Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Covering The Talking Picture Box

One of the main reasons that OMA News even exists is that Omaha's daily newspaper fails to provide regular local coverage of what it seems to consider this new medium called "tele-vision." Omaha has had stations up and running since the late 1940s. Were the paper to look into it, we're reasonably certain they'd find that many of us now own and watch these new machines and that there are story ideas to be found on the programs and personalities involved. While we realize that Harold Andersen and the boys initially wanted to wait 50 or so years to see if this newfangled gadget was really gonna catch on, it's probably time to assume that it's here to stay.

Therefore, we now present our brief list of things the paper could do to improve its television coverage.

1. Bring back Tom Shales' column. Shales is widely regarded as the best TV critic there is, which makes his disappearance from the paper a few years back hard to explain. His column, syndicated by the Washinton Post, offers insightful critiques on new programming and relevant commentary on the medium itself. His work can be savage when necessary (and we've yet to see him let someone have it who didn't have it coming), but also remarkably touching. His tributes following the deaths of Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, for example, struck just the right chord, as have his recent columns on the hubub surrounding Dan Rather. Returning Shales to the Living section on a regular basis would go a long way toward giving the paper some credibility when it comes to media coverage.

2. Hire a TV columnist. How much do we need to say about this? Betweeen covering local stations' efforts and weighing in on network and cable offerings, there is plenty to keep someone busy. Omaha should be sending someone to the "fall schedule" rollouts held for critics each May in Los Angeles. The same could be said for the Emmys. And, as we think we've demonstrated here, God knows there's plenty to discuss when it comes to what's going on at 3, 6, 7, 15, 26, and 42. If you can run columns on technology and getting stains out of the carpet, it shouldn't be much of a stretch to think somebody ought to be writing about television.

3. Rely less on seemingly random features like "TV Q&A." Items 1&2 should help with this. Sure, there's someone in Dallas who wants to know if there any plans to market DVDs of "Sheriff Lobo," but most readers here can probably live without the answer.


omavoxraison said...

Why should news about people who report the news be, in itself, reported? They're just people who happen to be on TV. They are pretty or handsome or telegenic enough (most, OK, maybe some), but why should they get any more special treatment than, say, the V.P. leaving at Physicians Mutual? If anything, Pat Persaud's exit should be in the "Business People" section of the paper. Done. No more special treatment. And TV is covered by the OWH. The entertainment side.

Ted Brockman said...

It's not a matter of "special treatment," it's a matter of visibility and reader interest. The V.P. of Mutual isn't electronically in thousands of homes every day. Few would recognize the name or face of a V.P. of Mutual. Like it or not, people want to know about these people they see every day. When one disappears, it's of at least passing interest to many.

Saying that the folks at the "Freedom Center" cover TV is one thing; saying that they do it adequately suggests either a disconnection from reality or very low standards. Syndicated fluff pieces about the "Happy Days" reunion or which "Desperate Housewife" star wants more money is no substitute for thoughtful, substantive coverage of the medium from a local point of view.

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