Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Who's In Charge

We thought today we'd talk about the ultimate decision makers and what their employees and some PR people we know think about them. It's clear we know broadcasting, so we can only venture a few things about folks at the O, the Trib, WWeek and the Merc. We also don't know that much about KBOO, other than we can tell you that if you want passion, walk in that building - it reminded me about when we got started and really cared.

Today we'll start with TV news - Tomorrow radio news - and Friday we'll try print. Please join in, especially if you disagree with what the going buzz is.

As always, we go in alphabetical order:

GM - David Olmsted. More a programming and sales guy. Lets his news director run the shop. Despite consistent low ratings since he got there, he really hasn't made any bold firings - he should.
ND - Mike Rausch - his claim to fame came in the mid-90's when he made old-stodgy KGW (then) hot. He started the helicopter wars. At KATU he hasn't done much. There have been a few anchor changes, most of the new hires have pink faces and blond hair and no idea what they are doing. His desk is run by Eric Spolar (a former photographer) and Norm Gunning, who came to the market with electricity - but read that with respect. He knows everything. Their Executive Producer is Roberta Altstadt. She isn't liked internally and she sends hilarious memos - which we'll post in the near future. They aren't setting anything on fire, but with the implosion of KOIN, KATU is seeing numbers go north. They have very good and seasoned photographers but they don't seem to be pushed. It's surprising that Rausch hasn't molded them in his KGW model - they'd easily be better. Now, they're just okay. Anchor Steve Dunn may be the best in the market, but he seems bored.
BOTTOM LINE-If Rausch got his old legs back and hired better reporters, watch 'em grow.

The #1 station in the market. GM is Paul Fry who is smart enough to leave things alone.
ND is Rod Gramer who is really the only real news guy running a TV shop. He hires good people and gets out of their way. His top three in command are well seasoned and do a good job, but as we've noted before, they're playing the crime/blood game a bit much these days. Rick Jacob, the Assistant News Director has Eugene and KOIN roots, and runs things day to day. His news judgement is sound. Sally Ramirez is the Executive Producer - keeps an eye on the shows and make sure they're filled with news. Joe Arndt watches over the best assignment desk in the city - the photographers here rightfully win lots of awards. They have reporters who, from top to bottom, can wear that moniker. KGW's only fear is complacency, but they have good leaders that should have them on top for at least another 5 years.
BOTTOM LINE - The SoCal Trojans of the market. Someone has to be really good and really different to knock them off.

The GM is Kim Montour, who is just keeping the seat warm for the next person. She's a corporate news director who is respected by news managers within the Emmis parent company, but that's not saying much about a corporation not well liked by its TV news employees.
The ND is Dan Salamone, who came here from Albuquerque about a year and a half ago and is making KOIN in his own image and likeness. With the exception of a few veterans on air (Gianola, Boddie, Donahue, Whelan) the staff you see is brand new. It shows. His number two, Irene Mahoney, came from LA, his Managing Editor John Bell hails from Cleveland and his Executive Producer Aaron Beckman is famous internally for being afraid of his own shadow. None of these people seem to care about Portland, what people want to see or its history. The re-hiring of Kelley Day was thought to be the beginning of a turnaround, but after a one day bump, her numbers have plummeted. Channel 6 used to have the best producers in the market, but now most of them are bullied and beaten and don't make too many independent decisions. The photography staff is changing but not challenged. KOIN is in sad shape and a new owner will likely say aloha to these news managers. If not, KOIN may be insignificant. The last time KOIN was good was when often hated Kerry Oslund ran the shop. Oldtimers who hated him then want him back.
BOTTOM LINE-How low will they go and who will they blame for their woes? Will they fire Donahue and act like it was his fault?

