Deggans' Nine Media Mistakes in '07: Part One
I was surprised as anyone to find I had written one of the most-viewed stories featured on Tampabay.com this year. Imagine my greater surprise when I realized the story in question wasn't about Don Imus, or media consolidation or Barack Obama's unique handling of race or the tragic deaths of local media luminaries: it was about shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge's wedding.
I'm happy for the honor, really. But this also underscores a serious concern: In an era where the St. Petersburg Times' most popular online stories involve unstoppable hiccups, an armless driver eluding police and Bubba, where is the future of serious news?
In that spirit, taking up where my post on the death of the local anchor king left off, here's my list of nine more media mistakes from 2007, split into two parts:
9) Local Media Cutbacks -- The Tampa Tribune has laid off more than 70 people companywide; the Sarasota Herald-Tribune laid off more than 20 people before offering all its over-50 employees buyouts; the St. Petersburg Times closed its Citrus County bureau, moved its Largo edition from daily to twice weekly and slimmed its own workforce significantly. WFLA-Ch. 8 has used an automated production system to eliminate many of its technical workers and WTOG-Ch. 44 moved much of its operations to an out-of-town control facility. How long before every local media outlet finds itself doing less with less?
8) Sopranos Finale Ends HBO's Innovative Streak -- Forget about the debate over whether the Sopranos finale was any good or not (longtime blog readers know where I stand on the subject); the end of this legendary mob drama also caps HBO's long streak as TV's most innovative channel. While upstarts such as Showtime, AMC and FX brought the year's most compelling new series, HBO gave us a dreary take on modern sexuality and David Milch's worst series since Big Apple.
7) Media frenzies Over Celebrities Behaving Badly -- Yes, this comes from the guy who argued Britney and Anna Nicole Smith were legitimate news stories. But cable TV news in particular has overgorged on these news tidbits, like a 400-pound guy who can't lay off the Big Macs. And the result is newscasts clogged with a lot of inconsequential gunk masquerading as hot reporting.
6) FCC Ignores Public Outcry Over Media Consolidation -- Even newspaper companies agree that the newly loosened rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission allowing media companies to own a TV station and newspaper in the same market probably won't help much. And despite no real data to the contrary and loads of pulbic hearings filled with average folks decrying the move FCC Chair Kevin Martin pushed it through, anyway.
5) Local News Deaths Amid Scandal -- It would have been a bad enough year locally if WFLA weather forecaster John Winter and former WTVT news anchor Hugh Smith had simply passed away. But both deaths -- which took away popular news figures admired by many locally -- also had the bitter whiff of scandal. Winter killed himself shortly after admitting an affair; Smith's 27-year career as a seminal local anchor was cut short by a second prostitution arrest -- something every local news outlet had to acknowledge in his obituary.
More to come in another post. In the meantime, feel free to post your own suggestions here.