Tag Archives: new york

Dispatch from the Frontlines: Polly Kreisman

Polly Kreisman

In the Loop: Polly Kreisman

I am an obsessive journalist the way some people kayak or collect star trek trinkets. I can’t help seeing the world the way I want to write it or shoot it or edit it for others. And then, I can’t help reporting it.

So the transition from old media to new media for me is the easiest thing in the world.

And the hardest.

For what we have here folks, is the Wild West. No assignment editor sending you to an apartment fire. No tweaking possible once your piece has aired. No beginning, middle or end to your day. And no more ‘one thing’ to call yourself: producer, reporter, producer/reporter, managing editor, cameraperson, one man band, guy at the lunch place.

Nope, not anymore.

For example, I have been trying to write this blog post since 9:30 am.  (Actually, since May 12) It is now 5:12. In the interim, I have had to write and send out my weekly newsletter (which helps bring people to theLoop,) upload four new articles, format the artwork for a new advertiser and put it in the ad server, finish writing a business plan, field emails with news and content to post, then post it, gently kick my two 7-year olds out of my home office (twice), and plan the next installment of LoopTV…all the while nursing a hangover from a Loop event last night (hey, it was my birthday.)

(Sorry- just had to post some breaking news and new real estate listings–damn formatting took forever)

looptiedyeMy goal for today was to read virtual piles of articles I have saved about hyperlocal business models and how to monetize them. In other words, how to make money doing this. As someone wrote to me today, it really is one of the first big new media questions of the 21st century.

Never got to that.

So while this feeds my news jones…and sometimes feeds my family, I have had to wear hats I never knew were in the closet:  Business Manager, Ad Sales (ew!), Computer Programmer, Event Planner, Graphic Artist, PR person, Accountant…Then there’s the micro-version of things that will never change: Instead of the ballsy “Eat, Drink and Be Wary” segments we did at WWOR TV (anyone remember the rats at the Bagel factory on the West Side Highway?) or that month upon month–long siege with the Korean-American community excoriating my 7-months pregnant self and WPIX TV for finding (and confirming on video and in lab testing) that certain members were breeding dogs for the restaurant trade–it’s the local coffee bar in Larchmont, NY where I found rats dancing up a storm through the window.  That proprietor, a year later, is still trying to shut us down, much the way the Korean Community tried to extract a retraction from the station. And much the way the H & H Bagel CEO came on the set with me one night and insisted I “put” the mice in the video.  One of the things I loved about being a reporter was the ability to do something new every day, meet people I never would have otherwise, and learn about their jobs, which were so different than the one I had.  And maybe along the way pass something on to give the audience more information about his/her world, whether it pisses someone off in the process or not. Hopefully, not.

And really, in that way, nothing’s changed.

Advertisements

10 Comments

Filed under Local News 2.0

Mike Sheehan Fired After 16 Years: Fox’s WNYW Cuts a Classic New York Character

NYPD Detective-Turned-Reporter Mike Sheehan

NYPD Detective-Turned-WNYW/New York Reporter Mike Sheehan

 

Way back when then-WNEW introduced the 10 o’clock news to New York City, the shop was known as a real New York newsroom: filled with quirky, gritty, honest-to-God New Yorkers, warts and all. They weren’t spit-shined, manicured and pretty, but damn did they know the City. And Channel 5’s newscast was worth watching.

A lot has changed, and most of those characters–and the solid, serious, in your face news that made Channel 5 different and so legitimately New York–have been replaced with fresh faces from El Paso and Orlando and beyond. Even the name–the original 10 O’Clock News (and, to my ear, the best damn news open this side of WABC’s Cool Hand Luke)–has been reduced to “Fox 5 News at Ten,” which could be the name of any newscast in any town.