The Dr. Jeckle/Mr. Hyde of market. A great morning cast and the police blotter at night.
GM - Teresa Burgess. She's really in charge of two stations, plus satellite in Bend. She's well thought of and the only woman to run a station in the market. Her instincts made her wait out the growing pains in the morning and now it beats the Today show - and it should. It's good.
ND - Patrick McCreery. He used to be the number two for Troy McGuire who engineered KPTV's nightly dominance - brought in the graphics and the pace and made the old Channel 12 news (Kim Singer and Lars Larson) a far away memory. He's in charge but not lighting anyone on fire. A good staff of photographers and editors and a decent assignment desk. Their EP came from KGW, but doesn't show it. Assistant News Director Debbie Curren does a good job and knows the market, but considering their reliance on crime, that means keeping the skanners loud and clear. They just added Managing Editor Bruce Williams who was on the desk at KOIN forever. He could be a catalyst if they want to start covering news again. The reporters range from good (Kerry Tomlinson is world class) to awful, but their format is the star. They have good pleasant attractive anchors and the best meteorologist/weatherman in the market, Mark Nelsen. If he was on 8, it would be like Annika Sorenstam. Everyone would be way back in the rear view.
BOTTOM LINE - If they can arrest their ratings fall with a nightly newscast that looks like their morning show, they'll probably beat KGW's 11pm numbers again.

We're only adding this because they've done weather for fun (and water cooler talk). They just added a talk show on Sunday morning that few people watch with former city council candidate Nick Fish. What's that about?

Our thoughts. We didn't get too nasty, but we know some of you will.
Someone asked for more posts, but one a day is about all we can get to. We just wanted to be the spark.

Happy 25th MSH.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What year did KPTV's 10pm beat KGW's 11 numbers? Or book? I haven't been here for more than a few years and didn't know that ever happened.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 3:33:00 PM  
Blogger PDXMediaWatcher said...

In 2003, but will try to find which book.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 3:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the author is misguided in his critism of crime coverage and low ratings. The fact is, people who watch tv news want crime. If they wanted longer, political/issue pieces, not only would PBS have bigger numbers, but so would KATU and you could bet all the other stations would move to that kind of coverage. Stations are moving toward crime because the tens of thousands of dollars they spend on extensive research tells them that is what people want to watch. Not us, on this board, who prefer more complex, meaningful stories, but I'm talking about the average
American Idol/Law and order TV viewer. AS for why viewers are shrinking in droves, it's not just news that's seeing the declines.. look at network programming. Everything is down from five years ago. Why.. cable penetration/saturation, prevalence of high speed internet perhaps, but crime coverage? I don't think you can keep blaming that for all of tv's woes as much as we might not like it. Plus viewing habits are changing.. morning shows.. are actually GROWING while night time newscasts shrink as folks go to bed early. Other stations have tried good news programs.. or issue oriented news.. and they've often failed. Look at WBBM in Chicago. What you're overlooking is the most important factor in nighttime news ratings.. lead ins. The other day KGW had a 5 or so lead in to their news. Guess where their ratings finished that night? Right around a 5.5. Give KATU consistent lead in's like NBC or CBS and they'd be up. It takes time, but they'd be up.

Agree with you about Steve Dunn.. and Mark Nelsen.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 3:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you all the way about Mark Nelsen. Nice for him to be recognized. I cannot believe how over-rated Matt Zaffino is in this town. He is very difficult to watch.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 3:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I understand the "we're giving them what they want" model, I don't think it's true. When cable was new and hot and fresh and everyone was watching USA and TBS and HBO, the news numbers were still strong - KATU, KOIN, KPTV and KGW were doing real news - legislature, city hall, business beats, etc. When they stopped, the numbers dropped. And I've seen a few surveys in my day and I can tell you they're tailored to what's easier and cheaper - they never go under the top layer. They ask people if you want to see emergency weather versus a story on the decision making in the planning bureau. Easy call. I maintain that KGW's lead is because they do things closer to the old ways than new.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 4:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to hear from the reporters.

What's hard about working on the inside? What's good? What makes it good? What makes it bad? What concrete ideas for making it better?

We're all in it together. Or, as Lily Tomlin says, we're each in it alone.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 4:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Patrick McCreery said...

