Thursday, July 29, 2010

Around the dials

A few notes with observations from the local radio and television stations:

* Back when I was a kid, in the stone age, the local television stations used to have plenty of sports on weekend afternoons. If the network didn't throw something on, the station would purchase some sort of syndicated programming.

The shows covered a lot of different ground. One of my favorites was "Sports Challenge," hosted by Dick Enberg. The show would bring in sports celebrities, divide them into two teams ('61 Yankees vs. '65 Celtics), show a video highlight, and ask a trivia question. I particularly liked the time that the boxers didn't know what had happened in their own fights. They had some pretty big names on -- Muhammad Ali, Red Auerbach, Joe DiMaggio -- and it was fun for a kid with interest in sports history to watch.

Now, of course, the local television stations have given up on using programming that might actually be entertaining. They simply run, you guessed it, infomercials. Sigh.

* I've been waking up to Bill O'Laughlin's call-in talk show on WECK Radio lately, in an attempt to hear a variety of different stations at that hour. I don't listen to AM radio talk shows that often, mostly because the hosts seem to be to the right of Sean Hannity or Attila the Hun -- same thing. But it's nice to keep up with it, if only for a few minutes.

In this case, O'Laughlin seems to have a unique status among call-in show hosts -- I almost never hear him taking any calls. When I was in the talk-show business, I was fine as long as I had calls. When I didn't, I'd starting calling friends during promotional announcements, and say, "HELP!!!" O"Laughlin is better than I ever was at filling time, perhaps because he's had so much practice. But it has to be discouraging.

I must say in general, though, that the talk-show business has turned into egos on parade or keeping the political fringes (mostly right-wing) chatting. I don't find either entertaining.

* This item is about my employer, but it's worth a mention anyway. Last Friday night/Saturday morning, the presses at The Buffalo News had major mechanical problems. Delivery was delayed for quite a while into the late morning. It happens.

Someone told me that that the lead story on the WBEN News at 8 a.m. Saturday was the fact that The News was having delivery problems. I'll repeat that -- the most important story in the world was The News' delivery problems. The anchor then supposedly said, "To get your news for free, go to"

I don't expect the anchor man to tell people to go to the Web site. But I used to work in radio news, and I know what a skeleton operation is can be -- particularly on weekends. When I worked the news side, one of my first tasks was to get the morning paper off the front entrance ... and rewrite the stories we didn't have. There were always a bunch, because radio stations can't compete with a newspaper's much larger staff.

We're all in the same business here. Can't we all just get along?

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