Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What's the frequency Kenneth?

Editor’s note: A lot of people have been wondering what the deuce happened to anchor Michelle Smith for some reason. Well, she’s knocked up again. Or at least that’s the story from CBS 6. The editorial staff here at iSaratoga believes abject incompetence and poor journalism skills likely led to her demise in the news business.

Just a mere mention of former CBS 6 Albany diva Nicole Forige is enough to generate serious hits in the blogosphere. The Chico State party queen-turned-fill-in anchor left a lasting mark on television news gawkers during her short four-year stint at the station formerly known as WRGB. In fact, even months after brown-eyed bombshell’s abrupt departure from the station, Web crawlers continue to seek out any shred of information about Forige.

So naming her in a post about her former employer is really sensationalizing the issue a bit. Some might even call it false advertising. But that’s exactly what CBS 6 does on a nightly basis when they claim to be reporting news that asks “tough questions” and holds “officials accountable.”

Television news is poorly reported in general because of its quick-hit nature. Simply put, it’s impossible to cram a whole news story into a 1-minute sound bite. When you couple this with the overall lack of journalistic sensibility most televisions reporters share, you’ve got a recipe for a hollow 15-minute clip of local reporting that fails to convey even the most basic information. And that’s before you factor in and the shoe-string budgets most local newscasts operate within.

But CBS 6 manages to go beyond all of this with their abysmal nightly broadcast, which somehow manages to pioneer new lows each week. Take for instance their botched reporting Friday following the suicide of a civilian forensic pathologist working with the State Police. The Times Union broke the story in the morning, stating that the deceased man had left a note expressing angst over an investigation into the “handling of evidence in a high-profile case.” The reporter also quite explicitly noted the suicide had absolutely nothing to do Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s investigation into allegations of a “renegade unit” within the State Police.

In their zeal to rip off a sensational headline, CBS 6 decided to simply link the suicide with the so-called renegade unit. Even better, they pinned this horrendous misjudgment on news reported by the TU. Had someone in their newsroom managed to rub two brain cells together, they would have realized forensic pathology and political espionage have nothing to do with one another. Or perhaps they would have deduced the deceased man was an employee of the state police, but not a cop himself, meaning it would have been impossible for him to be part of the aforementioned unit.

The colossal error is just another in a never-ending series of news missteps, distortions and outright fabrications CBS 6 News has generated since they adopted a bastardized version of “advocacy journalism” under the reign of News Director Lisa Jackson. In an almost unprecedented move, station General Manager Robert Furlong moved Jackson from the marketing department to heading the news operations in November. The decision was made nearly five months after former News Director Beau Duffy mysteriously left his post without reason and seemed to coincide with a drastic down-trend in the station’s news gathering abilities.

“To succeed today, you have to stand for something that's unique and valuable,” Jackson told the Times Union after her promotion. “The brand of journalism that we want to practice every day is advocacy.”

By “unique and valuable,” Jackson must have meant sensationalized and distorted. And by “advocacy,” she clearly meant ‘gotcha.’

Never in the history of Capital Region media has there been a station so completely devoted to sneaking up behind government officials and asking them random questions that either have no right answer or are so far out of left field that they deserve no answer. This practice has become so common that some refuse to talk with the station’s news reporters unless it’s under tightly controlled circumstances. Look no further than their “angle” on the recent 21st Congressional District debate earlier this month to see why.

As the debate came to a conclusion, Democratic candidate and civil rights advocate Lester Freeman launched a brief tirade against challenger Tracy Brooks, a regional director for Sen. Hilary Clinton.Freeman arbitrarily called Brooks a “racist,” somehow linking her work for Clinton with remarks the senator made about her challenger in the presidential race, which were then distorted by the television pundits to suggest her open prejudice.

All of the other stations attending this event chalked up the outburst to Freeman either suffering a brief fit of insanity or perhaps having a dramatic reaction to some recently prescribed medication. The bout of verbal sparring was rightfully glossed over by all of CBS 6’s competition and even the print media outlets. But the tireless advocates at CBS weren’t willing to let the issue alone. They stalked Brooks’ supporters outside the event and played up Freeman’s outburst as the most newsworthy event at the candidates’ forum. Not surprisingly, the issue never took root and was summarily dismissed by most as the usual CBS 6 ratings grab. After all, who cares about the news as long as the Nielson numbers are coming in?

