The Digital Journalist

Welcome to this month's web "bp," courtesy of digitaljoutrnalist.org.

In this issue: 
Soldier Down! 
(Free-Speecher gets canned for free speaking.) 
ENG Safety Newsletter - August 2000 front page story. 
TMac checks in: "Monday Night" with Dennis Miller.

News Blues (www.newsblues.com) news item, w/e 7-30-00: 
Chris Shumway, Columbus powerhouse WBNS (part of a media conglomerate that  also owns the local newspaper and radio stations) has fired morning and noon weathercaster Chris Shumway, after he wrote an editorial condemning...yep...media conglomerates. 

News Media, Corporate Power and Democracy

By Chris Shumway 

Back when I started my career in television news, I assumed that the news media were not restrained by market pressures or corporate power: that journalists had the freedom to find and report the truth no matter what the economic consequences might be. I also held the corresponding view that the American mass media system, especially broadcasting, was inherently democratic and well regulated to serve the greater public good. Well, 15 years and about a half-dozen newsrooms later, I realize how utterly foolish I was to make these assumptions. 

With very few exceptions, the news outlets I have worked for and studied closely behave not like watchdogs but lap dogs, obediently serving commercial interests and corporate power. Furthermore, the institutional structure of our media system is decidedly anti-democratic, with few checks and balances to ensure that the public interest is served. In short, the popular media self-image, that I foolishly accepted, is about as true to life as a child's fairy tale. 

I realize that this is a startling turn-around and it might be hard to comprehend, but I want to stress that I did not come to this conclusion lightly or suddenly. It evolved slowly, over the last several, agonizing years of my career in the news "business": years in which my bosses constantly denied that corporate or commercial pressures guided news "content" despite growing evidence to the contrary. In this paper, I will describe some of the conflicts between media image and media practice that I witnessed first hand and offer some analysis of the political and economic structure of broadcasting and mass media. The primary purpose is to share my experience and insight with readers in hopes of building a stronger media literacy and reform movement. 

Broadcasting History and Democracy

Let's start with the myth that our broadcasting system is rooted in democratic principles. This one crumbles pretty quickly when we recall that the radio and television airwaves are public resources--we all own them--but the government hands them over to private broadcasters, at no cost. So right off the bat, we have a system that is based on the transfer of valuable resources (the airwaves) from the public sector (you and me) to the private, for-profit sector (wealthy corporations). Or, to put it another way, our airwaves are controlled by the privileged few not the many, which, under any meaningful definition of the word, bears no resemblance to democracy. 

By the way, the public never voted on this corporate welfare arrangement, which is still the foundation of our broadcasting system today. Congress approved it way back in 1934--establishing the Federal Communications Commission in the process--after intense pressure from the big networks and the advertising industry. In doing so, it dashed the hopes of those (educators led the opposition) who argued for a non-profit, citizen controlled media system but lacked the money and political clout of big business (see Robert W. McChesney: Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-1935). 

Corporate control of the public airwaves has gotten only stronger since then. Big media companies and their high-paid Washington lobbyists (arguably the most influential in politics) have successfully pressured Congress and the FCC to strip away very modest regulations that, at least, made it appear that there were some checks and balances in the system. Now the monster media corporations and conglomerates have a virtual green light to gobble up the airwaves and each other with little regard for the public interest. And they're doing just that: by the time you finish reading this, another big media merger will probably be announced. It's getting so that almost every cable channel or TV station--no matter how small-- is now owned by, or affiliated with, the five biggest U.S. media conglomerates (Time Warner-CNN, Disney-ABC, GE-NBC, Fox-NewsCorp and CBS-Viacom). 