And tonight comes word Mike Sheehan is out. As the set got glitzy and the wrinkled faces got shown the door…as the New York accents faded and the station’s news turned more and more to American Idol and Lindsay Lohan…Sheehan remained. The NYPD detective who earned his bones breaking cases like Preppy Murderer Robert Chambers was a throwback to the gold old days at 5: an honest to God trenchcoat and pinky ring wearing New York original.

Full disclosure: I worked at WNYW, and my desk faced Mike’s. This is a man who can tell a story over a beer like few I’ve ever known. And I know deep under his gruff Irish exterior, he was proud to do the job he did. Losing his job, as he told the Daily News’s Richard Huff tonight, was “a kick in the chest. Sixteen years I’ve been there. I can’t believe it.”
But anyone who watches local news in New York–or anywhere–shouldn’t be surprised in the least. Longevity is no longer an asset. Years on the job and contacts at One Police Plaza? That got you a big salary and influence back when television stations were powerhouses that could afford such things.

Sheehan told the Richard Huff the station ended its relationship with a letter delivered to his home. This is, sadly, the new normal in our business: nobody tells you to your face. It’s a way of doing business that reduces us all, and it’s shameful.

Yes, Mike has had his problems, including a recent accident involving a police horse and an arrest for reckless endangerment and operating a vehicle while intoxicated and impaired. Whether that’s really why Sheehan got the axe is valid fodder for debate. But believe me, in this environment, people like Mike Sheehan walk tall–too tall–and the networks are moving on.

For years, Mike ended his crime stories with an appeal for folks to “do the right thing” and pick up the phone if they knew anything that could help police. Too bad managers at Fox couldn’t do so little as to pick up the phone and give it to him straight.

4 Comments

Filed under layoffs

Sharing is Caring…Then, Firing. Fewer Local News Choppers for Gotham?

2 Stations Cover Madoff Live, Just 1 Chopper Overhead

2 Stations Cover Madoff Live, Just 1 Chopper Overhead

Sure, in the beginning it sounds like common sense.  It seems like good business.  Why hover two choppers over Bernie Madoff when one will do?  The suits at FOX and NBC were surely satisfied Thursday as the despicable Mr. Madoff made his one-way trip into court in Manhattan, a bevy of birds overhead to capture any fleeting movement that the army of stills and shooters on the ground might somehow miss.

Could the Baddest Bird in Gotham Be Grounded?

Could the Baddest Bird in Gotham Be Grounded?

When WNBC’s Chopper 4 needed to refuel, Channel 4 never lost a second of live overhead pictures–in HD–thanks to new BFF WNYW, with its sleek SkyFOX HD sharing live images with both stations.  “It’s a great plan to share assets and save money,” a FOX spokesperson told the New York Daily News’ Richard Huff.  Well, yes.  But talk to the local newsers who fly those birds, they’ll tell you what’s good for business almost certainly means somebody will lose their job.

“If the plan works out, one of the stations’ helicopters would be grounded completely and the two stations would share the remaining copter’s costs,” Huff reports.  It’s exactly what’s already happened in markets like Phoenix and Chicago, where “sharing” quickly morphed into “eliminating.”

1 Comment

Filed under Cutbacks

Local Sports: Key Component of Staying Local and Relevant? Or First to Throw Overboard? (Both?)

Lets Go to the Videotape!

"Let's Go to the Videotape!"

Of all the things that have stayed with me about growing up watching local TV news, two things stand out: the evolution of WCBS/NY’s “2” logo over the years, and the time I got to sit in Warner Wolf’s chair on the Channel 2 News set.  As a kid in Connecticut watching New York news, I won’t ever forget Beutel and Grimsby and the Cool Hand Luke music;  I won’t forget Jim Jensen, Chuck or Sue.  But for some reason, it’s Warner Wolf who I think was the first true “character” that made watching the 6 o’clock news something I would actually talk about at school the next day, what with his trademark style and “let’s go to the videotape!”

