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

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Friday Topic Votes Counted and Other Stuff

The voting has stopped on Friday's in-depth topic. Of the 3 choices: Sports, Weather, and Photography and Editing, the winner is Weather. So on Friday, I'll dissect the weather operations from the three stations and tell you what I think.
On another topic, a commenter asked me toward the end of comments from the last post what my feelings of Fox anchor/KWCH reporter Rebecca Gannon were. The commenter also thought Kim Wilhelm should of had that job and what were my feelings. In other posts, people (Producers for the KSAS newscast) wanted my feelings of the Fox newscast. I guess they made some nice gains in the May ratings (once again if you have any hard nosed numbers and also why my analysis on why KWCH is #1 in a previous post is wrong, please let me know. I have been waiting.) I'll reiterate my feelings from the previous comments.
I am not a fan of Rebecca Gannon. She is in many ways why I really cannot watch the show on a regular basis. I probably watch the weekend version just as much if not more. I just don't like the way Gannon holds herself on camera as an anchor, nor as a reporter. She comes across as very cocky and not very genuine. In one way she comes across as honest: she makes it clear I think through her delivery she is here to do her time and no longer and then move up to the next market. That's not necessarily a bad thing and is and has been an often used purpose for this market. With that said, Rebecca just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Although I wouldn't mind Kim Wilhelm in that spot, I think Michael Schwanke would have been good for that role, but if they insisted on a woman, I would have preferred Wilhelm over Gannon. Now hold it KWCH employees or Fox producers, I saw the post that your ratings in May were good. To me, I just say pat your own selves on the back for a job well done, and think of it being less of a validation for having a good anchor on the 9PM news.
Also people had heard that KAKE meteorologist Matt Makens was leaving. He is headed to Orlando. I haven't commented on him or weather yet, but I always thought there was one real important thing about him. He is unoffensive on the air and has a friendly style, that wouldn't push too many buttons. It was sometimes refreshing to me. But that's the general opinion I get from the weekend guys and gal here on 2 of the 3 stations. I guess that's a preview to my Friday blog. Here's the article from the Orlando Sentinel. They actually have a media critic there. WOW, what a concept. -Hal

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday Potpourri

I critique the newscasts often. I find stuff I like and often times stuff I don't like, but I must say on a weekly basis my most favorite segment is Roger Cornish's Answer Back 12 report. Note KWCH employees, I am praising something from your station, so I am sure I wont get any e-mails of disapproval. Tonight's segment was golden. After Roger took questions on Bob Barker and whether he was still around, despite taping the last show and who would replace him, they took a question from an apparent WWE fan. She was wondering why the station didn't cover a bit on the Monday wrestling show where the wrestling owner Vince McMahon's car is shown blowing up with him supposedly inside. In classic Roger form he assures the caller that he thinks Vince is OK and that it probably didn't happen for real. Great stuff.

After the last blog, someone commented that the ratings were out and my interpretation of why KWCH is #1 is wrong. I am curious to hear if there were any big ratings moves (I didn't know they were out) and why my interpretation is flawed. Let me know in the comments section.

Also another possible comment to respond to. On the Sunday 10PM newscasts, KWCH and KAKE led with stories centered around the violent weekend in Wichita. Not necessarily a play-by-play of the events, the two stories had focuses to then spin off of into the incidents of this weekend. Meanwhile KSN leads with a Gay Pride parade and a protester arrested apparently for getting in the way of the march. I am curious, especially if you saw the newscasts, what your feelings are? Since there was a number of incidents this weekend do you lead with the crime angle or do you admit there is crime and it will happen in a town of Wichita's size and lead with a totally different topic like a Gay Pride Parade? I am interested in your responses.

Also if you haven't already, please vote for the topic you want me to take up this upcoming Friday. Do that by scrolling past this entry and the following entry and go to the one titled, "Vote on Next Week's Topic." Simply click on "comments" and please respond by posting a comment anonymously with which one of the 3 choices you want me to comment on next week. On Tuesday, I'll tally the votes and comment on the winner Friday. -Hal

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday Discussion: Why KWCH Is and Has Been #1

(Note: This is part 1 of something I hope to do each week, take a topic suggested by the readers and devote a whole blog to it.)

