By Harvey Oberfeld
July 15th, 2015
Talk to management in the local TV news business and they’ll blame their lack of growth or even loss of broadcast TV viewers on fracturing viewer habits, the growth of news sites on social media, rising costs and dwindling revenues for conventional news programs.
They conveniently omit how they … pushed by their advertising/sales/promotion departments … are also destroying local news programming …from the inside.
Chat up experienced reporters, producers, camera workers, technical staff … and turned off viewers … and they’ll burns your ears with tales about the way local news is increasing their own program pollution …. more and more advertorial promotions, product pushing, and all kinds of other promotional pap.
All of it, in my view … and theirs … likely to push more local tv news viewers away.
Last weekend, I happened on Global’s “Saturday Morning News” … at least that’s what Shaw Cable’s program grid called it, and they should know since they own the channel.
Right there, in the midst of their “news” show was an “open House” segment ..nothing more total shill for a real estate development in Surrey … hosted by Kaitlyn Herbst … described on Global’s own site as “traffic and weather reporter.”
Delivering lines like ” The final phase is under construction and units are still available”.
There was also, of course, LOTS of continuing coverage of the opening of the McArthurGlen fashion outlet mall in Richmond … quite legitimate in my view because a new mall attracting tens of thousands and blocking access to the airport … a real story.
BUT there were also several on-scene live hits by Julia Foy, ”a new member of the Global TV News Team” delivering the following journalistic gems:
“So if you are planning to come down to the McArthurGlen shops today, you can come and check out some of the designers … they have everything from Armani, Coach, Hugo Boss, Polo stores and many other entertainment features.”
Or a reference to the “beautiful architecture” and questions to the mall manager like: ” What are the biggest draws in this mall? What are people looking for?”
The fault, of course, in my view lies not with the peons delivering this pap on air, but with the newsroom and station brass who have allowed their promotions and sales departments to co-opt the integrity, ethics and increasingly the content of local “news” programming.
Jill Krop, a former colleague and Global’s latest News Director defends what she said is an unavoidable part of news programming today … known in the industry as ”constructed content” …. because of rising costs and revenue challenges.
And she contends the integrity of “news” is not impacted, because viewers do know the difference between real news and promotional coverage.
I guess I’m old-fashioned: I’m from a background where “reporter” meant something different than it does today.
“From when you worked here till now, the audience is more sophisticated,” Jill explained.
In other words, the viewer knows the difference between real news and promo puffery.
So does that mean we’ll soon see sponsored segments or “stories” puffing up products and places and on National News as well? Of course not: station owners and management clearly see local news as a lesser product … where content can be diluted with promotional productions.
Nevertheless Krop insisted the McArthurGlen coverage was NOT in any way sponsored or paid for by the mall: CTV won the advertising contract, she said.
I also watched the coverage there of the McCarthurGlen Mall opening Thursday.
Again …there was quite fair, legitimate coverage of the mall opening and the huge traffic problems it created for YVR traffic/passengers.
But CTV also hopped onto the promo bandwagon: Michael Kuss delivering the weather/updates THREE times from the mall … outside and inside … and delivering lines like:
“They’re open until 9 down here. they have an orchestral performance outside live: I think it kicks off at 7 o’clock…” and at the end of the show “It’s early though and I’m going to be down here for two more hours, shopping like a fiend.”
At least Koos is NOT billed as a reporter … and CTV News Director Les Staff insisted CTV’s coverage/presence at McCarthurGlen had “absolutely nothing” to do with any advertising sales contract/deal/agreements between the station and the mall.
Major retail openings ARE legitimate stories and worthy of more than just a story, Staff said … and he promised more such major coverage … when Nordstrom’s opens in Vancouver in September.
The openings may be big news events in a way, but is it also necessary to fawn all over them, to promote them, to push their interests, instead of the viewers’ ?
But then I spotted a ray of light!
Just when I was despairing even more than usual about local tv news in Vancouver … there was Randene Neill … a real reporter, anchoring the Saturday Newshour on Global, who said, after viewing more continuing promo-type coverage:
“What they need to do is actually get a review of that discount mall. Is it even worth going? Because quite often, kind of like Target, you get there and say ‘Why am I wasting my time?’ . ”
Yes, Randene! Thank you, Randene!!
