tube.

This past week, it was Donald Trump’s turn to take on the media again. His recurrent topic: The so-called “birther” movement. On the eve of his Vegas fundraiser with apparent Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Trump again questioned the authenticity of President Obama’s Hawaii certificate of live birth.

"A lot of people do not think it was an authentic certificate," Trump told CNN of Obama's birth certificate. When CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer told Trump he was "beginning to sound a little ridiculous," Trump responded, "I think you sound ridiculous." (The, May 29, 2012)

That darned media!

“It’s something that bothers Obama very much,” Trump said. “I tell you, it’s not an issue that he likes talking about, so what he does is uses reverse psychology on people like you so that you report, ‘Oh gee, he’s thrilled with it.’ He does not like that issue because it’s hitting close to home, you know it and he knows it.

“You won’t report it, Wolf, but many people do not think it was authentic,” Trump said. “His mother was not in the hospital. There are many other things that came out and, frankly, if you would report it accurately, I think you’d probably get better ratings than you’re getting, which are pretty small.”

The odd thing about it all is that Donald Trump was using the very medium he insults. And, Trump of course ignores newspaper announcements of the president’s birth repeated often in other media, as well as Mr. Trump’s own investigation which produced no reportable results.

Working in news, one must have thick skin, never taking things personally. Wolf Blitzer’s skin is bound to be quite thick.

And regarding Mr. Trump, he certainly doesn’t avoid that darned media.

© Jim McNabb, 2012

Photo Credit: Erich Schlegel for The Texas Tribune

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Screed ...

I Want My “Harry’s Law”

Sunday night, May 27th at 7 p.m. will be final episode of NBC’s “Harry's Law.”

“Harry’s Law” starring Kathy Bates was/is a well-conceived, well-written, well-acted, and well-produced show. It was/is stunning that the plots uncannily seemed/seem to coincide with a current news story. To me, it is a crime that it’s going away.

I understand ratings and consultants. I understand demographics and target audiences. I worked in the broadcast industry for 40+ years. . I teach at a local university requiring critical thinking of its students. So, I get it.

I decided to give NBC some feedback, not that they care. I had to fill in multiple blanks creating for them my “profile” in order to get to NBC’s comments page. So, at a glance they can know that I apparently fit their unwanted demographic. I'm too old.

Admittedly, I mentioned an episode of “Harry's Law” to one of my classes during the spring semester, and no one had seen it. They are the NBC target demographic, apparently, and I am not.

I watch little drama and no comedy with the exception of an occasional “Saturday Night Live.” I watch news and sports most of the time, but “Harry's Law” sucked me over the past two years in because of its consistent quality.

I'm just bummed because brainy “Harry's Law” quite likely will be replaced by some insipid, vacuous, reality show or something parsimonious, saving the network money while searching for the "right" demographic.

NBC and the other networks should remember that perhaps I am actually the right demographic. Think about the aging "Baby Boomers". We are retiring in front of our televisions daily. We have money, and we'll spend it. So, perhaps the networks should do a better job of selling ads to targeted advertisers who want to reach people like me.

Sometimes, there is a ground-swell in support of TV shows. I don't know if the ground is swelling in support of “Harry's Law”, but I'd like to start it. Instead of eschewing quality and going for the short-term gain, NBC should let a show grow its audience, and the advertisers will come.

© Jim McNabb, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Something for Everyone and Something New


Something for Everyone and Something New

KEYE TV (CBS) came close in February. In the May TV sweeps, the 10 p.m. news went to the top. KEYE is the new #1, followed by KVUE TV (ABC), and KXAN TV coming in third.

It appears that KEYE benefitted from CBS prime time programming, providing a strong lead-in audience. That’s not always the case. A television station’s worse enemy is always the remote, but appears that all three stations pretty much kept their viewers and there wasn’t much station-switching.

KEYE climbing to the top at 10 p.m. may be the biggest news, the biggest change in the ratings.

“I am very proud of our staff, who works so hard. We've put together a great team and Austin viewers have noticed,” said Suzanne Black, KEYE news director.

