July 12, 2005

The News on the News

So, as I was mentioning yesterday afternoon, The Wendy Garner Show in the mornings on our local NBC affiliate only has four more days before the changeover to the new crew of anchors. I had heard rumblings about a potential change from the show's namesake (and for the record, the actual name of the program is "Today in Alabama") a couple of weeks ago, but for obvious reasons she couldn't let on exactly what was happening, until the station released the story to other media outlets. The first was a story in the Birmingham Post-Herald (motto "We're Not The Birmingham News--No, Really, We're Not!) which is where I first heard of who the replacements would be.

Doing a quick bit of Googling directed me to the stories I linked to yesterday, along with this one about the Pittsburgh Pugilist leaving her former place of employ to spend more time with her kids--certainly a noble thing to do, although coming on the heels of her public indelicacies didn't really sound all that plausible. Particularly of note is this quote from the article:

[...] In October 2002, Redmond was sentenced to community service after pleading no contest to slapping a former WPXI producer, Roberta Petterson, girlfriend of former PCNC "NightTalk" host John McIntire.

"That has nothing to do with her departure," Maday said.

"I figured some people would ask this, but really it is about my family and children," Redmond said. "If this was about last year, it would have happened last year."

Regardless, Redmond's departure is probably a boon to the station's image and a relief to executives. Last year's incident and Channel 11's handling of the situation did not sit well with some viewers. [emphasis added] [...]

Now, in the greater scheme of things, this whole tawdry little exercise really doesn't amount to much, but I do find it fascinating how this bit of factual information gets spun by folks in the local market. Obviously, NBC13 wasn't about to mention it, but people ARE able to Google just as well as I can, and the station was starting to get some rumblings from other members of the Fourth Estate about her history.

Enter the knights on shining steeds at the Birmingham News, where this incident is noted thusly (from the article in Sunday's paper):

[...] Since NBC 13 announced last week that it hired Redmond, a spate of e-mails has made the rounds about an incident that happened in August 2002, while she was the late-night news anchor at WPXI in Pittsburgh.

A former WPXI producer accused Redmond of striking her at a party. Redmond pleaded no-contest - which is not an admission of guilt - and agreed to perform three hours of community service.

The station stuck behind Redmond, and when she left to spend more time with her young children, it was her decision, WPXI general manager Ray Carter says.

"People can speculate, but the incident had happened a full year and a half before we parted company," Carter says. "If we were going to get rid of Gina, we probably would have done it right after the incident." [...]

Clever on several levels--first of all, the insinuation that the whole thing is one of those Internet things--just a "spate of e-mails," that "made the rounds."

You KNOW how those INTERNET people are, right? Always spating the rounds.

Again, doing a bit of searching online, you can see very well that the story was covered by actual newspapers--this wasn't just some whispering campaign. Second, if you read those articles, the incident wasn't just one of those "she said/she said" sorts of things--the incident actually happened. Not allegedly, not rumored. Third, the nolo contendre plea itself was disputed, when the defendant decided she didn't understand what she'd plead to. Which is kinda sad for a reporter, because they certainly do put themselves forward as experts on everything. And despite the continuted protestations to the contrary, the controversy did have a deleterious effect on the station.

Again though, what does it really matter? Not really that much, but it does point out a flaw about our beloved news scribes, in that they seem to be quite willing to cover up their own biases and indescretions, yet can't quite seem to extend that to others. How many thousands of words have been typed about that dastardly John Bolton who once made someone uncomfortable by being short and cross with them?! Grind him up! How DARE he raise his voice!

Yet, you turn around and see something like this, and you wonder why it can't be covered without sycophancy. Not that it's necessary to go out of the way to embarrass the woman, (although if this were a local businesswoman, she'd be pilloried), but it would be nice to not so airily dismiss uncomfortable truths for the sake of a happy little paper story that makes the teevee boys happy. The unwillingness of the old-line media to apply the same standards of ethics to itself that it requires of others, and the insistence that its actions are driven by only the purest of motives, is one of the reasons for the rise of alternative media. Not as a replacement for the media, but as a tool to insure what's being reported is accurate. A free press is vital to a democratic nation, but it sure would be nice to have one whose members didn't seem to think they had been granted some sort of magical superiority and freedom from scrutiny themselves.

Oh well.

ANYway, going back to the whole reason for the change in the first place--poor Channel 13 has struggled mightily for years to make some headway against the local Fox station's morning show, which by dint of its ancient history stretching back to the early 1960s when it was "The Tom York Morning Show", has long been the leader in the market. Everyone has tried to knock it off, but it keeps happily, blithely plodding along. That molasses-like pace is one of the reasons I started watching the NBC show--there's more coverage of a greater variety of stories, and I don't have to endure listening to someone read the news and mispronouncing every other word. Basically just a better quality show, even if not as many people watch it.