Contracts and Constitutional Rights 

Broadcasters also strangle democracy by virtue of their internal structure. Remember, each commercial network, TV channel or radio station is a private business or corporation. Therefore, they are structurally totalitarian institutions: the power flows from the top executive(s) down to the employees. This strict management hierarchy prevents anything resembling meaningful democracy from taking shape in the workplace. Furthermore, employees must often sign contracts--if they wish to keep working--that strike down the most fundamental rights in a democratic society. Take one of my own TV contracts for example, a clause in it actually reads: "Employee shall not make any statements or remarks about or concerning [the station] or its affiliates, officers, directors, shareholders, agents, employees, sponsors, or any network with which it may be affiliated, that are disparaging or derogatory or that tend to discredit or reflect unfavorably on [the station] or said affiliates". It goes on to state that I can not subject the station (or its officers, directors, sponsors etc.) to "disrespect or criticism". In effect, I'm prohibited from speaking freely or critically on the job. Initiating open, vigorous debate--something that is essential in the process of newsgathering and reporting--can be grounds for dismissal. I'm also forbidden from writing and publishing anything (like this essay) without their permission. You clearly see the totalitarianism here: the TV station, a private news outlet using the public airwaves, gets first amendment free speech or "freedom of the press" protections, yet denies these same rights to it's own employees! And it's all perfectly legal due to the awesome--rarely ever questioned--rights and privileges that corporations are given in our society. 

Products, Customers and "Narrowcasting"

Broadcast media outlets are also no different from other corporations in that they sell a product to customers in order to make a profit. What exactly is that product and whom does the media sell it to? Well, you might answer that the programming (news and entertainment shows) is the product and that the audience is the customer. Wrong on both counts. 

Let me explain by once again using my specialty, local television, as an example (although much of this analysis will also apply to commercial radio, newspapers and magazines). 

A TV station makes its money from advertisers (other large businesses), not viewers. Think about it, you don't pay the TV station every time you watch a show. In fact, you can watch local stations for free if you don't have cable. That means the advertiser is the real customer and the product they're buying from the TV station is the audience, or access to the audience in order to sell products. Furthermore, the advertisers want audiences with the greatest buying power, not necessarily the largest audience. Thus, TV stations carefully aim most of their programming, especially the "news", at specific "target" audience groups that are prized by advertisers. 

This practice of "narrowcasting" (rather than true broadcasting) shatters another favorite myth: that the news media "give the people what they want" and therefore the commercial media system is democratic because "the people" have the ultimate power. But, as noted scholars Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman point out in their book Manufacturing Consent, this idea "suffers from the initial weakness that its political analogue is a voting system based on income!" 

The myth is also dashed when we consider that most audience surveys conducted by media outlets never really ask viewers what kind of news coverage they want. Instead, they ask the viewer to choose from among pre-selected news topics and presentation styles: "Do you prefer brand X over brand Y"; or, "Which is more important, traffic reports or health reports?" 

Now back to that issue of "target" audiences. 

In the case of TV news, the target audience group--or "demographic" in advertising lingo--is people between the ages of 25 and 54 with upper-middle to upper class incomes who live in cities or suburban areas (although many advertisers and TV stations are now targeting the younger demographic of 18-49 year olds). If a TV station can get just enough, maybe 30 to 40%, of this target audience to watch its newscasts regularly, it can draw big spending advertisers and haul in the cash. TV stations and networks even expand their newscasts or develop news "magazine" shows just to attract more rich advertisers. In a very real sense, news programs do not serve as vehicles for information, but as slots for commercials: the more slots a station or network has the greater its revenue. What a wonderful use of the public airwaves. 

By the way, I didn't learn all this from advertisers or sales people. Rather, these instructive lessons came from my own news directors: the same bosses who often denied that there were editorial conflicts or that commercial pressures influenced our news (no wonder I stopped trusting them). One former news director went so far as to say that attracting the target audience was our "mission" as TV journalists: a stunning paradox if ever there was one. But to these bosses, calling oneself a "journalist" while on a "mission" to attract privileged viewers isn't a contradiction at all. They have completely internalized the commercial--profit over all else--values of station owners and advertisers: to them, privileged "target audiences" and "the public" are one in the same. 

Story Selection, Corporate Spin and Editorial Control 

Given what we've explored so far, we can see that reporters are under intense pressure to produce stories aimed directly at the target audience. But, less obvious is an almost equal pressure to ignore or downplay stories that challenge corporate values, or stories that reflect the struggles of "less desirable" segments of the audience (low to lower-middle income families, immigrants and most elderly people). This results in a rather distorted picture of the community. 

