Monday, October 1, 2012

An Open Letter to the WBA: Get Into the 21st Century

Like many professional associations, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association is mainly comprised of top management and ownership people.  Over this past weekend, a lot of the “worker bees” in broadcasting – the ones who actually design and create the programs you hear on radio and see on TV -  were using 21st century social media to laugh at (and grouse about) the WBA’s Friday night presentation of the “debate” between U.S. Senate candidates Tammy Baldwin and Tommy Thompson.  It’s time for the owners and top managers to take a critical look at the product they’re putting out on these “debates”.

I put the word debate in quotation marks because anyone who’s ever been on a debate team knows that these events – from the national to the local level – aren’t debates.  They’re more like joint appearances, where the candidates spit back the relevant lines from their stump speeches and don’t really do any debating whatsoever.

Look at the photo at the top of this post (from CSPAN).  Massive, 18th-century desks; two staid and immobile candidates, seated very far apart; and the bunting hanging behind them – a nice touch, straight out of the 19th century.

The entire hour long broadcast had the feel of something out of the 50’s, when TV was in its infancy.

A few unsolicited remarks:  it’s well past time to completely revamp the presentation and format of these joint appearances.  Update the look of the set; increase dramatically the production values of the telecast; instruct the director to use two-shots with an emphasis on candidates’ reactions to each other’s statements; and for God’s sake, do SOMETHING about the dreadfully boring opening to the telecast (the “sponsor ID statements”), where old white men drone on with platitudes about the importance of getting to know the candidates and why their company or organization, which has shelled out good money to sponsor the telecast, is a fine and civic-minded group of patriots.  The sponsors must be credited, but the leaders of these fine patriotic organizations need to be coached on making a brief and impactful TV presentation.  Oh, and maybe…just maybe…they might want to sneak in a little B-roll, so it isn’t just 90 seconds of sitting on a one-shot of the talking head droning on.  Oh yes, and it’s OK to use musical elements in the telecast, for the opening, transitions, segment definition, and closes - just like commercial TV has been doing for the past 40-some years.

The format needs a complete overhaul.  Watch and learn from video of any of the many Republican Presidential “debates” from this summer; watch the Obama/Romney “debate” Wednesday night.  You have the candidates seated at desks, way too far apart.  Let them sit together at a table (kind of like the Walker/Barrett gubernatorial debate) so they can interact with each other, or let them stand at lecterns (which will incorrectly be called “podiums” by everyone).  Let the candidates react to each other’s responses, by giving them instant rebuttal time or whatever.  Let the panel of questioners follow up if a candidate gives a non-responsive stump-speech response.  Add at least one more person to the panel – how about two radio folks and two TV folks?  And for God’s sake, make the thing MOVE!  Give the telecast some life and forward momentum.  Let us see the candidates disagree with each other in real time, so we can see the clash of ideas and do some sifting and winnowing!

There are plenty of extremely talented television producers in Wisconsin who, I’m sure, would be glad to volunteer their skills to help the WBA put on a lively and informative telecast.

All you have to do is ask them.


  1. Let the candidates question each other for an hour, with a moderator on hand to introduce them at the beginning, call time at the end, and throw a bucket of water on them like you do with fighting cats ij=f necessary. I suspect we'd learn more in one debate about who's qualified to serve and who isn't than we would in a hundred of these joint-appearance snoozefests.

  2. I agree... totally pathetic and worthless presentation.

  3. I too watched this presentation and because I do not have a background in the media, I am not able to posit so cogently the shortcomings that Tim points out....I just felt this was not something that I would want to be involved in or be credited for..too bad for us viewers that we were not given an opportunity to listen to candidate reactions to some pointed questioning....this is what I was looking for but did not get....I totally agree...this format needs an injection of talent that we know exists but was not present at this event!

  4. You have identified one of my pet peeves -- the lectern/podium conflation. My father, an English teacher, taught us that one stands on a podium and at a lectern. I've corrected the TV talking heads so often that my wife knows what's coming every time a "debate" is on.

  5. Most importantly, the bassinet needs to have a wide, sturdy base.
    The same is the case with excess protrusions in the chassis of the system, which must also have
    a high-quality mattress. These are just some of the many decisions you will need
    to make as a new parent.

    Here is my web-site

  6. You need to combine practicality and personal touch in the gifts.

    With school books, notebooks, computers, video games, cell phones
    (not to mention snacks and water bottles), all having become "must have" items.
    You will want to check out the belt to the backpack carrier to
    see if it is long enough to adjust for your comfort.

    Here is my weblog drawstring backpack

  7. These are the individuals that need to get their runes or tarot
    cards read. The imagery may be different on your deck, but the meanings will be the same.
    Could that also work with your psychic feeling?

    Also visit my website - psychic source ricky - -