Tuesday, November 25, 2014

WPMT (Fox 43) has technical blunder

It was time today (Tues., Nov. 25) for the 4 p.m. newscast ... a station proud of getting the news to you an hour ahead of the other guys.  

Unfortunately, they couldn't do it. Instead, people trying to get the news got a bunch of "The Simpsons."  With a crawler at the bottom of the screen apologizing that technical difficulties interrupted the audio from their news studio.


ANY broadcast engineering staff worth its salt has patch panels set up so at any moment they can use patch cords and bypass and/or reroute their audio and video to eliminate any failure, simply by patching in to equipment that is working.  

The keyword here though is "redundancy." A broadcast station, whether radio or TV, has an obligation to serve its public and be prepared to handling equipment malfunctions and outright failures.  That means backup sound boards, video switchers, synch equipment and the like.

In one quick snafu, the station takes its reputation back to the days when it was considered an amateurish wannabe, a UHF vs. VHF giant.

I must admit, the Fox 43 news staff has been doing a good job of presenting more aggressive and visually exciting presentations of local news events than its Lancaster-based VHF giant competitor.

C'mon guys, quit blowing it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

To WGAL News8: Get your facts right

It is about time that WGAL, also known as News8, set the record straight on its reporting of the proposed gas pipeline the Williams Co. wants to run through parts of Lebanon and Lancaster County.

For weeks, as the proposed pipeline story was breaking, the station consistently aired a graphic showing a large above-ground pipeline to accompany their reporting on the proposal and the growing resistence to it by property owners that could be affected.

As a viewer and recipient to these reports, I assumed the pipeline being proposed was what was being shown in the graphic, or that the graphic was showing a pipeline similar to the proposed line.

For property owners who attended meetings with the pipeline company, they may have been set straight about it, but for other viewers, like me, there was no clarification.  Until the past two days, when a News8 personality is taped walking part of the proposed line and says the pipeline will be buried three feet below the surface -- oops, in the 2nd of 3 segments, the personality says five feet below the surface (no explanation why the difference).

What a difference that makes.  The eyesore aspect of this line disappeared. And now it makes some viewers wonder what the fuss is really about.  How many gas lines are buried now to bring local gas service? Hundreds of miles' worth just in my county.  And no one seems to be bothered. The same yellow-topped markers are showing in hundreds of areas.  I see several of the markers just on Indian Rock Dam Road in York Twp., one route I take regularly.

The only thing I say different is that this proposed large gas pipeline will have the area on top of it cleared of trees ... but under farm land, the farmer can farm his land as if it wasn't even there.

I am not here to offer an opinion on whether or not the pipeline is good or needed or necessary to take the route they plan to take.  I am here to say that journalists should get their facts right before presenting them to the public.

Misinformation, no matter whether intentional or not, creates wrong ideas and wrong basis for people to draw opinions from.

So the message to News8 is this: Get your facts right and your ducks in a row before presenting a campaign or project to us.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

And the networks call this news????

Breaking news. An airliner crashed in eastern Ukraine today (July 17, 2014). NBC-TV breaks into their programming and then, for two grueling, migraine-headache-causing hours, we hear a few bits of information and a lot of speculation of what happened.

Summed up, the airliner, a Boeing 777, was most likely hit by a ground-to-air missile. Definitely a dastardly deed.

But for two hours, we hear Brian Williams go on and on and on trying to piece together little bits of information.  First problem is that NBC network all of a sudden wants to try to come across as a 24-hour news network ... you know the type, like MSNBC, CNN, and Fox that grind on and on for hours about news developments because that is all they are there for.

What NBC (and probably CBS and ABC as well although those channels weren't monitored or checked) should have done was to produce a news bulletin announcing what happpened and that more details will be provided later.

We didn't need to hear all the speculation, the jibber jabber that normally goes on in a newsroom as journalists attempt to obtain the facts and piece them together.

The final facts after 2 hours of this form of excrement could be summed up in less than five minutes of reporting by 3 p.m.:  A Malaysian Boeing 777 jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine near its border with Russia, killing 295 people. No one was taking responsibility for the shot yet, through Ukrainian insurgents and Russia have the missiles that was probably used. Most airliners have shut down their routes over Ukraine as a result of the incident.

