I laughed several times Thursday when I picked up The Buffalo News and read a story with the headline: “Contract issues cited in O’Connell’s split from WECK.”
The headline and the story about Channel 2 weatherman Kevin O’Connell leaving his moonlighting gig on the radio station calling itself “The Breeze” reminded me of one of the reasons why I am writing this blog as I prepare to take a few days off.
If you need reminding, it is because The News has downsized the importance of reporting about the local media while critic Jeff Simon concentrates on writing about and reviewing national TV shows the paper told me were no longer important. (I disagree. I really think we need to know what he thinks about “The Killing,” Katie Couric’s new talk show or “The Closer” finale).
Seriously, I think downsizing the importance of reporting about the local media is a bad mistake since it is an influential industry, and local TV and radio personalities are Buffalo’s celebrities. It is unfortunate that many local media stories feature self-serving comments by executives that aren’t put in perspective.
After laughing at the headline, my immediate first thought was this was news?
I wrote about it on July 28th, two days after O’Connell left the low-rated radio station. My headline was “O’Connell Flees the Breeze.” (Look it up. I could use the page views). The News knew that O’Connell had left back then.
And it still took almost two weeks to report his departure? It made you wonder if The News considers itself a newspaper or a magazine or if it believes it is only news when the paper says it is. By the time it published a story about O’Connell’s departure, just about anyone who knew or cared about it surely didn’t need the paper to tell them he had left the Breeze.
The delay in reporting his departure was all the more surprising when you consider five months earlier The News had carried a lengthy promotional story about O’Connell pre-recording his afternoon show.
The length of the story about O’Connell’s leaving was also laughable. The newspaper probably has given a radio station with some of the lowest ratings in the area the most column inches. My July 28th story about O’Connell leave was about four paragraphs long, which was just about right.
I also laughed about the straight newsy lead of the story. If you’re going to be 12 days late running a news story at the very least you should try to be more creative about it.
Another laugh came when down in the story a sentenced appeared that claimed “sources familiar with the station said the issue was salary.” Really? O’Connell told me that on July 28. The News story even said “he believed he deserved a raise.”
The News seems to be determined to provide me with a weekly laugh. Several days earlier it ran a decent (and lengthy) feature story about the move of “Off-Beat Cinema” to WBBZ-TV, the independent station that is trying to amp up its local programming.
The laugh came when the story included a quote from Syracuse University pop culture expert Robert Thompson. Thompson gives great quotes. I know Thompson. I like him. He is very engaging. I had lunch with him once with Tom Fontana, the Buffalo writer who taught a course at Syracuse some time ago. I’ve talked to him about the need for a more current textbook for a college course I am teaching about criticism.
But when I was at the paper, I resisted quoting Thompson. My theory was why should I go to an outside expert to talk about Buffalo media when I was the expert who knew more about the area’s tastes and needs?
Sure enough, I laughed about his “Off-Beat” quote in the story. “This may be one of the ideas that will help make local television continue to be relevant in the environment of transnational cable channels and the Internet,” said Robert Thompson, director of the Blier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “The old model of the local television station is really getting long in the tooth, but there are a couple of things that local television can do. Let’s face it, there’s not a whole lot of shows originating from Buffalo.”
Seriously? It was a great quote that was perfect for the story The News was presenting. But the quote made it sound like “Off-Beat Cinema” was new. It’s been around for almost 20 years. It isn’t going to revolutionize local TV or make it more relevant.
Its late Saturday night-Sunday morning premiere on WBBZ had a .2 rating (that’s two-tenths of a point) for the first 30 minutes and didn’t register a rating after that. I’m told by a local researcher that means one household with a Nielsen meter watched it for the first 30 minutes.
To put that in perspective, about as many people watched the WBBZ premiere as listen to WECK.
My self-serving point (TV and radio executives aren’t the only ones who can be self-serving) in all this is that the place to go to read about local media news is stilltalkintv. But you probably know that by now.
After all of NBC’s promotion, you might have thought that Matthew Perry’s new comedy “Go On” would have a strong local rating when it premiered at 11:05 Wednesday night. It had a decent 10.1 rating on Channel 2, which is three or four times as high as many of its prime time comedies get around here. But with the Olympic lead-in and promotion, one could have expected it to do much better. The really bad news is that the rating at 11:15 p.m. slipped to a 6.9, which means a lot of WNYers didn’t stick around to see Terrell Owens’ guest appearance at the end.
I’m now going to take several days off while contemplating the Olympic question that has been bugging me for days. Why does married U.S. volleyball gold medalist Misty May-Treanor use a hyphen in her name when her married playing partner Kerri Walsh Jennings does not? You would think with all the questions they’ve been bombarded with since winning their third straight gold medal someone would have asked that controversial question.