Thursday, July 26, 2007

No Officials Day

A lot of things you see on local TV news are somehow driven by a consultant's recommendation, or some sort of concerted effort by management to tweak the station's image, or correct perceived problems with the station.

You should keep that in mind when watching WEWS/5's newscasts today.

OMW hears that today, Thursday, has been proclaimed "No Officials Day" in the newsroom at "NewsChannel 5".

What does that mean?

Our sources tell us that news staffers at 3001 Euclid have been told not to use any on-camera soundbites today from officials - i.e. police and fire spokespeople, political officials and the like.

The goal is to force the news folks to "be creative", we're told, and use "real people" for news soundbites...instead of a police official or spokesman using "cop talk" ("the altercation occurred on the 2300 block of Main Street", etc.).

We assume the "no officials" policy would be broken if there was no choice. But what about the long-running series out of reporter Tracy Carloss' "exclusive" one-on-one with Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson? Does that take the day off today?

The goal, presumably, would fit with NewsChannel 5's ongoing "on your side" slogan... making the newscast more "human"... giving sort of a "real people" feel to it.

But sometimes, you have to talk to officials. Sometimes, they are needed to flesh out the story. And sometimes, frankly, "real people" are not the best, most articulate people to put on camera.

We're reminded of an event we read about in another market. A local forum there grilled news directors of the various TV stations, and one of those news directors was talking about the station's political coverage.

He said their long-respected political reporter was wasting his time if he didn't go out of the two blocks around their major government area and "put a face" to stories based on legislative or council action.

We can understand that. Political minutiae glazes over the eyes of the audience, and you can only say "ordinance 1234" or "House Bill 50" so often, and finding how the bill will affect people is a laudable effort.

But even WEWS realizes that you can't embargo "officials" for a long period of time, we suppose.

For example, during the station's week-plus-long "Campin' With The Browns" segment at the local NFL team's training camp in Berea - are team general manager Phil Savage and head coach Romeo Crennel off-limits on "No Officials Day"?

Things that make you go "hmmm"...


Anonymous said...

This is their most stupid idea yet. When I watch the news, I want official information. I don't care what somebody off the street, who was ambushed with a microphone, without all the background on a story thinks. This is as silly as their "On your side" slogan. If they were really on our side, they would do a legit weather forecast early in the 11 pm broadcast, rather than a pointless tease which doesn't give you a forecast.

Anonymous said...

This goes to show that NC5 really isn't interested in telling the story. Even before today, I've noticed their news coverage skewing WAY too far towards one-side--the side of the wronged individual(s) rather than telling both sides of a story. Sometimes there is no "other side" as OMW so deftly pointed out. A case in point: the on air badgering of the Browns spokesman yesterday during the stadium flood follow-up. At least one other station said an insurance policy would cover the repairs. Did that stop NC5 from the "you the taxpayer might get screwed" angle? Of course not. The people in charge at E. 30th and Euclid might want to stop watching what their closest competitor is doing and mimicking that. Because once you start worrying about the competition, your own product goes to pot. And I'm off my soapbox.

Anonymous said...

TV news in the city has gone stupid. There is no other way to put it. You probably heard that WEWS was told not to cover the incident that took place in front of the mayor's house last night. 19 was all over it and demanding the mayor come on camera. Channel 3 has lost it. Channel 5 hasn't had it for awhile. Channel 8 is a shell of what it once was and Channels 19 and 43 are sensationalistic. Why can't we have one good newsroom in this city? Is this city really considered over?

Anonymous said...

What are they thinking?
"no officials" = "No Bull *"

If so bravo, however sometimes the public needs to hear from our officials.

For example what we need is for someone to hold the County Commissioners to task over their stupid sales tax increase. You arn't going to get anywhere by asking the "man on the street" about this issue.

Anonymous said...

To the above is channel 8 a shell of it's former self, the way I see it, they are the dominant station in the market.

As for 19 demanding the Mayor speak out last night...speak out about what, a teen car thief? who cares.

As for 5's "no officials day", stupidest idea since "Pam" anybody remember that one?

Anonymous said...

Can anyone YET believe that Cleveland elected Frank Jackson to be its Mayor? The guy can't even compose an intelligent sentence; he is a local and national embarrassment. Is this really the best the city's minority-majority had to offer? And were they so determined to put a man of color in office...that they voted for someone who cannot decipher the town's myriad problems?

Trivisonno makes one good point: Cleveland is the only major city in America that has not developed its lakefront...and worse yet, has no plans to do so. All the while, the city is dying, businesses are fleeing, the economy is gone.

Oh well. At least there's a black mayor.

Anonymous said...

I happen to think that WKYC Channel 3 has an excellent news dept. Why are people so negative on this board all the time?

Anonymous said...

When management starts resorting to gimmicks like this it's a sure sign they're grasping at straws, throwing anything against the wall till something sticks, etc.
One of the only ways to achieve and mantain good ratings is to put on a quality product with quality people. Consistency is key both on and behind the anchor desk.

Anonymous said...

Just me, but this is where most TV journalists are poorly trained. News is news because it tells how something affects PEOPLE -- and not just the "officials" view of things. You can have every related official talking about a city ordinance, but it means little to your VIEWER if you don't also talk to those who are being affected by it. While the use of a "No Officials Day" may seem over the top (and it probably is), such a method is COMMON among those journalists who are actually CAPABLE reporters -- check the newspapers.

While I agree you need "official" (substantiated) information, it doesn't mean you have to put that source ON CAMERA to make it official.

Anonymous said...

As a former radio and tv journalist, I have always found MOS curious.

Why should the listener / viewer care at all about the statements of a randomly-selected person? Is this person informed? Intelligent? Experienced?

You can tell the story from the average person's standpoint without resorting to MOS. Just look to the personal impact of the story, and develop that. Is the price of gasoline on the rise? How will that hit us? A new bill before lawmakers? What does it do to us? We see this sort of storytelling all the time, and it can be very effective.

I remember reading once that a Florida tv station swore-off violent crime stories. Is this a matter of shaping content, censorship or stupidity?

Folks, the news is what it is. There are any number of ways to tell the story, but the stories don't change, even if we don't cover them.

Anonymous said...

How about reporting the damn news and using the bes sources available? And... if I hear one more obtuse "Cleveland Connection" angle on a national story I'm gonna' blow lunch.

nick said...

I agree, Channel 8 is the strongest station. Channel 5 has the crazy weather guy, channel 3 has their problems, and 19 is 19, enough said. FOX8 is the best newscast. They are not a ''shell of its former self''.

Anonymous said...

This idea, unfortunately, is nothing new, especially at Channel 5.

They also did this year's before.

Peopleing up a story is the goal of every reporter...but you do that by telling how the story affects them, and getting their reaction to it...not by excluding an entire type of person from your report.

I've never seen an MOS that was worth a darn...

Polling companies spend millions to choose a sample that will accurately reflect the opinion of the masses. TV reporters are going to do that by interviewing anyone willing to talk to them on the sidewalk or the bowling alley...yeah right.

This is called the programming of news. What I call "infotainment."

Like a previous poster said, the news is what it is...the reporter's challege is to present it in an interesting way...REGARDLESS OF WHO APPEARS IN IT.

I can't wait to see how they're going to report the presidential election without showing politicians!!

For a time in the mid-90's the TV station I worked for did not want soundbites from behind a podium at a news the conference was over, I would have to interview them again on the side if I wanted to use stupid is that?