Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona on October 27, 1996 · Page 18
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Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona · Page 18

Phoenix, Arizona
Issue Date:
Sunday, October 27, 1996
Page 18
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A18 The Arizona Republic Sunday, October 27, 1996 Watching The News tations differ on style, mot siiostaece 4 By Dave Walker Staff writer Local viewers saw TV news at its best Friday, an extraordinary news day. Weird weather and the accompanying vehicular mayhem on Interstate 10, a Bob Dole campaign visit, a spectacular downtown fire these breaking stories are made-for-TV-news events. But how do our local TV news providers fare on an ordinary news day? felling through the two-year anniversary of the Great Network FltjJ-fiop of 1994-1995,,. changes wrought by all the turmoil have giyn viewers plenty of local-news options. jSix Phoenix stations carry local newscasts seven, counting the one in Spanish each with a distinct style. For the casual viewer, stylistic differences may appear to be the only thing that distinguishes local TV-news providers from one another. To test that observation, The Arizona Republic, armed with a stopwatch, five VCRs and a stack of legal pads, set out to evaluate every 10 p.m. newscast Oct. 7 through 1 1. The chief conclusion: The top half-dozen or so stories of each day, local and otherwise, were given approximately equal play by all outlets, including Channel 5 (KPIIO), which airs only an eight-minute newscast at 10 p.m. On Oct. 9, a Wednesday, nobody missed the downtown double-shooting or the fatal construction accident at Bank One Ballpark. The next night, everybody made note of thy Phoenix Coyotes' home opener. On, Friday, footage from a west-side recycling-center fire made every lineup. Likewise, all stations carefully mapped Josephine's stormy path through the Caribbean, faithfully followed the pope's health, carried highlights from the vice-presidential debates and visited and revisited the kid who made that catch in Yankee Stadium. The differences between the stations were in the details. Channel 15 ,'I his newscast features the highest average story count, a middling amount of mayhem and, surprise, quite a bit of chitchat. Surprising, at least, for a station that hangs its promotional approach on a "no chitchat" hook. "You do have to let your anchors add to the story," said Greg Easterly, news director. "Our goal is to be very straightforward, very local, (but) we don't want to become so format-driven that our news anchors can't add to the broadcast." Still, Channel 15 (KNXV) devoted the most time to hard news of any newscast. Accordingly, the station finished low in the pack in time spent on weather, feature stories and promos. Which is not to say that the nearly-no-chitchat newscast is fluff-free. Channel 15 regularly enacts the ritual of concluding a newscast with a cuddly or cute story, regardless of its relevance to local viewers. One night, it was a distant bald-is-beautiful convention. Another, the restoration of a Southern California hamburger stand. "Of course we have the lighter side," Easterly said. "There are peaks and valleys and different emotions. You have to have a sense of good news in your newscasts. "We are a serious newscast, but there is humanity out there as well." Aside from all the chitchat, the newscast has undergone several changes since its August 1994 debut, all apparently aimed at main-streaming the product. Once a last-paced cavalcade of carefully crafted video packages, the newscast seems to be evolving toward the market stand-up standard, which is to have a reporter deliver a report while posed in front of a dark, empty building hours after that site's news event occurred. Live shots are "a good element of storytelling," Easterly said. "J think it puts viewers in places they haven't been before. And it's a way to give them the latest information," he said. Channel 15's newscast likely will undergo further changes. Two new main anchors Robin Sewell, from Sacramento, and Paul Joncich, from Denver have been hired. Expect to see more promotional advertising emphasizing the names and faces of Channel 15's anchors, a conventional tactic that the station so; far has largely avoided, opting instead to promote its "no chitchat" approach and generally stellar investigative reports. , jit's a rule: Personalities draw viewers. Channel 12 The market leader in chitchat, NBC affiliate Channel 12 (KPNX) alwa, had the lowest story count among the full-length newscasts surveyed. !; -1 ; f "" V. ' jFfiii I III .'