Linda Wertheimer, the veteran NPR correspondent heard locally on 90.1/WABE-FM, came into town Tuesday evening for a special event with sponsors and donors at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. She was stately and low key, just what you expect from an NPR journalist. General Manager John Weatherford brought her in to help herald the arrival of Denis O’Hayer as the new afternoon news guy and the noon show called City Cafe, which started last month with quirky feature stories amid classical music.
An admiring crowd nibbling on shrimp po’boys and sipping white wine mingled with Wertheimer, afternoon host John Lemley and O’Hayer, who recently joined WABE-FM from WXIA-TV.
Wertheimer made a short speech, noting that the Ray Kroc money a few years back (called in house as the “Kroc” pot) has kept NPR from falling off the precipice that public radio tends to be on despite the rough economic conditions.
She mused about AIG (”Master of the Universe to Scum of the Earth” in people’s eyes)., wondering if the public backlash will create so much regulation as to stifle innovation. “Be careful what you wish for,” she noted. “Markets will correct but maybe this could become an over-correction.” She told a few stories from the election road over the years, noting that it isn’t remotely glamorous hearing the same speech 300 times. She touted NPR’s commitment to covering the news as newspaper close bureaus all over the world.
“It’s a refuge from the cesspool of broadcast news,” declared Iris Levin from the front row. She is part of Atlanta Daybook, which disseminates press releases to the media.
Lemley, in answer to a question, noted how he feels listeners are seeking companionship with the radio jocks in a time of woe, that there seems to be this need to connect with him compared to three years ago, the last time he was a music jock. (He was the “All Things Considered”/”Marketplace” local news host before O’Hayer from 2005 to early 2009.) When someone said they missed his daily “stargazer” reports, he joked, “If the stars and planets moved more often, I could do hourly updates!”
Today’s tv news follows predictable algebra: stories need to be an easy to get quick turn, and have a low litigation risk. Hustlers, hookers and dirty preachers are busted yet again, but purveyors of true lawlessness and high crimes at the executive level…WALK.
In summary broadcasters want their news operations to be viewed as tough, smart, and committed, but the business practice of killing good stories for fear of litigation and time consuming fact-finding, the obsession with fancy graphics and sounds in place of legitimate community franchises like education, features, and health, and the filling of giant news holes with what is in effect hotdogs and cereal, make a charge of hypocrisy more than dedicated, determined, and dependable.
The New York Times have calculated that only four of the 70 TV pilots being shot for later this year feature minority leads. And this comes on the heels of two black-led comedy news shows ending their runs – “Chocolate News” on Comedy Central with David Alan Grier and “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News” on CNN. It notes that Tyler Perry’s success with TBS’s “House of Payne” and “Meet the Browns” as an exception. On the other hand, minorities are usually well represented on reality shows such as “America’s Next Top Model” and “Survivor.” And minorities are incorporated into most ensemble shows such as “CSI” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
-CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory” is getting a two-year guaranteed run and “Two and a Half Men” will run through 2011-12, a three year deal. It’s rare for any show to get that much of a cushion. But CBS is in a position of strength as the only network which has seen audience growth this season. It may as well lock in two successful shows. Plus, sitcoms tend to lose steam slower than serialized shows. “Big Bang,” which is a very funny sophomore show at 8 p.m. Mondays, is actually up in viewers by about 20 percent over last year (10.3 million viewers) while “Two and a Half” remains the top sitcom since 2005 (averaging about 15 million viewers) when “Everybody Loves Raymond” closed shop.
-J93.3’s John Tesh, whose syndicated show airs overnight, is coming to the Griffin First Assembly of God on April 30th. Tickets are just $12 each, and special VIP seating is $65. VIP’s also get a copy of John’s book “Intelligence for Your Life”, and a pre-show meet & greet with John. More info here for tix.