Got to talk to my old friend Jerry O’Connell today – on TV. Haven’t seen him since he came to my house in L.A. for a birthday party several years ago. We had a great chat before this segment aired – here’s Jerry and Randall trying to get me on camera. I appeared – but only viewers in Indy got to see it. I edited myself out for this Facebook version! Continue reading JERRY MEANDERING
This week we celebrate the 29th anniversary of the (original) KTLA Morning News in Los Angeles – the Barbara-Carlos-Mark-Sam version was the highest-rated local morning program in TV history! This show provided me with so many life-long friends, a treasure trove of memories and videos, it brought me a mantle full of Emmy Awards and it bought me my first house and half a dozen cars! A few years ago, I wrote a book about my phenomenal experiences starting up the KTLA Morning News – Personality Driven – The Secret Sauce For Selling News. On the off-chance that you haven’t read it, I’m posting the first chapter here – all about the little show that became a monster hit – completely by accident! Continue reading THE KTLA MORNING NEWS JULY 8, 1991
I watched Bobbie Battista religiously on CNN Headline News back in the day. You see, it was my job. The weekend producer at WLWT had me, their intern, logging CNN newscasts for any video we could use from CNN on our shows. OMG! Lynne Russell, Lynn Vaughn, Gordon Graham, that anchorman with one leg, Toria, Chuck Roberts! I watched them all but Bobbie was always my favorite! Continue reading AROUND THE WORLD IN 30 MINUTES
There’s a 5 & 6pm newscast here in Cincinnati that I find myself watching… because it’s so bad. From anchors sporting the latest Wal-Mart fashions and looking as disheveled as a hooker who had a productive night, to a weatherman who, literally, yells at you throughout his forecast, thinking he’s sporting a sexy, booming FM radio voice, but in fact, is just, plain yelling. The anchors start to mirror his absurd volume and the whole show becomes a big yelling fest. But let’s switch gears for a second as there’s one pet peeve I have that gets me yelling back at the TV screen. The anchors are constantly ad-libbing that cliche phrase “switching gears” between stories. It’s a verbal device they use to bridge two unrelated stories to make the transition feel a bit less awkward. As an example, going from a double fatal car crash story to the birth of a new elephant at the zoo is an obvious “switching gears” story. The problem is easily avoided by a producer who understands the art of stacking stories in a newscast. Continue reading “SWITCHING GEARS” HURTS MY EARS
Appreciate Inquiry could have a dramatic effect on the productivity in your newsroom. I’ve seen the powerful results AI’s had on people in addiction recovery and on businesses of all types around the country. At a recent seminar I attended on the subject, I heard from countless people how their businesses and industries have rapidly improved by applying the principles of appreciative inquiry. Continue reading APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY
THE CENTERPIECE OF YOUR SHOW
On The Golden Girls, where did Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia spend most of their time? At The Kitchen Table. At your house, where does the family end up together more often than not? Correct! The Kitchen Table! It’s where you have your everyday meals, it’s where the kids do their homework, it’s where dad does his crossword puzzle and where mom reads her magazine. When a friend stops over, he joins the family at The Kitchen Table. The centerpiece of your home is The Kitchen Table – it’s the “home base” of your family.
The Kitchen Table is also the home base of your morning show. It’s where your family of anchors, sports and weather casters, reporters, and contributors hang out. When Chris Pine drops by, he joins everybody at The Kitchen Table. When the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders arrive, they join the gang at The Kitchen Table. When the mayor visits to discuss the teachers strike, he does so at The Kitchen Table. You don’t take guests and move them to a more formal location (like a living room set). You all hang out around The Kitchen Table where everyone joins in on the interview, the food and the small talk. Continue reading THE KITCHEN TABLE!
-TV TEEMS W/GENERIC REPORTERS-
I’m astounded on a daily basis how the majority of TV field reporters are content being anonymous, generic purveyors of facts and information – as generic and anonymous as the fake reporter in this stock photo! Watch reporters on any station in your market – they’ll do a “live” hit – then throw to a package that isn’t the least bit memorable or in any way stylized. Their live shots, their standups, their writing and their producing does absolutely nothing to make them stand out from the parade of generic reporters airing on TV every minute of every day. Continue reading ANONYMOUS PURVEYORS OF FACTS
Sometimes you’ve just got to let them talk it out. When the word “thug” became a news story, everyone on set had an opinion. It’s so important to allow them to discuss these issues – which strengthens the connection between your talent and your audience. In this example, we just let them talk right up to the hard break.
Booking guests is a little understood art that I’ve had lots of time to practice. Between KTLA, E! News Live, GMA Sunday and World News Now, I’ve pretty much had every notable name in Hollywood & New York in studio, on-set for interviews. The key to booking an interview guest is all about how your hosts interact with celebrities. Obviously, you want the guest to look good, have a great time and get to push whatever they’re pushing. But what viewers see is your hosts hanging out with a big star. Continue reading PRODUCING GUESTS
-THE RECIPE FOR RATINGS-
Do you know the “secret sauce” to morning show success? It’s a simple recipe. And it’s right there on the screen. It’s the one thing all these clips have in common.