I must say I was set to do another topic, but a commenter ("Jon") asked the question as to why KWCH is #1 and what are my feelings. He gave his own list as to why. Here is a link to that.


If you are an avid reader to this blog and the comments following the postings, you have heard many of these opinions expressed by me before.

The main reason they are #1 is their main anchors. I'll agree with "Jon" on this one. Lets be honest Roger, Cindy, Merril, and Bruce are what keeps this station number 1 and no matter what the KWCH employees and readers of this blog say, you cannot convince me otherwise. As I have mentioned many times in comments, outside of Schwanke, Wilhelm, and Grawe their reporting talent drops to probably #3 in the market. Looking at Roger and Cindy, they have a very straight forward and sincere delivery. They do not try to be overly cutesy or have terrible one liners. KWCH's main anchors for the most part appear serious on air, but Roger can get off a classic one liner from time to time and show why this is Wichita's best anchor team. They will remain untouched because for whatever reason the other stations are going for something completely different and something I don't think most conservative Kansas viewers want. (When I refer to "conservative," I'm talking less about politics and more about a Kansas way of life.)

At KAKE, Susan Peters can appear too pushy at times on the air and a little too dominant.On uplifting type Hatteberg's People stories, she can get overly gushy when returning from them. Jeff Herndon does what he can with Susan. Second only to Roger, I think he reads pretty well and can steer conversations with reporters well when needed. One negative is that at times he can turn his voice and be a little too schmucky big anchor type. It's a tough thing to avoid, and I think Roger does a good job at this. I think this is merely a pit stop on a way to a bigger market for Herndon. As much as I might praise Jeff, there still is an old school part of me that likes the tried and tested Larry Hatteberg. To Susan's defense, I'd be curious how she would come across if you could put her on the KWCH set, add their more conservative style scripts and format, and see if she would come across differently. I think she would. Don't get me wrong, I don't think she is Cindy, but it could be interesting.

"Jon" mentioned that the philosophy and talent is constantly changing at KSN. I think it needs to change again and except for Jim Kobbe, clean off the whole anchor desk. I just want to see the news. I don't want an act of what someone thinks a big time anchor should look like and that is what I get with Paul Petite and to some degree Dave Freeman on weather. Anita has been sitting in that anchor chair for a long time and I don't think the ratings have really turned in either direction for a long period of time to show she has promise. That isn't to say Anita hasn't had some crazy times, dealing with getting rid of a co-anchor and going solo only than to add a bad co-anchor as well as cutting sports awhile back only to add that back as well. She can read well, but I think she would be better just being serious on-air similar to that of Cindy. If she had a strong male anchor, she might work if she took a step back and let him control the show. If she did that now, the show would be a total train wreck.

As for other reasons for KWCH's dominance. I don't know if they exist, but I'd like to see the ratings for only the Wichita area viewers and than compare them to the statewide numbers of all their stations. Also I'd be curious to know what the age demographics are for the various stations. I'd think KWCH's average age demo would be older, KAKE's younger, and I have no clue where KSN would fall. Ten years ago, one could say the younger demo would be a good thing, but with the arrival of the internet I don't know if there are as many young viewers out there that still believe in watching local TV news. I'll have to assume "Jon" is correct on the coverage area advantage for KWCH. I do know in other parts of the state it is tough to get KAKE and KSN at times, but I generally have never had a problem with this and KWCH. I'll end at where I began with the main anchor desk. At times one can say like Jon did, that KAKE is trendy and I agree. I think they could, at times give KWCH a run for their money, if it weren't for Roger, Cindy, Merril and Bruce sitting at the desk. I'll be interested to see what you all have to say on this topic. Have a good weekend. What should I deal with next week, Sports, weather, photography/editing? Let me know. I'll create a separate posting that says, "Vote on next week's topic." Then just reply anonymously or whatever and write your choice in. On Monday or Tuesday I'll tally and see which one I'll do next Friday. -Hal

Vote on Next Week's Topic

Please respond by posting a comment anonymously with what you want me to comment on next week. Your choices are.

