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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, April 03, 2009

If it bleeds it leads

Desperate times call for desperate measures. And the WHDH-TV 7 news operation is getting pretty desperate.

Following a long slide that took them from first to third at 11 p.m. in the Boston market -- and with anemic ratings in a head-to-head with WFXT-TV an hour earlier -- the folks who dumbed down Boston TV news have come up with a brain storm they think will vault them to the top: more news.

Only this time they are making it. The powers that be at WHDH are telling Andover native Jay Leno to take a hike on his new 10 p.m. weekend show. In his place they want to run still more car crashes, fires and consumer scam stories.

This is clearly a station in trouble. It fires two male anchors -- pretending that Randy Price "retired." It then promoted the novel concept that two women anchors would somehow make the nightly parade of trash and crash more authoritative.

At the risk of riling legions of Sarah Palin fans, the dump Leno move is an effort to put lipstick on a pig of a newscast that just ain't selling.

It's an odd thing for me to say there's too much news. But that's because what passes on television (and lately in both newspapers) isn't really vital stuff. The economy is tanking. Locally we have a state facing a $4 billion hole in its budget and the impending major surgery on safety net programs.

Yet tune in Channels 4, 5, 7 and 25 across the day and you are treated to fires, crashes and the usual staple of a format long ago accurately stereotyped as "if it bleeds it leads." Watching WBZ-TV at 11 p.m. on Monday night, the "lead" stories were a follow-up to a Saturday murder and a Friday assault.

And don't let anyone kid you this is about public service. It is about cash. The Frances Rivera-Kim Khazei team was tanking at 10 p.m. on WLVI-TV opposite WFXT-TV. It was running third at 11 p.m. It is in trouble and that means the powers that be at Channel 7 need to find yet another way to bring in the bucks.

Same for NBC, which is running an anemic fourth in the national network race. Moving Leno into the 10 p.m. slot was a decision for them that many people don't even bother with late evening local news and they could capitalize on the Leno audience who can now go to sleep earlier.

The Peacock Network is none too amused (although note to the Herald online headline writer, they can't strip the station's license, only its affiliation). But there's not a lot you can do when you are dead last. Who's going to take you?

In the end, I suspect WHDH will pull the plug on the Rivera-Khazei combo on 56 (which it also owns) and move Leno into that slot. And their next "innovation" will probably be a 90-minute newscast that runs from 10 p.m. to Conan O'Brien.

That just increases the odds you will be featured on 7News if you get into a fender-bender.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Chris Rich said...

Lewis Mumford pointed out long ago that the main function of media degenerates to 'glorifying the deeds of thugs and imbeciles'. If you want useful stuff, you hit the web.

The bleeding leads probably lead to bleeding revenue over time as more and more people revel in the amazing variety and quality of web resources leaving the old media with the mouth breather demographic that needs a daily dose of cheap sensation.

April 04, 2009 1:05 PM  

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