Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Media Rant: Kudos!

As history continues to unfold in our city, our local media are doing a knockout job of covering the story, working long hours, trying to balance the coverage (and NOT in the Fox “Fair and Balanced” sense), and delivering their stories on multiple platforms.

With a story that moves as fast as this one, those of us who are eager to follow it can’t just rely on the TV newscasts at 4,5,6,9,or 10 PM, nor can we get a true sense of how the story is developing by tuning in radio news on the hour or half-hour. You’ve got to be plugged in to the internet and social media, and local coverage there was nothing short of phenomenal.

Instead of being my usual curmudgeonly self and picking nits (some of that, later) I’d like to tip my hat to the local media corps for doing a really good job of covering this historic event. All of the local TV news outlets were more than equal to the task, even though their newsrooms have been hugely downsized in the past couple years. In addition to doing live reports during their traditional evening newscasts, many of the TV folks unleashed a torrent of quick updates via Twitter, and did quick video hits to update their stations’ websites.

Whoever is running the Twitter feed for WEAC deserves singular acknowledgement. WEAC’s Twitter feed was like a play-by-play of the events on the square, rich with links, well-written, and giving those of us in Madison a sense of immediacy about how the story was developing in Milwaukee, the Fox Valley, and all around the state. The re-tweets they selected added depth and “color” to the developing story. It’s where I first found out about all the out-of-state (and, if it’s to be believed, even out-of-nation) people calling Ian’s Pizza with their credit card in hand, saying “just deliver the pies to folks up at the Capitol.”

State Journal reporters George Hesselberg and Pat Simms (and others) provided excellent content on their company’s internet platform, and both of them regularly sent out Tweets with new information. The Isthmus Daily Page was lively with updated information, too.

Paul Soglin, who has been essentially living up at the Capitol, even opened a Twitter account Saturday afternoon! (It’s @paulsoglin if you’d like to follow.) As one of my other friends opined after re-tweeting my tweet about Soglin’s new Twitter feed, “Here’s the revolution!”

Local radio and TV reporters worked under tough conditions and delivered solid reports, day after day, and their anchors, back in the studio, did a commendable job of weaving it all together. My wife, who knows a thing or three about TV reporting, and I would watch one local newscast “live” while DVR’ing the others, so we got a full blast of the local coverage. I got a huge kick out of one of the live reports this weekend when the reporter (Zac Schultz) was in the middle of a crowd, and a young man stepped right behind him during the “live shot” with a big sign that said “Fox News will lie about this!”

Extra credit, too, to a couple of other friends, Jessica Arp of News 3, for her constant updates and photos on Twitter, and to her colleague David Douglas, for being the first reporter (along with another friend, photojournalist Brian Messmer) to track down Senator John Erpenbach in a Chicago hotel late Thursday night, driving back, and working all night to put together the compelling interview.

WIBA-AM did a great job of constantly updating their website and Facebook page with the latest information (hat tip to Chandra Lynn) and Dusty Weis did yeoman’s service as a one-man-band for WTDY-AM. I wish I could put a mention here to every one of my many friends in the local media who are putting in long days and nights and covering this story so well.

A few klinkers…(wouldn’t be me if I didn’t take a few potshots)….electronic news media now seem to just automatically write the word “exclusive” into their promo copy. No, you’re not “the only station that asks the hard questions” and the word “exclusive” means NOBODY else has it. With huge local stories like this, more people tune in, and when you make a dumb mistake it goes to your credibility….like the local TV anchor who kept calling Bahrain “bay-RON” (the same person referred to the legislature’s “Sergeant of Arms”), and the local TV reporter who continually mispronounced Jon Erpenbach’s name. That’s an “h” on the end, not a “k”. And the radio guy who kept saying “hose-NY” Mubarak.

This story is far from over, and to those of you reading this rant who aren’t connected to the media, consider yourselves lucky to be so well-served by our local news professionals. They’re doing an exemplary job of covering this story.


  1. EXCLUSIVE BREAKING NEWS!!! Good column Tim, 'specially the rant at the end! Mike
    Sue-el-you-are (remember that one) would be proud!!
    Our local yokels up here are doing a very good job of covering it too. The only exception would be our "fair & balanced" affiliate.

    Personally, I'm glad I'm retired, because I would be VERY HARD PRESSED to stay neutral on this one.

    Regards, your mentor

  2. Tim: Thanks for your note, but, unlike my colleague Pat Simms, I was only peripherally involved Tweetwise and some trench work, in our coverage, so I forward your kudos to the beat and other reporters and photographers who kept things going. (Especially those digging for the hidden facts in this discussion.) Following several media was fun, I agree, Isthmus, Dane101, lots of others. The more, the better. Love the pronouncer, by the way.

  3. The week's events really brought home the usefulness of Twitter, which I think a lot of people are still unsure about. (I know I was-- before I started using it a year ago, I suspected it was good only for dick jokes and whatever was on Sarah Palin's tiny mind, and I promised myself I would quit using it if it didn't prove more useful than that.) But when used intelligently, to contribute to the timeline of a story or to direct users to more in-depth information, as you highlight above, it becomes an indispensable tool. I can't imagine doing without it now.