But the ratings aren’t coming in. In fact, CBS is ranked just ahead of Fox 23 News, an equally dismal newscast that shares a common interest with its cellar-dwelling doppelganger. Jackson’s answer to low ratings is to put the most scurrilous of sensationalizing news reporters –Michelle Smith –into an anchor’s slot.

Meanwhile, a veritable procession of news staffers has been abandoning ship. Last fall, Forige finally came to her senses and realized her looks were far more marketable divorced from WRGB. Similarly, weatherman Tom Mailey announced he would leave the station after more than two decades of work to take a job as a Stewart’s Shops flack. Anchor Ed O’Brien, who once teamed with Mailey to make the station a persistent performer in the ratings, announced he’ll leave the station in August.

It’s amazing to see how far the world’s first television station as plummeted in its modern history. And it’s even more amazing to think they’re still in a free-for-all when it comes to quality. Hopefully, someone affiliated with CBS will cock an eyebrow to the direction the station has turned before they become a poorly casted modern imitation of Fox’s Current Affair.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to play Devil's advocate here, but one of the reasons why television journalism is declining is due to an unlikely suspect: commercial sales representatives. These are the people who need to convince advertisers of the importance of first rate news reporting. They are the ones who explain that the value of a polished news program appeals to people with disposable income. Without a business paying top dollar for 30 second slots, you can argue until your blue in the face for better reporting... the money simply won't be there.

It is a chicken-and-egg scenario, but most entities spending the largest amount of money on television (car dealers, furniture retailers and fast food chains) aren't necessarily the most interested in honest democratic journalism. I attended a media event for a New England car show, and it was basically one big ass kissing kowtow from local affiliates to the biggest regional auto dealers.

Quality news programing needs to be demanded from the public through viewing habits, but you also need articulate sales reps to explain to places like Stewarts that it makes financial sense to sponsor such programs.

Otherwise... you will get more temp bimbos in the anchor seat and a further decline of "journalism" into schoolyard drama.

3:32 AM  
Anonymous agphoto said...

Who will be found first - Nicole Forige or Natalee Holloway?

The funny thing is: if you google Nicole, you'll see the same old outdated stuff about her morning stint on WRGB as well as some even older stuff re: WNYC-25 in New York City.

I had a few back and forth trash talking emails with her about her favorite subject (and actually one she knew a lot about)-- The NFL in general, her team The Oakland Raiders in particular.

As far as "marketable looks" there is no doubt that N.F. is mega-attractive, but she has to date not really put them to use in any way that google has seen to capture since WRGB...one idea: Bunny Ranch? If so, I'm there :).

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not advocacy, it's marketing.
They are purposely going out looking for confrontations so they can feature them in the news promos. End of story.

This is what happens when you have consultants and marketing types runing your newsroom. Welcome to 2008.

By the way, people aren't leaving the station because they can't stand the stink of this "advocacy," they're leaving because they're getting low ball offers at contract renewal time. One well known female anchor at the station decided to take the pay cut and demotion so she could keep working.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've done her! Not that great!

1:17 PM  
Blogger bumcake avenger said...

I haven't had the temerity to watch WRGB news since an incident many years ago, probably the late 80s, where someone escaped from the psychiatric ward of a local hospital and jumped off of the roof. Instead of doing a real story on lapsed hospital security, or a broader picture of the personal and social tragedy of depression or mental illness, it was more like "this is what you would have seen if you were the jumper" (cut to the cameraman running to the edge of the roof, tipping the camera over, and then zooming in to the ground.) Just awful, and all I could think about was this person's family may have been watching.

6:31 PM  
Anonymous De Georgio said...

Take note of which department the new weather guesser will report to.

I bet this is what they mean when they say, We're gonna pay for this great weather later.

http://www.freedom.com/jobs/search_results.asp?division=1&state=&location=47&dept=&status=&reqnum=&keyword=&submit=Search+Jobs

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That link for the "weather guesser" is very funny. It took me a minute to figure it out, then "ding!" the light bulb went on.

6:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, they ask tough questions and hold officials accountable, lest you forget.
The most ridiculous feature at that station is that Michelle Smith woman, with her fake emotions and facial expressions. That channel is out of control with its quasi-reporting.

12:01 PM  

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