But, the ratings are what count (what a shock, eh?) and local managers are always under pressure to get the numbers up. Which is fine--it's their job to try stuff, but this doesn't seem like a particularly well-thought-out move. New faces are nice to have, but when the focus is intended to be locally oriented, it seems strange to bring in someone with absolutely no tie to the area (discounting completely any misgivings one might have about her need to wear padded mittens). Sports guy (and a nice guy as well) Jim Dunaway, the guy counterpart in the new anchor mix, is already part of the local scene and the station, and it just seems odd that if the station could promote him, why not one of the other host of folks they have on payroll? Or, why not hire somebody else from outside for the position--I hear Mike Tyson needs a job.

It all just seems like a very odd change, and not one that was given much thought, or with any concern about what viewers might think. But I suppose that's asking too much, isn't it?

Posted by Terry Oglesby at July 12, 2005 09:24 AM

Dang, if we're going to get infobabes with shady pasts, why can't we get that one that got nekkid for spring break? She'd be right at home covering the hurricanes in Fort Walton.

Posted by: skillzy at July 12, 2005 10:17 AM

It is a mystery for which I have no answer.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at July 12, 2005 10:24 AM

Well it certainly has gotten a lot of press. Maybe that was the er um logic behind the move.

Posted by: Sarah G. at July 12, 2005 10:26 AM

That's true. Which I think points out that if they'd hired Mike Tyson, and had a steel cage match between the two, the ratings would have just blown the roof off! Talk about a press event! Talk about something that would have people talking! OH! AND THEY COULD RIDE SHARKS!

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at July 12, 2005 10:37 AM

My hubby couldn't stop talking about how great Elizabeth Artz's breasts were the other day when we had it on the hurricane coverage.
I hadn't heard anything about Wendy Garner leaving. I'm sure they'll get some more anchors and reporters who aren't from the South.

Posted by: UziQ at July 12, 2005 12:56 PM

Say--you must be married to Skillzy!

I just wish her hair wasn't so danged stiff-looking.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at July 12, 2005 01:08 PM

Saaayyyyy, I never talk about her boobs. I'm smart enough to keep that stuff to myself.

And what is my wife doing here? LOOK HONEY, A BADGER!!

Posted by: skillzy at July 12, 2005 01:11 PM

My husband and I don't discuss weather forecaster breasts, instead we try to guess if they are preggers. For the longest time the weather channel had an unending supply of pregnant forecasters. We liked how their profiles fit into the eastern seaboard (tummies jutting out below Va and NC).

Posted by: Sarah G. at July 12, 2005 01:32 PM

Man--I gotta get cable!

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at July 12, 2005 01:33 PM

Nope, I'm married to one Dane Bramage who posts on http://www.juggernuts.com

He is obsessed with the breasts.

Posted by: UziQ at July 12, 2005 01:56 PM

I have been in Birmingham for 7 years now, and have not been able to figure out how the morning shows rank the way they do. Fox 6 is painful to watch and I can't even remember anything about the other shows. I have always been a NBC man, even with my general distaste for Wendy and Ken. They got the makeover of the morning program 1/2 right. Gina Redmond is not very talented and also hard to look at. Elizabeth Artz would have been wonderful to wake up with every morning

Posted by: Panic at August 2, 2005 09:00 PM

Careful now--you're about to make me jump into my Wendy Defender superhero outfit and deliver all sorts of Old Testament-style smiting!

I do realize everyone has their own favorites, though--Skillzy's another one who looooooves his Elizabeth Artz. I think that's the oddest thing about it all--NBC13 has a pretty deep talent pool of folks they could have used just as easily as an outsider, but for some reason they figured this would be a winner of a decision.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at August 2, 2005 09:09 PM


Posted by: MIKE WILSON at August 19, 2005 06:04 AM

let me just say I've met most of the anchors there... and close up, I am in absolute love with wendy garner... she's got that "she's a very sexy mom" look about her. i would take her for my own news coverage anyday over anyone else there...

Posted by: Wendy Lover at August 20, 2005 07:06 PM

Debra Desvignes (sp?) works out at the gym I go to. She is always working out with another NBC 13 personality. I believe they are an item.

To each their own regarding their favorite newscaster, but I don't really think it is reasonable to think that Wendy is in the same league as Elizabeth or Debra.

Elizabeth is either married or engaged. I married, but I still love her. My wife is ok with it for now

Posted by: Panic at August 27, 2005 07:39 PM

Though I agree that both Liz and Debra are pretty hot... I would still take Wendy. Elizabeth is married to someone at the NBC station, I believe, but I dont know about Debra.

Posted by: Wendy Lover at September 7, 2005 10:52 PM