“Having the most-watched 10 pm news is Austin is a big responsibility, and we take our jobs seriously,” Black continued. “The goal at KEYE TV News is to bring Central Texas viewers the best news possible, every day, even outside the key ratings periods. If you have not watched our news lately, you are missing some great coverage.”

Black attributes some of their audience growth to a new effort on the part of KEYE news. “The dedication to our Waste Watch Investigations has made an impact. Since we started Waste Watch in April we have seen a tremendous response from viewers, both to our investigations and with tips on our hotline,” Black said.

KXAN again dominated the ratings at 5 and 6 p.m. followed by KVUE. KEYE has been running a game show at 5 p.m., but that’s about to change. More on that later.

“KXAN News is extremely excited with having the two highest rated newscasts in the market,” said Eric Lassberg, KXAN president and general manager. “We are encouraged that our viewers are responding positively from our in-depth and investigative efforts with Chris Willis as our lead investigator.”

KXAN says that its 5 O’clock newscast has seen a 55% increase in growth when measured year to year. Part of that growth might be attributable to preceding programming as mentioned above.

“Jeopardy” at 4 and 4:30 p.m. on KXAN has killed the competition for years, providing a nice lead-in for the station’s 5 O’clock news. NBC’s “Nightly News with Brian Williams” continued to build on that lead, handing off to the local news at 6 p.m. The audience kept on building with a slight drop-off at six, but not enough to drop KXAN down to #2.

KVUE was #2 at 6 p.m., and KEYE was #3.

KVUE rocks during the mid-day hours with big numbers for “The View” at 10 a.m. followed by KVUE Midday at 11 a.m. There is direct competition between KTBC TV (FOX) and KXAN at noon. KXAN won handily.

“KVUE Daybreak” battled it out with Fox 7 for the biggest chunks of the morning audience. Fox 7 won at 4:30 and 5 a.m. Then KVUE took #1 at 6 a.m. Fox 7 was #2. KXAN’S “News Today” was third. “KTBC was the only station to show growth year-to-year,” according Fox. This was the last rating period for KVUE’s Melissa Gale, and after 14 years, she’s going out a winner in a key time period.

Fox7 News “Good Day Austin” was also #1 in the 9-10 a.m. time slot, beating out “Live with Kelly” on KVUE and the “Today” show on NBC.

So, there is a little something for each newsroom to smile about for a little while, but the biggest smiles may be at KEYE.

Speaking of KEYE, Facebook posts recently left a clear impression that the station’s “We Are Austin Live” at 4 p.m. was reaching the end of the line. “We did some great stuff...with our hands tied behind our backs many times...and we are the better for it,” said co-host Jason Wheeler in a May 18th post.

“We Are Austin Live” failed to gain traction since its debut in September, 2009. It was all up-hill against “Jeopardy” and “Ellen” in that time slot, and the ratings were dismal. It’s going away.

What’s next for KEYE?

KEYE announced this afternoon it will re-launch a 5 p.m. newscast anchored by Judy Maggio and Ron Oliveira and Wheeler beginning June 18, 2012. KEYE says Wheeler’s role as senior reporter will be to staff the Breaking News Desk and field-anchor stories and special reports, bringing viewers more in-depth coverage. News Director Suzanne Black said, “The new 5pm newscast will be a hard news product, bringing Central Texas viewers what they have asked for.”

Let the head-to-head games begin again.

*My apologies to Fox 7. I overlooked their powerhouse morning ratings.

© Jim McNabb, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Michael Fabac On the Beach

KXAN’s News Director Fired

With several days left in the May Sweeps, KXAN TV (NBC) news director Michael Fabac is gone.

Word is that he was shown the door Friday, May 18th, but the staff was not informed until Monday, May 21st. The staff email announcement was typical:

“Michael Fabac is no longer with KXAN, deciding to pursue other opportunities. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.

“My door is open if anyone has any questions.


LIN Media”

No further comment has been available from either Lassberg or LIN Media in Providence, Rhode Island.

Experience says that no personnel decisions are made without the nod of corporate officials in Providence. Certainly, approval of the firing of a news director would have come from LIN Media.

Yet, the time of Fabac’s departure is a head-scratcher. The important May Neilson Sweeps still have a day or so to go. No, KXAN reportedly isn’t doing as well as it has recently, but the station isn’t faltering badly either. As recently as February, KXAN News was a solid #2 overall and #1 in key time slots like 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. So, it wouldn’t seem that poor ratings resulted in a change.

This writer pointed out a month ago that KXAN has been slow to fill several staff positions. They still need a third weekend morning anchor, a meteorologist, and a sportscaster. Reporter positions may also remain vacant, although the station has made three recent hires.

Reporters equal content. Content is king. Without content, an audience has little reason for watching.

One online report indicated that newsroom staffers were rejoicing with the departure. That MediaBistro report is not accurate. Many staffers expressed great respect and now sympathy for Fabac.

“I am so sad to see you go. Know that I appreciated you at KXAN and hope wherever opportunities take you that you know you are a good person!

“Looking forward to working with you again someday friend,” said one true friend on Facebook.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” said another. “I’ve never seen him yell in the newsroom. I think he was a great manager, one of the more rational decision-makers around.”

Still the question of the time of his departure remains. The only answer from staffers contacted was that the corporate office might have been concerned about the flurry of fairly recent resignations. “They were leaving for other opportunities for their own reasons,” said one worker in a position to know their motives. Even so, why take action against Fabac so suddenly?

Fabac came to KXAN in January, 2007 having previously been a news director in Detroit and Little Rock. In Detroit he was named in a lawsuit filed by a fired employee. In Little Rock he was sometimes unpredictable. However, his track record in all markets was one of relative success.

Sources say for the time being, assistant news director Alicia Dean will handle day-to-day editorial decisions while general manager Eric Lassberg will deal with policy matters.

© Jim McNabb, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Going ... Going ...

Gale Soon to be Gone

The “face” of KVUE-TV’s (ABC) “Daybreak” and midday news for some 14-years is about to change. Anchor Melissa Gale today emailed the morning crew that she is leaving.

Details posted on Culture Map Austin:

Friday, May 11, 2012

Austin Broadcast Journalism Has a Doctor

Dr. Kate

Kate Weidaw, KXAN TV (NBC) morning reporter can claim something separating herself from all other working broadcast journalists in the Austin market. As of May 19th she will hold the official title of Dr. Kate Weidaw, having completed and defended her dissertation leading to a Doctorate of Philosophy in Broadcast Journalism.

Having not examined the resumes of all reporters and anchors in town, there may be somebody else with that advance degree, but I don’t think so.

When Dr. Weidaw and her husband Nathan West, came to Austin to interview for the morning job in April, 2004, she had higher education on her mind.

“My plan when I came to Austin was to pursue a master’s,” Weidaw says. Prior to moving here, I was in Harrisburg, PA and was accepted into Shippensburg University. However, I never planned to get a Ph.D. It’s thanks to my advisor Dr. Don Heider who suggested I continue on with my studies if I ever wanted to pursue a tenured track position at a university.”

It was Weidaw’s mother who promoted a future in education, Weidaw says. “Call it more of a backup plan. Since I was a kid, all I wanted to do was become a TV reporter. But because it is such a competitive field my mom told me to make sure I had a backup plan in life. Since I taught swimming lessons and liked teaching I decided to pick up a second bachelor’s degree at UMass in elementary education. But as soon as I started doing my student teaching I knew it was not for me.”

Teaching is for Weidaw now. In addition to a full-time job at KXAN, finishing her PhD, and being a mother, Weidaw has been teaching a Broadcast Journalism course at St. Edward’s University this year.

“St. Edward’s is an amazing school with bright, energetic students. I am beyond thankful for Dr. Marilyn Schultz,” Weidaw says. A few months before she passed away she asked me if I would like to teach the class, a class she started at the university. It has been an amazing experience.”

What’s amazing, perhaps, is how did she did it all—Teach, work full-time at KXAN, work on her doctorate, and be a mom and wife.