Today, there aren’t many wise young sportscasters expecting to be Warner Wolf one day.  Sure, you don’t “go to the videotape” anymore, but more importantly, sports has become the go-to source for deep-sixing talent and freeing up cash at struggling stations from coast to coast. WCBS, Wolf’s old station and the one I watched as a kid, (Anybody remember “NewsBreaker Territory?”) recently fired its main sports anchor, Ducis Rogers, and the morning guy, John Discepolo.  Sports, struggling for air time, is down to one lone anchor/reporter.

New York still has Len Berman, but many markets may do away with local sports altogether. Managers claim there’s no need, since true sports fans get their info from ESPN, or regional sports nets.  As Stacey Brown writes in the Scranton Times-Tribune, “Nightly sports reporting and local news appear to be headed for a divorce.”  

WOLF/Scrantons FOX 56

WOLF/Scranton's FOX 56

“It is a shame you don’t see more local sports during the newscasts,” Jon Cadman told Brown.  Cadman’s GM at (ah, irony) WOLF-TV in Scranton.  He says costs are just too high, and something’s gotta give.  So forget about seeing your kid’s high school touchdown run on Channel 16.  Maybe it’ll make SportsCenter.

In my own newsroom yesterday, as the sports folk were busy writing scripts, producing their ever-shrinking six o’clock sportscast, I heard the bellowing boom of the Asst. News Director:  “Sports is dead!”  It happens a lot.  And as a newsguy, I get it–to a point.  When news breaks, you’d expect weather and sports to give.  But in this environment of cutbacks and layoffs, is killing sports altogether the next step?  And does that, in a sense, take away one more thing that sets local news apart?  

I’ve worked in some sports-crazy cities, especially in the South, and let me tell you, there’s hardly a bond as strong as that between sports fan and sports talent.  When they show up at the high school football game on a Friday night, that’s the kind of thing that earns viewer loyalty. (Remember the Friday night football shows where sportsteams would actually use the station helicopter to fly around to as many games as possible?  Bringing not only a camera to get the game on TV that night, but the chopper to fly the colors in front of a packed stadium:  “Wow, Channel 5 ROCKS!”)

But even in small town Scranton, sports is on life support.  And in big city, sports-crazed New York, calling it a sports “department” seems like a bit of a stretch.  Are we turning away viewers to save a few dollars?  Or do the viewers really not care anymore–have they truly moved on?

13 Comments

Filed under Cutbacks

Latest Layoffs: Anchor, Longtime Managers Out at WNYW/NY

 

NYs Fox 5:  Spinning in a Vortex of Constant Change

NY's Fox 5: Spinning in a Vortex of Constant Change

The departures at FOX flagship WNYW continue, with former weekend anchor Karen Hepp leaving the station last week, according to reliable New York Daily News reporter Richard Huff.  Hepp’s disappearance from the E. 67th Street studios follows that of entertainment reporter Toni Senecal, who declined an offer of a new contract in favor of a production deal elsewhere.

Behind the scenes, sources say the turnover Tuesday took the jobs of two top managers, Managing Editor Joe Farrington, and early news executive producer Mike Milhaven, both of whom had been with the station for several years.  No comment yet from FOX.

Leave a comment

Filed under layoffs

Time Has Told… The Era of the One Person Crew Is Upon Us

Mitch Roberts/WKRN VJ and Anchor

Mitch Roberts/WKRN VJ and Anchor

It’s always educational to take a step back, turn around, and look at where we’ve been.  It helps to see where we’ve come from, and how we’ve gotten to this place.  In thinking about the spread of–call ’em what you will, one man bands, all-platform journalists, multimedia journalists, backpack journalists–single person crews, I looked back at the debut of the form, if you will.  The early reactions to the off-Broadway version of the show that’s now getting decidedly mixed reviews, but somehow selling lots and lots of tickets to news managers and corporate suits looking to find a way–any way–to cut costs and keep the profit in local news.

