Thursday, June 23, 2005

WOWT Control Room Commandeered By Chimps?

That's the best explanation we can come up with for the ongoing technical snafus that plague the Big Six. It seems as if every newscast includes at least one blindfolded or very drunk button-pusher. Examples? We have scads of 'em, but we'll share just a few of the most recent:
  • A Tuesday afternoon/evening story featuring the parents of a woman killed in a weekend car accident superimposed the mother's name (Sara) but identified her as "Victim's Father."
  • On Wednesday morning's 7:25 "Today in the Heartland," the camera suddenly plunged from Malorie Maddox's face to her, um, mike before abruptly switching to a b-roll.
  • During Wednesday's "Ten at Ten," en route from a story to a headshot of anchor John Knicely, viewers were detoured for a second or two to the gaudy set of the Powerball drawing in Des Moines.
  • And most newscasts feature at least one instance of a baffled anchor looking into the wrong camera. If it happened only to one or two people, we'd attribute it to talent error, but when it strikes just about everyone who sits at the desk, one has to believe that there's something funky going on in the booth.
Whatever is going on, it'd be nice to see the problem fixed. But with Channel 6 back at #1 in the ratings, station manager Frank Jonas and news director John Clark have probably already settled back into a complacent stupor.

9 comments:

janetdoe said...

No chimps, but lots of director turnover in the last few years. Good directors leave because they can't get paid what they are worth elsewhere in TV or in another line of work altogether(Chris, Chad, Eric, etc.)

The production staff is more and more comprised of kids right out of UNO (no jab at UNO specifically) who are not very experienced.

There's always an excuse for what went wrong.

On the morning show... a certain director always seems to make things always a little more technically interesting than they should be. The management knows whats wrong, but yet it still festers. "Well, yes he sucks, but he's not SO bad that we're compelled to actually spend money to get someone competent."

On the positive side, WOWT has had a top notch chief engineer in Jay Nix. It's not all rotten at 6, but it continues to erode.

Cogitor said...

That's what I was saying on another post. As someone not in the business (but someone whoe went to school for it and has operated the machinery), it smacks of a complete lack of focus. Sloppy, sloppy work. Frankly, kids out of UNO should be able to do a better job. It's becomming more and mroe distracting to watch a newscast on 6. I find myself getting more news from CNN and other news web sites because the completing local product isn't much better.

Cogitor said...

That's what I was saying in another post. It's just plain distracting to watch a newscast on 6 any more, and getting worse instead of better. As someone not in the business (but who went to school for it and has run the machinery), I may notice more than the average viewer, but not as much as Ted or janetdoe. Nevertheless, I STILL find it irritating to try to sit through the newscast. When I start waiting for the next screw-up instead of focusing on the story, it's time to change the channel. Of course, the competing product pretty much sucks as well, in my humble opinion. It just seems to show a complete lack of focus.

dannymccaslin said...

Or how about yesterday when they went from the main story and then straight to (accidently) to a story about hail in Colorado Springs. It made the whole show a complete mess.

janetdoe said...

Too many hours of newscasts with not enough people. Now, not only fewer people, but an overall lower level of experience as well.

WOWT also lacks for available engineers for live shots on developing or breaking stories.

Cogitor said...

Sorry about doubling up on the previous posts...in the middle of editing my IE crapped out. I guess it sent both, though I only saw one yesterday.

Anyway, guess what happened last night: Knicely's talking about some circus, and they switch from circus tape to some paused tape on a kid's baseball story. Nice work. Again.

I watch 6 quite a bit because I cannot stand Julie on 7, and haven't cared for 3 since John Mason left (perhaps the Michael Scott debacle left a bad impression). KPTM just doesn't come to mind when I think of news. I recall back in the day that 3 used to have the most technically challenged people in the booth, but WOWT has taken the lead, and it doesn't look like they intend to relinquish it any time soon.

janetdoe said...

Here's another example of chimps possibly in control:

Saturday 10pm, Brian New is doing a live shot tag for his fireworks pkg. He is way off center on the shot, then you realize why: They intended to put up some graphics over the other half of the screen -- bullet points that he could use to emphasize the safety info. Not a bad idea. Not ground-breaking, but better than nothing. The problem is the photog or director or producer did not know right from left, and they put up the graphics on the half of the screen where New was standing! So he's covered up by the graphics! Fantastic! This stays up for 5-10 seconds. Instead of just getting on the IFB to tell the photog to pan right, the director tries to punch out of the mess and ends up going to black for a few seconds before getting back to New, at which time we get to see a frame synch-type glitch as well.

This does not destroy WOWT's credibility, but it looks like shit, AND it's not like this is a one-time deal. This crap happens ALL THE TIME at the big 6.

So, you are the news director and if you are John Clark, you likely fire off a spitting mad vindictive e-mail to the entire staff, stating that these types of errors will not be tolerated. On the other hand, you really should take a closer look at the root cause of the never-ending mess-ups over the last several years and realize that it's poor hiring of underqualified people that has left you in this sorry state.

For instance, when your chief photog is space cadet (he is), it surely has a trickle down effect on things. When you have your anchor also producing the show (like for instance Saturday night), it has an effect (maybe there wWAS someone sitting in the booth to communicate with the live shot -- I don't know).

The bottom line is this -- do things half-assed and it will haunt you.

Sean Weide said...

Does WOWT use a floor director on its evening newscasts? If not, I suspect the lack of one (and the robotic cameras) might be the reason talent is looking at the wrong camera.

janetdoe said...

Brace yourself, Sean, for I speak the gospel. There is no such thing as a floor director at WOWT, on any newscast. That position hasn't existed at 6 for many many years.

There is a tele-prompter operator and nobody else in the actual studio aside from the talent.

The producers map out the shots, and the director reviews the scripts before air.

Most of the wrong camera turns are simply operator error by whomever is punching the show.

However, looking at the wrong camera is a minor thing, versus the ugly tape and graphics train wrecks we see sometimes on the big 6. I am not sure, but I have heard they may have finally moved on to their tapeless newscast system called airspeed. I guess maybe that will eliminate the endless countdown frames we are getting used to seeing.

With so many kids pushing the buttons, professional focus is greatly lacking in the control booths. Nobody takes charge of the newscasts and tightens the screws to make sure those responsible are getting the little things done perfectly. There should be NO ROOM for hiccups at a station like WOWT, with such a great legacy and tradition. What you see now is like a great sports dynasty that is past its prime and is unwittingly on the edge of dropping sharply into the lower half of the standings. (big ups to my "male" for the sports analogy! Now go take out the trash, my puppet!)

In recent years, WOWT has begun placing more emphasis on gimmicky production elements instead of just being great at the basic stuff.

Look at that stupid, pointless "virtual studio" thing for ten at ten weeknights. Who cares about that crap? It adds nothing to the newscasts other than getting the anchors to stand up. That thing has Larry Rickel (consultant) written all over it.

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