TV News

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One reporter’s journey to Cuba and how to get the story

Flag and fins - Harrison reporting from Cuba. (Photo by Carlos Harrison)

Flag and fins – Harrison reporting from Cuba. (Photo by Carlos Harrison)

The announcement came as a total surprise. The United States and Cuba would normalize diplomatic relations, ending their half-century-old Cold War stalemate.

It was a big story. Even bigger in South Florida. They don’t call it Little Havana for nothing.

As a Miami-based freelancer I knew that all of the local TV stations would want more than what the networks would offer. They wanted stories catered to their market. And because of their connection to South Florida and el exilio, I knew Cuba wouldn’t let most – maybe not any – send one of their own in.

I had been to Cuba a dozen times as a reporter. I covered Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to the island for Fox News. Read more


Q: Why is Vice on TV? A: Why do people rob banks?

Partway through his interview with Vice News Editor-in-Chief Jason Mojica Friday, City University of New York professor Jeff Jarvis asked why Vice still pumps out content over TV. “You’ve got the fucking Internet!” Jarvis exclaimed. “Why would you even dance with the old models?”

“Why do people rob banks?” Mojica replied. “That’s where the money is.”

That exchange evinced the tension at the heart of Friday’s summit about reinventing TV and video news, held at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism. The conference aimed to fix a medium that in many cases is still making money by the truckload.

Mojica. (Photograph courtesy Vice)

Mojica. (Photograph courtesy Vice)

But you can’t drive that truck far into the future, Jarvis argued in his opening remarks, during which he urged people to get complaints about TV news tropes out of their systems. Read more


TV stations supply less news to other local media


Fewer local TV stations say they supply news content to newspapers, radio stations or other TV stations than in previous years, Bob Papper reports in the latest installment of the RTDNA/Hofstra University Survey.

In the survey three years ago, Papper writes, “I noted that cooperative ventures had been growing during a down or uncertain economy … and that it would be interesting to see how they hold up as the economy improves. Last year’s evidence suggested that they’re shrinking. That trend has continued this year as well.”

The change isn’t huge, but Papper notes that all categories went down. Read more


News directors most likely to be named Mike, Jennifer or Kelly

Radio Television Digital News Association

Television stations’ news directors are most likely to be in their mid-40s and have been at their stations for an average of 5.7 years, Hofstra University professor emeritus Bob Papper reports. They’re also likely to be named Mike, Jim or David if they’re men or Jennifer, Kelly or Julie if they’re women, Papper writes, adding, “Apparently I have too much time on my hands.”

Papper is rolling out results from his 20th annual survey of the broadcast news biz for RTDNA. Read more


No-knock policy bars TV station staff from rapping on crime suspects’ doors

A Houston television station is telling its staff not to knock on the doors of crime suspects. The station issued a memo saying it is too big a risk to journalists’ safety, but others see the move as a way for stations to protect themselves legally. And the president of the Society of Professional Journalists says such a broad order may result in weaker journalism that could be unfair to people accused of crimes.

KTRK-TV Houston News Director David Strickland issued the order to his staff after  reporter Demond Fernandez knocked on the door of a man accused of child sex abuse. The man told the TV crew to turn off the camera (which they didn’t) then he produced a gun.

Strickland wrote to his staff:

I know this will come off as opportunistic in the wake of today but I’ll allow my vanity to take the hit.

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News gets less local as station owners get bigger

“Our investment thesis is simple,” Tribune Co. CEO Peter Liguori told New York Times reporter David Carr last year. “Scale matters.”

For local television stations, 2013 was a year of scale. This year’s State of the News Media report runs down the consolidations and acquisitions that saw almost 300 TV stations change hands: Tribune buying Local TV Holdings. Gannett ending up with more than 40 stations after purchasing Belo. Media General merging with New Young, and just last week buying LIN Media to operate 74 stations. Sinclair agreeing to buy stations from Allbritton (a company I once worked for) and Fisher Communications to end up with 167 stations it will own, operate or provide services to. Nexstar Broadcasting Group closing the year with 108 stations under its auspices. Read more


NBC correspondent Kerry Sanders injured by broken TV light

NBC correspondent Kerry Sanders said in a Twitter post Thursday that he suffered serious eye injuries while covering the Michael Dunn trial in Jacksonville, Fla., in February.


In the post that he attached to his tweet, Sanders explained that the injuries were caused by a malfunctioning HMI TV light that slowly damaged his corneas while he reported live on the Today Show, MSNBC and NBC Nightly News.

Sanders wrote in his post that the light fried the skin on his face and: “Not only could I not see, but my eyes burned in pain as if two hot coals smoldered in my sockets. Read more

WGAL photo

How WGAL TV kept the newsroom running when the roof collapsed

WGAL-TV (Lancaster, Pa.) News Director Dan O’Donnell was on the other side of the building from the newsroom at 3:20 Friday afternoon when he said he heard “what sounded like a truck backing into the building. Others said it sounded like thunder. Then ceiling tiles came down. The newsroom roof was collapsing.”

Engineers discovered a concrete support beam and slab had shifted and dropped. Luckily, no one was injured.

Snow packed WGAL-TV’s rooftop. A beam shifted forcing the station to evacuate. (Photo from WGAL used with permission)
Lancaster has been buried in snow for the last couple of weeks. “It was snow related,” O’Donnell said, “We covered three or four roof collapses before we had our problems. We had a foot of snow this week, 8 inches fell the week before. Read more
Conan O'Brien discusses his life and the art of comedy during a forum at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, Thursday, May 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Conan’s comedy bit hints at serious issues for local TV news

Just before the holidays, late-night comedian Conan O’Brien poked a little fun at local TV newscasts. In doing so, he illustrated some serious issues about the compromises journalists make in understaffed newsrooms.

O’Brien strung together clips of two dozen local news anchors reading an identical story – a consumer report about the supposed trend of holiday “self gifting.” The newscasts were broadcast in different cities – from Boise to Ft. Wayne to Dothan, Ala., but each of the anchors introduced the story with the exact same words: “It’s okay; you can admit it if you bought an item or two or ten for yourself.”

O’Brien has aired similar montages in the past, capturing repetition in local stories about such topics as Cyber Monday shopping, restaurants that serve political-themed food, and the news that actor Mike Myers and his wife were expecting a baby. Read more


Nashville rallies behind TV reporter’s winter hat

Suburban Turmoil

Lindsay Ferrier says she used to hate the fuzzy hat her husband, WSMV-TV reporter Dennis Ferrier made a point of wearing during winter weather in Nashville.

But “it looks like that hat is here to stay,” she writes. Dennis Ferrier’s employer asked viewers to sound off on whether they liked his ushanka:

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