Friday, July 6, 2012

It takes a village to raise an idiot

A while back we were between live shots. Our sat truck was set up in a busy place and we were sitting under the canopy. A well-dressed man walked by and stopped to talk.

"I gotta ask you," he said. "Why do you always put the dumbest people on television when you cover a disaster?"

We all started to laugh. "Do you have a college degree?" I asked.


"You wanna be on television?"

"Hell, no!"

"There's your answer."

We all know that the desire to be on television is inversely proportional to one's IQ. (In other words, if you need an easy sound bite, head to the valley of the stupid.) And more often than not, these people end up in major stories, making the rest of the community (and the general public) look like a bunch of unwashed, uneducated morons.

Case in point, that story a few years ago about an attempted rape. The one which featured a funny sound bite from a guy which was then turned into a song.

Back up a bit... the story was about an attempted rape. What would possess anyone to include a humorous sound bite? What would possess any manager to allow a story like that to run? Many years ago a New York weatherman got fired for making a rape joke on air, but today we turn such garbage into a song.

We've all gotten sound bites from morons. Many don't make sense, and many are funny. But if your object is to highlight the stupidity of people, a certain group, or a certain community, you're not doing your job. Among biased journalists, this is an old trick. Use sound bites from the opposing viewpoint to make that viewpoint look stupid. Use video of the biggest whack jobs you can find to make the other side look like a bunch of raving lunatics.

We are the village, and we are raising idiots in the eyes of the viewers.

Crazy and stupid people may make for entertaining television, but they are hardly representative of the average Joe. Yes, there are plenty of loons and morons out there; but we don't have to go out of our way to spotlight them.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

A title doesn't make you smart

I was a starry-eyed rookie just like the rest of you were in those first days on the job. Especially when I was handed an assignment to interview a Congressman.

A Congressman! Wow! Surely this guy had something special, was smarter than the rest of us, was the cream of the crop. After all, he was one of a few hundred people running the country. He must be close to a genius, right?

So, the hair gets trimmed the day before, the best suit goes on. What the hell, let's go the full classy look with cuff links.

And then I meet the guy. Crash dummy. Didn't have a clue about half the questions I'd prepared, and these weren't exactly gotcha questions.

I learned that day what most of us know now thanks to 24/7 cable news. Most of us are smarter than the many of the people holding political office.

I also learned a title means nothing. Many of those people in Washington DC are there due to nepotism, old money, connections.

The same is true of television news.

I've worked for a lot of News Directors and General Managers and owners in my day. Some were very smart, clever people.

The others? A lot of crash dummies.

Some got their jobs because they were sons of famous people. Some were good salesmen and given the job of running things even thought they had no clue about news. Some played a good game of golf with the right people. Some were rich and just bought the place, treating it like an expensive toy.

Don't assume because someone has risen to the title of News Director or General Manager that said person is one of the smartest people in the building. He or she may be the best bean counter, the best salesperson, the best gunslinger in the opinion of corporate. Those owners and corporate people may have been born rich, may have been connected, may have never paid dues.

And just because someone has the title of "agent" doesn't mean that person knows more about the business than you do.

Titles are just that. Words. Judge people by what they know and how they treat others.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Grapevine honor roll: the two-part story

This one comes from a client in Wichita Falls, Texas, market 142. It's what I call a two-part story; not because it's a series, but because the single package has two distinct parts. The reporter, Crystal Hall, could have just done the basic stuff and mentioned part two, but she weaved the two parts together into a terrific package. Nice job with the nat sound pops as well, and note how she bounces between the two parts toward the end.

UPDATE>>>Apparently the above link doesn't always work. Try this one:


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Shameless promotion disguised as a July book sale

Okay, you fans of reading stuff electronically, here's an opportunity for you to save a buck. During the month of July, the electronic distributor Smashwords is offering a 25 percent discount on some of my books, including the journalism text on the right side of this page, which will save you five bucks. You can also help support my fiction habit, as a few of my novels are also on sale under my name and Nick Harlow. This is also an inexpensive way for you to say thanks for maintaining this blog free for the past six years. (That's known as Catholic guilt.) All the novels have a main character who works in television news. Most feature an evil member of management, but, as they say, art imitates life.

Smashwords can offer downloads to just about any electronic device or computer. To get the discount, make sure you enter the coupon code SSW25 before checkout.

All proceeds will go into my pocket and probably be designated to buy treats for Gypsy, our cat.

Broadcast Journalism Street Smarts

The End

Public Affairs

Time Zero


The Race