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