To correct the initial posting about KPTV: Debbie Curran was promoted to Assitant News Director in March and Bruce Williams was hired as Managing Editor.
To the poster: I appreciate your comments about Mark Nelsen, Kerry Tomlinson, and the morning show but I need to say that the morning format would not work at night. We are not competing against KGW et al, as much as we are competing against highly produced primetime programming. If we fail to attract viewers then it's a lot more than just my job on the line. As for the ratings fall at 10pm, the May ratings period is not over yet and we look forward to being the number one late night newscast Portland whether that's now or in the near future.
If you would like to have lunch sometime please fell free to contact me directly.
Patrick McCreery
KPTV News Director

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 4:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we talk salaries? How much does your talent get paid?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 4:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why is it always old versus new? Darwin would say adapt, evolve and grow or die!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 4:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


WeatherCASTER or Meteorologist, not WeatherMAN

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 4:41:00 PM  
Blogger PDXMediaWatcher said...

Patrick: Thanks for corrections and we can agree to disagree that, taking out all the weather and traffic from the morning, your AM format would have PM appeal.
As for your offer for lunch - someday. Bottom line is I wish you and all the stations (and mine) well. I know that most of the cuts and changes come from the shrinking of the pie. I just think we didn't think things through.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 5:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was taking a jog up in Washington Park a couple of months ago and KOIN was doing their evening newscast from there, right at the entrance of the park. They must have been on break or something because Jeff Gianola was on his cell phone screaming profanities like you wouldn't believe.

When I got home, I turned on KOIN and there he was with his co-anchor (can't remember her name) being all smiley and chatty (that chatty stuff on all the newscast drives me nuts.) It was just kinda wierd.

The only reason I watch local news anymore is for the weather forecast. Otherwise, it's all kind of unwatchable, especially when they report "LIVE" from some area 12 hours after the fact and there's no reason for them to even be there anymore; it's dark and everyone has gone home, but the reporter is still standing out there in the pouring rain freezing his or her butt off.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005 6:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First time here and I find this very interesting. I'll be quick (but I could write a short story).

KATU - I try to avoid them because they repeat stories way too often. They are like ESPN News... the same topic every couple of minutes and they think they have the best weather forecast (maybe they do but their graphic of MT. Hood is a disgrace)5:00pm, 5:30pm, 6:30 pm is too much local repitition. And ABC's new policy -- Starting Jeopardy at 6:58 is a disgrace.

KGWTheir news is average and cookie cutter. They really don't have any great depth. Turnover os apparent as well.

KOINNope, can't take it. Ed Whalen has to retire and go yell somewhere else.

Local News in Portland Oregon is pretty bad. It's always about Portland proper and rarely the outlying areas.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 7:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tell me again why I'm supposed to care? Unless you work in the business, or make a living manipulating the media (PR flacks, politicians), NO ONE CARES! It is just local tv news, which in Portland means insipid clones. They look alike, they chase amblances together, they run cookie-cutter "stories" together --usually at the same time.

Those who bother to watch mostly have no lives of their own, and seek to live vicariously through their little anchor family. How pathetic.

Tell the truth -- if a neutron bomb hit every Portland television news office, would anyone notice? Would it make a difference in anyone's life? Nope. To sit there and try to discern great differences in the various stations is like comparing dog poop. Different dog, but it's still poop.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 9:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who said you have to care? If you don't like it, there are plenty of other blogs to read. Why the heck would someone who could give a rats ass about local news, read a blog about local news. You tell me? Why do you care enough to read then post on something you don't care about.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 9:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not an insider, just a media consumer and watching this blog with some curiousity and hoping it just doesn't turn into a big insider circle-jerk

Slightly OT, but the mention of falling viewership compels me to respond. The big radio ad today trying to pull in viewers was for something like "Does aggressive driving really save you time?" Does this stuff really pull the sheeple in? Everyone that I've talked to today has just rolled their eyes at the promo.

Sensationalistic "infotainment" is not news (yes, most of you know this.. but "cog in the wheel...yadda yadda). Maybe it sells to some, but not anyone that I know. The small amount of real news is presented in such an overly sensationalistic manner that I sometimes wonder how the anchors keep a straight face. Outside of the weather, 95% of it is all complete and utter crap. There is no way that I'm going to tune in and be subjected to a pile of crap just to get the few morsels of decent reporting.

I really wish someone would step up and do a real newscast. There are a lot of us castaways that are looking for a home.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 9:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh...about KBOO; it has as many problems with management and staff as any media outfit. Especially up top- last I heard they were still GMless.