Photography and editing

Just type one of those 3 topics in the post by Tuesday and I'll tally the responses and write one for next Friday's discussion. It might take awhile for you to actually see your vote posted, because it sometimes takes me some time before I see it and get it sent through, so be paitient.-Hal

Thursday, June 21, 2007

While the World Turns, KSN Leads with Speed Limits to Goddard

Its easy to spot a slow news day when three stations lead with three different stories at 10PM, but for some stations it may be slower than others. For KSN, their lead story was basically the changing of speed limit signs on the way to Goddard. Reporter Josh Witsman did what he could with a terrible subject for a lead story, and for that matter it wasnt even worth doing a long form story. They also had a similar treatment at 6PM on this. Maybe I do wish Sweeps stories were still around in June. Meanwhile KAKE led with a decent story from Cayle Thompson on a plot by Tracallen Streeter, who was convicted of wounding a Hutch police officer and shooting at two Deputies, to escape from custody. Since it was a slow news day, not a bad way to lead the newscast. I think the others had the information, but with graphics and the anchors reading the information. Meanwhile KWCH chose to lead with the increase numbers of child abuse cases in the area. Not a bad story, but one I think others have had throughout the week. Once again, for a slow night, an OK time to take a closer look at the problem. If anything it prevents a station from leading with changing speed limit signs. -Hal

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Review: TV Online sites Part II - The Future

Part 2 of of my review of the local TV stations' websites looks at what they are not doing and what they need to do in the future. As many TV insiders have said and written, the future for TV and media in general is the internet. The question is how TV stations can incorporate what they currently are doing and still get ad revenue at the same time.
Currently the three stations' sites are regurgitations of their newscasts in a printed form with video available for some stories. As I said before, some of the stations do the video and updating better then others. There is little material that takes advantage of having a platform like a web page to display the information. That leads to me to a question as to whether each station has a person dedicated solely to the internet and not only posting material which already ran on the air, but unique web-only material. And I am not talking extra tips for planting flowers, a list of recalled toys, or other such things that are known as web extras in Today's environment. I see KWCH has a web producer, based on reading his blog on the site (more on the blogs later). I am not sure if the other two have people doing strictly web material and not filling other roles. I'd be curious if this occurs.
As for web extras, it doesn't have to be really all that hard. For being a TV station, they have an advantage in that they have access to video that can easily be turned into pictures for all sorts of stories. One easy "web exclusive" the stations could stand to do is list or even stream old stories related to the news of the day. For instance if some legendary Wichita resident dies, show me old stories the station did a few years ago or if they have it available decades ago. When the tornado hit Greensburg, web streaming of the coverage was good on some of the sites. In the future, though after an event like that, I am sure there will be more web exclusive content like interactive maps of the town with quotes from survivors and showing their locations. By clicking on pictures on a map you would see and hear their perspectives. This is just a lame attempt on my part of trying to envision what will happen one day with the websites. And they need to get going on it and start allocating the resources to it.
One extra I wanted to touch on was from KWCH's site. They have blogs from a weekend anchor, a backup-backup meteorologist, web master, and camera guy. (If the other stations have them, I couldn't find them very easily, that means they need to put them in a spot easier to find.) The blog from Michael Schwanke is consistently good and provides interesting perspective. One interesting note from a recent blog is the staff recently attended a 6 hour seminar on the future of the web at KWCH. Hopefully they may get the ball rolling in developing more interactive web content for the area. As for the other blogs, (KWCH staffers, don't send me hate mail as you have in past postings, when I criticize your product) I think the blog from the camera guy is a great idea, but he needs to lay off some of the back-and-forth inside baseball conversations with the webmaster/producer, whatever the real term is now. The camera guy's blog is a perfect example of something that could be a great web extra, besides the interactive component. It provides some good tips and pointers and comes across in a real understandable Kansas way. Many people have home video cameras and lets face it, who better to go to questions on how to shoot or problems that develop, then people who take pictures professionally on a daily basis. A TV station should have a few people around who can answer these questions and give tips. This is an example of a spot on the web that could easily be sponsored by a camera shop or something. I also think the blogs as a whole should be placed a little higher up and easily found on the KWCH site. I think it could be an example of a successful component to a good TV web site in using what you have and tailoring those to niches of the audience, that you normally couldn't do or didn't have the time to do on the air. -Hal

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Keep Your Bureau Reporters at the Bureaus

You know its Summer and vacation when the Bureau reporters get to come into the "big city" and try their stuff. I cannot remember if KWCH led with it, but if not it certainly was near the beginning of the show: the apparent murder/suicide. Note to KWCH, if you have your bureau reporter in Wichita doing one of your top stories, slowly introduce her to things. At 6PM they had Tracy Crokett live at the scene doing a story on an apparent murder suicide. She bumbled and stumbled real badly with her live appearance that looked more early morning or lower market than it should have. She needs to practice in the studio with a teleprompter or outside on tape before she heads back out to do a live story. At 10PM KWCH's Michael Schwanke had a decent story on wheat cutters getting anxious to get into wet fields here, because there is better wheat awaiting them out west. Sounds like a boring story, and probably many of you might find it so, but I found it interesting.
I must say I think I watched my first complete KSN 5PM show on Monday, except for the portions in the studio. Why? Because weatherman Leon Smitherman filled in for Paul Petite in the field. Leon carried the show well and I think the format works if they would just have someone more likable than Paul anchor that show on a daily basis. When the show went back to the studio with Paul, filling in for Anita, I quickly remembered why I usually don't watch the show. -Hal

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Review: TV Online sites

A reader asked my thought a week ago on the stations' websites and I wrote then that I'd take a look and write my comments. Going into this entry, note I am not and do not pretend to be an expert on web sites. I probably have learned a thing or two just by looking at the sites the last week. As far an overall top web site, I find it hard to really know or decide. I went into this thinking I'd judge on the site's clean looks (less cluttered), how well it keeps it updated through day (and night), and the quality of so called web extras. The later I will discuss in a separate blog, because I feel that is where the Wichita TV sites and that of the industry severely lack in. I will write about the sites in no real ranking order other than alphabetical.
KAKE: The so called breaking news station, certainly hasn't extended that philosophy to the web. Of the three stations' sites, KAKE updates their site less in the off hours than the other two. And off hours I mean even after 5 or 6 PM. Imagine their newscasts if that was the case. It seems as if they have a 9-5 person doing their site. Case in point the June 8 Newton incident where a man allegedly points a gun at Newton police and they shoot him. He dies. It happened at 2AM on a Friday morning. Now if something like this happened (#1) during the day and (#2) in Wichita you could be sure they would all be there and probably at least one would break in to normal programming for a newsroom anchor shot, if not a live reporter at-the-scene shot. They normally treat these sorts of stories as a big deal. The amount of people who depend on internet access at work as the sole means for web access is decreasing, compared to a few years ago as computers are getting real cheap and high speed internet access is accessible to nearly all at home. By 9AM when some people are at work, and hadn't watched the morning news, they are clicking to the websites to see what has happened over night. If you clicked on KAKE.com it wouldn't have been there. Meanwhile KWCH and KSN had it on their sites. Was it a lot of information? No, but at least it is on the sites. As far as layout of the KAKE site, the main title bar is clean looking. The big stories are larger in size and easy to click on. Then there are some other stories on the site that have screen grabs from the stories for video icons. This makes it further easier to read. On the right they have a list of video and just the title of the video. I like this feature because it is easy to find something without having to read through a preview of what it is about. The video icons for the main stories give me that. I will say they need to clean out their old stories or organize them better. I was going through the news section. And by the 3rd page right after stories from this week, stories like the Carr Brothers trial and my favorite, "2002: the Vote," pop up. If I hadn't lived here a while and didn't see the "2002" I would have thought the Carr trial and the 2002 election were happening now. If they want those on the site, put them in a different section or under a different heading.

