Category Archives: media

Burger Bites Man

Every year, local reporters and photographers head to Scotia — a place typically avoided unless there’s a murder or a particularly interesting fire — to cover the opening of Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In, the ad hoc beginning of spring in the Capital Region.

You know what would be news? If Jumpin’ Jacks DIDN’T open — yet every year we get the same damn story. Here’s an example from last year. Sorry in advance for the terrible video player.

I’ll admit, it’s not a bad piece — but for Christ’s sake, what are you going to say about Jumpin’ Jack’s that hasn’t been said a hundred times? By EVERYBODY IN TOWN:

Whatever — it’s not a crime to be lazy. Everyone should have a day a to just Jack off once a year. Sorry, I had to go there,

In that video, one of the people who lined up for the opening day festivities pretty much summed it all up: “We don’t have much going on here.”

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

A group of Siena College students staged a protest this week over a billboard put up by a local contractor. It shows a posh kitchen with the headline, “Your Wife Wants Me.” The students claim that the billboard’s message is sexist, and they felt so strongly about it that they stood out in the cold for hours to express their opinion.

billboard

WTEN

You can decide whether it’s sexism — but it’s certainly plagiarism.

That headline, “Your Wife Wants Me,” is riffing on a campaign by a Baltimore area jeweler in 2007 with the headline, “Your Girlfriend Wants Me.”

Smythgirlfriend

Since then, the clever creative has been ripped off all over, sometimes substituting girlfriend for wife like in the kitchen ad. In fact, it appeared on a local jewelry billboard within the last year.

Borrowing ideas is nothing new in advertising. I suppose it becomes stealing when you claim it as your own, but there’s something else going on here: the jewelry ad is funny and surprising.  The kitchen ad is neither.

They took a great concept and sapped all the wit out of it, which to me is more offensive than any sexist overtones. If you’re going to rip something off, at least do it well.

The Media Was the Message

There was a nice piece about the passing of Don Weeks in the Gazette — and Mark McGuire, who used to write about TV and radio for the Times Union, was the perfect guy to handle the job.

It used to be that the dailies had someone writing regularly about TV and radio, but now coverage of the local media has pretty much vanished. At WNYT we had scrapbooks filled with stories about the station’s performance in the ratings, the comings and goings of reporters, puff pieces about anchors and more.

Now it’s very rare to see stories like that, and even the Business Review, which used to follow TV and radio ratings like they were the Dow Jones average, has given it up.

It’s funny because there would be so much to write about today. There’s more local TV news on the air than ever before, stations are big in social media and the radio business has changed dramatically.

I’d guess we’ll never see local media covered again. Local papers are doing more with fewer people — and in many cases, the people doing more are doing it for less money, like the crew at the Times Union who haven’t had a raise in seven years.

Maybe someone should write a blog about local media. Wouldn’t it be interesting to read critiques of local TV and newspapers, or have someone writing about the imbecilic ranting of local talk radio hosts?

Nah, that would never work.

Pointless

Damn, I knew it felt warmer than 6 degrees outside, and now I know why:

Capture

Thanks, Times Union!

Sure, we’re all obsessed with how cold it is outside — but does showing the temperature like that really add anything to the conversation? It’s probably OK for the newspaper to round that down to 6 degrees. That’s the way the National Weather Service does it.

What I like about weather is that it’s one of the few things we all have in common. It’s something that total strangers can bond over, discuss, commiserate about — it crosses all social and physical boundaries. It’s the glue that binds us.

So, what I’d like to know is this: what do they talk about in San Diego?

Nationwide (and death) is On Your Side

After the Nationwide commercial aired in the Super Bowl, my wife was incredulous. Not at the spot, but at my reaction. “Why would you laugh at that?!”

Why? Well, maybe it because I didn’t expect the dark turn their Make Safe Happen commercial took, from sweet and magical at one moment to dead kid in the next.