But don’t hold your breath waiting for that honest kind of review … at least, not on local tv news.
Funny, I heard the Randene comment as well and thought to myself , I wonder how fast the Sales Manager sprinted down to the news room once she got off air.
Les Staff? He’s got a bright future in the TV biz with a name like that.
I stopped watching Globals morning news (if that’s what they call it) and now rely mostly on this little computer and the news outlets so readily available. This way I get real news. However, I must admit I am a loyal 6pm Global news guy.
As someone working in media now…I sure hope I don’t spend my final years like Harvey. Bitter at the biz and everything “not as good as the good ol’ days”. The game has changed, it’s a different landscape. Complaining about it makes you jaded and disposable. So…adapt, or die, and get over it Harv.
Insider must be a recent BCIT Grad. Trust me Insider eventually you WILL become “bitter at the biz”. It just takes time 🙂
The Global morning news is tragic. Steve Darling is so painful. CTV is a bit better, but not by much.
In my opinion CTV Morning News is heads and tails above Global Morning News. Can’t handle Steve or Sophie. I do however miss Aamer Haleem who they let go a year or two ago for some reason.
My favorite is Mark Driesschen. Love his Donald Trump and Dr. Evil impressions 🙂
When I saw Global doing a “story” on Steve Darling losing weight…I thought “Harv must be losing his mind over this.” Has there EVER been a tv station that spends as much time turning their personalities into “stories” than Global BC? If it’s not a story on Steve losing weight…it’s Kristi having a baby…or Squire eating hot sauce…or Mark moving to middays to do weather…the shameless self-promotion is nauseating.
I agree with anonymous-can’t handle Sophie and Steve either-painful to watch-I get the vibe from watching them that they can’t stand each other either!!
Insider represents the problem, not the solution. Advising someone with Harvey’s credentials to “get over it” when he’s offering advice is akin to the teenagers who think their parents are dumb while they know everything.
Back in the day, Stevie D. might have made it as far as Red Deer/Kelowna, career-wise. But that was then and this is now. Guys like me and Harv don’t get it, but it’s the way things are today, ” fir shur”…..
And Erin Chalmers at Global Edmonton is just plain painful
What is wrong with you people? What a bunch of bitter old crusties.
Reporting on a mall IS a story Harvey, not to your generation maybe, but to mine it is. I want to know about it, I want to know what’s in there. I want to know if I should try to go there today or wait for another day, Kind of like the border.
And I also watched the story on Steve’s 65 pound weight loss, which in itself is awesome – way to go Steve, and may inspire some people to get healthier. Only here would someone find something wrong with that. You could see he was uncomfortable talking about it, and people- viewers likely – were concerned he might be sick, It’s a great story, not sure why you can’t see that. Maybe you’re a little overweight yourself. Well there’s some inspiration to do something about it.
And I don;t see this self-promotion you’re talking about, They have great likeable personalities on Global that people are interested in – Kristie, Squire Sonia, Mark – all of them., from morning to night to weekends, I don’t see any other viable alternative in this market and I have been looking for over 15 years.
Maybe I’m the only happy viewer, but I doubt it.
Times change people, move on or move out.
Makemineamac, you’ve unwittingly exemplified the problem. Your view is that the role of the fourth estate is to inform you when the shopping mall is open and what’s on sale. No wonder you haven’t found a viable alternative. But Global should be worried about that; not happy.
Times do indeed change.
If Makemineamac read my piece, he would have clearly seen that I said the actual opening of the mall and all the traffic problems it caused for YVR IS a legitimate story. But really, is it also part of journalism now to fawn all over it or to “report” that at a Surrey condo, there are still lots of units for sale? Methinks NOT! And judging by the ratings … many viewers seem to agree with moi.
haha… this is hilarious.. . . you all are describing what the problem with media is….. lots of old folks who keep talking about the “good old days” and then the young ones who know nothing, because they don’t remember, or are too young to know!
BCIT(and other broadcast programs) don’t teach the history or the personalities or whatnot of the local scene, so there is nothing for the grads to fall back on.. meanwhile the older folks don’t want to adapt to any kind of change at all..
no wonder being a journalist is considered a bad career move!