A critical look at the Wichita TV news

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Discussion: Weather

Until I started thinking about the local weather casts the past few days, I really didn't realize how different the main weather guys are, but on the other hand I think there is at least one weather caster at the three stations in Wichita to meet most people's preferences. My preferences for a weather guy will be different than other people. Weather is probably one of those hot button topics that everyone has an opinion of what they want to see in a weather guy. My idea of the perfect weather person, doesn't exist in Wichita. I like a weather person to be serious when they need to be, but still have that zaniness scientist quality that makes the weather world sort of wacky. The person that meets these specs closest to me would be KSN morning meteorologist Mark Bogner. He seems as just a guy that has the passion for weather, but at the same town won't talk down to viewers and seems like a guy I would want to talk weather with over a round of beers. I was going to rank the 3 channels' weather, but I think it is too hard to do, because they are pretty close when you get down to it. Many may disagree with the last statement, but once you get past your own preferences in a weather caster I think you'll see they are pretty even. I'll break down the station's weather coverage listed in numerical order by channel number.

KSN 3 - With the 3 degree guarantee, and the "Dave said it would," KSN News is probably branded more on the name of Dave Freeman than any other personality or phrase KSN has. With that said, I think they lead off with their best on camera meteorologist early in the morning with Mark Bogner. As I have said before he comes across real genuine and like a real nice guy. National consultants may take a look at all the talent at KSN and say Mark wouldn't be their choice, but I think they'd be missing what Kansans want.
At Noon, Leon Smitherman does a good job. As much as I think he has a delivery and style that are top notch, it may not be as favorable for Kansas. I like his style and think he shows a big market flare, but with the passion of weather Kansans have I think they would prefer to hear it more from a guy like Bogner. With that said, Smitherman I think in the future should be a key player at KSN. One commenter said he should be moved to main news anchor. I disagree with that, but I think Leon is too good to leave him at Noon. The station uses him in other ways, doing Wednesday's Child and he shows his versatility in that. Like I dubbed him earlier he is a Swiss Army Knife, able to do weather, news stories, and even do a far better job anchoring the 5PM show than the current anchor. Honestly, I think Leon is overqualified to be just doing Noon, but where to place him is a difficult question.

KSN's back-up back-up meteorologist Andrew Kozak I think needs to be careful. At times he reminds me of a junior Dave Freeman. He can get too serious much of the time and sometimes appear as if he talks down to the viewers. Part of his problem might be he looks young. I know that is a sad reason, but that may be it.

Friends, as for Dave, he certainly is the most passionate weatherman in the market. Many may think he cries wolf. I think those saying that may be too critical of him. I think his delivery and style make it appear that way far often than it may actually happen. Going into this Dave wouldn't rank too high in my book, but as I think about it more, I am of the belief you really cant fault a guy for being very passionate for a subject like weather, which can in fact kill at times.

Upsides: Dave's passion, Mark Bogner, Leon's "Swiss Army Knife" flexibility, and 3 degree guarantee for charity.

Downside: Lack of in the field trained, experienced spotters during actual storms. I know the information is critical from radars and everything, but I think KSN could stand to give Dave a chance to catch his breath for a few seconds and go to trained experienced spotters in the field. I am not talking about reporters thrown out in the field and have no idea what you are referring to when you say cumulonimbus or up-draft. Exceptions at KSN would be reporters Anne Meyer and Chanda Brown who if given the opportunity to do it more and get into the right positions could be very good on-air spotters. Maybe like other stations do, KSN needs to send a back-up out in the field, like Andrew Kozak. He has the weather mind and could probably offer good analysis from out in the field to really supplement Dave's coverage from the studio. Read KWCH's excerpt down below for an example of good use of spotters. Also KSN could stand to have a live camera in a mobile unit through a cell phone or some other means. Read KAKE's excerpt for an example of this part. Even if that's not possible taking a picture off of a cell phone I think at times might add something to the coverage besides a radar image.

