Change the channel, please


Watching local TV has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. I guess it began when I was a young sprout growing up in the granite fields of Vermont when television was something of a novelty. Our first set was a converted oscilloscope that had a green circular screen the size of a tea cup saucer. I may be exaggerating. I think it was smaller.

The first TV newscast I saw originated from Poland Springs Maine. You may have enjoyed the water. Channel 8 WMTW got the “MTW” because at the time they had their transmitter site on top of Mount Washington where one of the highest winds on earth ever was measured. The guys who ran the gear lived on the mountain for most of the winter as the way up or down was pretty much impassable.

One of them gave a weather forecast from the mountain. Wore a bow tie, a white shirt with a pocket protector full of pens and pencils. He looked into the one black and white camera and with a strong down east accent talked about the wind and snow on the mountain. Thinking about it today it makes backyard weather forecasting seem pale by comparison.

It was crude at best but it was innovative for the time. Now we have Doppler this and weather map that but I miss the geeky engineer from on top of the mountain. He is, I am sure long gone to the engineers home in the sky and a few years ago WMTW’s transmitter site burned to the ground and they moved to a less inhospitable place.

Like all media, local TV is being pummeled by the World Wide Web. ABC news recently announced cutbacks of 1,400 and the ones left will not only report the news but will be camera operators (think flip video cams) sound-men, editors and producers. The local TV news operations will no doubt follow suit.

When a good percentage of video is being shot by ordinary people (how much skill does it take to point the phone cam at a house fire?) the days of a three person crew doing it are numbered. I hope it doesn’t stop them from showing “local color.”

The best thing about a live shot on the news is the people waving and grinning like ninnies at the camera. The stand-up reporter could be talking about a bus wreck that killed 40 and idiots in the background will be waving at Ma. Second best thing: the eyewitless interview. Where do they find these people? With both eyes on one side of their head and occasional teeth they are clearly not of this earth.

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About James Rising

A recovering radio addict wrestles with the written word.
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One Response to Change the channel, please

  1. Joel O'Brien says:

    In the days of the big backyard satellite dishes, my favorite waste of time would be searching for backhaul feeds. I found one once of a reporter getting set up for a live shot from outside Faneuil Hall in Boston. The camera is on, the mike is open. Now and then you see the reporter going over notes and walking around. You also see people going by. Oh, by the way, it’s winter. One guy walks by…and then backs up, comes over to the camera, looks into the lens, and then breathes on it, totally fogging it up. Off camera, you hear the reporter yell “HEY!!!” and the guy dashs off. The reporter comes over and wipes the lens off with a Kleenex and then stands guard with the camera until it’s liveshot time.

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