OPEN TEASES MUST SET THE TONE
How do you open your morning newscast? Let me guess. Video of that overnight fire, wiping to that avalanche caught on tape, wiping to the footage of a dolphin giving birth. Music is urgent, your talent is breathless and graphics are flashing all over the screen. Yep. You’re producing that pre-open tease exactly as Walk Away Joe tells you to do it. If you’re producing a personality-driven newscast, Joe, aka your news consultant, is dead wrong. Here’s why. Continue reading ESTABLISH YOUR ATTITUDE
I came across this compilation of news anchors who went “off prompter” and then went viral. Produced by Grunge, they call it “anchor freak outs” which is a click-bait tease and far from actual fact. With the exception of Bill O’Reilly who’s just a deliberate freak show and a bully along the lines of P.T. Barnum, the behavior of most of these anchors is pretty much on target – it’s how they should occasionally behave on air when it’s real and authentic – like it was for Anderson Cooper. The commentator implies his show was cancelled because of such authentic moments, but nothing could be further from the truth. I guarantee you that viewers loved him for being honest. Search my blog posts for the real reason Anderson’s daytime talk show was cancelled. Continue reading AUTHENTIC ANCHORING
There came a time in my career when I began to recognize that I excel in two areas of TV news – the first is in finding, mentoring, and producing personalities. I’m not referring to newsreaders or prompter-jockeys, but true personalities. In addition to the The KTLA Morning News team, I’ve been fortunate to have worked alongside some of the best news personalities in television. Continue reading PERSONALITIES THAT POP
—CODE 1000’S CAN BE CREATIVE!—
We call it a “Code 1000”. It’s a mention upper management wants you to include in your newscast. It might be a charity event the station is sponsoring that they want you to shoot and mention in a :30 voice-over at 11pm. Or maybe they want you to promote a free flu shot giveaway the station’s part of at the Walgreens down the street. Or it could be something as obvious as promoting a Cheers marathon happening this weekend now that the station has bought the syndication rights to the sitcom. Continue reading A “MUST COVER” IN YOUR NEWSCAST!
Social media called out a Japanese news reporter and his crew who were reporting from the city of Sukayu, a hot spring town in northern Japan. The NHK reporter started his opening standup with: Continue reading FLAKE NEWS
In the early days of television, what I call “warmth”, they referred to as “charm”. It’s a magical, mesmerizing quality you can’t quite define – that jumps from the screen and enraptures you in a blanket of utter delight. OK, that might be a tad over the top, but you can’t overstate the value of warmth in a morning TV host. There’s one television treasure, a true personality pioneer, whom few modern day producers or TV talent have ever heard of. She hosted a live morning show back in the ‘50’s, before Today or Good Morning America were ever dreamed up. She was the Oprah of her day, when viewers had the choice of only three programs to watch at any given time. When 11AM came around, everyone was watching Miss Arlene Francis.
“There’s no need to fear – Underdog is here”.
That’s the catchphrase of the 1960′s cartoon superhero Underdog! He was, sort of, the canine version of superman for the Labrador set. His heroics were often done to impress his love interest, Sweet Polly Purebred, who could never commit. Everyone loves the underdog, which is why the series ran for more than a decade. But an underdog is just as essential and relevant in the realm of morning news. And I learned this first hand.
When The KTLA Morning News first went on the air, we were indeed the underdog. In Los Angeles from 7-9AM, it was us verses the Goliaths of Good Morning America, Today and CBS This Morning. The LA Times called us “the little show that could”. Because we did. We faced off with the three major networks for a slice of the LA morning viewing audience. And on a daily basis, we felt the pressure. We couldn’t book the A-lists guests that the networks did. We didn’t have the million dollar network set, the expensive designer clothes that they wore. And early on, we didn’t have the ratings and we certainly didn’t have the mentality of a “winner”. That title went to Katie Couric and Matt Lauer who ruled morning news for a long time before we arrived on the scene. We were, clearly, the underdog. And we felt it every morning when we hit the air. Continue reading THE “UNDERDOG” CARD
I realize you’ve come to expect deep, insightful and wise words of wisdom from me here on this blog. And I am usually happy to oblige. But for the issue I want to address today, there’s no way to build it up – no way to make it sound more important or life-changing that it is. No way to embellish the words “do your fucking job” to make then sound glamorous or worth a sixth-figure income. So here goes. Let the chicks fall where they made. Continue reading POOF-REED UR SCRIPPS!
(Originally posted 09-08-15)
Watching a local newscast this morning, I was horrified when I saw two more TV newsreaders had become infected with a virus that transforms them into sub-human, brainless prompter puppets I call “Setwalkers” – zombie-like news creatures who move from monitor location to monitor location around the studio for no apparent reason other than to “mix things up.” Where this virus first started – ground zero, can’t be pinpointed, but I’ll bet it began festering unnoticed in some small-market station before the infection spread via the airwaves from one newsreader to another.