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The Insider

Apr 15, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Scene and herd in Las Vegas
One of the traditional exhibitors at the Radio-Television News Directors Association convention is Disney theme parks. Given the just-resolved dust-up between Disney and ABC News’ “Nightline,” The Insider found the sight of Mickey Mouse prancing amongst news executives more than a bit jarring. Even more unsettling was the word an earnest young marketing worker in the booth used to describe said news executives: clients.
There were other more notable moments at the first RTNDA@NAB:
Public broadcasting newswoman Gwen Ifill neatly alluded to the contretemps that followed last month’s revelation that Disney hoped to run “Late Show” in the “Nightline” time slot by describing TV journalists as “potential victims of David Letterman.”
A discussion of the state of local news was so lively that the panel occasionally sounded like “The McLaughlin Group,” only more informative and more entertaining.
Rather than indulge in hand-wringing about the broader implications of the cancellation of some newscasts or the closing of some news operations in other station groups over recent months, Hearst-Argyle Television VP of News Fred Young said, “Even Wal-Mart closes a bad store once in a while.”
Indeed, the panel was very bullish on the state of local news and the medium’s future for a variety of reasons.
Within the Post-Newsweek group, whose Jacksonville, Fla., station WJXT-TV will effectively double its news output when it leaves the CBS affiliate fold and goes independent this summer, “We’re Mickey Rooney, and we’re all getting ready to put on a show,” said Post-Newsweek Stations VP of News Mark Effron, attributing the metaphor to his boss, Alan Frank.
“The golden age of news is generally tomorrow,” said Cox Television President Andy Fisher, whose group has created new newscasts in duopoly cities.
When the subject turned to how a little ingenuity can go a long way toward doing more with less, Jim Farley, VP of news and programming for WTOP Radio in Washington, recalled how Steve Friedman, when he was executive producer of NBC’s demanding morning show, used to plug vacation-related holes on “Today” with relief workers from the radio world. “They work hard, they write fast, and they never put `yesterday’ in their lede,” Mr. Friedman told the crowd in Vegas.
“The word `yesterday’ used to drive me crazy, because we were the “Today” show,” Mr. Friedman explained to The Insider during a subsequent conversation. “I’d say we should change the name of the show from `Today’ to `Yesterday.”’
Generating graphics for CNN
In another RTNDA session about the crawls and factoids and weather bugs and other content crowding the TV news screen, the woman recently named managing editor of CNN/U.S. defended the data-heavy graphics of CNN Headline News and hinted that CNN viewers can kiss that channel’s relatively graphics-free look goodbye. Mary Lynn Ryan, who was deputy managing editor at Headline News during its revamp, said she finds the comparatively spartan look of CNN “kind of dull. I’m going to have to work on that,” she said. Ms. Ryan presented anecdotal evidence that one’s affinity for on-screen clutter may indeed be a generational thing. Upon being told she had been promoted to the executive responsible for all daily editorial decisions, her parents said, “You’re not going to do that to CNN, are you?”
Sony had everyone’s numbers
What had 30,000 square feet, 1,100 smiles and a share in a place in the record books of Las Vegas conventioneering last week? Sony’s booth at NAB 2002, which was staffed by an international crew of 1,100. It was the largest exhibit area not just at NAB 2002 but, so Ed Grebow was told, in all of Las Vegas convention history.
For Mr. Grebow, the deputy president of Sony Electronics and president of Business Systems and Solutions, it was a week of uncertain expectations being surpassed. “We’ve had a very good week,” said Mr. Grebow, who had come to the show not sure what to expect. beyond a crowd that would be down from last year and at which broadcasters would have a diminished presence.
At midweek, the attendance was hovering at 95,000, down from 113,000 in 2001. But The Insider can report one category in which turnout was up year to year. Last year, Sony tossed a reception for the government types whose needs for products ranging from a Navy shipboard entertainment complex to security cameras are increasing. Some 150 showed up, recalled Mr. Grebow. The turnout at the government reception this year was approximately 475.
The Insider suspects someone will drink to that.
NBC News has promo to believe in
The celebration of NBC’s 75th anniversary gets under way big time in May. As a prelude, NBC News is scheduled to unveil a hummable bit of history on Thursday. Telling images from the news archives will play to the tune of “Something to Believe In,” from songbird Linda Eder’s 1997 album “It’s Time.” The 60-second spot was turned out by Frank Radice’s East Coast promotions operation.