Let's first consider the media obsession with Wall Street. You see daily stock market reports on every local and national newscast, with the implication that everyone is cashing in on high stock prices. But the facts are dramatically different: in 1998, about 80% of all stocks, mutual funds and retirement accounts were owned by the wealthiest 10% of the population; that left only 20% of the market wealth in the hands of the remaining 90% of the population. This data is not hard to find and could be--make that should be--widely reported because it allows citizens to see the truer nature of the economy and the stock market. However, commercial values, internalized by managers and "journalists", dictate that emphasis be placed on the part of the story most favorable to investors and advertisers. 

The flood of e-commerce stories is another good example of advertiser-driven news. Anchors and reporters have become big cheerleaders for the cyber strip-mall (remember when it used to be called the "information superhighway"?). But they don't tell you that only about 40% of the population has Internet access, or that the Internet was created with public money and that designers of its most popular component, the World Wide Web, intended for it to be an educational, rather than commercial, system. Once again, we see that the goal is not to inform but to make money. News reports about the Internet look more like infomercials for e-commerce sites, pitched directly at prized audiences. And guess what? It's working (for rich broadcasters and advertisers): "dot-com" commercials fill the airwaves. Broadcasters are also loading their own websites with advertisements and building other Internet-related business ventures. 

In stark contrast to their e-commerce and stock market obsessions, you're not likely to find many news outlets rushing to cover working class or labor issues like low wages, health care and affordable housing. It's all very stunning when you consider that 44-million Americans don't have health insurance and about 1 in 5 American children live in "official" poverty, yet at the same time, unemployment rates have dropped as low as 4% and corporate profits are at record levels. What do these numbers say about wages and benefits for working people in this country? Do they tell us whose backs the "booming" economy has been built upon? And shouldn't they send up a red flag in most newsrooms, triggering intense scrutiny of economic policy? Sadly, the answer is no. Sure, we might hear about poverty in a few fleeting reports, but important questions about economic justice (who holds real economic power: citizens? or corporate chiefs and their government allies?) are not asked. Instead, most stories about the "booming" economy are neatly sanitized to prevent target audiences from seeing the dark side of the boom. 

As if all that isn't bad enough, some broadcasters are now actually giving advertisers direct editorial control over parts of their newscast. This goes far beyond the common--and equally disgusting--practice of broadcasting video "news" releases produced by corporate public relations firms and not identifying where they come from, or creating consumer-friendly stories designed to put prized audiences in the "buying mood". No, I'm talking about letting the advertiser produce an entire "news" segment--provided they write a big, fat check first, of course. This is a blatant conflict of interest that can not be defended on any journalistic level and it clearly shows the broadcasters' absolute contempt for the public. I'll describe this practice in more detail using a case from my own experience. 

The TV station I [worked] for allows a major bank not only to sponsor a daily financial news segment (called "Your Money") they also get to supply the "expert" commentator (a bank official) and write the script! Each day, the bank selects a topic and faxes the newsroom a set of questions for the anchors to ask during the segment. Most of the questions refer to products and services sold by the bank; some even deal with public policy matters that directly affect the banking industry. On one particular day, our "expert" was asked about a hike in interest rates by the Federal Reserve Board. He explained that it was necessary "medicine" for the economy: an antidote for rising inflation. What he didn't say was that banks and other lending institutions rake in bigger profits from loans when interest rates are higher. Of course, I would not expect a banker to say this on live television, but shouldn't one of the "news" anchors have brought this up? And shouldn't they have mentioned that the Federal Reserve Board is made up of banking representatives and that historically its policies benefit lenders and creditors (banks)? They also could have questioned his claim that the rate increase was needed to battle inflation. Many economists agree that inflation at moderate levels (say 5% or so, which is higher that we had at     the time of the rate hike) is not a problem for most people, especially if it is corresponding to true wage gains. Additionally, the anchors could have mentioned that many consumer groups opposed the increase (even the National Association of Manufacturers called it "unnecessary shock treatment"). But no, our anchors did not seriously question or challenge anything our advertiser-appointed "expert" said. Instead, the anchors meekly followed orders--and the advertiser's script--as all well trained lap dogs do. 