KAKE 10: Jay Prater can sometimes come off as a little too friendly and cheesy. He certainly has a big market feel and edge to him, but it is still tolerable. It is interesting that I think weather at KAKE is delivered in a totally different manner than the normal in-your face style of a KAKE newscast. Actually KSN's weather with Dave may match the KAKE style better. Jay has a calming way about him, even as he goes into severe weather coverage. He doesn't get overly panicked, but you can still tell he means business when a storm does become severe. Jay also does a nice job of explaining weather and why things are happening as they are. When dealing with science it can be hard to explain something complicated, but at the same time one has to be careful not to appear as if they are talking down to an audience. I think Jay does a nice job of this and that is probably his best quality, over on camera presence or anything else he is doing.
It is very odd when watching their weather. Outside of the logo, it is like you are watching a different channel, because most of the on-air weather talent is laid back.

Outside of a few months ago, I thought weekend meteorologist Matt Makens was just another kid in the market doing weather. After watching him a little more closer, I must say I like his style. As he moves onto a bigger market, it will be interesting to see how he develops as a weatherman.

Of course before Jay Prater came to Kansas, Ben Pringle was chief meteorologist. When the change first happened I wasn't too happy with the change. Now I must say I really don't notice a big difference. If there is a difference, I would say it most likely would be in Pringle's delivery which comes across as a little more genuine and from the Midwest. With that said there isn't really a big difference in styles between Pringle and Prater.

Upsides: Prater's ability to explain weather in a conversational friendly way, and overall consistent quality among their 3 (before Makens leaves). I don't count Tanner Swift in this, because I have seen him only a few times. My first opinion would be that he needs to spend some time polishing his act in a smaller market.
The weather cam in a vehicle brings pictures of storms, often time live tornadoes to the air. Although the video doesn't appear as the same quality as normal video shown, it was still live pictures from the field. Of the three stations, if a tornado was in the area, KAKE usually has the pictures of it from the field as it happens. Another strength of Prater's is his ability to interact with the spotters all while balancing the radars and other information in severe weather mode.
Downsides: Graphics of the weather segment. I think the graphics are difficult to read especially with lists of precipitation totals or record highs and other figures.

KWCH 12: Merril Teller matches the persona that KWCH shows throughout their newscast and with their staffs. As I have mentioned before (although it is showing signs of change) KWCH runs a pretty conservative safe operation as a ratings leader would do. Merrill isn't overall friendly on camera, that's not to say he is mean or offensive. Its safe to say if you watch KWCH, you are going to get the weather and that's about it. For many viewers this is a great thing. For example you wont get any cheesy one liner replies from Merril after weather segments in interacting with Cindy and Roger. To me I really do not mind this. As for their supporting cast, no one really stands out to me. And once again, not a bad thing. For one, that means there isn't really anything about them that would make me suddenly want to turn.

Mark Larson: He pretty much follows the KWCH formula being pretty safe in his on air personality. He interacts pretty well with the morning cast and serves a good purpose as someone you don't mind waking up to in the morning.

Lindsey Butor: As the only female meteorologist in the market, she offers more than just being that. She adds a little young spunk when she does weather. One downside is that at times she can get overly happy and has problems, it appears, stop smiling. She also comes across, at times as being a little young, but I think her future is bright and once her contract does come up, she'll probably moving up similar to Matt Makens move.

Ross Janssen: Definitely comes across as a local Kansas kid. Once again very safe with his on air delivery and there really isn't anything offensive with his style. I'll speak more on this below, but it is a smart move to send him out to spot in the field during severe weather. Although he is nothing overly spectacular in that role, he does offer good information and gives the idea, along with KAKE they are watching the situation not only from the radars, but also from the field.

Downsides: As much as I say their talent fits the overall feel of the newscasts, I think all, except Lindsey, could use a little pep at times when delivering their forecasts. Could use mobile cameras similar to KAKE. If they have them, they could stand to use them more.