When I was there in my younger days (read early 20's), they had a problem with being professional and reasonable in an organizational psychological manner.

But, from what I've heard from people who work for profit media entities, the same seems to happen there. So I suppose at KBOO, they're just more open about their disfunction; not the sneaky backstabbing I hear happens elsewhere. I suppose that's a good thing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 10:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone notice how seldom sports shows up on KGW any more? It's never on at 5 and often bumped at 6.
Why do they keep so many sports guys (and it is all guys) around if they won't put them on the air?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 10:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Jay R said...

There was a study out a while ago showing sports segments on local news are being watched less because sports fans have so many other, more comprehesive resources for sports news. The study concluded that sports segments on local news should cover more high school sports because that's about the only thing they can offer superior coverage of.

Also, the reason weather segments last so long isn't because people really care about coastal barometric pressure, Eastern Oregon dewpoints and all the other filler, but because when the weather segment comes on, people will keep watching until the extended forecast at the end, so the longer the weather segment lasts, the longer people will watch.

Which station was it that used to do the entire weather segment, then hold the extended forecast until after the break?

Games like that may give a station a short-term bump in the ratings, but in the end it just tarnishes the brand. Same with crime news.

Thursday, May 19, 2005 12:21:00 AM  
Anonymous fastercaster said...

Why not create a forum in addition to the blog? You could use RSS to have forum topics run down the side of the blog.

BTW, I've always thought KATU should compete with Good Day Oregon by making their 5-7am and 11am newscasts extentions of AM Nortwest, and then make AM Northwest not suck. So you'd have AMNW 5-7am, GMA 7-9am, AMNW 9-10am, The View 10-11am, and AMNW 11-noon.

Or not.

Thursday, May 19, 2005 12:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious, many here say that these newscasts are nothing but crap, and that there is no real reporting going on. How do you define good reporting and a good newscast? What kind of content do you want?


Thursday, May 19, 2005 7:37:00 AM  
Anonymous 2524212 said...

Personally, I like to see a large variety of topics in each newscast (and A-block). I'm not the biggest fan of crime news (especially for an entire A-block), but I understand the ratings success that comes with aggressively covering that beat. But I think an ideal newscast balances elements that are in the show for ratings purposes with elements that are in the show for informational value. The real challenge is to write and package those informational-value elements in such a way that those stories are compelling and entertaining.

That's what Portland stations don't do very well. This market's news managers don't seem to truely value talented, creative and experienced storytellers... so the decent veterans are disappearing and the newbies are only developing skills in breaking news situations -- not creative storytelling. Stations in other markets of this size have their reporters assigned to a variety of beats where they can develop a specialty and are given some time develop exclusive, creative and unique stories -- stories that can both grab ratings and be very informative. Many others have large investigative units with dedicated producers and reporters.

Now look at Portland. KATU is trying with Eric Mason, Ed Teachout and Grant McOmie... but with meager resources and money. And KPTV has an I-Team, but that "team" is just one person (the fantastic Kerry Tomlinson). After that, it's the pathetically weak Unit 8, which makes appearances mainly during sweeps and clearly stays with everygreen (but localized) topics straight from the consultant's story list. And KOIN doesn't have a single unique, developed or branded franchise anymore.

Bottom line... we're not doing very well here. We all should... and could... do much better.

Thursday, May 19, 2005 9:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason I am turning off local news more and more is the repetitive nature of many stories (how many more ID theft segments do we need?) and the overhyped "Breaking News" features, which often evaporate into thin air, as with the breathless story of the man who kicked in the bathroom stall of the LO student or the recent "Sex for Meth" story.

Thursday, May 19, 2005 10:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My former boss, Mike Devlin, at KATU said it best. Mike said that if Portland ever sees any news, it'd be a great market.

But Portland is Puddletown and KPTV is reduced to leading their 10pm news with feral cats stuck up trees.

For my money, the best TV station ever in Portland was KOIN in late 80's -- Mike and his overpaid, underworked shadow, Dimond, Draper, James -- a virtual murderer's row of great reporters doing real news, like politics and the rise of gangs in Portland (remember Ray-Ray? I do. CRAZY 11pm live shot, wasn't it?).

Now, we have rookies with six months experience in Salinas getting lead stories because they can do a live "walk and talk".