“Being in news you become good at time management, so this was carried over to working full time and going to school part time. Prior to having my son two years ago I took classes in the afternoon and studied after getting off work. However, once my little boy came along quiet afternoon hours to study at home were out, so I started using the overnight hours on the weekend to get my work done. Since I get up at 2 a.m. Monday thru Friday for the morning show on KXAN, I decided to do that on both Saturday and Sunday, that way I didn’t miss spending time with my family.”

“I also have to give a TON of credit to my husband,” Weidaw continues. “He has been my biggest supporter and has been the one at home taking care of everything while I work overnight, come home quickly after work, and then head off to St. Edward’s to teach some afternoons or head off to class at UT.

“It’s been a long seven years between my Masters and Ph.D. but well worth every minute.”

So, you may wonder, what were the focuses of her master’s and PhD? They are scary subjects in tender territory. The master’s thesis might make some tremble.

“I looked at the use of consultants in the newsroom. This paper is now published in the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media. ( I’ve been fascinated by the uses of consultants in conjunction with news decisions,” she says.

Almost all Austin TV stations do audience research on their strengths and weaknesses, including the anchors on the air. Sometimes the findings are useful. Sometimes is a waste, in this writer’s experience.

For her PhD, she tackled a controversial practice that has cropped up in local markets within the past few years where stations are looking for ways to do more with less. “My dissertation concerns the local news pool. That’s where television stations within a single market like Austin, Texas, form a cooperative agreement with the competition to share content such as video and interviews. I analyzed not only Austin but also the Tampa, Florida, and Denver, Colorado, markets.”

In this writer’s opinion this sort of homogeneity is seen as lazy at best and dangerous at worst to journalism purists. Most of the stories covered with a pool camera are fluff or news conferences where every medium might get the same material anyway. Arguably, however, a good reporter, not working as part of the pool, can make much more of these stories than just filler. I have not seen Weidaw’s findings, but I would like to read it.

So, what does the future hold for Dr. Kate Weidaw?

“I am now looking forward to sleeping-in on my weekends, spending more time with my family, and having a few date nights with my husband Nathan. I have given up any type of social life for the past two years,” she says.

What about her professional future? Does it include getting up at 2 a.m.?

“As far as the future is concerned I really admire and look up to Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry. She is not only a professor at Tulane University but also does a show on MSNBC. I think it would be very rewarding to not only teach at a prestigious university but also continue working in the profession that I love.”

© Jim McNabb, 2012

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

KUT FM 90.5 Campaign

Award-winning public radio station KUT-FM already sounds like Austin, more than any of the other mostly homogeneous stations on the air.  KUT is about to embark on a project creating a radio station/venue that will be the envy of all of those commercial also-on-the-air choices.  Read the details on Austin Culture Map.

Culture Map Austin published this post while I was out of town , and I had forgotten that I need to post a notice to those who may not see it on their site:

Saturday, April 14, 2012

New Faces

Austin TV Turnover

[For a while this post was deleted from Austin Culture Map, apparently because I made a correction (I referred to Leslie Rhode as Leslie Cook, her name when we worked together years ago.) It is back on Culture Map:]

While KXAN TV (NBC) is winning in the ratings, the newsroom staff is getting smaller and smaller.

It’s beginning to show on the air.

Friday, evening (April 6, 2012) Sports anchor Brian Sanders co-anchored the news with Leslie Rhode and returned to handle the sports. Saturday, (April 7, 2012) found “hard news” reporter Chris Sadeghi anchoring sports. Why? Sanders was anchoring the weekend morning news. Associated Press Broadcaster’s “Best Reporter” award Josh Hinkle anchored Sunday (April 8, 2012) instead of David Scott. Sadeghi came in as a reporter. He usually works weekdays.

It may have been a holiday schedule, but staffing options are fewer and fewer.

For months, weekend meteorologist Natalie Stoll has been working the morning broadcast after the station let go 16-year KXAN morning fixture Shawn Rutherford. I’m told that she’s dying to return to her previous shift.