So I suppose it was a nervous laugh, but not entirely. I was also laughing at how woefully stupid it was to bludgeon us with that message during America’s national football holiday. The shot of the TV tipped over was an appropriate image; most viewers probably felt that they’d been hit with a falling flat screen.

But I admire their moxie. It takes guts to do something that reckless in front of so many people.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a powerful ad — but maybe it aired in the wrong program. Consider the commercials for the New York State Smokers’ Quitline, you know, the ones that show horrible tumors and cancer victims. No question that they get your attention, but there are plenty of places you wouldn’t show them.

I think Nationwide succeeded in being noticed, but was it in a good way?

Snowed

The TV meteorologists I used to work with were not always comfortable with the ads we would run.

There was always a bit of squirming when they’d look at the scripts which promised them to have the most accurate and reliable forecast. No, technically we didn’t promise infallibility, but it was strongly suggested that they would be right.

So, you ask, why don’t meteorologists just tell us that the forecast is subject to a degree of unpredictability? Well, they do a little — but their bosses discourage that sort of talk from those standing in front of the green wall — and far more people see the weather promos that promise accuracy than ever actually see the weather.

Maybe more honest marketing is the answer?

Curious about what the weather might be? Turn to Joe meteorologist!

He’s been bringing you the weather longer than anyone, so he knows how many different things can go wrong with the forecast.

Count on Joe to tell you if it might snow… when it could possibly start.. and how much you may get — unless a butterfly flaps its wings in Bermuda, and then we’ll be pummeled. Or have a dusting. Nobody knows!

Hmmm. Maybe not.

Dr. Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service, spoke about the forecast for this week’s winter storm, and said, “We recognize the need to work harder and smarter to produce better forecasts and to better communicate forecast uncertainty and manage expectations.”

I’m not sure how to get better forecasts, but the second part? That’s something they can start on right away.

Antisocial Media

Much is made of the noxious atmosphere in blog and newspaper comment sections. “See,” say critics, “this is what you get with anonymous comments.” That may be true, but people who sign their name aren’t any better.

Take Facebook, for example.

News outlets have gotten in the habit of posting stories to their Facebook site, and the posts often get hundreds of comments — many of them amazingly insulting and abusive. Here’s a sample from a story a local TV station posted about a couple accused in an animal abuse case:

comments

Let’s be clear: abusing animals is abhorrent to me, but the people in question haven’t been convicted of anything, just arrested. We’re not just throwing the accused into the stocks, but lining up the villagers to hurl tomatoes at them.

Can’t they moderate this stuff? Of course — but I’m told it would be impossible due to the huge number of comments. Filters can be set to screen bad language and individual complaints can be fielded, but a full-time commitment to Facebook comments isn’t something a local TV station can afford.

You could argue that comment abusers are violating Facebook’s terms of service and that page owners are not responsible. That might be technically correct — but if your name is at the top of the page, it’s not that simple.

Waiting for Dick

An actual conversation while watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve:

“God, this is awful. When do they drag Dick Clark on?”

“Dick Clark is dead!”

“Well that will really be something if they bring him out, then.”

Frankenstein’s Monster

Are newspapers and other online publications discovering that they hate comments? Might be.

The latest to abandon comments is The Week, which issued a long explanation of their policy change. It included this passage:

There was a time — not so long ago! — when the comments sections of news and opinion sites were not only the best place to host these conversations, they were the only place. That is no longer the case. Too often, the comments sections of news sites are hijacked by a small group of pseudonymous commenters who replace smart, thoughtful dialogue with vitriolic personal insults and rote exchanges of partisan acrimony.

Yeah, no kidding.

Quite coincidentally, on the same day I spotted this blog comment exchange in the Capital Region’s foremost purveyor of reader comments, the Times Union:

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That’s really telling: even Mike Huber, the guy who created the paper’s blog section and commenting community, now pines for the days when readers had to send a letter. Bravo, indeed.