Upside: Bringing meteorologist from the studio out into the field. As I have said before, it not only gives the meteorologist in the studio a break, but also the viewers a break from the meteorologists' barrage of radars from the studio. Also they have decent spotters who they go to when severe weather breaks out, people who have done it awhile and you can hear it with the way they describe the scenes.

I will wrap this up by summing up the positives of each station's weather. KSN has the passion, KAKE has the mobile cameras and KWCH has overall consistency. Now some may have noticed I didn't get into accuracy of forecasts. Frankly I have no idea and that probably is an important thing, but with TV weather I wonder if viewers really have a bond with the weather person, does it even matter if they are wrong from time to time?
I am sure people may disagree with my weather opinions so I would love for you to respond and start a lively debate on this topic. What else are you going to do, since Dave, Jay and Merril all said its going to rain most of the weekend. -Hal


Anonymous said...

KWCH has more chasers with better equipment and they go to them more often I think. Their live chaser tracking equipment is cool too.

You forgot about Rodney Price. KWCH has 5 meteorologists on staff and that kind of depth helps during severe weather. You won't see a staff that big outside a top 10 market.

One is on-air, one is on the radio, one is in the field and the other two are either coordinating everything or in other supporter capacity. Having 2 (as KAKE does now) and basically 2.5 (KSN) hurts them IMHO.

Anonymous said...

KWCH actually has the "Sat Cam," which is the same live camera technology as KAKE's "First Cam," although they seemed to be used in different ways by the two stations (IMHO). 10 appears to put its emphasis on the camera, while 12 spends more time with its chasers.

Kyle said...

I agree with a lot of what you are saying but think Merrill is falling into that "safe" zone, knowing he's number 1 and not doing a whole lot more than what's expected. Maybe that's the safest way of handling things in this market?
Also, interesting that you call the weekend guys "weekend" guys except for KSN. Last time I checked there wasn't a difference in the name of that shift. Is it supposed to be insulting to them?
For the most part, you are right on the money (with my opinions anyway)

WichitaMedia said...

My appologies on the "weekend guys" term. It was unintentional. I wasn't slamming them one way or another, but will say at many places, regardless if you are on the production crew or on-air and work weekends, the staff is referred to as the weekend crew. Its not judgement of quality, but merely noting a difference in work shifts. If I were to critique the weekend crews I would say Wichita has pretty strong choices to tune into on the weekends. That extends from all parts of the newscasts from anchors to reporters. Sometimes it can be hard to say that for all the stations in a market for a weekend. Just look at anchors. I could do a separate post on this but you can choose from Michael, Larry or Anthony. I think among those three a viewer should be able to find someone they like. I think all three are are good. -Hal

Anonymous said...

For all the hype and hoohaw involved with TV weather, I think KAKE has consistantly had the best use of on-air time during severe weather coverage. I appreciate their practice of only breaking in during commercials unless conditions warrant otherwise.

KAKE: I could watch Jay Prater & Matt Makens all day long. There's just something about those two that I enjoy. Both of them know their stuff, and can explain it to John Q. Public without seeming crass, condescending or rude.

KWCH: Merril comes across as cool, calm and professional, and I appreciate that. He's neither cuddly nor geeky, but seems (out of the three stations' lead onair weathertalent) most like a guy you'd probably see working over at the NWS. Professional meterologist.

KSNW: I don't especially care for Dave Freeman's style of delivery; he's too excitable (I once saw him practically body-slam an intern out of the way during live severe coverage in the wee hours). Dave seems to be mostly about showmanship, and IMHO would be better off selling cars.

As for forecast accuracy, meh. I'm a NWS spotter and do my own forecasting, and honestly I don't really see any appreciable difference between the three stations. Win some, lose some, blahblahblah.

BTW- I really miss Dave Schaeffer (sp?) over at KSNW. Now he was a guy I would have *loved* to sit with, and discuss weather over a round of beers.

BTW2- remember KSNW's Mobile WeatherLab (souped up minivan with instruments)? Dave Freeman hyped that thing up one side of the airwaves, and down the other...yet I don't think I've EVER seen it used for an actual weather broadcast. Or chase. Or much of anything, really.

kyle said...

what I meant was, you call some "back up" and some "weekend" isn't it all the same shift?

