Local news is a joke (cold weather edition)

The bitter cold in Chicagoland has closed a bunch of schools. Not too complicated, eh?

Why is it necessary for WBBM-TV/CBS 2 to send Susanna Song on the road to stand in front of a non-lit and empty school building at 5 a.m. today to file her report on school closings?

Rhetorical question. The answer is because local television news is a joke.

This rant isn’t directed towards Susanna Song, who I do like. All across the Midwest, news directors have assigned their reporters to stand somewhere outdoors and bundled up in layers to convey to viewers that it’s freakin’ cold out.

Not necessary!

 

Jay Glazer goes after ESPN for ripping off Manziel scoop

Fox Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer has lashed out at ESPN for allegedly stealing his breaking scoop regarding Johnny Manziel.

This isn’t the first time ESPN has been accused of passing off breaking news as their own, nor is it the first time Glazer has called them out for stealing his work. And for anyone who may not understand why Glazer would be upset about it, he gave the perfect response on Twitter.

Unfortunately, ESPN can continue to get away with stunts like this. For as loud as the ESPN criticisms are (i.e. DeadSpin, Awful Announcing), the vast majority of the ESPN audience is privy to none of it.

The best thing I’ve read today: The media’s fear virus

St. Louis radio personality Paul Harris regularly shares via his blog and Twitter specific items that he considers to be important or fascinating reads. He dubs them “the best thing I’ve read today.”

Today’s blog by Paul Harris will without a doubt be the best thing I’ll read today. Paul takes the news media to task for their coverage of the Ebola virus, as if it has already become a plague in the United States (it hasn’t). Harris specifically goes after “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd, in response to one of Todd’s tweets.

Yes, Chuck, that’s because you and your colleagues across the media spectrum keep playing it up like there’s an Ebola plague in the US when there isn’t! While thousands of Africans have died and will continue to die from the disease (a story that you’ve been abandoned because the victims are on another continent), Ebola has killed exactly one person here, out of a population of some 320 million. Meanwhile, thirty thousand more Americans will be killed by guns this year than by Ebola, not to mention cigarette smoking, unsafe sex, and salmonella — but where’s that wall-to-wall coverage?

Read Paul’s entire post:  “The Fear Virus Strikes Again”

Congrats to Sun-Times: Worse newspaper cover page I’ve ever seen

Sun-Times Cover

I’ve seen a lot of bad newspaper cover pages that were insipid, ridiculous and downright insulting.

As harmless as today’s Chicago Sun-Times cover page may be, it has officially become the worst newspaper cover page I’ve ever seen.

Only a stupid person would buy a damn newspaper because of that “Mayor vs. Donald” headline.

What a great way to begin Friday the 13th.

Todd Zwillich discusses dynamics of being a political beat writer in Washington, relationships and dirty laundry

Todd ZwillichTodd Zwillich, Washington correspondent for The Takeaway from Public Radio International, was on Julie Mason’s “Press Pool” show this afternoon on the SiriusXM POTUS channel.

Zwillich discussed the dynamics of a political beat reporter in Washington and how important relationships with politicians, their staffers and even colleagues in the press are. In order to build a collective list of valuable sources, political beat reporters have to essentially become part of the “institution,” even when a reporter’s primary interest is supposed to be the general public. Zwillich mentions how some reporters take an alternative, which is to become an adversarial reporter looking for scandals and dirty laundry. Going that route, however, means you burn your chance at ever obtaining first-hand sources. Such reporters must instead rely on public records and second or third hand sources.

Without revealing anything, Zwillich discussed what its like to know the dirty laundry (illegal activities, who’s sleeping with who) of so many prominent people within the beltway and weighing the options of when such information is worth bringing to the public’s attention.

It was a fascinating discussion, that took place during the final 15 or 20 minutes of the 3 p.m. CT hour. I recommend that anyone who has Sirius XM and can listen to the “Press Pool” replay, either tonight on the POTUS channel or via on-demand do so.

Ranting about CBS 2 News and television’s overuse of live reports

There are plenty of times when being live and on scene where news is happening or recently happened greatly enhances the ability to tell a story. The camera can capture visuals while the reporter gathers information by talking to news makers face-to-face (i.e. police, witnesses, etc.).

