Guest Columns

WEBBCAST: BEHIND THE NEWS

Media Musings… Or, why is it done that way?

Contributing Columnist

• Let’s recognize that Channel 7 stepped up to cover the weeks of fire storms. Clearly it’s a sign that new owner Scripps-Howard takes local newsgathering seriously, and committed the resources to cover High Park, then Waldo Canyon, with reporters who could actually tell the story. Apparently they also moved crews and producers in from other Scripps-Howard stations to ensure there was enough “people-power” to report the news. What a concept. It did pay off — KMGH was second in the overnight ratings during the height of the Waldo Canyon coverage, close behind 9News. It’s long been the practice among market leaders that a strong (or excellent) effort in covering impactful spot news pays off in viewer loyalty, and the research has borne that out.

• Why does the Post’s media writer have such disdain for the beat she covers? When it comes to commenting on local coverage, Joanne Ostrow rarely recognizes good effort or solid reporting, but concentrates on the goofs and misquotes of anchors and field reporters, with zero analysis of the overall coverage effort. Her report on Denver stations’ coverage of the Waldo Canyon fire took some reporters to task for expressing emotion on the air — a no-no which Ostrow portrayed as a mortal sin. She didn’t give reporters kudos for explaining the fire’s march accurately, or recognize the toll that covering an intense breaking news situation can have on a reporter.

• Speaking of reporters, has anyone noticed the new crop at Denver TV outlets? Every time you turn on a newscast, there’s a bright new young field reporter, leaving you to wonder, “Who’s he, or she?” Many times the anchors can’t remember the name of the reporter either. “Uh, thank you, uh… In other news…”

• Why do radio ads repeat the number three, four, or even five maddening times? Is there some belief that hearing a phone number three times, will make people retain it? And who has time to stop the car and write it down? If you’re that desperate to find a gold buyer, take part in a medical research regimen, or buy a mattress, maybe you will. Common sense would dictate using a web address for listener response, repeating the web address, and spelling it out. Then the listener who’s truly interested would follow up. KOA seems to be the worst offender for these types of ads, with the syndicated shows like Rush Limbaugh not far behind.

• Will the new Michael Brown/David Sirota pairing on KHOW get any audience? What are the odds that folks (radio-talk for “listeners”) will tune in to hear two unbearable squawkers squabble for four hours every afternoon? This conservative/liberal tag team replaces Caplis & Silverman, who had an interesting mix of guests, and interesting topics on most days. I won’t be turning my dial to 630. If I want to hear that much inane political talk I’ll sit between two TV sets tuned to O’Reilly and MSNBC.

• Anyone placing bets on how long the Post can hold out before it adopts the Times-Picayune format, publishing just three days a week (Wednesday, Friday, Sunday), and pushing all other “news” online? It’s more evident that only old dogs like me and political hound Steve Welchert relish picking a skinny pack of recyclable material off the porch every morning. But I sent Welchert into apoplexy last week when I told him I can read the Post on my iPad in five minutes, and will likely drop the print edition. I also read the Wall Street Journal in that manner, but I willingly pay for electronic access to the Journal. It figured out that online commerce thing years ago.

• Which means, specialty publications like The Statesman will survive to cover specific beats and topics, but they’ll have to adapt as well. A mix of online, print and blogs — or pure “Politico”-like coverage may allow interested readers to keep up with the latest manueverings.

Pete Webb is a public affairs consultant. A former broadcast journalist and award-winning investigative reporter, he has owned a PR firm, served as president of the one-time Colorado Film Commission and is immediate past president of the Special District Assn. of Colorado and a long-time director of two fire districts.