Anonymous said...

You can't tell me Lindsay Butor has more credentials then Andrew Kozak or Tanner Swift and tell me KAKE only has 2 and KSN has 2.5 lol... However with that said, With Makens leaving KAKE, it will be interesting to see who they get to replace him.

KWCH does have the best overall staff I believe but its not as blown out as you may think. All 3 stations are very solid with the top meteorologists, and the question marks begin and show as you look down the chain with the youngest and more inexperienced meteorologists.

And as far as I'm concerned, KAKE and KWCH blow away KSN for severe weather coverage. KAKE has a consistent formula, with Prater who's like a mad scientist, KWCH will generally get aggressive also, and both utilize technology and will go in depth well

Anonymous said...

KSN has five meteoroligists/ weather persons just like KWCH (they have weekend morning cut ins) I guess you can find that outside a top 10.

KAKE has 4 plus some damn good spotters.

Get over yourself KWCH...Cindy and Roger are the only reason you're number one.

Anonymous said...

KAKE has good spotters and provides good coverage in the field? Give me a break!

If a chaser has to say ON AIR, he has to take shelter in a ditch, then he's not a good chaser, he's blowing things out of proportion. And, do we really need that type of stuff after the Greensburg deal?

I'm a trained spotter, and have been in the same location when KAKE's main chaser claims there's rotation, and I'm looking at the same thing wondering what in the heck he's talking about.

KAKE tends to blow things out of proportion, and the chasers need to quit focusing on "dramatizing" the events to the point they are making things up.

Furthermore, when you here Prater having to tell his chasers where to go or what to do LIVE, on the air, that comes across way too cheesy.

I'm a well-experience spotter, and in our community, we get a good laugh at KAKE's chasers.

Hey, KAKE, let's see if you can drive your sat-cam into another tornado!

Anonymous said...

Keep believing it. Your just upset that 12's lead jumped even more in the last book and their KSAS newscast now beats KSN.

KAKE is a sinking ship but it will have company once it reaches the bottom with KSN.

Anonymous said...

In response to a previous post, KAKE would rather wait until commercials than break in when it could save someone's life. How thoughtful of them I guess Boston Legal or Desperate Housewives is much more important. If you miss part of your precious primetime, just watch it online. 90% of network shows are there anyway.

Anonymous said...

Weather "persons" are not reliable and have no place on the air. They are not certified and really are just glorified talent.

If you know a lot about weather, get a degree and certification, otherwise stick to something else.

KSWeatherNerd said...

I watched tonight's news and was disapointed with KSN and KAKE's coverage of the flooding. Once again, KWCH proves to really be the news leader in this market. As someone who does not work in media, but certainly has a passion for it, I want to weigh in on some things in this discussion.
First off, weatherwise all 3 station have MUCH BETTER staffs than most of the same market size. Because we are a severe weather market, I feel we have people and equipment that really shine. While my personal favorite is KWCH, strictly because that is what I grew up with, I feel like you shortchange KSN. I agree Dave Freeman can be over the top, but his passion really shines through when life threatening weather comes through. Anyone who watched him during the Greensburg fiasco will tell you. Speaking of, Andrew Kozak is very young, but I don't agree with the "junior Dave" thing. While I think he has some kinks to work out, he is solid, knows his stuff and to me at least comes off like a guy I would enjoy talking to. He does not in any way seem to me like he is talking down to us.
Leon is probably the most interesting of the bunch, strictly because he is the noon meteorologist, yet rivals Dave in talent for what I would expect from a chief. I wonder with a pending sale of the station what new management might do with him if they see the potential. Hal, I'm curious to see what you have to say about some of the things I bring up. Enjoy reading you blog.

Anonymous said...

