Wednesday, May 09, 2007

When the news hits your eye like a big pizza pie

It's not amore, but just silly, as in ths squib sent out by my boss today under the note: This sort of speaks for itself. But what does it say?

Ledo Pizza buys naming rights for WTOP "nerve center"
The Washington Business Journal reports Bonneville's News Titian WTOP in DC has struck a deal with Ledo Pizza to become the exclusive sponsor of its "glass-enclosed nerve center." Starting Monday and continuing every day for the rest of the year, listeners will be reminded at the top of the hour that the news they're hearing is originating from "from the Ledo Pizza glass-enclosed nerve center" at WTOP Radio. Max Schmitz, president of DC-based Maximilian Communications, which negotiated the deal for the Annapolis, MD-based pizza chain, tells the paper it was looking for "a reach monster" to deliver a new kind of branding for Ledo.

Some of my suggestions:

Sounds pretty cheesy ...

All pepperoni all the time ...

Those who work in glass houses shouldn't throw pizza dough ...

You give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the anchovies ...

I could go on, but ... why don't you pick it up in the comments column.


DCRTV has an MP3 of the WTOP stinger. See also the Washington Times story.

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At 5/9/07, 5:48 PM, Blogger Gary Karr said...

Weather and traffic on the eights, sausage and pepporoni to your door in 30 minutes or less?

The glass-enclosed never center line always makes me laugh -- makes me think of the movie "Anchorman" where Will Ferrell moans he is "trapped in a glass cage of emotion" after he loses his dog.

At 5/9/07, 8:41 PM, Blogger ZapDuff said...

People who work in glass houses SHOULD throw stoned marketing geeks..... OUT!

I think an even more insipid, blatant, unethical - and hidden - control of news content by CORPORATE MARKETING dorks was revealed and proven April 30... at a government hearing in Florida.

Students: Here I start a sentence that should NEVER go on TV or radio:

For all who missed the government streaming audio (or the oft interrupted - when opponents to further relaxation of broadcast ownership rules stepped up to the mike - video feed via of the FCC hearing a week ago Monday... in which all 5 Commissioners showed up for the Tampa gathering, an old college chum of mine and Doug Fisher brought the house down and incurred a very vocal chastisement backstage by Dan Bradley, a top VP at the convergence King claiming Media General, after he (Chief Investigator for WXYZ-TV, Steve Wilson) said:

Commissioners, I thank you for the opportunity to address you today on this important issue. I speak only for myself as a broadcast journalist for more than 35 years yet I assure you, countless other reporters share the same view.

As you review the advisability of further lifting the restrictions on media ownership, I ask that you consider how the purpose of a giant corporation can be directly at odds with an organization mandated to first serve the public interest.

What if we expected our priest, reverend or rabbi to increase the headcount at every service by any means necessary and to make sure what’s in the collection plate each week is more than the week before? Trying to meet the demands of Wall Street and shareholders who see no difference between making refrigerators and using the public airwaves to truly serve a community is largely responsible for leaving journalism—and especially television journalism—in its state today.

As big media companies have been allowed to grow ever larger, they have demanded more consistency and central-control. Now, when you’re making lightbulbs in Dayton, the principles are pretty much the same as when you produce them at a factory in Denver, or Dallas. But when you’re serving a community, Dayton is not Denver or Dallas…yet this is how many big media organizations are operated now—and the bigger they are, the more they grow, the more they tend to lose their focus on local public service and do whatever enhances profit margins and return on investment. Now certainly there’s nothing wrong with profit and good journalism requires good business but from the inside, I’ve seen how it’s too often run counter to the public interest.

I’ve spent the last six years in Detroit, one of America’s biggest and in many ways most-troubled cities. CBS owns and operates two of its 39 television stations there. It’s marketing motto: “CBS Detroit—Where No News Is Good News! Watch the Hollywood Insider at 6, and Everybody Loves Raymond at 11.”