Further, where are the reporters, the heart of the newsroom, providing the day-to-day content? Go on the staff page of and see that there are several faces missing.

Newsroom morale began to slip with the sudden disappearance of weekend morning anchor and gifted reporter Catenya McHenry. True, McHenry was making personal plans, but she wasn’t planning to leave so soon.

Then, Rutherford was shown the door. The mood of the room dipped again.

Reagan Hacklemann and Dustin Blanchard are no longer on the personnel page. Recently, high-profile reporter Doug Shupe went on vacation and never came back after accepting reportedly accepting a public relations position. A little over a week ago, Jarrod Wise submitted his resignation. He’s still on the site, but will be leaving “the business,” sources say.

Reporter Jacqueline Ingles is the latest pending departure. She handed in her resignation Friday, April 13.

The sports department is down one since Leila Rahimi landed a new job with Fox Sports in San Diego. Word is that Brian Sanders wants to move from sports to news. He’s made a bid to be the weekend morning show, and it was Sanders reporting from the recent rash of tornados in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Others on and off-the-air are said to be looking.

True, the station still has some strong staff members, including political reporter Hinkle. Sadeghi is solid as are anchors Shannon Wolfson and David Scott. Erin Cargile continues growing having started as the Hill Country reporter, an apparent opening now as Jacqueline Ingles is needed in town. Of course, veteran Jim Swift can cover any story if needed; he’s not just for features.

The KXAN web site lists only two newsroom positions, but depending on how and whether management chooses to fill the holes, there may be as many as eight. Also, there may have been some hires, but the station seldom comments on personnel matters.

Until now, the personnel shortage has been covered up well by resourceful producers and photographers behind the scenes, but when shifts are covered by staff not normally seen, it becomes obvious that something is going on in the newsroom.

In all fairness there are many new people reporting at all of the Austin stations.

KVUE TV (ABC ) lists three news openings on its site with five or six rather recent new reporters on the air. KEYE TV (CBS) just hired staff for its new morning show, and they’re looking for a couple more, plus a weekend meteorologist. Fred Cantu is now listed as a reporter. He and Lisa Leigh Kelly are the most recognizable names on the staff. KTBC TV (Fox) is looking for three or four news staffers too. Noelle Newton made a move KTBC from KVUE earlier this year. Except for a few anchors, there seems to be constant turnover at YNN (formerly News 8).

It wasn’t very long ago that Austin, the 47th ranked market was what I called a “destination market”, a place where broadcast journalists came and stayed for years. Austin, you know, is a magnet. Now, it seems the stations are just stepping stones.

© Jim McNabb, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

LA LA Land

Michelle Valles hits the "Big Time"

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

KEYE Comes to Play

Morning Show Wars

The battle for Austin eye balls in the AM is getting hotter as KEYE-TV (CBS) rolls out much more than a token morning show with a full staff.

New owner Sinclair Broadcasting Group seems serious in this attempt to compete in the morning time slot.

KEYE TV Morning News expanded to six on air staff: Anchors Hunter Ellis and Mileka Lincoln, Meteorologist Allison Miller, Traffic Reporter Erica Harpold, and Field Reporter Adam Bennett. Former Morning anchor Fred Cantu will appear as a feature reporter. Allison Miller had been the weekend meteorologist.

KEYE had been getting by with solo anchor Fred Cantu for several months. Cantu had been cut during an odd and short-lived attempt to attract an audience by ditching morning news and mounting cameras around the “JB and Sandy Show on Mix 94.7” in late 2009 and 2010. Meteorologist Kelly Sifka handled weather cut-ins.

Sifka remained when the station pulled the plug on radio-on-TV, and Cantu returned, working part time at KEYE in the mornings and at Home Depot the rest of the day. Finally, the station put Cantu back on the payroll full time. Cantu has a loyal and loving audience, but he never attracted the numbers that would make him a player against powerhouses KXAN TV (NBC) and KVUE TV (ABC).

The February ratings had KVUE winning at 4:30 and 5 a.m. KXAN won at 6 a.m.