Then there are other times when being live on location does nothing to enhance the broadcast. Unfortunately, this happens more often than is necessary in television news, both locally and nationally. At some point in time, some research must have concluded that viewers are more interested in a story when live and on scene at a given location where news has happened or soon will.

A perfect example is right now on the WBBM-TV/CBS 2 morning news  broadcast, where reporter Susanna Song is reporting live in front of U.S. Cellular Field all morning to report on the anticipation of star Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez possibly playing in tonight’s game against the White Sox. Of course, the spotlight is on Rodriguez due to his impending suspension that is expected to be announced today due to his alleged use of PEDs.

There is nothing more ridiculous than a news reporter standing in front of an empty baseball stadium at 4:50 in the morning to report on a story when none of the potential news makers (i.e. Rodriguez, Yankee Manager Joe Girardi, teammates, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, etc.) are going to be on hand. The visual of a dark U.S. Cellular Field at 4:50 in the morning also doesn’t provide any valuable visuals that enhances the broadcast. Nor will it make much difference at 6:50 after the sun has risen.

There is no reason for Song to be in front of U.S. Cellular Field at this time. There’s no reason why the story even has to be live. I didn’t watch last night’s CBS 2 newscast, but I’m willing to bet that the assigned sports anchor had likely mentioned a thing or two about Rodriguez . Wouldn’t it have been more efficient for that anchor to have filed a one or two minute report in studio to be played during this morning’s newscast? Or, why not just keep Song in studio where she can deliver the same report as she did in front of the ballpark, or perhaps send her to report on a more newsworthy story while allowing one of the in-studio anchors to mention Rodriguez?

Many of these questions are rhetorical, of course.

Beyond the ridiculousness of Song being live at the ballpark, this story also is CBS 2’s top story at the start of this 5 a.m. broadcast (after first beginning with traffic and weather)! While our current news cycle involves a heightened alert for potential terrorist activity, abundance Chicago gun violence, and record setting attendance at this weekend’s Lollapalooza, CBS 2 thinks the most important story of the day is Rodriguez!?

Ughhh.

A few other notes and observations from this morning’s newscast…

– Marissa Bailey and Roseanne Tellez are anchoring this morning’s newscast while Kris Gutierrez is absent. Though there was no mention of him at the start of the 5 a.m. broadcast, I assume Gutierrez is simply enjoying the day off (the CBS 2 staff did celebrate his birthday with him on Friday).

– Speaking of Bailey and Tellez, both have been rotating morning anchor duties since the station’s dismissal of Susan Carlson in May. Bailey has typically anchored Monday and Tuesdays (on top of her weekend morning anchoring duties) while Tellez has been anchoring Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. When exactly does CBS 2 plan on hiring a permanent replacement for Carlson?

While I think either Bailey or Tellez are fine choices, CBS 2 should pick one of them already to go all five days for the sake of consistency. Then again, CBS 2 may not want viewers to get use to one person in anticipation of eventually hiring an outsider.

– With Derrick Young off again today, meteorologist Megan Glaros is holding down the fort doing both weather and traffic.Was this a planned scheduling, or did someone forget to schedule a substitute? Somewhat of an odd occurrence considering CBS 2 had scheduled meteorologist Ed Curan to fill in on traffic last week.

– Young will be back on traffic for tomorrow’s broadcast.

– Speaking of Carlson, it amazes me at the amount of traffic her dismissal still brings to this website. Going on three months since her exit from CBS 2, the Google search queries for her have barely tapered since. After a few weeks off the grid, Carlson is keeping plenty busy as afternoon news anchor for the “Roe & Roeper” show on WLS-AM 890 and as a reporter for the WMAQ-TV/NBC 5 weekend news.

The cat’s meow

A lot of people had a good laugh yesterday courtesy of the ChicagoTribune.com’s home page gaffe featuring the cat and “Headline test here” heading. This was the second highly publicized embarrassment for the Tribune in the last week and a half.

The Sunday (7/21) Tribune’s front page featured a story that later turned out to be highly falsified (as noted in this past Sunday’s paper).

As for yesterday’s mishap, classify that as one hell of a web exclusive. Those who still only read the paper missed out on that one.

Who says the Trib isn’t committed to digital?

Chicago Tribune goes in-depth on city’s thousand-plus shootings in first half of 2013

Over 1,000 shot in Chicago so far this year. Today’s Chicago Tribune profiles a sample of the stories surrounding such victims.