As far as spotters go, you can get some idea by searching the stormtrack.org forums; here's one thread:

Up above, when I said I appreciated KAKE's method of not breaking in except during commercials, I *did* say UNLESS CONDITIONS WARRANT OTHERWISE. (This as opposed to having nonstop coverage every time a cloud passes over Goodland.) Although I tend to use other sources for data, it's convenient to know precisely when a live update will be occurring on air; I don't particularly care if shows are being interrupted.

I don't watch local channels except for weather (and occasionally the news, if I'm in a masochistic frame of mind). And BTW I do not work for any media (radio, tv, etc).

To the person who said weather 'people' aren't certified and are glorified talent- perhaps you should do some research before putting fingers to keyboard.

From http://www.ametsoc.org/amscert/index.html

"In order to acquire a CBM, new applicants must hold a degree in meteorology (or equivalent) from an accredited college/university, pass a written examination, and have their work reviewed to assess technical competence, informational value, explanatory value, and communication skills."

Anonymous said...

When's this market going to go metered? The old fashioned Nielson diaries are an outdated bad way to measure television ratings in a market, and that is what is still done in this market. Tulsa and Oklahoma City are not much larger then Wichita and are now metered. KWCH better hope this market never goes metered, I know alot of people who think they are watching KWCH still when they have Susan Peters and KAKE on... They dont differentiate the stations well

Anonymous said...

Another KAKE person thinking that they are better than they are. No one believes or would think that Peters works at KWCH anymore. Cindy and Roger are more popular and well-known than anyone at KAKE, including Larry. They are not a bad way and are pretty accurate when compared to meters. Studies have been done to that effect.

12 is number one by miles and will be for a longtime to come.

WichitaMedia said...

I was going to create a separate post on reaction to the latest flooding coverage, but the discussion on this post has been interesting so why not keep it going.
As the storm is overhead I think KWCH and then KAKE covers the storm best with the various storm spotters. I was impressed to check out the link a commentor posted that had 2 spotters from KWCH talk about the equipment they use out in the field. In past events I usually thought as far as wrapping things up and since they got a later start then the other guys, KSN usually did a decent job. With last night's flooding I thought they lived up to their 3 channel number. As you probably know I am not a fan of KWCH Linda Mares, but she did an OK job and established somewhat of personal angle with her story. KAKE had two stories (I think one of them was recued from 6) and they all had the personal angles. Meanwhile KSN I thought lacked the personal feel with their story. I think Josh Wittsman does a fine job with his stories, but this might have been more of an issue of him up against having to set the scene in the story as well as find the victims. A more ideal scenario would have been to set up his story with the basics from the area and then go to his story and let him tell the story of the victims. I thought KAKE had a little more of the human angle then the other 2. That's not considering the two stories they did at 10. -Hal

Anonymous said...

That 2nd KAKE story on Saturday came from sister station WIBW in Topeka. They had major technical problems in their early show.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see Hal's take on some of the repsonses to the original post, the people, stations, etc.

WichitaMedia said...

Here is a breakdown of my thoughts to some of the comments of this topic. BTW this topic has broken the record for this blog as to most comments on a topic. I expected nothing different with weather.
I think KWCH has the best spotter network. I do agree KWCH choses to spotlight their spotters where KAKE is more likely to show its "First Cam." As far as on camera meteorologists, I pretty much covered that in my post.
One poster says he misses Dave Schaefer, I totally agree.
I also think the comment that the weather among the three stations is pretty close, I have to agree, but that strictly talking about daily forecasts. When it comes to severe weather, I think KWCH does its viewers a service with its spotters and camera, KAKE to some degree with its camera and spotter as well.
As for comments about Dave and KSN. I don't think I was to hard on kozak. Maybe a better way to say it is I think he needs to remember he is young and somewhat new in the business compared to others at his own station and in the market. He needs to kind of adjust to those conditions. As for Leon, I have already made my comments about him and think he is being under utilized. "KSweathernerd" did bring up an interesting point as to what a pending sale might do to the weather staff and to that degree on air staff of KSN. Interesting thought. -Hal

Anonymous said...

Didn't KWCH drop more at ten then KAKE and KSN combined?

