LocalNewser dispatches from the frontlines of local news


All In, and All Out There

Joanne Ostrow made a great observation today on the fast pace of change in journalism, especially TV News: "At one time, it would have been unimaginable for a news anchor, giver of truth from on high, to appear so informally — let alone salaciously — before the credulous public."

Ostrow was writing about the cover of the latest Denver Magazine, which features KDVR anchors Libby Weaver and Natalie Tysdal strike a lad mag pose that in an earlier time might've prompted--at best--a what were you thinking meeting with the GM:  "Now, here's Libby, seated, legs open, shirt unbuttoned to the navel, in leopard-skin-patterned shoes with red stiletto heels, holding a big cigar," Ostrow writes. "Natalie stands beside her, bare leg entwined with Libby's arm, in bustier and hot pants. It could be a cover for Cigar Aficionado magazine."

Today?  No scandal.  Mostly a snoozer.  In fact, if you want to see more pics from the photo shoot, you can find them posted on the KDVR website.

As St. Pete Times media guru Eric Deggans says, journalists are making the decision to live "one life," online, on air, in print, and everywhere else.  The ability to know what movie your news anchor saw over the weekend, what wine she's having with dinner, and to see vacation photos on Facebook fan pages has eliminated that sense of awe that surrounded the goliath anchors of an earlier age.

Take WFTS/Tampa anchor (and all-around great guy) Brendan McLaughlin.  A solid anchor and longstanding fixture in the Bay Area.  But he's got no qualms about sending out a Facebook status update that reads, "Ooo eee,ooo ah ah, ting tang Walla walla, bing bang. Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang Walla walla bing bang.  34 Twitter characters to spare!"

Does that make us less reliable when big news breaks?  Or is that beside the point?  Is it just the way things are, whether we like it or not?

Clearly, I've voted with my feet on this one.  No longer a strict straight news guy on TV, I didn't have a news director to tip off about my wife's "My Husband is Annoying" blog, chock full of pictures that had at least one former TV news boss of mine get in touch to express concerns that showing that side of my life could cost me some of my equity as a "real" reporter.

Does a New York Daily News article branding me a big slob (what?) and "New York's most annoying husband" mean I have to turn in my journalist card?  Or can I be both?

I got a pithy answer to that question from Ruth Ann Harnisch, who underwrites my role as community supported journalist for the nonprofit Coaching Commons, where I was hired for, among other things, my background as an "Emmy Award-winning journalist," not the guy on The Tyra Banks Show who wears the same green sweater all the time.

Her take?  I can be both, because I am both.  "He's still a helluva reporter," Harnisch writes.

Or as Joanne Ostrow put it, two Denver anchors getting flirty on a local magazine cover? A New York journalist on national television doing a blisteringly bad version of the "robot" dance? Hey, the news biz has a lot bigger problems to worry about than that.


Gannett "Company Gal" Gets Fired in a Letter Left at Her Door: "And This is the Thanks I Got"

For 15 years, Marty Matthews has been a "company gal" at WTSP/Tampa, anchoring the main newscasts at the CBS station, and when times got tight, she did everything the company asked to help tighten belts and get through until things got better. She says, "I even chose to take a five-day furlough in the 1st quarter to help them save money and a be a good ‘company gal.' And this is the thanks I got."

The thanks came in a manila envelope left anonymously at Matthews' front door. Inside, a letter from the station saying, essentially, you're fired. WTSP management told the St. Pete Times' Eric Deggans the letter was a last resort when efforts to reach Matthews in person failed. Seriously? Efforts to reach your 4 p.m. anchor "failed?" Do managers know where their own studios are located? The newsroom? These gutless people who can't even find the courage to look a person in the eyes and tell them what's happening... how did they fill the management ranks in this business?

WTSP/Tampa's Marty Matthews

WTSP/Tampa's Marty Matthews

Matthews called suggestions she was unreachable a lie: "They sure could find somebody to drive over to my house and leave a manila envelope here...why didn't they find time to ask me while I was in the office?" Matthews told Eric Deggans, who reports she struggled to contain her anger.

Am I missing something? I get that times are as bad as they've ever been in this business. And I completely understand that decisions will be made and good people will lose their jobs. What I have trouble with is the "have their agent tell them" or "wait until they finish the newscast and have security escort them out--oh, and make sure you get their bio off the site ASAP."

You'd think--in Matthews' case--fifteen years of service to a company would require a little something better than a letter dropped at the door by a person who took off without so much as knocking. When did local television become junior high?

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