There, that was said in 2 minutes at the most.

For crying out loud, networks.  You are primarily entertainment-focused and you have that audience. Why bore them to death (or at least drive them to migraine headaches) by hearing bits and pieces of information repeated over and over and over in different voices and phrases. Let the regular programming go on and feed the bulletins as the actual facts become available.

The age of instant gratification, instant information transfer will never speed up the gathering of the facts which is what everyone should be basing their decisions and opinions on, anyway.  Do not base your opinions on the speculation that so-called professional journalists keep muttering.

Oh, and by the way, during this period, Israel began a land invasion of the Gaza Strip in response to the rocket attacks come from Hamas.  But that wasn't as important as the airliner it appears. You'll see that on the regularly scheduled even newscast.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Congratulations -- and a 'Thank You' are in order to York's television station, WPMT, also known as Fox 43 local coverage of the Independence Day celebration and fireworks at Lancaster's Long's Park.

It takes a lot to break from network programs, especially in what is called "prime time," to spend the funds for the technical and mobile equipment and to cover a local event such as this.  And thanks to the sponsor, Swartz Kitchens, which helped present the coverage

There is so little locally-produced programming these days on commercial television stations.

Compared to the slick production of July 4th in New York City, which cost thousands of dollars to present (all paid for by its major sponsor, Macy's, which comes from the money spent by consumers) Sunday night's Long's Park celebration was much more appealing and carried that hometown flavor.

One would hope that WPMT will do this again next year.

And maybe, just maybe, the station will bring us more locally prtoduced, local-flavor celebrations on other holidays.

Again, congrats to WPMT, Fox 43.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Media skews true activities of hearings

channel-surfed and came across one of the C-Span channels Thursday night and watched a major portion of the U.S. House Government Oversight Committee's hearing with the IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, the only witness called.

It turned out to be another great example of the ineptness, arrogance, and power-hungry attitude of the members of Congress.  It was also funny to watch how the news media covered the hearing Friday morning. That, too, shows the ineptness of our so-called "fair" media outlets.

The hearing displayed the contentious feelings between the Republicans and Democrats themselves, demonstrated to the point that members of the committee from both parties asked for fairness and for basic House rules be followed. The hearing demonstrated how pleas for fairness go unheeded and how a witness can be manhandled and abused, all in what at least the committee members think is a way to get to the truth.

The truth is, they don't know how to get the truth and they don't care about the truth.

The truth is, especially when media members and cameras are present, each side wants to come off looking like they are the better people. The truth is, the members of both sides of the isle came off looking like buffoons.

To sum it up, the whole public hearing is another typical political dog and pony show. It's the art of perception, which politicians are real good at and news media members (most not worth their salt) eat up. The politicians try to appear that they are getting something done when actually nothing at all is getting done.

The final perception to any ordinary citizen watching the actual hearing is that this is a whole waste of time to take care of business -- though it is valuable time for politicians to make an ass of themselves.

The media, of course, grabbed a lot of good "sound bites" of vicious argumentative statements and exchanges to make it look like the committee was really onto something and beating the crap out of the IRS, figuratively speaking. But what the media didn't report was the internal bickering and arguments between the committee members themselves.

All in all. it was another good example of why the ordinary citizens like us have such a low rating of Congress -- and politicians in general -- and how the media skews the information in order to present the best in drama which, in turn, translates into viewer ratings which, in turn, brings in advertisers so the media outlet can make more money.

You want to investigate the IRS problem? Get a professional investigator and let him/her use their skills to quietly get to the truth and then present the results to the committees. Saves a whole lot of hot air and buffoonery.

No wonder our country is going to Hell in a hand-basket and the speed is picking up.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

It's sad - Print journalism declining

On Monday, the publisher of local newspaper hosted a dinner for the entire staff in order to say goodbye to almost one-third of them, who accepted buyouts as the newspaper tries to remain solvent.

It's all part of a messy situation involving a federal Joint Operating Agreement with another newspaper here, and yet all are operating under one corporate umbrella.

The sad part of it is that the newspaper's print circulation has been rising as it began to go head-to-head with the other daily as a morning newspaper.  But it is the "outcast" of the corporate structure and it is paying for all the bad decisions and visions of the corporate airheads.

