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: