Archive for September, 2011
Fox News’ contention that it is a strong news organization, not just a right- leaning commentary network, took a hit Friday evening.
While conservative commentator Greta Van Susteren continued on with her show, competitors MSNBC and CNN were covering live the tragedy in Reno where an air race plane careened out of control and plunged into the spectators’ box seats, killing the pilot and nine fans. As early as 8:45 p.m., Austin time, MSNBC’s left-leaning commentator, Rachel Maddow, had shifted gears from her regular show and become a highly competent, non-political, news anchor.
Maddow hosted the next 75 minutes until 10 p.m., handling a steady stream of live interviews from the scene with eyewitnesses, flight experts, reporters, race officials and hospital information officers. She performed as well as virtually any NBC anchor could have, covering a breaking news tragedy with coolness, intelligence and grace.
At CNN, Anderson Cooper had to settle for break-ins into the Piers Morgan show until he was turned loose at 9 p.m. for coverage equal to MSNBC’s. Of course, unlike Maddow, anchoring and reporting news is Cooper’s experience and skill set.
Fox did not go to the air disaster until 9:30 p.m., a full 45 minutes after MSNBC.
Was Fox not capable of ramping up quickly for a major news story or did their executives make a conscious decision to stay with their conservative opinion programming. Either way, not a good endorsement for FOX News as a place to go for breaking coverage, especially when their liberal adversaries at MSNBC were on top of their game.
I’m just back from a six week road trip east, both southeast and mid-Atlantic. I saw quite a few local newscasts in such exotic cities as West Palm Beach, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Youngstown. One of my first thoughts when I view TV news in other cities is, “how does Austin compare.”
As expected, market size gives the answer. Compared to West Palm Beach,(market 38), Austin (market 44) compares well. Both have competent anchors, some of whom have been in their current chairs for years. Some of the veterans have been let go recently in cost cutting moves. In both cities, however, the street reporter turnover is constant and alarming among those who don’t have some anchor duties. I lived in the West Palm market until 2009 and on my recent visit recognized almost none of the reporters. The same has been true here in Austin during my time here. The youth and inexperience among the new hires is similar, almost certainly a result of cost savings among the stations in both markets.
In the larger markets, like Pittsburgh (24), and Baltimore (26), the anchors are generally a cut above most in Austin, while the reporters show much more experience and on-air performance skills.
Predictably, the anchors and reporters in the smaller markets, like Youngstown, Ohio (111) and Columbus-Tupelo, Mississippi (133), are far less skilled than Austin’s performers and sometimes are downright dreadful.
Bottom line–Austin anchors and reporters perform at just about the appropriate level when compared to their brothers and sisters in other markets. In some cases, Austin’s news people are better than expected.
It will be interesting to gauge the performance levels in the near future as a new owner takes over at KEYE-TV to challenge the long time owners at KVUE-TV, KXAN-TV and KTBC-TV.