Now, Cantu is out of the anchor chair, and reportedly Sifka has left the station. No, Cantu is not going back to Home Depot.

“Fred will have more time now to do what he does best, telling Austin’s stories,” says Suzanne Black, KEYE TV News Director. The station is adding a new segment “Friday’s With Uncle Fred,” in addition to reinstating his weekly “Gadget Guy” reports.

“Viewers always ask us, ‘What’s going to happen to Fred?’ We are so glad we have him as a part of our team,” commented Amy Villarreal, Vice-President and General Manager of KEYE TV.

So, where did this new KEYE new morning crew come from?

Hunter Ellis, a former fighter pilot and a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy, was most recently the roving reporter for KEYE TV’s 4p.m. show We Are Austin Live. His broadcast experience includes the History Channel, KCBS and KCAL TV in Los Angeles.

A native of Hawaii, Mileka Lincoln comes from KEYE’s sister station, KABB in San Antonio where she was the weekend anchor. Prior to that, she was a morning anchor in Laredo.

Erica Harpold is a long-time Austinite, having graduated from Austin High School and Texas State University. Erica was an anchor and reporter for KCEN in Waco and KAUZ in Wichita Falls.

Adam Bennett was weekend anchor in Amarillo at KAMR/KCIT before coming to KEYE last month. Adam is a native Texan and a proud graduate of The University of Texas.

Some KEYE views objected to the changes on Cantu’s Facebook page saying, “I am sad about the morning news change. I really enjoyed waking up and watching/listening to you and Kelly each day. I went to a different station the last time they took you off and I will be doing the same thing this time. You will be missed.”

“Give it a chance. I'm grateful to still be a part,” Cantu countered with class.

All of this is happening in a cauldron of change in the morning shows. First, former KVUE sports anchor/reporter Brian Mays moved to the news department to co-anchor KVUE News Daybreak and Midday with Melissa Gale.

Next, while sharing the morning ratings with KVUE, KXAN let go 16-year veteran weatherman Shawn Rutherford and eventually replaced anchor Chris Willis with Robert Maxwell to co-anchor with Sally Hernandez. Willis is now heading the station’s investigative team.

Even with all of those changes, KXAN eked out a win at 6 a.m. Now, KEYE is poised to make a serious run for the ratings.

KEYE came close to claiming #1 at 10 p.m. from KVUE in February. Many believe that the station that wins at 10 p.m. has a leg-up on the competition for morning ratings, because viewers may not change the channel. They simply turn the TV off.

Although stations are rated daily, the next Neilson “sweep” month runs from April 26 to May 23, 2012.

© Jim McNabb, 2012

The Home Team

Rangers or Astros on TV, But Where?

Are you at home with the Texas Rangers, or are you at home with the Houston Astros. According to Fox Sports or Major League Baseball, in Austin and Central Texas we are at home with the Astros.

But, you say, the Round Rock Express is the AAA club for last year’s American League champions, the Texas Rangers. Doesn’t that make a difference?

Further, we know the Texas Rangers stars—Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Michael Young to name three. Can you name three Astros “stars”? Who knows? By the time they play 162 games these Astros may indeed be legitimate stars. Stranger things have happened in baseball.

We also know names of several of the Round Rock Express. Some of them have been up to the “show” with the big club, particularly at the end of the season. I particularly like yeoman player Matt Kata; he’s capable of being spectacular. Also, center fielder Julio Borbon started last year in the Major League.

These are familiar names, but they aren’t part of the “home market” team. The home market team for Austin and Central Texas is the Houston Astros.

Therefore, when you tune in Fox Southwest during baseball season within the next few days, more than likely you’ll see the Houston Astros, even though we know only a few of their names (Carlos Lee, Wandy Rodriguez, and Chris Johnson). You’ll have to look elsewhere for the Rangers.

“The Austin area is considered a home market for the Astros but when those games are on Fox SW and the Rangers are playing at the same time, then the Rangers game will be on Channel 77 there in Austin,” says Melissa Sorola, regional communications director for Time Warner Cable.

