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Ch.2's flood coverage astounds; More on Fairbanks leaving

By Alan Pergament

Leftovers before the Memorial Day holiday:

I don't know why Channel 2 lost the 6 p.m. news battle to Channel 4 during the May sweeps for the first time in six sweeps periods.

But I thought there was some visible evidence of poor news judgment at 6 p.m. Wednesday, the final day of the sweeps.

The NBC affiliate spent six minutes at the top of the newscast reporting on the floods in Falconer and Dewittville.

That's right, six minutes with reporters Pete Gallivan and Ron Plants telling us how bad things were a good distance from where most television news viewers in this market live.

I know television loves weather stories and flooding provides good video that it needs. A viewer has to feel for what the residents in Falconer and Dewittville are going through. But flooding  usually doesn't impact many Western New Yorkers, which is why the story landed on the back page of a section of Thursday''s Buffalo News rather than the front page.

Channel 2's coverage seemed to be an endurance test. It practically was telling viewers "please change the channel."

I kept thinking it probably would take six minutes for me to find Dewittville on a map. That is if Dewittville is on a map. When I asked two friends where Dewittville was, two of them said near Syracuse. They were confusing Dewitt with Dewittville.

In any event, without any casualties it was a strange news choice on the final night of the sweeps. Channel 4 focused on a police brutality investigation and the Molly's Pub case before spending about 20 seconds on a voiceover about the floods.

Twenty seconds or six minutes?

The newscast battle was a draw, with each station earning an 8.9 rating at 6 p.m. Wednesday. I think Channel 2 viewers stuck with the flood newscast because they couldn’t believe what they were seeing.

Not even the local ties to runner-up Jena Irene Asciutto helped bring many local viewers to the announcement of the “American Idol” winner Wednesday night. The bloated two-hour program averaged a routine 6.7 rating on WUTV and actually dipped to a 6.3 from 9:45 p.m. to 10 p.m. about the time Caleb Johnson was announced as the winner. The 10 p.m. to 10:15 time period that included Johnson’s performance had a 7.2 rating. It might have been inflated by the number of people joining to watch Channel 2's 10 p.m. newscast. The first six minutes at 10 p.m. were for "Idol," the next nine minutes for Channel 2's newscast. Nationally, the ratings for the "Idol" finale were the lowest in history. Interestingly, Channel 2 dumped the flood story way down in its 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts.

In a way, it is fitting that Channel 4 anchor Diana Fairbanks would leave the station in a month so her husband could take a great job in their former home of Traverse City, Mich.

Fairbanks' husband, Brian Lawson, moved here for Fairbanks when she joined Channel 4 in January of 2012. Lawson and their daughter stayed in Traverse City to finish the school year in June and he started a new job shortly after coming here. In other words, she is leaving here for his job a few years after he left his job so she could come here. Lawson is going back to his old job as director of public relations at Crystal Mountain Resort with additional responsibilities.

In a Facebook post Thursday, Fairbanks wrote: "I've moved a lot in my lifetime, but never felt homesick until I left Traverse City.... Thanks to the great friends I met in Buffalo. I can't wait for you to visit."

It doesn't seem like she plans to return to television news.

In a response to a remark from a Facebook friend, she wrote: "I think it's time to try something beyond the anchor desk."

Memo to Channel 2 Jonah Javad: Please don't call Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane "Patty" anymore as you did Wednesday. I’ve never heard anyone in the American media (Canadian media might be a different story) refer to the South Buffalo native  as “Patty.” If you need to give him a nickname, his teammates refer to him as “Kaner.”




Sports | Sports on TV | 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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