Want real news? Try sites like this, blueoregon and Willamette Week -- after all, WW broke the story we all thought we knew about it, but couldn't nail down, for whatever reason.

Thursday, May 19, 2005 11:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude. E-mail address? You could probably venture a few more things about the print folks if some of those folks could e-mail you. Gmail is your friend.

Thursday, May 19, 2005 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger PDXMediaWatcher said...

Don't know much about gmail. Could it guarantee anonymity? b!x just outed a poster, and I've got too many mouths to feed.

Thursday, May 19, 2005 1:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you connect to gmail through a home account (Earthlink, comcast, whatever), then nobody would know anything more about you than what local ISP you use, which might make for an interesting ad campaign, but nothing more sinister. So put up a gmail/hotmail/yahoo/etc. account, only check from home (or a non-work IP), and, voila, problem solved.

And I say this as someone solidly on the pro-b!X side of that debate, by the way.

Thursday, May 19, 2005 1:28:00 PM  
Blogger PDXMediaWatcher said...

Thank you. Will investigate more.

Thursday, May 19, 2005 1:31:00 PM  
Anonymous fastercaster said...

Anonymous is right. Gmail wouldn't reveal anything about your identity, as long as you go into the settings and change your displayed name to "pdxmediawatcher" or something similarly anonymous.

Thursday, May 19, 2005 2:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tell me about the sports guy on Channel 6.

Why is he there? Because he's African American? Because he is the worst sports guy I have *ever* seen.

Thursday, May 19, 2005 5:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Most of the new hires have pink faces and blond hair and no idea what they are doing"

That's not a very nice thing to say. Look inside your own shop, sir. Your reporters are greener than ours...

Thursday, May 19, 2005 8:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear KOIN-TV's ND Dan Salamon is missing in action?

Thursday, May 19, 2005 10:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Out on sick leave.

Friday, May 20, 2005 9:15:00 AM  
Blogger Greg Parker said...

Geez -- someone get me a rocking chair and we can all share stories. I go back to the days of Jim Howe at KEX and Ted at KOIN. Ted required each reporter to send in his/her script for his (excellent) journalistic review.

Yes -- we have youngsters doing lighter news -- but come on, where is your understanding of the history of journalism. It's never been all that noble.

Years before President Lincoln was shot, a would-be murderer was discovered on a train with Lincoln. Authorities arrested and removed him. The journalist on the front page of the New York newspaper duly reported -- "if the officers really wanted to do their civic duty, they would have left him on the train to do his job."

Or more recently -- when we were kids, taking the news chopper from the station to Salem to cover a press conference because we screwed off too much to be able to drive on time?

Maybe the kids today are asked to cover lighter news -- but I wonder, if they don't work harder. We would do a package and a VO bite and call it a good day.

Friday, May 20, 2005 3:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess sick leave these days means "resigned" !

Friday, May 20, 2005 3:57:00 PM  
Blogger The One True b!X said...

FYI, the only way I outed a poster is because I have access to my blog software's log files, and it had nothing to do with his email address anyway. Plus, whatever identifying informaiton there might be about how you are accessing this site if pretty much only available to you anyway (if at all, other than to Blogger), and as near as I can tell none of it is published to the site itself.

Saturday, May 21, 2005 12:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, pdxmediawatcher, what the guy above me said. Because I don't really understand what you are afraid of. From what I gather, you're saying that you are afraid of getting an email address because you don't want someone to know who you are? That's an exactly good reason to get a web email address. Personally I have 4; one for job contacts, one for sign-up lists and spam, one for fun, and one for family. Web email is pretty safe in that respect; I mean it's not as if the web server would give away your information. Do you know who half the Yahoo address users are? I don't. Are you gonna be able to sniff em? I don't think so- I mean just where is the server to sniff?! If someone broke into your house and stole you computer and you hadn't cleared your cookies and cache, well certainly then your secret could be out. But just how likely is that? I think your making yourself seem more important with this 'fear', than you really are. Noones going to spend 20k plus trying to sniff your real identity, puhlease. So, get a Gmail address already geez.

Saturday, May 21, 2005 1:53:00 PM  

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