KSN: KSN probably has the best updated site of three and consistently. Note, I didn't say best overall, just best update. You usually can even get video for their main story from the 10PM cast, by at least 10:30 if not sooner. Their day stories are usually popping up with video by 6PM, and the updates are filed through the day, more consistent than the others. The title bar reminds me of the opening of the old NBC game show Scrabble. Like the game show, but do not like the title bar. They also need to change Paul Petite's picture since apparently he has had a remodel job done to his hair. Their most popular story feature would be more helpful if it just included news stories. As soon as there is a cloud in the air, radars from all over Kansas gets the hits and clutter up the most popular along with the ever popular game Mahjong on office days. I think the list of weather radars could be displayed elsewhere, still on the main page, but not along side the news most popular. I like the large picture icons for the other news stories below the main one, but I wished they had more of them listed in that way. Other local stories are in smaller print below the icons and difficult to navigate through.
KWCH: Very similar to the image on air, the site is pretty safe and conservative, which isn't a bad thing. The site is updated, somewhat, but could be improved in that area. I think the site does look a little too cluttered with the "Latest headlines." They could stand to have video icons. That would kind of pull them away from the white background and give it a little more of a polished look.
As far as web extras, that is an entirely different topic I will take up next week. This is probably one of my biggest pet peeves of these web sites. They may think they are doing well online, but this is an area all 3 are failing miserably at. -Hal

Thursday, June 14, 2007

PREsidential Coverage Notes

Even before the President stops by Wichita for a pit stop which includes smiling for some high dollar pictures, the three stations all lead with the upcoming visit, except for some breaking news of a shooting on two of the stations. I thought KWCH rebounded quite nicely at 10 from its President visit story at 6. At 10, Jim Grawe had a nice feature on a gentleman receiving an award from the President. After watching, I thought this was a nice way to cover the upcoming visit, but then they had to go overboard and also include a second package about the fundraiser, which could have summarized by the anchor reading the information. I thought they went too far, but at least the two stories were not as dreadful as their story at 6 from Kim Hynes talking to people near the Boys and Girls Club who hope to see the President. It was such a stereotypical fan crazed story. This one included a gem from a lady who worked at a pawn shop who hoped to run outside her store and catch the motorcade.
Meanwhile KSN was lackluster with a real basic overview of the visit. The information they had easily could have been done with a graphic and be done. They talked to a guy willing to fork the money over for the benefit plus spend money to smile pretty for the camera and a picture with the President. They needed a subject similar to what Grawe had for his story Tonight for this story to work well.
While KAKE was delayed do to the NBA Finals, KAKE was able to use the extra time to ramp up their coverage of the shootings. I could care less if they had video or a live shot, but I was surprised they didn't have either, based on their past actions with shootings. It looked like their reporting corps took off well before the newscast began or even before its normal start time. I must say I thought it was good they held off putting a preview of the visit at the beginning of their newscast since thats about all we'll hear tomorrow.
I have been out of town the past week and have been watching coverage on TV sporadically and internet availability has been spotty, but hopefully I'll get a chance to watch some of the President's visit tomorrow. -Hal

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Shocker Fan Stories: And the winner is...

So if you didn't read Yesterday's post, here's a quick recap. Reporters need to go digging for stories when forced to do a news story on a sporting event. The three newscasts pretty much did the same thing Yesterday: asking fans how they feel after a loss. And they all failed at giving viewers something other than overused cliches. I challenged them to find an actual story. Here's my rankings on how the stations did finding a News story following the Shocker loss on Sunday.
#1 KSN-They are at the top of these rankings because they didn't do a news story on Shocker fan reaction. If you cannot come up with anything better than sticking a microphone in faces of upset Shocker fans, there's no use in doing a story. They must have not had a better idea so they did what was best and didn't do a story. Good decision KSN. I know people will say once again I go praising KSN, but they clearly made the best decision on Sunday by simply doing nothing.
#2 KAKE- I figured KAKE wouldn't walk away from a news story on the Shocker fan reaction. Kara Kumari found a group of fans who have sit in the same spot for years and have formed a friendship that continues even after the season. OK, don't get me wrong, this doesn't deserve an Emmy or for that matter even you trying to find it on the internet to watch. On any other given topic this story would be lame, but compared to the other Shocker fan stories, this was good. KAKE staffers, don't get too excited, this wasn't anywhere near a fine wine.
#3 KWCH - Although there was a weak angle to be different from the normal fan react story, the overused cliche, "There's always next year," sneaked into the story. If it wasn't for that, it might have given KAKE a run for its money. The angle other than fans, was businesses profiting on the Shockers even after the loss. The t-shirt business I thought was stretching it, but the Wichita bus company now taking Irvine to Omaha, showed at least some effort in getting something other than depending only on sad Shocker fans for stories.
Also good story on KAKE about the Greensburg victim and Marine veteran who received some monetary aid from some current Marines who saw his story before. Good Greensburg story. I feel there probably are a few like these that are out there, but its a matter of finding them. -Hal

