Once a broadcaster, always a broadcaster I guess, even on vacation. Ever since I first started in the biz, whenever I've travelled my custom is to check what's going on, media-wise, in the market. There's an old industry saying about how "listeners/viewers listen/watch, but broadcasters monitor". The first morning we woke up in Mesa last week on our Spring Training vacation, I flipped on the hotel TV to do a scan of the local morning shows. I stopped at KSAZ, Channel 10 in Phoenix, a station owned and operated by Fox TV...what they call an "O and O" in the biz. They were doing a "live shot" from the Superstition Freeway at McClintock Road, about a mile from our hotel. It was the sort of story most newsrooms get their teeth into...a horrible death in a bizarre wreck that bottles up traffic for tens of thousands of commuters. Their young reporter was actually doing a pretty good job of limiting the sensational aspects of the story, and getting good information out. They followed the story and advanced it every single time they came back to it.
I "scanned the band" to see what the other stations were doing for coverage, but after a half-hour of coffee-sipping and channel-scanning, decided Channel 10 was doing the best job. Over the course of the week, I did limited channel-flipping and mainly watched Channel 10 in the morning. They do a live FIVE-HOUR morning show from 5 to 10 AM, which is pretty much unheard of, and unlike the huge majority of TV news operations, they put a HUGE amount of resources into their morning show, with five "named" personalities who all are seen in every quarter-hour. They start each half-hour with a news guy and the "top ten stories on Channel 10 this morning". Unlike the network's "Fox and Friends" morning show, there is not a whiff of political slant in their reporting, their story selection, or their presentation.
The morning show really moves. They do plenty of "light" features, like best bargains in grocery shopping and the latest fashions for the coming summer season, but you never feel you're being cheated out of a news story for the "fluff stuff". Unlike the mid-west, where weather is a prime factor in any TV newscast or show, it's a much smaller part of the Channel 10 show, and rightly so. The weather guy is also one of the two main hosts of the show, and he steps off one set and to another to do a brief weather update. After all, how much should you expand on "sunny and mid-80's for the next week"? The entire presentation was, as far as I'm concerned, top-notch and one of the very best morning shows I've ever seen on TV. And I've lived in L-A and have seen some good morning TV.
This morning, back at home as we were starting our work day, we had the usual local morning TV show on. Just as I was thinking it, my wife (who spent 15 years as an on-camera TV reporter) said "boy, this morning show really doesn't have much energy, does it?". True dat. Even the local TV station that promotes its morning news show as being "fun" doesn't have half the energy the Channel 10 show did. Staid anchors, who think "fun" is doing a trivia bit once a half-hour or tossing in a story about Britney Spears' coming concert tour. By contrast, there isn't much life to be found here. Each co-anchor takes a turn reading the news stories, a long weather segment, a quick feature, and repeat. Formulaic and predictable.
I know, I know....I'm comparing the 5th largest TV market in the US with the 84th...and local ad revenue in Madison would never support a five-person morning show. But what's obvious is something I learned very early in my broadcasting career....enthusiasm makes the difference. The folks doing the Channel 10 morning show in Phoenix have me believing that they really like what they're doing, and they're having fun doing it. I don't get that impression around here.