. P Channel 15 reporter Tony Kovaleski reports live from Friday's downtown warehouse fire. COUNTING MAYHEM, CHITCHAT, STORIES Average sightings per 10 p.m. newscast. Mayhem Channel 3 vzzzxzttzrzxszii Channel 5 msftiU ; j channel io csrna: Channel 12 1 Channel 15E 0 1 2 : Chitchat Channel 3 p? ; Channel 5 B 1 Channel lOiXJU Channel 12t j : Channel 1 5 0 1 2 3 4 S Story count 6 7 Channel 3 i,:-z?c Channel 5 33333 uiannenu-t Channel 1 2 Channel 15 10 15 20 25 Staff artist The low story figure was largely due to nightly "12 Who Care" profiles of community volunteers who were to be honored at a banquet later, as well as regular Silent Witness features, designed to help police collar crooks. Other related numbers: Channel 12 was surpassed only by Channel 3 (KTVK) in total time spent on feature news and promos, and it devoted the fewest total minutes per newscast to delivering hard news of any kind. On the plus side, the station had the lowest mayhem quotient of any of the full-length newscasts. The week's strangest exchange of chitchat came out of a story detailing the Princess of Wales video hoax, in which a London tabloid purported to have video footage later proved to be fake of Diana riding a boyfriend around a room jockey-style. "Stuff like this is big news in London!" co-anchor Jineane Ford said. "It just goes to show you, if you're going to play horsey, close the drapes," weather forecaster Sean McLaughlin added. And sports anchor Bill Denney got the week's gilding-the-lily award for bravely labeling Roberto Alomar's much-decried umpire-spit as "vile" and a "childish act." As they say in the press box, a gutsy call. Clearly, though, Channel 12's greatest strength is the popularity of its news personalities. A late-September Arizona Poll conducted by the Research Department of The Arizona Republic and The Phoenix Gazelle showed that three of the four favorite local news anchors are with Channel 12 Kent Dana, Jineane Ford and Lin Sue Shepherd. Channel 3 anchor Patti Kirkpatrick, who finished second overall, was the other anchor. Likewise, weather forecaster McLaughlin, in a tie with Channel 3's Jim Howl, and sportscaster Denney led their respective categories in popularity, "We have done a lot of research on our anchors, and we own the two categories of being credible and 3 4 IT CHARTING NEWS CATEGORIES Average minutes spent per 10 p.m. newscast. Local Channel 3 E Channel 5 CT Channel 10 --t-"-H- w3 Channel 1 2 Channel i5l3S!S5a 0 1 2 3 4 5 Non-local 6 7 Channel 3 ETT Channels E3 3 Channel 1Q7i":;Xt Jl t Channel 120 , ! ' ' ' Channel 15P,i1r- 1 0 1 2 3 4 5 Feature Channel 3 1'imir.XJ 6 7 Channels I i Channel I0t3s333 Channel I2psxi:gyi Channel 1 5 ! j ! 0 1 2 3 4 5 Promo 6 7 Channel 3 pxdX Channel 5 B ! ! j Channel 10 Channel 12E5E ChanneM5ES ! 0 1 2 3 4 5 Sports Channel 3 E;xf5,;;lJ!X3 ! 6 7 Channel 5 E31 I Channel ioiea3J Channel 12 ESS Channel 1 5 KJiLsiai 0 1 2 3 4 5 Weather 6 7 Channel 3 pi-il Channels E3 j Channel 10 ES3 Channel 12E l 1 4 C 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Staff artist responsible journalists and also being warm and friendly," said Joan Barrett, news director. "1 think we handle that bridge well. "Chitchat is not a negative. It's not a negative with viewers, and it's not a negative in the community." Channel 10 Fox 10's recent makeover which includes a new set; new graphics package; one new anchor, Terry McSweeney; one familiar anchor promoted to the top job, Marlene Galan; and that snappy new Fox 10 handle includes a couple of almost subliminal hints about the direction the newscast seems to be heading: If you listen carefully to the introductory theme music at 10 p.m., you will hear the squawk of a police radio scanner and the unmistakable sound