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Low Brow Journalism: Shocker Fan Stories

I think I may have gone off on this topic when the Jayhawks were a win away from the Final 4.


At that time my focus was on TV stations feeling they must find a local angle to a sports story and they go to a local watering hole and talk to patrons about the game. Today they didn't have to go to the watering hole, since the game was here in town, but the stories on the 3 stations were just as bad. When will a station finally take a position and say, let's just let the sports guys do their jobs and not have the news folks mettle in and do useless fan stories.
Tonight at 6, all 3 stations had to do a Shocker story after the Sports guys set the stage with highlights. They all had their news reporters do stories with the normal shots of grilling hot dogs, fans saying how great the Shockers were, etc. Although KWCH probably had one of the funniest moments when a fan screamed how he was going to take his shirt off and didn't, they had a somewhat unique angle in the otherwise bland story. Kim Wilhelm showed fans watching outside and behind the stadium drinking beer, because beer was not sold nor allowed in the stadium. That's one of those NCAA tournament rules that always make fans grumpy each year. That shows you how bad the stories were when that is singled out as interesting angle. KSN's story was useless with video of fans leaving the game and giving useless cliches something to the effect as, "There's always Tomorrow." "We played tough," and 'That was a tough one." Do viewers really get anything out of that? No. KAKE did another lame fan story, even showing fans having a tough job selling tickets at face value and even below. What does this say? Once again, Reporters, find a story. The story isn't just that an NCAA Super regional is in town. Although that would make your jobs easy, find a story and find something beyond the obvious that Shocker fans are upset when they lose and happy when they win. Is the Shockers the topic on a lot of people's minds? Yes, so reporters must make their stories interesting to play off of that. -Hal

UPDATE 10:30PM - At least KSN retooled their story slightly for 10PM on Shocker fan reaction. Still no real angle (I guess if you count on a long time season ticket holder, it was somewhat new....I don't). KAKE and KWCH must have thought their lame efforts at 6PM were so good they should run them again at 10PM. Although they may not have been exact carbon copies, they were pretty close including a very similar ending on KAKE's with Cayle Thompson. At 6PM he was promoting the 10PM story and at 10 he was promoting tomorrow, but he said the exact same lame thing about the game being on ESPN but the best highlights being on KAKE. When he said that I expected to see that cheesy special effect they do sometimes on used car commercials and other paradies when they add a sparkle to the tooth during a smile. I sure wasn't smiling. Here's a challenge for the newscasts tomorrow, I know they'll all have reporters out tomorrow for a story win or lose, but lets see if they can actually get a real fan story rather then a lame fan reaction piece. If you do the later and they lose just recue tonight's garbage, they basically already did that for 10, so what is the hurt doing it a third time. -Hal

