By Alan Pergament
Channel 4's 10 O’Clock newscast was really hot on Wednesday night.
It had a 7.3 rating on WNLO-TV, almost tripling the rating that Channel 2’s 10 p.m. news received on WUTV, and out-performing most network prime time shows on that night.
Why such a high rating?
I hate to give meteorologist Pope Don Paul ammunition to start any more lectures about the importance of weather, but it probably had something to do with the rare heat wave the area has been dealing with.
It certainly wasn’t because there was a lot of important news. I turned off Channel 2’s 11 p.m. news Wednesday about five minutes in because that’s how long it took to realize not much had happened that day.
Then I got an email from my editor Thursday morning that said "tell me you saw the end of Channel 2 News Wednesday night at 11."
I hadn't. I wondered if the station had asked some tough questions or held someone important accountable.
I had DVRed the rest of Channel 2’s 11 p.m. newscast so I immediately went to the end to see that there was so little news that MAD (Maryalice Demler) and the Boys (Scott Levin, Adam Benigni and Kevin O’Connell ) were discussing the controversial Rolling Stone cover featuring the accused Boston bomber. They talked for about 90 seconds and the cover that disgusted them was on the screen for 30 seconds.
In other words, Channel 2’s news had turned into the 9 a.m. portion of the "Today" show where the second string anchor team discusses current events.
I'm not sure if my earlier critique of MAD's commentaries had anything to do with it, but she seemed to need the support of her peers in condemning the cover. "A very flattering cover of the young man," said Demler.
"This is usually reserved for celebrities," said an aghast Levin.
"Committing something as allegedly as heinous as that and wind up on the cover," said Benigni. “What kind of message is that?"
O’Connell weighed in by noting Rolling Stone had the right to do it. Just when I was thinking how sad it was that O'Connell was the station's journalistic voice of reason, he added the cover inflames people and praised the stores that have declined to carry the magazine.
"Agreed. It will be interesting to see if other sponsors (I think she meant advertisers) hit the road, too," concluded Demler.
What kind of message is that from these journalists? It is one thing that regular viewers don’t understand journalism, but you expect people in the business to understand it. Channel 2’s anchors inflamed its viewers, many of whom went to its Facebook page on Thursday to describe the cover in harsh terms. What did the station expect after its unanimous condemnation of the cover? I was actually quite surprised that about a quarter of the viewers in a Channel 4 poll Thursday about the cover supported it.
I understand the outrage in Boston and for that reason I would have suggested to Rolling Stone that it consider sending a regional cover to the New England area of Willie Nelson or someone else in the edition, even though that may have also led to criticism.
I agree with those experts who say the cover -- which reportedly was of the alleged bomber’s Facebook picture -- also could have been viewed as a symbolic way to depict his innocence before he turned into what the article concluded on the cover was a "monster."
As I've said before, MAD and the boys should stick to reporting the news rather than commenting on it. A better use of time would have been to have spent the 90 seconds interviewing media experts on both sides of the issue to help explain journalism to viewers (and Channel 2's own anchors).
I've also said before that Channel 2 should cut down on the commentary on stories or else it will add to the annoying aspects of its its news style that potentially can turn off viewers.
Interestingly, Channel 2 was in third place at 11 p.m. Wednesday behind Channel 4 and Channel 7, which got a huge bump from its weak ABC lead-in.
You wonder if “The Newsroom” might address the Rolling Stone cover controversy next season. By the way, the show's creator, Aaron Sorkin, gave a shout out to his college alma mater in Sunday's premiere, noting that one expert on a panel was associated with the Maxwell School. Syracuse University alumni in the area know that is SU’s graduate school of public affairs and citizenship. Sorkin graduated from SU in 1983 with a degree in musical theater (thus, all the musical-related dialogue in "The Newsroom") and was the much-praised commencement speaker for the class of 2012.
Williamsville’s Jacob Artist, who joined the cast of "Glee" last season, will be back as a regular this season. The premiere of the Fox series apparently is going to be delayed because of the death of Cory Monteith from a drug overdose combined with alcohol. The writers need to find an appropriate
way to honor Monteith and his character, Finn, without looking like they are trying to exploit the situation. "Glee" isn’t usually a preachy show, but one imagines an anti-drug and alcohol message will either be included in the show or in a public service announcement after the episode ends.