The first station group to go “VJ,” as they called it, was Young Broadcasting, which put cameras on reporters’ shoulders at WKRN/Nashville and KRON/San Francisco, copying a news-on-the-cheap model that had seen success elsewhere, notably at outfits like New York’s local cable newser, NY1.  Variety wrote about the “Crew Cut in News Biz” in 2005, quoting a WKRN anchor: “It’s like they took the rules here and hucked them out the window.”

Steve Schwaid/CBS Atlanta

Steve Schwaid/CBS Atlanta

A lot of rules have gone out that window, especially lately.  In addition to the expansion of one man banding to stations like WUSA/DC and WNBC/NYC, WGNX/Atlanta news director Steve Schwaid recently updated his Facebook profile to read:  “Steve is looking for one person bands – send dvds to me at CBS Atlanta.”  The whole stations, he says, won’t be going OPB;  he says “there will always need to be some working in teams and some can work by themselves…back to the future – we worked like this when I worked at whio in the late 70s.”

The mere suggestion of one person field crews drew fire on Facebook, with one person commenting on Schwaid’s profile page, “Nice BS-ing around the reality. One person does 2 times the work for less pay. That is the reality.”  Schwaid responded:  “hey, the reality is the business model as we know it is dramatically changing…so you can be working for the last company that made the buggy whips or looking ahead…I prefer looking ahead.”

Is KPIX Next?

Is KPIX Next?

And he’s clearly not the only one looking ahead and seeing lots more reporters with cameras on their shoulders (or photographers reporting, however you want to look at it).  Word is KPIX/San Francisco is bringing the one person crew into the mix, and some say it will soon show at NBC O&O’s like WRC/DC, and WMAQ/Chicago as they undergo the “Content Center” transformation.  (So, in DC, you’d have a Content Center competing against an Information Center?)

Is there any way to argue now that this isn’t happening and won’t keep spreading?  Did naysayers suggest the three-person crew would never end?  (before my time)  And what, pray tell, is the union strategy in all of this?

As the Nashville anchor said waaaaaaay back in ’05 (remember the good old days, when we didn’t fear for our jobs every minute of every day?), the rules, they’re getting “hucked” out the window.

4 Comments

Filed under Cutbacks

WNBC/NY Newsers Party in Midtown: "Severance Fest '09"


Yeah.  It wasn’t your typical going away party.  As detailed in the New York Observer’s The Media Mob column, WNBC/NY newsers gathered at an Irish bar in midtown recently to send off a group of some of Channel 4’s best and brightest;  not headed to bigger and better things, just headed “in a different direction,” as the ludicrous management cliche goes.

“In the days leading up to the party, some staffers jokingly referred to it as a ‘Wake 4 NY and a ‘gathering of the recently departed.’ Others took to calling it ‘Severence-Fest 2009.'”  As the once-mighty WNBC has transformed in recent months from a team of titans to an ever-more-anxious group of survivors in the “Content Center,” the bold-faced names that once populated the place have been picked off, one by one.  

“By the time Friday night rolled around, everyone needed a stiff drink, went the thinking. And in the end, despite the recent gloominess at WNBC-4, Friday night’s party turned into a jovial affair, according to several attendees. The cash bar, located in the basement of Legends 33, was packed by 7:30 p.m., and the party didn’t break up until 3:30 a.m. By Monday morning, photos of the revelry were already making their way onto Facebook,” the Observer reports.

Jay DeDapper

Jay DeDapper

Recently laid off political reporter Jay DeDapper served as an impromptu emcee, and kept it positive, but told the paper the station New York had come to know over the last few decades as solid, serious, and staffed with veteran New Yorkers, has ceased to exist.  “It was more of a reunion and a goodbye. We put the dot at the end of the sentence. News Channel 4 is over.”  (DeDapper, though, is not.  He’s taken his show on the web.)

“Everything that we did, all the Emmys we won, all the great stories and series we did, that’s done,” he added. “There may be great stuff in the future with the new group of people. We’re just not going to be a part of it. We had what we had. Now it’s time to move on.”

Leave a comment

Filed under layoffs