It should be noted that, as of this writing, the arrangement I just described is still in effect, polluting the public airwaves each day. 

Crime and Punishment

Your daily news is also loaded with stories about street crime but very little time is devoted to covering corporate crime. I'm not talking about crime within corporations, but serious (and often deadly) crimes committed by corporations against the public (illegal sweatshops, toxic waste, price-fixing, union busting, violation of worker safety laws etc.). This should be very alarming to you because FBI crime statistics show that violent street crime is actually decreasing and, although it's harder to gauge corporate crime (the FBI doesn't keep statistics on that), reliable research indicates that it is increasing and is far more threatening and costly to taxpayers than street crime. In fact, a recent study by the National White Collar Crime Center found that one in three American households are the victims of corporate crime! 

Now, having read all this, go watch your TV news and count the number of street crime stories and compare them to the number of corporate crime stories. If there are any corporate crime stories, where are they placed in the newscast? At the top, or buried in the middle somewhere? How specific and thorough is the reporting? Stories about street crime are loaded with gory details and grisly video, including pictures of suspects--many of whom haven't even been officially charged with a crime, much less convicted of one. Does corporate crime get the same treatment? Do you see daily news segments showing people how to protect themselves against corporate predators, or stories that put pressure on law enforcement to protect our neighborhoods from corporate crime? Oh, once in a while, you might see a report about a company that's violated a particular law, but there's no examination of the big picture. News anchors and reporters aren't asking why corporate crime is so rampant and so poorly enforced, or how corporations became so powerful in the first place. 

As former newspaper editor and journalism professor Robert Jensen points out: "Business reporters are not critics of the system; at best, they police its boundaries. They report on violations of the rules; they don't ask questions about the fundamental justice of the rules." Once again, we've shattered another myth: that the news media are "tough" on big business. Face it, the news media are big business. 

Market Forces and Peer Pressure

The argument that economic interests skew news coverage is reinforced by a recent study from the Pew Research Center. According to the study, about 25% of the journalists surveyed say they've "purposely avoided" important stories, while almost as many reporters say they've "softened" stories to benefit the interests of their employers. In addition, 41% of the reporters surveyed admitted that they have engaged in "either or both" of these practices. The study also confirms my earlier statements about the commercial (or hypercommercial) pressures in the newsroom: about half of the respondents say that "peer pressure" (fear of embarrassment or potential career damage) is a factor in self-censorship, and over half say they get "signals from their bosses" to avoid certain stories. Again, we see that competition for small audience groups and advertisers is limiting, not expanding, what we see and hear in the news. 

This important study lends more support to the argument that self-censorship is the natural result of market and institutional forces, not evil conspiracies. It's what we should expect given the way our media system is structured: public resources handed over to private, undemocratic corporations bent on maximizing profit. 

Prospects for Change

The picture I have just illustrated is a rather grim, but not entirely hopeless one: a few developments and trends bear this out. First, many people dissatisfied with our unaccountable, profit-worshipping mass media system are already working at the grassroots level to build a media education and reform movement. For this to be successful, those involved must not only expose commercialism and corporate bias in news reporting, they must also expose and attack the government for it's lack of media regulation and work to break down the runaway social, economic and political power of corporations. Secondly, there is a wide selection of small, independent--meaning no corporate connections at all--news outlets that are readily available to those who hunger for a clearer picture of the world (ranging from newspapers, magazines and journals to listener-supported radio and community TV stations). And thirdly, the Internet offers an easy way for these reformers, news producers and news consumers to communicate with each other and to get better organized (although, as I mentioned earlier, it is only available to relatively privileged people and it is also threatened by the tentacles of newly merged media giants that aim to make it even more commercial and less democratic). 