Granted their rating is more than the two stations combined...but a number one really worries about maintaining viewers.

I agree that a metered Nielsen would probably hurt KWCH the most.

On another note, I enjoy this blog; however, there are some people on here who are truly brainwashed.

It's great that people love where they work and believe what their station is dishing out. However, you are your best commodity in this business no matter where you work. I think All the stations have top notch people in some positions.

When you apply for your next job -- nobody will care about the ratings of your current station. The only people that do care are the owners who are making big time money while they pay their staff an average wage.

Basically what I am trying to say...is make sure you are at the top of your game before you go bragging about your stations ratings.

Anonymous said...

Fox does not compete with the stations at 10. The only way we would know how they would truly stack up is if they were doing news at 10.

I enjoy FOX affilates offering news an hour earlier, but basically when you have American Idol and crappy primetime programing you will do good.

Anonymous said...

rumorville says once KSAS is sold they may dump the KWCH made newscast and make their own newscast. Anyone want to go into depth on that?

Anonymous said...

Hi Hal,

Going a bit o/t here, maybe, but it is weather & media related:

What is your opinion of the media's excessively hyper quest for storm coverage (ie: first live shot, weather pictures blahblah)? Far too many people who have absolutely NO reason to be in the field are risking life and limb in order to get EXTREME storm pics published in the media (IMHO).

I remember being out spotting(Mulvane, June 2004 I believe) and seeing both John Q Public *and* the media acting totally irresponsible. I know that EMS and first responders were unable to do their jobs due to idiots blocking the roads, driving like maniacs, etc.

Furthermore, I present the following for consideration:


Apologies for straying offtopic, but this is a bone of contention for me. (I do not work for or represent the media in any way, shape or form.)

Anonymous said...

And KWCH may start news on KSCW once their sale to parent Schurz is complete. Rumors abound and FOX recently moved a lot of operations to Oklahoma somewhere. They no longer have the support system to do their own news even if they wanted to.

Anonymous said...

The only reason you think it would hurt KWCH is because you work at one of the other stations. Meters and Diaries are very, very close in terms of accuracy and that's been proven. KSN has nowhere to go but up. About 3 people watch their 10. KAKE is also dropping in all shows. KWCH was the only one to gain in all areas in May. Get your facts right or hush.

Anonymous said...

Do your research self absorbed KWCH employee who ride's Cindy and Roger and Merril's popularity to ratings.

Its been shown many times the dominant or legacy station which has a large lead always takes a hit when stations go from diaries to metered. You spin things like a politician.

Another example that can be used is often times raunchy programs in metered markets are rated much higher because people on a diary will be afraid to admit they watch them. Shows such as Married With Children scored poorly in Salt Lake City and its mormon population when it was on a diary, but went to a top 10 show in that DMA when it became metered.

Often times the station people are complaining about goes UP in ratings in a metered market also!

Anonymous said...

Face it, KSN and KAKE are where they are because they don't have the best people. If the people there were really as good as you say, they would be number 1. If you don't like where you are then work on it but don't attack people who have worked their you know what's off to be number 1. Your jealosy is showing.

Anonymous said...

Actually, meters are far more accurate than diaries if setup correctly. Diaries may be filled out days, if not weeks, after the actual time of viewership. Diaries are not nearly as specific to demographic viewer breakdowns within a home and can't describe the "channel surfing" in near detail as with a meter. Also, anonymous, KAKE had more newscast gains than KSN or KWCH. Although, not nearly enough to be positive about, but KAKE mornings are up with some weekend casts improving also. KSN changed the least, with KWCH dropping in more newscasts than others but still dominate #1.

Anonymous said...

To the two bickering people from KWCH and KAKE: chill out. The smartest person on this thread pointed out that the only people who benefit from ratings are the owners. Every station does something right, every station does something wrong. Some days one station wins, some days another station does. There are so many factors that go into who watches what that it's silly to think anything is absolute.

Anonymous said...

If you have better people all around your ratings show it. If KAKE wants to gain anything get better people.