One notable problem is that Channel 77 is digital, meaning a viewer must have a cable box to view it. Secondly, it is not a High Definition (HD) telecast. It is available, however.

Now, there is a third option for 25 of the Ranger’s regular season games. KBVO, another digital channel, will broadcast 25 Texas Rangers baseball games live in HD beginning Friday night, April 13th through September 28th. “Every Friday night KBVO will bring the excitement and tradition of the reigning American League Champs into the homes of Central Texas,” their news release says.

LIN Media is trying to position KBVO as a regional sports channel. “KBVO brings Austin viewers local and regional sports such as San Antonio Spurs, Houston Texans pre-season football, Big 12 college basketball including the University of Texas Longhorns and live broadcasts of local high school football and basketball,” according to the news release. Other than these Friday night Rangers games, the sports programming on KBVO is rather sporadic however.

A complete listing of all Texas Rangers games airing on KBVO is available at

[To clear up possible confusion: KBVO used to be the call letters for what is now KEYE TV when it was an independent, non-network station. When the station became a CBS affiliate, the call letters were changed to KEYE, and KBVO was dropped, making them available to some other station. The current KBVO used to be full-power hill country station broadcasting from a tower in Llano called KXAM TV, it repeated the programming of KXAN TV to a wider audience in the Hill Country, referred to in the Neilson Ratings as KXAN +. When LIN management decided to reprogram the station, the changed the call letters to KBVO. Clear?]

© Jim McNabb, 2012

Saturday, March 31, 2012

New Magazine

American-Statesman Gets REAL

Hidden between the folds of the Austin American-Statesman Friday, March 30, 2012 you may have noticed something new, not seen before.

“REAL” is the newspaper’s newest magazine, subtitled “Authentic Austin Living”. “Each issue will bring readers the city’s spin on fashion, home design, health, neighborhoods, family, pets, events and more. This month’s issue will focus on Austin’s culinary scene. Next month’s issue will concentrate on Austin neighborhoods,” according to the news release announcing its publication.

“REAL magazine is a natural extension of what the Austin American-Statesman staff does every day in our features pages,” said Kathy Blackwell, Statesman Senior Editor for Features and REAL magazine. “It’s a new outlet for the staff’s creativity, passion and commitment to covering the city and the amazing people who make it what it is.”

Blackwell put the magazine more into perspective in her first column. “To me, what it means to be ‘Real Austin’ has changed in the more than 12 years I’ve lived here,” Blackwell writes. “To put it another way, as my life has changed, the city has changed with it. When I moved here as a single woman, I relished in the late nights of live music… I still love all of that, but as a mother, wife, and professional, I’m more appreciative of the outdoor spaces, the amazing restaurants and the sense of community I encounter daily.”

REAL replaces “Glossy”. Remember Glossy? Did you read it? I remember having lunch with a close friend whose background is in print media. “What’s up with this ‘Glossy’ thing?” I asked shortly after it debuted. The title itself said that it wasn’t for me. “REAL” has more reach. “We didn’t research a target audience per se. The goal in launching REAL was to be able to offer broader content and reach a larger portion of the Austin American-Statesman audience. REAL: Authentic Austin Living allows us to accomplish this,” says Shannon Cockrell, Sr. Segment Marketing Manager/Audience.

But let’s get real: REAL is an advertising vehicle. Thumbing through the pages, you’ll see that there are an almost mind-numbing number of ads. I didn’t even try to count them. The announcement release says the magazine will reach more than 74,000 residents. (The magazine says 76,000 households.)

While the most noticeable content may be ads, REAL is reader-friendly. “A format like this gives our talented reporters and photographers a chance to explore Austin in different ways…” I always say “Content is king.” If you don’t have strong content, nobody is going to care. Nobody is going to read it.

Sifting through the advertisements and the “stories” with a commercial tilt, there is content starting on about the 41st page focusing on food and the people who prepare it. It’s the featured story of the first issue with the headline on the cover, “How we rose to the top of the food chain/behind Austin’s emergency as the hottest culinary city.”