Finally, it can also be said that, as biased as the mainstream news media is, the system is not entirely closed. True, I've spent a lot of time showing how market pressures and the institutional structure of mass media subtly--and not so subtly--force journalists to serve rather than to question corporate power. But, it's also important to point out that if I can see the system for what it is, anyone can. Furthermore, I still know media professionals out there who have not internalized the commercial values of their corporate bosses; they still work hard to present a fair and balanced view of the world despite the pressure to do the opposite. I'm also discovering that a good number of other journalists are, at least, finally acknowledging that the system doesn't work. In fact, the Pew Research Center study also notes that only 37% of the national reporters and 35% of the local reporters surveyed give their profession high marks; this is a big drop from a similar survey taken a year earlier. 

These facts can be viewed ultimately as a small, positive sign. Yes, there are still huge obstacles: journalists who resist corporate pressure are usually ignored, ridiculed or marginalized at work and often this convinces them that meaningful change is impossible. However, if these journalists can break through the isolation to seek out colleagues in a similar predicament and work collectively with them, they can build new democratic movements inside the system (or strengthen the small media unions already in place) and, perhaps, create alliances with media reform activists working outside the system. It's clear to me that steady pressure from all sides (independent media, grassroots media reformers and principled mainstream journalists) is needed if there is to be any hope of loosening or even breaking the corporate grip on broadcasting. It won't be an easy task. But, given the state of the news right now, it's absolutely necessary that we make the effort. 

Here's something Chris Shumway wrote for admission to graduate school. 

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE 

My interest in the Master of Arts in Media Studies program at the New School University comes from three sources: (1.) my desire to gain a deeper understanding of the media as an important cultural influence and a critical element in participatory democracy; (2.) my decision to move from a career in commercial broadcasting to a career in non-profit media education and activism; and (3.) my attraction to the socially progressive philosophy and educational values of the New School University. 

I like the school's Cartesian motto, "You think, therefore we are". It tells me that the New School is an institution in which students and faculty can exercise intellectual freedom, critical thinking, and common sense in the pursuit of knowledge. I also believe in the principle that we (media professionals and students) should "learn how to make messages with meaning, in order to produce both thoughtful work and wise citizens." 

Broadcasters, educators, activists and artists must communicate more effectively to reach an audience that is being bombarded with an increasing number of conflicting and distorted messages from contemporary mass media. I believe that the New School University's approach to Media Studies is right on target, and I feel that my professional and academic experiences have prepared me for this course of study. I will detail these experiences along with my research interests and goals in the following paragraphs. 

Right now I am a Broadcast Meteorologist at WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio. I actually ventured into this field 14 years ago while I was finishing my undergraduate studies in mass communications. The opportunity to combine broadcasting techniques with weather forecasting presented a fascinating challenge to me at the time, but I needed to learn much more about the atmospheric sciences. So I enrolled in, and completed, the Broadcast Meteorology program at Mississippi State University while I worked a variety of jobs (reporter, news anchor, and photographer) at several television stations. Through the coursework I learned important concepts, theories and applications of the atmospheric sciences and developed a deeper understanding of the human connection to the natural environment. This program certainly enhanced my abilities as a weather forecaster and communicator, but more importantly, it taught me that rational inquiry and critical thinking are vital to figuring out how systems--or institutions--work and for solving problems. 

Fueled by these developments and my own natural curiosity, I soon began to spend my spare time exploring a much wider range of subjects (history, political philosophy, economics, culture and current affairs) in hopes of enlarging my view of the world. Along the way, I discovered the works of great social critics, historians and thinkers like Bertrand Russell, John Dewey, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. Their words inspired me to investigate the structure and policies of our major social, political, and educational institutions (including the media) and to re-examine my own position in broadcasting. Through both personal experience and critical, institutional analysis, I've come to see that the mass media and other dominant institutions are tightly controlled and influenced by elite private interests bent on maximizing profits and limiting, rather than enlarging, democracy. This accounts for much of the commercialism and corporate bias in mainstream news media--usually, but not exclusively, in the form of pressure to attract small, privileged "target" audiences rather than serve the general public--that I've personally witnessed and struggled to overcome. 

It's important to add that no matter how much I've learned--or think I've learned--over the years, my understanding of mass media is still incomplete and lacking in some critical areas. Therefore, I must continue my education by moving from personal part-time research to much more rigorous academic study. This is precisely where the New School comes in. It offers both the academic challenges and opportunities that I'm looking for. In addition, I believe my diverse academic interests and professional experiences are well suited to a program that combines media theory and cultural studies with "real world" media practices. 

