Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Paging John Clark...Mr. John Clark, Red Courtesy Phone Please

If ever there were an article that just about everyone at Channel 6 should read, it's Mistakes Are Bad News by newswriting coach Mervin Block.

Block's article describes 16 mistakes that news directors make that diminish the strength of their product. The piece reads like a prescription for much of what ails the sluggish WOWT evening newscasts.

Our favorites, which we'll call "The John Clark Five":

4. Tolerating the ing thing: writing with participles and shunning verbs with a tense: “Governor Grover’s office saying today the governor...”
6. Slapping the banner “Breaking News” on stories long broken.
8. Introducing reporters as “live.”
9. Assigning reporters to conduct man-on-the-street interviews instead of assigning reporters to report.
13. Green-lighting anchors’ chit-chatting, giggling and ceaseless, senseless smiling.

Read the entire article and other interesting observations at


Will said...

Block's right on the money, although his analysis ignores a very basic fact about TV news:IT's business and everything we see and hear is designed expressly to lure viewers (most of whom are not particularly saavy, or sophiticated). That's why they send reporters out to the scene of yesterday's crime to report live at five and call it "breaking news." It's insane, really.

I would love to somehow come into lots of money, buy a local station and treat the news division as a loss leader. Let the station find some other way of making money. That was William Paley's philosophy when he was running CBS and we all know what kind of journalism CBS used to practice.

Ted Brockman said...

I understand what you're saying, Will, but it's not an either/or proposition. Take the "John Clark Five" for example. Eliminating those elements from Channel 6's newscasts isn't going to drive any people away. Similarly, emphasizing that Gary Smollen is reporting LIVE or having everyone giggle hysterically at the end of the 10 o'clock news isn't attracting viewers.

Most of the mistakes that Block identifies are nothing more than lazy habits of people who are being paid too much money to keep making them night after night, year after year. They lower the quality of local programming and they're probably not helping anyone's career, either. When's the last time anyone from WOWT moved on to a high profile, major market or network position? Colleen Williams is about it, and that's going back 20 years or more.

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