Can you best serve a troubled community with no news broadcasts on either station? Not the Bill Paley/Ed Murrow/Walter Cronkite CBS where I once worked. Anybody can print a newspaper but only one licensee can operate a TV channel and shouldn’t you remind them that public service is a requirement, not a choice? At the very least, please consider this when you decide whether bigger is better.

The number of different broadcast voices in a community also affects the diversity of coverage viewers get and media concentration has led to a far more homogenized approach to news.

In Jacksonville, four network-affiliated TV channels are controlled by just two group owners.

Clear Channel operates one newsroom to produce for the Fox and CBS affiliates. Gannett runs one newsroom and simulcasts the same broadcast on the NBC and ABC affiliates. Now, I’m sure this makes perfect sense from a business/profit model but does it provide the best, most diverse service to Jacksonville viewers?

Back here in Tampa, here’s another example of how greater ownership and more centralized control is not in the public interest.

At one of this market’s leading stations, decisions about which issues to cover have been second-guessed and controlled by the parent company 800 miles away. And I’m not talking just about some corporate news executive who directs decisions at some two dozen stations the group owns in several states…I’m talking corporate marketing men deciding what news viewers will and will not see.

Now, why is this a problem? Because the station’s local management and its journalists who live and work right here in Tampa—the people best able to judge what’s in the best public interest of serving their own communities?—those people are told their news judgments must meet a criteria more important than what they know to be important to people here.

And what’s more important to this big broadcaster? Choosing to report only what are “good marketing opportunities to promote the television station’s ‘brand’.”

So, when the Tampa news director sends in to corporate headquarters the required list of issues he intends to cover (particularly during a ratings period)…the company marketing men can over-rule the journalists’ judgment and summarily kill any story!

“Not that it was a bad story,” they wrote in this memo, “just a story that wouldn’t be broad enough to draw in a large amount of viewers and one that demonstrates your brand. Don’t take offense,” nearly two dozen news director were told, “we are just trying to get the best stories for your station to market.”

So at this station group and others like it, who do you suppose is trying to get the best stories to serve the community, especially for those important issues that lack flash and the opportunity for self promotion? Bigger is not better.

And at this same Tampa television station—and at other stations, I assure you—pressure from the corporate office to increase profits have led to news directors to be judged no longer primarily on the quality of the station’s journalism…now they are scored …

• 25 out of 100 points for “overall delivery of brand ambassadorship and defining moments” and “supporting the brand within reporter packages…”

• 15 points for presenting the anchorman’s perspective, showing him or her as the station’s “brand ambassador—at least once in every newscast.”

• They give bonus points for well showcasing the stations talent.

• And they take away points whenever there’s a “significant missed opportunity to showcase the station’s brand.”

Nowhere on this scoresheet do news managers get points anymore for selecting important/relevant subjects, for journalistic enterprise and good judgment…and nothing rewards accuracy and fairness.

At too many stations now, we don’t succeed anymore by being good journalists serving the viewer—we’re “brand ambassadors” to help sell an image largely unrelated to substance and the quality of our reporting. Removing restrictions of station ownership I know will only continue this trend. It will not make journalism better—and it will certainly not better serve our viewers.

Yes, journalists and their managers could take a stronger stand inside their own companies, I agree…but it seldom happens. Reporters everywhere know that the landscaped has changed…and we know this consolidation of ownership is largely responsible. Speaking out, even inside the building, can easily lead to being out.

When one news director asked the Tampa group’s C-E-O just what should be done when corporate directives were counter to what was best for the local community…: “To thine own self be true,” was the reported response, followed by: “Of course you may be fired for it.”

And in closing, may I urge you and your staffs to seriously investigate these matters. If you’re going to allow fewer and fewer to control more and more, please honor your obligation and duty to assure that these licensees are of sufficient character to control our public airwaves. When you are presented evidence that journalists were pressured to deliberately present false, distorted or slanted news and fired when they threatened to tell you about, as in my own case, should it take years to look into?

Commissioners, bigger is not better, certainly not better for public service and the quality of journalism.

For More Information:

Steve Wilson
(248) 514-1980 - cell


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