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

News lost in the Wind and Guns

It was a windy day, imagine that. All three mentioned this fact, and they should have, in spots other than weather. KWCH must have really been scratching their heads as to how to do a different story on the wind so they had one of their reporters from their Western bureau do a story on jobs and the wind. From a postal carrier, to a truck driver, to a nursery caretaker this story was nothing more than a way to fill 2 minutes in the newscast. The bureau reporter Megan Strader tried, but the subject matter didn't work and she maybe should have tried to take a little lighter approach with it. The serious approach to the story didn't really work.
Meanwhile KSN was firing all their guns (maybe not, but I couldn't resist the pun) with a piece on Ted Nugent and surprise surprise, guns. Outside of him firing a few guns and seeing one really big gun and the flash, the story was nothing more than Ted yelling out his propaganda with a few quotes from a gun opponent. I probably would fall on the pro gun rights side of the issue, but even I grow tired of Ted. I think everyone pretty much knows what Ted says on the gun issue by now and outside of his delivery and style there is nothing interesting about him. They could have easily just cued up something he said a few years ago and you would get the same exact thing from him. I would say this with Ted, if his delivery and style were monotone and not as argumentative would people really care what he had to say, even if he said the same exact things? I'd say no. He is an old broken record just rescued from time to time by ears falling for the act. -Hal

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Wichita State Woody Warning

Wichita TV News has issued a Wichita State Woody Warning for the area in effect immediately for the area until Monday June 11. Those in the warned area should expect tons of stories about people in lines for tickets, buying tons of gold merchandise and plenty of bandwagon Shocker fans.

Hold on second. We saw all of this already Today and the game isn't even until Saturday. Before you say, "Hal Stop being anti-Shocker," I'm not. I am just excited as the next gold wearing fan, who when they hear the name Schermerhorn, they think you are talking about getting shoes on your feet. I wasn't watching all that closely, but I think at least one of the stations had 2 shocker related stories at 10, and that was even before you got to sports. It will be interesting how they will keep the Shocker buzz stimulating the next few days. -Hal

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Flushing the Lead Story Down the Toilet

Maybe I need to be careful what I ask for. I was critical of KSN's fan story on the Shockers in the baseball tourney, but at least the story wasn't the lead. Tonight at 6PM, KSN leads off with Dana Hertneky and a story with new toilets opening in Old Town. The lead? It was made even better (not a good kind of better) with video of a City Council member leading a countdown for the first flush, similar to a ribbon cutting. Sure you can do a story on it, 30 seconds, even open up with sounds of a flush, but a lead? I know its Saturday, but I think they could muster up something better. KAKE lead off with the latest terror plot. KWCH led off with the anchor reading a story about water slowing things at a concert down in Winfield. None were great (probably as much as I questioned it when I first saw it the terrorism story was probably best placed), but at least they didn't go to new potties for a lead. -Hal

Update: If 6PM wasn't enough, KSN managed to outdo themselves and lead with the Old Town potties again at 10PM. Unbelievable. The others really didn't have a good lead either. Maybe those days, you just give up and don't do news.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Another Flippin Burger Story

OK, maybe the title is going a bit far, but more on that later.
The winds of early this morning were a cause for a number of stories on the newscasts this evening. In fact KAKE was able to squeeze 3 stories out of it. I thought that was going a bit too overboard. Deb Farris' story gave me the facts of damage in Ark City with good illustrations of the damage. But then Jennifer Bocchieri had a story on a different town with damage. If you wanted an example of a how a story can be filled with cliches and overused lines from the many other weather stories this had them all. The end proved it with a line something like despite all the damage thankfully no one was hurt in this storm. Proof that maybe 2 stories on the storms might have worked (Ark City and wrapping the other town into it and then a separate story on flooding and Moran coming to area). I would say that even 2 would be stretching it.
Sticking to cliches, KSN attempted to play off of the event of the night at 6, with the Shocker baseball team in the NCAA Tourney at Eck Stadium. All too often when news people do sports stories they all come out the same, either at a bar with fans, or at the game with fans. If the game hadn't started yet it usually has something to do with game preps. KSN's Anne Meyer did the later and showed a guy flipping burgers and some other guy talking about the game preparations. I didn't think it worked at all. Someone could say, Hal, what are they supposed to do? I say be in the moment and be creative and fun. Its Friday. The Shockers are in the tourney and hosting it, so have some fun and be creative. If the unique angle to the story, besides flipping burgers can't be found, then just turn it into a fun piece. After all the storms and flooding stories today, an angle like that could have gone over well, instead of one just because the Shockers are in a tourney its a story no matter if its a weak angle. Now that's not to say I wouldn't have criticized a piece like that if it were too fluffy, but at least it maybe wouldn't have stated the obvious. -Hal