As the publisher sadly pointed out, across the United States the number of journalists has declined by 30 percent. That's one-third less dedicated people to keep tabs on you government's agencies, and the pules of the community as well as the world.

Television journalism has very, very seldom been able to uncover the corruption that we all know exists in every level of government. TV depends on handouts, "spins" ... they often take what's fed them and run with it, sometimes showing the bias and, many times, not checking the facts.  After all, time is their enemy. They only have a limited amount of time to present what they want to present.

Sadly TV still remains the opiate of society.

Then you have newspapers that have consolidated operations and use pre-set layouts which use enlarged photos -- often "fluffy" stuff -- to fill the precious little news space left in a newspaper. Little space because of cutting back on paper  because of the expenses and, now many letting the print side of journalism swinging in the wind to concentrate on that little device everyone carries around in their pocket to provide news.

As little as Web space costs, in relation to newsprint, there is little in-depth investigative work going on and even less being made available to the readers.

All of this mess wrapped up shows a society that is not really fully informed, is given a lot of biased opinions, and are urged to give knee-jerk reactions to stories even before all the facts are in place.

As a journalist, I am very, very saddened over how things are declining in the field of journalism.  And those people I meet every day that say they love to have that newspaper in their hands may end up alone.  There are many people out there who do not like being tied to a little electronic device and treated as if they are the robot, and the device is the authority.

I sure hope there is a turn-around sometime before the corporate fat-cats cut off the true  symbol of journalism because the can't make enough profits to make their pockets fatter.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

NBC continues its terrible events coverage

Well, NBC television didn't fail to keep its bad reputation again Friday night with its telecast of the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics from Russia.

Just as they had two years ago in Great Britain, and as they did as I distinctly remember about the Princess Diana funeral coverage (distinctly in my mind because of how bad it was and I saw part of it on BBC in comparison).

What's the problem? The biggest factor of how they cover all special events is the constant chatter between "correspondents" and "anchors" and "experts," prohibiting the viewer like me to actually enjoy the ambiance of the event, to see it as a visitor would see it in real life attendance at the event.

There seems to be a rule somewhere in the U.S. broadcasters' books that says if is quiet from personalities it is an emergency and you must talk or viewers will desert you. 

Out of all the jibber-jabber going on, little of it contained actual factual information about procedures or specifics of the event.  It was more casual banter and jibber among themselves acting as the observer and feeding us their reactions.

Aren't we supposed to be the observer and enjoy our own feelings of reactions ... rather than be told how they feel and we should feel the same with them?  Good gosh, are we that stupid to these people?

I would love to see just one time where we can observe without the so-called "color" commentary the networks seem to think we must have. Just give us some facts and let us enjoy what is going on.

If I were a network executive, the first thing I'd do is fire Bob Costas and Matt Lauer.  Not only is some of their "color commentary" stupid in itself, but definitely not called for. To Costas, Lauer and other "personalities:" you don't have to behave like you are so superior, which you all think you are. Because you are not.

If anyone has a recording of the BBC coverage of special events and compare it to an American network's coverage of the same event, you'd plainly see the difference and you feel more a part of what's going on.  First, their announcers give you facts without commentary or feelings of their own. They let YOU feel and reach your own conclusions.  Second, they treat the event with dignity and respect like it deserves.

That's part one of my rant today.  The second part is how the network was able to weave in politics into the ceremonies and an extensive does of their diatribe for more than an hour before the ceremonies began.  For crying out loud, this is a global SPORTS event, and just treat it as such. Quit trying to show how all of it is politically motivated.

The ages of hype are reaching and end, NBC (and other networks as well).  You make a big to-do over the littlest things and sometimes ignore the most important things in order to get a biased opinion pushed on to the viewers.  One day, soon I hope, the majority of viewers are going to smarten up and realize how spoon-fed they are.

True news, TV people, is not hyped, not biased, and not presented as such.  News is facts delivered without commentary or bias and let the viewers develop their own opinions.  In what year is that going to happen? You all have been on the air since the 1940s and time is running out for accepting this kind of garbage as "news."

Even "Today" show and "Hoda and Kathy Lee" show are produced by a news division, and you think they are news?