of an emergency siren. "It's just a sign thathe news is : ' ' . ) i : J fjftMMM i i war WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE, LESS, OR THE SAME AMOUNT OF THE FOLLOWING STORIES? More Less Sme Good news 78 3 59 Investigative 48 15 ,37 ., Consumer news 43 14 43 National and international 42 12 46 Fitness, health and nutrition 40 17 43 . Environmental news 40 17 43 Entertainment news 23 37 40 i Political 16 51 33 Crime 11 49 40 Base I 535 : : : J : coming on," said Bill Berra, news director of Channel 10 (KSAZ), speaking of the siren, which, he noted, is not specifically meant to represent a police squad car. "You could say it's a firetruck or an ambulance." It's fitting, then, that Channel 10 had the market's highest mayhem count, averaging 4.8 sightings per newscast. Other numbers: The newscast finished near the bottom of the pack in time devoted to sports, local news and promos or teases, but it led the crowd in average weather-forecast time and had a comparatively high story count. Channel 10 carried a high average of stories set in faraway places that had little impact on local viewers beyond appealing to our lower geek-show instincts, including pieces about a Florida snake attack, an alligator captured in San Francisco, a Miami gunbattle and an apparent fraternity-hazing incident in Texas. The station is not alone in this fairly standard practice, but the mayhem count clearly reflects the station's fondness for these satellite-delivered stories, which should cause thinking viewers to ask, "So what?" And what's up with those new promotional catch phrases that float free throughout the newscast? One: "You're watching Fox 10, because your TV loves us." Another: "You're watching Fox 10, because that's what you're watching." The new set, combined with the animated industrial netherworld of the new graphics package, places the anchors in a cool blue, red and grey setting that could be a star-ship's command deck. Or the news set at Channel 15, which, once upon a time, was created for a Fox affiliate. The similarities between the two, up to and including the see-through glass of the anchor desk, are significant. Still, Berra seems to have infused the newscast with more energy. And there's solid theory behind the increased story count. "My theory is. more news," he said. "I'm never going to win the battle of providing all the details. What I want to do is provide as many and varied stories as I can." Berra said he's had no discussions with Fox officials, who take over the station early next year, about the future of his news department. But his new newscast certainly seems to be a big step in the Fox direction, whatever that is. "Fox stations are all over the board, from very conservative to Russell GatesStaff photographer Staff artist very 'hot' he said. to middle-of-the-road," Channel 5 It's a blessing. It's a furse. It's the 10 p.m. combo of mininewscast and Seinfeld rerun, which fften finishes second in its time period. The quinella performs so well in the ratings that management is reluctant to make a chlnge. Another plus: The brief amount of time devoted to nevs (an average of one minute each night for national and international news; slightly more for j local stories) leaves little time or fluff (zero occurrences in the survey week) and keeps the mayheni quotient (1.8 sightings per newscast) very low. Drop in a breathless, whirlwind weather minute from Stu Tracy, follow it with Vic Lombardi's high-energy sports burst, and there's nothing left to ay except, "Hello, Newman. " Even Channel 5's chitchat is trun-1 cated. Commentine on a forecast ofl unseasonably high temperatures dur-! ing the survey week, anchor Carol Cavazos let slip with a terse, "That is unreasonable." J Nonetheless, it will remain difficult to count Channel 5 as a seriops news competitor until a full 10p.Ji. newscast is installed.