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Some educational comments about President's trip to UB

By Alan Pergament

I treated President Obama's trip to the University at Buffalo this morning to talk about reducing costs of higher education like it was a Buffalo Bills home game.

In other words, I was in traffic listening to the pregame show analysis on radio (88.7 FM) and got into my seat just in time to see the kickoff of the President's higher education game plan.

With coverage smoothly anchored by Jim Ranney, the public radio station did a strong job explaining the route the President was taking to Alumni Arena and describing the anticipation of the President’s arrival and what he might say.

While listening, I passed Charlie the Butcher on Wehrle Drive and saw a lot of spectators expecting the President to drop by for a beef on weck. He saved his money. Or ours.

It wasn't easy getting home, but I made it into my seat in front of my TV set in time to channel surf as Channel 2, Channel 4 and Channel 7 filled time before the Big O made his remarks.

Here's the Top 10 things I noticed after getting into my seat:

1. New Channel 7 anchor Cole Heath seemed really interested in how Channel 7 veteran anchor Keith Radford felt about doing his job. He first asked Radford about the security the media had to deal with before asking him to compare President Obama's trip to those of previous presidential trips here. Apparently sensing how little people care about the media’s discomfort, Radford smartly said security wasn't bad at all for the media. He was more enlightening on the comparison question, saying President Bush seemed more serious than President Obama and that President Clinton was in the middle. That's one reason why it is good to have a news veteran around.

2. The UB crowd showed its intelligence when several audience members laughed after President Obama said some of his plans might require action from Congress and added "we’ll have to work on that." The President and Congress haven't been able to work out many things out over the last five years.

3. Channel 2 and Channel 4 both put together panels of former local Democratic and Republican leaders and they seemed to be in agreement that the President's trip here was a success. Of course, former Erie County Democratic Party chairman Len Lenihan was the President's biggest fan, saying the President hit "a home run."

4. Channel 2 was smart to add a panel of local educators to assess the speech and essentially defend their profession.

5. Channel 4's Diana Fairbanks anchored the station's coverage, with Jacquie Walker on vacation, and did a strong job. Walker has been one of the station's education experts and has two sons who have graduated college so I'm betting she missed covering the big story as any news junkie would have.

6. Channel 2’s Melissa Holmes also did a strong job anchoring her station’s coverage but I had to laugh when she asked Maryalice Demler what she saw five minutes before the President arrived at Alumni Arena. "I see a lot of anticipation," said Demler.

7. I'm told that Channel 2 did the best job of any station delivering the anticipation while I was listening to radio and in traffic as it carried a lengthy pregame show while the other two channels stayed with regular programming. Full disclosure: I was told that by Channel 2, which apparently felt what happened before the President actually was here to make news was more important than I thought it was. 

8. Channel 2's Demler was the only one I saw bring up the President’s flub of making Congressman Brian Higgins the mayor of Buffalo before correcting himself and making a self-deprecating joke about his mistake. I'm sure all Republicans were thinking if President Bush had made that mistake it would have been front-page news. Demler asked Mayor Byron Brown about the presidential flub and he took it well, adding he knows the President knows who the mayor is.

9. The panel of experts on the stations couldn’t compete for analysis of the visit with the 2-year-old or 3-year-old boy who was asked by Channel 7’s Ed Reilly what he thought.

“It is so cool,” said the cute kid.

10. As if that analysis didn’t say it all, Reilly then asked a middle school girl what she thought.

“It was so cool to go back to school and tell my friends I got to see President Obama’s bus," she said.

Not the President, the President’s bus.

After those interviews were played, Channel 7’s Heath said, “I think that little kid said it all. It was so cool.”

It sounded a lot cooler and a lot smarter coming from a 3-year-old than from a 27-year-old anchor.



Television | TV news
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About Talkin' TV

Alan Pergament

Alan Pergament

Alan Pergament has continued to blog about television topics since retiring in 2010 as The News' television writer after 28 years on the beat. From local on-air personalities to ratings to the latest on network and cable programming, he keeps you informed.

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