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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

MARK GARAY: Is this TV news or promotion gone wild?

Former KTRK abc13 anchor Mark Garay guest blogs this post on the blog:

I recently returned from a trip to Austin. I caught the late news on KEYE 42. What at first glance seemed like nothing more than a common local news promotional technique, turned quickly into a classic case of "enough already." The news anchor introduces the story by telling her audience that an upcoming episode of the news magazine program 48 Hours will be focusing on a local murder case.

Apparently, some 20 year old or so douche bag had killed some poor girl in a bathtub and dismembered her head and fingers. Then allegations arose that another girl had helped cut up the corpse too. Now, a new development. After the guy got 55 years, the woman alleged to have helped him is soon to be sentenced.

The anchor tosses to the "story" of the upcoming "story." AND the story is not produced by KEYE, but rather by 48 Hours. Apparently, not only does this CBS network show get to saturate the KEYE audience, but feels also compelled to do the job itself, lest some KEYE reporter get in the way.

I wouldn't have noticed anything had it ended with the 48 Hours "correspondent" signing off after this thinly veiled promotional effort disguised as a news story designed to get people to watch.

But then the anchor says that one of her reporters has an INTERVIEW with the 48 Hours correspondent. Now, another two minutes of a taped interview between a KEYE on-air hottie and whoever this 48 Hours correspondent is.

What did they talk about? What kind of sentence butcher girl might get. That's wonderful speculation, but how in the world could ANYONE know what the sentence will be? They also discuss how "people have found this to be such a disturbing case."

Really? No shit.

Finally, the only redeeming element to the entire four minute segments: The range of punishment the girl could receive, which was up to five years, I believe. That information could have been conveyed in a 10 second anchor read.

I've always felt that television self promotion was a bit like actor Alec Baldwin: Effective as a performer and communicator, but capable of being annoyingly shallow and self absorbed off the set. Yes, every television news operation has the right to call itself the best. But the weird thing about promotions is that no one knows if what they're hearing is true. Odd, isn't it? That such a thing could be said about the people charged with promoting local NEWS operations?

I submit the following:

Let's say that two competing television stations want to call themselves the "first to broadcast in HD." Station A dumps a lot of money into going a cheaper route. They equip their news chopper camera to broadcast in HD, but ONLY the helicopter camera can broadcast high def. Station A keeps all other forms of production and news broadcast at current production standard.

Across the Street, Station B hears that Station A is bragging about being the first to broadcast in HD. Station B, only weeks away from launching all of its local news programming in HD, and sensing that Station A purposely undercut the timing and stole Station B's thunder, feels justified to similarly claim that in fact, THEY- STATION B, were the FIRST to broadcast in HD.

"All Station A did was HD their chopper cam," Station B would argue. "That's not going HD, at least not like WE did!"

And at the end of the day, honestly. Who gives a shit?

Humor aside, cross promotion can be a dangerous thing. Promoting station sponsored events, products or services during newscasts can be perceived as very self serving unless they are done correctly. When weather folks say to you "and we'll have a closer look at tomorrow's chances for rain, later in this newscast", it just might piss you off. "Tell me now", you might say. "I can take it".

Here's the point. What I saw in Austin was a ugly boil on top of an less ugly boil. Not only do they burn newscast minutes by PROMOTING an entirely different program, but they promoted it again, by talking to the promoters.

An through it all, you might ask yourself, "I thought I was watching the news."

- Mark Garay

Find out more about Garay's latest work at CodeMark Poductions LLC.

MARK GARAY: TV interview going away as we know it? COMMENT: Click to leave your thoughts on this post here