19 March 2009

My Letter to Felix Gillette

Felix,

Loved your article, "Scarborough/Bloomberg Not Quite Frost/Nixon!". It was very comforting to see someone as disappointed as I.

I came into this world right about the same time Sue Simmons began her career at NBC and I've been watching her for as long as I can remember. I grew up with "Live at 5", Sue, Chuck, Jack Cafferty and the immortal Gabe Pressman. Sue and Chuck and Channel 4 have come to signify NYC to me; its the only station I turn to for news. NBC, CNBC, MSNBC; so long as it ends with NBC. So naturally when I heard NBC was launching a 24-hour local news channel I sang Hallelujah to anyone within earshot. "Anything would be better than NY1", I thought.

NY1 seems to make a living from driving me crazy. Anytime something is breaking in the city the absolute last place I'll turn to is NY1 because 9 times out of 10 while an entire borough is ablaze, NY1 will be rolling some canned news cycle from 7 hours ago.

If you are going to call yourself "New York One" then act like it! If a story is unfolding in NEW YORK CITY I want to turn on NEW YORK 1 and see what's up. I want to see people ON THE SCENE, reporting, as it happens! I don't want to see preheated footage of Dominic Carter's neck eating his chin while he interviews Commissioner Sadik-Khan for fifth time this month or the regurgitated top story cycle by Kristen Shaughnessy taped once at 9 AM and served cold all day long. The whole damn station is CANNED! Its like a news jukebox. NY1 COULD be so much more than it is but I've given up on them. If they haven't learned by now...

Then in comes the big, bad peacock. "Roll over Beethoven and tell Tschaikowsky the news", I thought. I was super excited when I heard the news in May of '08. Finally a 24-hour exclusive NYC news channel to silence all the impostors who tried and failed. I had completely written off NY1 and that Brooklyn "News 12" is worse than my Junior High School's A/V club final project. No one could get it right but I, well, I had great faith in NBC.

And then "NY-non-stop" launched and within five to ten minutes I had fallen back to earth, hard. My dreams shattered. The ├╝ber contrived disheveled David Ushery browsing the net for "cool" sites?! I mean, come on now! Keep your "hip" out of my newsfeed just like your chocolate out of my peanut butter. I fall firmly within the demographic they seem to be going for and even I am rolling my eyes. "What's your favorite place to skateboard?". Yawn.

For the sake of full disclosure, perhaps I watch TV news and listen to news radio a bit more attentively than most as I've worked in behind-the-scenes production in NY media for many years. I'm the guy who actually looks forward to tuning into the Sunday night 11 o'clock news broadcasts because things always go wrong. Most know that Sunday night is when the skeleton crew rolls the graphics and they let the recently promoted interns man the cameras and its a laugh riot. Make some popcorn and try it sometime!

The only way we will have ever a true "hyper-local" 24-hour NY news channel is when someone finally listens to me and sticks a damn camera in the 1010 WINS air studio. THAT would be hyper-local 24-hour NY news. Everything else will simply masquerade as until then.

Just the other day an American Airlines flight made an emergency landing at JFK just after takeoff from LGA. Debris from the plane was found on the street in Queens. What did we see around the dials? NY1 had George Whipple's eyebrows talking about Nick Cage's new movie, CBS 2 was airing a commercial on lumbar spinal stenosis, NBC 4 was "Style By Jury", Fox 5 had Disney Eggs - these are frightening - somehow they have scientifically altered eggs to come out looking like Mickey's silhouette! You get the idea... No one was covering the breaking NY news. They'd all dropped the ball. A plane makes a crash landing in our backyard and all the stations are asleep at the wheel... except 1010 WINS.

What did the new NBC channel have about the emergency landing? Well, the great new "NY Non-Stop" 24-7 had Julia Allison talking about what not to wear to work (assuming you have a job these days) while the crawl was informing me that Bobby Mc Ferrin had turned 59! Oh, joy!

I rest my case.

Sincerely,

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