- jj There are no current plans to do so, said John Cardenas, the station's news dirfector sincolast month. But, ''We're going to grow," he said. "L can't , say right now , when that will be, but When the economic and competitive factors arf right, we're going to jump in tjf'e ball-game. I ' feel that it's in ur best interest as a news organization to go forward with a full half-hoar at 10." Cameras added that tews consumers who sample Channel 5's product only at 10 p.m. are missing the solid investigative nd troubleshooting stories aired daring earlier, fuller newscasts. Looking to the future, Cameras promised that the statun's newscasts aren't going to be as 'conservative" as they appear today.; "We're going to take risks, and we're going to be a little bit more innovative and creative," he said. Channel 3 And now fof something completely different, it's Tonight Arizona. From the mood-setting opening, to the ! mbnitor-inside-a-monitor transitions between segments, to the nightly visual tour of control booths and newsroom desktops as reporters and anchoijs cut their quota of news blips, Chainel 3 offers the market's most offbeat newscast. It spends the most time of any ipiun nn vnn i ivc? m if iiu uu iuu unki w.l Who is your favorite news anchor? . i ' . ""is Kent Dana, Channel 12 4at Patti Kirkpatrick, Channel 3 9 (Jineane Ford, Channel 12 Lin Sue Shepard, Channel 12 Rick D'Amico, Channel 10 June Thomson, Channel 10 Darya Folsom, Channel 15 Ofher Don't have a favorite I" 'p" Jon't know 5. 5 HBase Note: Percentages may add up to more than100 due to multiple responses Who is your favorite weatherperson? .av' :-:y'i'..:'-r VS'""iT' Sean McLaughlin, Channel 12 til Jim Howl, Channel 3 Ed Phillips, Channel 15 Dave Munsey, Channel 10 Stu Tracey, Channel 5 Other Don't have a favorite Don't know Base 29. m i 535 What is the main reasonou watch your favorite statron fo( local news? ..U'tU I like the anchors I like the mix of news 25 M 16 It has the best sportsweather 15 ' news coverage The last program I watch 9 ' before the news is on I ' that channel m; i s t.,,.w. :J j Habithave watched for years 4 ! Bettermore accurate 3t. Less chitchatto the point 2 ' ........ ... ., , . j.. , n f . ji Just like itcomfortable with it 2 ' ; Other 9;i Don't know 15 ' Base 535 " Less than 1 0 mentions each. '' J Base 535 adults 18 in Maricopa m - ouuniy. IIUCIVICW5 WCIO LUIIUULICU , J bep. 23-za oy Precision Hesearcn inc, M The'margin of error is - ,.. . nofrpnfano nnintc ' Staff artiit station on feature stories, devotes o, 'i. avtjrage a whopping 4:35 minutes fp sports each night, fearlessly sel;'-.,, prpmotes and trails only marker ,i leading Fox affiliate Channel 10 m.-. rtayhem. c Another difference: Channel 3 iism le only full-length newscast going 'ith a solo 'anchor, Patti Kirkpat- ick, who scored well in The Republic s survey of viewers. . 'Our philosophy has been, (e can't just be another newscast," JajdU1 Phil Alvidrez, Channel 3 s news director. "The majority of viewjrs, available at 10 are watching 2a network. If you want to attract (them), we can't be as good as everybody else or the same. eWe have to be a program. We havi o embrace a broader range of information. f:,;2 "We're serious about the news, but we try not to take ourselves too seriously. We try to be more fun.,J You'll see stories ... that you will not see on a lot of newscasts." ..rsK It's true: n-.. No other newscast sends,; ,3,,' reporter to local restaurants a,nd.,4 nightspots to do live, virtual in-,1; fomercials. During the survey week, ; reporter Lisa Taranto, in a standing segment titled "Mot Tonight," ,yjs; ited a new local restaurant thaj, specializes in European cuisine-, While there, she conducted, via ariin, interpreter, an interview with, the'w chef. The result: multilingual chit,-,,, chat. Yd No other newscast has a singing anchor. Introducing a satelliterfecj ;,, story about a problem with wdd horses in some distant locale, Kirk-.j patrick self-consciously tried to sing a bit of the Rolling Stones' tqriej." Wild Horses. No other newscast has MikeA. Chamberlin, whose commentary on the Roberto Alomar case "Hey,,,, spit happens" won the Goofy Play on Words of the Week Award. (Not an honor.) . Also included in Channel ,,i3Ts "broader ranee of information", , is much of the same CNN fooJag$ .t carried by Channel 10. One nighty, both stations had the same satellite delivered Josephine update, acegm 11. -. See STATIONS, page .$9.. c

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