The photos are superb. My favorite is a stop-action, mid-air shot of a lady flying from a mechanical bull. Did you know that bull riding is good for the abs? There are bull riding classes. It appears that every Statesman photographer contributed to the issue.

REAL also has an online component. “Complementing the print product is the REAL website at It features an expanded product guide, the Keeping it Real blog, neighborhood photo galleries and interactives,” the release says.

© Jim McNabb, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Two Suggestions

UT Journalism Embraces Change

You must love words. You must love words and the power of well-chosen and carefully-crafted words, if you aspire to be a professional journalist. So, it was pleasing to see a heavy emphasis on story-telling and words in the new University of Texas Journalism curriculum to be launched this fall. (

It will be “a new digital-based, state-of-the-art curriculum for undergraduates,” but it doesn’t seem to neglect the basics. The curriculum assumes, I suppose, that students will have mastered grammar and usage before moving into major subjects. I’m sad to say that when I taught a beginning journalism course, I actually taught English for the first six weeks.

“We’re eliminating the old walls between print, magazine, photojournalism, multimedia and broadcast, and we’ll be emphasizing good writing and critical thinking from Day One,” the introductory paragraphs say. I say, it’s about time! One wall is still standing apparently.

I see no collaboration or coordination between Journalism and Radio-Television-Film, even though RTF majors and broadcast journalism majors are using many of the same tools. The “Guiding Principles” say, “We want to break down the barriers between disciplines and institutions and create partnerships of learning and knowledge.” Therefore, there may be hope. It is still true that RTF majors can take some Journalism courses, but there is no mutual respect for the disciplines. The chasm remains.

I think some sort of relationship between the majors would result in a richer experience for some students. After all, they are both under the umbrella of the College of Communications, and some of the sharpest facets of the cutting edges of communications are coming from innovative RTF studies.

That said, it is good that UT Journalism is adhering to basics in the industry’ whirlwind of change. “The primary mission of the School of Journalism remains the same: to educate students to think critically and skeptically; gather a wide range of information accurately, honestly and fairly; hold institutions, individuals and themselves accountable for their promises and their deeds; and produce stories in various media platforms that communicate clearly, concisely and powerfully to the general public. The goal of our new curriculum is to further this mission.

So, this fall students will take a course entitled, “Reporting: Words.” I love it. They will also take a course entitled, “Reporting: Images.” I do hope that there is relationship between these courses. In TV news, one writes to the video or images that tell the story. In fact, a well-produced story may well have very few words leaving it to the pictures to tell the story.

One final and important fault found in the new curriculum is this: A student must be at the Fourth level out of Five before taking “Ethics in Journalism” and “Media Law”. Media Law might wait, but Ethics should come early on. This is important—very important in this digital world.

There is a “rising tide of student plagiarism” attributed to blurred lines of the digital world. Denver Post writer Kevin Simpson told the story of a Colorado State University professor in a February 7, 2012 story.

“She saw it all: blatant cut-and-paste copying from the Internet; only a word changed here and there” in spite of the fact the CSU’s web site cautions against plagiarism at least five times.

The story cited a recent study by the Pew Research Center: 55 percent of university presidents surveyed thought that plagiarism has increased over the past ten years, almost all (86%) blamed it on technology.

I also teach at the university level, and I’ve seen it too, but this kind of thievery of intellectual property isn’t confined to college.

All of the time we read of prize-winning journalist working in the real world—The Washington Post and the New York Times—being caught red-handed having stolen someone else’s intellectual property.

Small wonder that the Pew Center and the Gallup Poll continues to give journalists poor marks for ethics. Gallup reported March 25th that Journalists continue to rank near the bottom of the public opinion poll. Nurses got the highest rating. Journalist did manage to beat out bankers, lobbyists, members of Congress and car salesman. If you need a lot of love in your life, don’t be a journalist.

The University of Texas should seriously consider moving its Ethics course to a basic tier. At the very least, it should be addressed early on in some syllabus.

On the whole, the new UT Journalism curriculum looks promising and challenging with a required “capstone” course and paper during the senior year.

© Jim McNabb, 2012