My specific research interests are media policy, the economics of mass media and the role of media in participatory democracy. Along these lines, I closely monitor the work of the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and astute media critics such as Chomsky, Norman Solomon and Edward Herman. I particularly admire their skill at detecting and exposing the mainstream media bias that I mentioned above. 

I've also recently discovered the writings of communications professor Robert W. McChesney, and I consider his latest book, Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times (University of Illinois Press, 1999), to be essential reading for anyone concerned about media policy. I agree with McChesney's argument that our media system has become "hypercommercial" and decidedly anti-democratic. Several recent developments clearly support his arguments, for example: the concentration of media ownership through virtually unregulated corporate mergers;  the transformation of the Internet from a commercial free "information superhighway" to an e-commerce strip-mall; and the fight against open access  to broadband Internet service led by major cable companies. These developments clearly show that we are on the road to a more tightly concentrated communications system controlled by the few rather than the many. It is, to quote McChesney again, a "poison pill" for democracy. 

It's clear to me that we need greater public participation in the formation of communication policy--especially regarding new "cyber" media--in order to have a truly democratic and open system. The Internet after all was developed with public money, and the creators of the Internet's most popular component, the World Wide Web, argue that it (the Web) should "remain an open standard for all to use and no one to lock up into a proprietary system." 

So how can greater openness and public participation be achieved? Two words come to mind: education and organization. First, the public must know that it has the right to participate in, and control, communications policy. A grassroots media education and literacy movement can help accomplish this. Second, people concerned about media policy must organize and take action. They must demand more access to the policy-making system and our major media institutions. Media policy needs to be an important, openly debated national issue, and I believe a diverse network of educators, students, artists and citizen activists should work toward this goal. 

I summary, I see my interest in the Media Studies program as a natural extension of my personal and professional experiences and a logical step toward a meaningful career in media education and activism. At the same time, I believe I am prepared for the rigorous course work offered by the New School University. Please approve my application to the Master of Arts in Media Studies program and help me acquire the knowledge, skills and cultural awareness needed to become a more productive media professional, educator and citizen. 

Chris Shumway 
 

The ENG Safety Newsletter is an increasingly popular means of reminding broadcast professionals about ENG Safety, month after month. Please see details and more safety information at the ENG Safety website, http://www.engsafety.com.
 

From the August 2000 ENG Safety Newsletter:

Advertising for managers or other employees? 
See the word safety anywhere? 
Be careful what you ask for, you may (not) get it. 
 

The following ad was in an industry publication.  Its use here is to illustrate that even the best composed ad may not be asking for a person with all the qualifications needed. As we change in our resolve to promote good safety practices, it may help to look for job applicants who are already on the safety bandwagon. Broadcast organizations should specify a need for applicants with experience in safety education and training or implementation of programs for protection of the general public, employees, and their corporationís liability exposure. 

Engineering Manager 
PURPOSE OF POSITION: 
 s responsible for the overall short and long term coordination, evaluation, maintaining, and implementation of all station technical broadcast facility needs.  Second in command and assists the Director of Broadcast Operations and Engineering in day-to-day operations of the Department. Plays an essential role in the decision making process involving the capital budget and the selection of technical equipment. Directly supervises the Transmitter Supervisor, Maintenance Supervisor, ENG Supervisor, and Information Services Manager. Must be able to work within the contractual rules of local unions. Carries out supervisory responsibilities in accordance with the organization's policies and applicable laws. Responsibilities include interviewing, training employees; planning, assigning, and directing; appraising performance; timely communication of employee performance issues; addressing complaints and resolving problems. 

 ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES include the following. Other duties may be assigned. 
 * Overall technical maintenance of station. 
 * Supervision and maintenance of station transmitters and signal distribution. 
 * Responsible for technical growth of the station. 
 * Establishes procedures in accordance with good engineering practices for the proper operation of facilities. 
 * Inspects completed work for conformance to blueprints, specifications, and standards. 
 * Ensures compliance with all FCC rules and regulations. 
 * Ensures department compliance with all OSHA rules and regulations. 
 * Suggests changes in working conditions and use of equipment to increase efficiency of work crews. 
 * Analyzes and resolves work problems, or assists workers in solving work problems. 
 * Technically coordinates all major station remotes such as pre-season football games. 
 * Initiates or suggests plans to motivate workers to achieve work goals. 
 * Confers with other Department Heads and Station Managers to coordinate technical activities of individual departments. 

 Perhaps future advertisements will have a passage, such as one of the following, added: 

 *  Experience with formation and implementation of ENG safety programs. 

 *  Ability to interpret federal and state rules and regulations with regard to power line and other environmental hazards to increase efficiency of remote broadcast efforts and insure public safety. 

 * Experience desired in evaluation, education, and training of remote broadcast personnel with special emphasis on safety. 

 * Understanding of previous industry experience with field hazards and proven ability to positively influence ongoing safety efforts in news gathering and remote work. 

 *  Knowledge of a variety of safety rules and regulations with past experience of supporting news efforts with emphasis on attaining main objectives safely and efficiently. 

 * Candidate should be ready to implement and maintain a safety program with an efficient team approach to aggressive and winning news efforts while protecting station personnel, station property, and the general public. 

The ENG Safety Newsletter is an increasingly popular means of reminding broadcast professionals about ENG Safety, month after month. Please see details and more safety information at the ENG Safety website, http://www.engsafety.com.


TMac's column
TVCommando rates Monday Night's Dennis Miller 
 

I'm sure pro football's purists were watching the millennium debut of  Monday Night Football with comedian Dennis Miller in the announcers booth last night with their eyes wide shut. 

It wasn't hard to imagine them. Voice recorders rolling next to the TV, fingers poised on speed dial with the hopes of calling in an infraction like those golf purists are so fond of. "Hello, ABC! I'd like to report an illegal use of the mouth!" 

Now I don't want to go off on a rant here, but to the football-is-life crowd, please, get a life! Indeed, the MNF circus has added a new dimension to a tired act. But just like during the Dandy/Don/Howard Cosell era, the game's not really the thing, entertainment's the thing. Come on, the purity of the sport is not the reason you program a football game in primetime in the first place. And lest we forget, Hank Williams used to sing the theme song. 

As for the revamped MNF booth in its preseason debut, ABC's new trio had its share of errant passes and fumbles. Despite a rough beginning, Miller's debut didn't set back pro football announcing as far as the pundits predicted. 

The rant king did drop the ball more than a few times. His habit of laughing after his zingers was down right  annoying and unprofessional. He showed further inexperience by stepping on his partners before they finished  their thoughts several times during the evening. But hey, Frank Gifford did that for years. 

At one point after messing up a toss to partner Dan Fouts about Patriots QB Michael Bishop, Miller said, "He  (Bishop) must feel like I am right now -- things are coming fast and furious." 

To which Al Michaels quipped, "No, Toto we're not in a studio in Hollywood, are we?" Touché Al! Now that's  entertainment. 

Miller did fire off some funny lines. After ABC promoted their Republican convention coverage, he said, "The  Republicans and the DemocratsSthere's a couple of 4-12 teams." 

As for football analysis, Miller showed some chops when he talked about a quarterback's difficulty making  read progressions, referring to looking at the receivers in order during a play. Not bad for a rookie. 

By the second half Miller seemed to get over his nerves. He even took a shot at his employer when he said, "The people on 'Survivor' have better per diem. A surprised but obviously smiling Al Michaels said, he'd been waiting years to say that. 

Love Dennis Miller or hate him, last night proved the sanctity of pro football broadcasting is not in jeopardy.  Maybe the purists should think of it this way. Dennis Miller after one game is still an upgrade over Ted Baxter disguised as Boomer Esiason. 

TMac is one of those broadcast professional heroes who roam the sidelines of major sporting events so others in the world can see the action. If we're good, his columns will appear from time to time in this space.
 
 


See Ya Next Time!

(picture from NBC "Today" with "fan" motivation from Shock Radio WNEW, artwork by God.)


 
 
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