The trends have been positive this year, with the number of shootings and homicides running below last year’s tragic spike, but similar to other recent years. The regular weekly statistics released by Chicago police include the number of shooting incidents, not the number of victims. Even if an incident involves multiple victims, it is counted as a single shooting. But the Tribune analysis focused on the number of victims.

The circumstances behind this violence is far more complicated than a bunch of hoodlums having nothing better to do than joining a gang. As always, society will ignore the underlying problem(s).

Either that, or we just don’t know how to fix it. I’m not sure which, though I lean towards the former.

The Tribune also has a database pinpointing the victims and locations of all shootings from the first-half of this year. Or just remember the URL, chicagotribune.com/shootings.

Luntz’s criticism of conservative talk radio echoes broader truth about today’s political coverage

Republican consultant Frank Luntz is about to find himself in hot water within the conservative circle. Yesterday, Mother Jones posted the full narrative (written and video) of Luntz criticizing today’s mainstream conservative talk radio hosts while speaking to Republican students at the University of Pittsburgh on Monday. Luntz made his off the record comments after assurance he would not be recorded. In today’s world, he should have known better.

In line with what Luntz has said or written in the past, he believes much of the polarizing talk by conservative talkers such as Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin are “problematic” for the party’s long-term success. Luntz realizes that conservatives are on the losing battle of specific issues, such as immigration reform or birth control. Conservative talkers opposing such issues is counterproductive if independents or anyone else in the middle vote against Republicans in the future.

Unfortunately, conservative talk radio is no different than prime time cable news on the Fox News Channel — same thing on the opposite end of the spectrum with MSNBC and the abundance of progressive content. It’s all about making money. Political news and discussion is practically entertainment. The people who watch or listen to such polarizing coverage seemingly enjoy getting riled up. So the media companies and their hosts tell them exactly what they want to hear.

Luntz of course will be vilified by the conservative media as a traitor, I’m sure under the premise that he is willing to compromise conservative principles in order to achieve his own individual agenda (whatever that may be — I’m sure they’ll think of something).

As long as there is money to be made in the political news entertainment field, people like Limbaugh or Levin have no reason to change their dialogue.

CNN’s ‘King’ of all errors

The news media has been a hot topic of discussion in wake of the Boston Marathon bombings as a result of the reckless behavior by select outlets. At the top of that list of course are CNN and the New York Post, while the Associated Press and Fox News are one level beneath.

In a time where citizen journalism and photography is gaining notoriety thanks to social networking and websites like Reddit, at the very least, we can count on the one sure notion that the mainstream news outlets are held accountable if they screw up.

Or not…

A New York Times story yesterday shows that in the target advertising demographic, CNN had more viewers than Fox News Channel during Friday’s coverage of the lockdown in Watertown, MA and the apprehension of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, aka subject number two.

Despite the embarrassing blunder made last Wednesday by CNN’s John King, the habit of television viewers automatically turning on CNN in the wake of breaking news remains unchanged. To put this in further perspective, the 1.34 million viewers was the best number CNN had for any nonpolitical event since April 2003, when the network was covering the Iraq War.

So much for consequences, at least in the short-term. However, some might suggest that the network’s low ratings on normal days are already consequence enough.

Odds & Ends

  • Whether or not John King is under any heat at CNN will probably never be known. According to a Washington Post story from last week, CNN had no plans to “bench” King. He was instead reassigned to cover something far less important (my words) — interviewing former President George W. Bush just ahead of the opening of his presidential library.
  • A separate piece from David Carr’s Media Equation column in the New York Times yesterday brilliantly describes the current news media environment, plotting the likely how’s and why’s someone like John King could commit such an embarrassing error. An absolute must-read.
  • When news hit late Friday afternoon that federal authorities had Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev cornered, it was a given that WBBM-AM 780 (and its simulcast on WCFS-FM 105.9) would provide wall-to-wall coverage courtesy of CBS News. WLS-AM 890 was all over it as well following Roe Conn’s afternoon show, courtesy of ABC News. After 8pm when turning on WLS to hear more about the capture, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the voice of Lauren Cohn (weekday co-host, 9am-11am), considering moments earlier WLS news anchor Mary Frances Bragiel mistakenly announced that Sean Hannity was coming up next.