‘Crier’ to Air Local News Reports

Aug 4, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Some in network and cable news are raising questions in the wake of last week’s announcement that the Court TV show “Catherine Crier Live” would offer to broadcast local TV news reporting, thus making the reports eligible for national news Emmys under an agreement with the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
The deal was positioned as a way for local TV news operations, which some consider an under-represented constituency, to “get involved” in the news Emmys and gain national recognition. Meanwhile, Court TV gets an opportunity to boost its content gathering without busting its budget.
However, some network and cable news folks were left asking, “What’s in it for us?” They questioned whether NATAS was doing this primarily to raise the New York-based academy’s profile. NATAS has never had the glamour of its West Coast cousin, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which is responsible for the Primetime Emmys and collaborates with NATAS on the Daytime Emmys.
These national news veterans fear the NATAS-Court TV partnership might result in lines being blurred, standards being diluted and competition being artificially increased for the sake of broadening and reinvigorating NATAS’ membership base and selling more tickets to the national news and documentary Emmy dinner. The black-tie marathon event is staged each September. This year’s ceremony will take place at Manhattan’s Marriott Marquis Sept. 3.
“Local is local and national is national,” said one network news executive, adding that simply putting a report on national TV doesn’t render it national news and that regional and local Emmy competitions staged by NATAS chapters throughout the country already take note of excellence in local news. “Why don’t they leave it alone?” the news executive asked.
Susan Zirinsky, the executive producer of CBS’s “48 Hours,” said the networks already pick up affiliates’ reports on stories of national interest. She said networks’ interest in such stories in the future will not be diluted just because they have run on Court TV.
“I think that for the highly industrious local markets, it will offer an exposure they might otherwise not receive. And giving local stations another venue may increase their high-end investigations,” Ms. Zirinsky said.“I think there’s room for coexistence.”
Peter Price, president of NATAS since February 2002, hopes so.
When he took over the chief executive role at what many had regarded more as a fiefdom than a state-of-the-art showcase of the best of news, sports and daytime television during the long reign of the late John Cannon, Mr. Price made clear he would reach out to what he calls “underrepresented constituencies” to broaden the NATAS base.
One of the constituencies he focused on was Spanish-language television. But when NATAS announced its intention to stage a Spanish-language Emmy program, it was met by resistance from ATAS, which has to sign off on the creation of new Emmy competitions. The two academies are now in arbitration.
NATAS also has created two new Emmy categories for advanced media in the Technology and Engineering Awards, which will be handed out Oct. 23 at the Plaza Hotel in New York; and four new news and documentary categories to focus on business reporting.
Mr. Price also regards local stations and their news operations-which he estimates churn out 30,000 stories a day-as another underrepresented constituency and last year began the practice of “giving them a seat at a bigger table” by recognizing local news achievement with a plaque handed at out the national news and documentary ceremony.
`Awards Inflation’
This proliferation of awards may put Mr. Price somewhat at odds with himself when he says, “What most people worry about is awards inflation.” But he has vowed to do his part by waging a war on ties.
“You watch in this year’s awards how many ties there are,” said Mr. Price, whose “announced prejudice” is to empanel a second set of jurors to break a tie. “I think you will see in our academy a deflation of the number of winners.”
At any rate, Mr. Price said, “Quality will out.”
Marlene Dann, senior VP for daytime programming at Court TV, said that in the month since stations received letters soliciting stories that deal with Court TV’s core issues, 10 have been received and two have aired.
One, from WCBS-TV in New York, was a streetside encounter with Jayson Blair, whose plagiarized and fictionalized reporting created a management crisis at The New York Times.
The other, submitted by KXLF-TV in Butte, Mont., was coverage of the second day of a prison inmate’s murder trial.