The Producer Page: June 1999

IN THIS ISSUE...

  • Local TV News Website Critiques (Lots of 'em.)
  • Happenings (Lots of them for the summer. Read carefully!)
  • Producers on the Move
  • People Ask for Help/Advice
  • Job Openings
  • About the Newsletter

  • WEBSITE CRITIQUES
    Compiled by Alice Main

    I started this newsletter back in 1995, and one of the first things I did was review some of the TV news web sites. I did another, similar article a few months later. You can find those articles online in The Producer Book, in Chapter 6. As we all know, the webworld has changed a lot since then, so I decided to do things differently this time. I got help. A team of volunteer critics took on the task of checking out all the TV news web sites in a given market. The critics looked at the websites between 8 and 10 p.m. on May 12. I chose the markets, somewhat randomly, then assigned them to the critics, again somewhat randomly. I made sure the critic did not live in the market to which he was being assigned. I say "somewhat random" about the choosing of the markets, because I didn't put them all in a hat and draw. Instead, I looked through a list of markets and every so often I grabbed one. I tried to get a variety of market sizes and geographic locations. The markets covered are: Albuquerque, Baltimore, Chattanooga, Hartford/New Haven, Tucson, Portland (OR), Little Rock, Kansas City, Green Bay/Appleton, Sioux City. The critics were encouraged to write in any style they chose, and according to whatever criteria they chose. The results are a snapshot, a one-time look at the websites in question. So, here they are . . . The Critiques.


    TV NEWS WEBSITES OF ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO
    By Jason DeRusha, KWQC-TV, Quad Cities, IA/IL

    OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: This market has three stations with websites:

    • KASA (Fox) www.kasa.com
    • KOB (NBC) www.kobtv.com
    • KRQE (CBS) www.cbssouthwest.com
    • The ABC affiliate does not have a web address. KOB and KRQE both have local news sections. KOB had the most updated information, KRQE had information that was dated—some appeared to be from the day before. All stations excel at using their web sites as a promotional tool: anchor bios were prominent, as were station histories, program schedules, etc. KASA (which has no local news on the air, nor on the web) does an excellent job of giving community information on upcoming events. KOB and KASA both had entertainment on their sites—KOB had a Hangman game and Tic Tac Toe; KASA had all sorts of trivia contest, and surveys (for Mother's Day, who would be the best mom? Marge Simpson, Peggy Hill...). These web sites had a lot of unrealized potential. The big news story was about a bomb, planted in a garbage can in a local school. That happened Tuesday, the day before I surveyed the sites. There could have been much more information on-line, and updated, in addition to the short news item. KASA did an excellent job of putting weather information online, with up to date current conditions for a number of cities, while KOB provided a link to the National Weather Service. There's great information on the NWS site, but it's the same as getting the weather from your local people. KASA did a great job of putting community events and information online, while the other sites were lacking in that area.

    Here's an analysis of each site in detail:

      NEWS: Doesn't have local news, but its web site has links to national headlines through a service called "Comtex."

      OTHER AREAS: This is a clear, well-organized web site. It had a good list of local events and happenings, and has a number of links to other New Mexico web sites. The events area also has links to the organizations that have web addresses. There's a section called "About KASA" that is extremely useful. It has an online satellite waiver form, which is likely quite helpful for some of the rural areas in the Albequerque market; and a nice history section about the station. KASA also has a jobs section, with current station openings.

      NEWS: This site follows the typical MSNBC local web formula. There is a good amount of local news, you follow the link to the MSNBC local section, and the story is there. KOB puts still frames of video within the body of the story. On the Wednesday night I checked the web site, the big story was a bomb incident in a local high school. Two were arrested, KOB said the names hadn't been released. That was more updated than the KRQE web site, which only had one arrest. The other story was about an early morning shooting—which appeared to be dated information (although it was still from Wednesday).

      WEATHER: There were links to the National Weather Service local site, and an updated, locally produced five-day forecast. Unfortunately, the web site proclaimed the beauties of the Pinpoint WeatherNet (weather stations at local schools), but that information wasn't online. There was a pollen count, but it was one day old.

      OTHER AREAS: Station bios were very well laid out, although the typeface was small, and difficult to read. Anchors were included, as was one reporter—the head of the investigative unit. The community calendar was still under construction. There were links to movie reviews from Sara Voorhees, and job listings (does anyone want an executive producer job in a bureau?).

    • KRQE (CBS) www.cbssouthwest.com

      NEWS: The layout followed the typical CBS web site formula. There were more local news on the page than the KOB site, but the stories were all dated. The bomb story didn't have as much information as KOB did, although having the stories from a day or two ago could be helpful to someone who missed yesterday's news. One glaring problem, was a link to information about a special report on "Wrestling Obsession." It was to air May 6 (more than a week prior to the check of this site) and it had no information, telling viewers to look back after the story aired.

      WEATHER: This is where this page is superior. It had current conditions, five-day forecasts, links to weather maps—and there was information for a number of different cities in the viewing area. You could get the current conditions in your hometown (very useful, considering the range of weather in that region).

      OTHER AREAS: The bios were easy to read, but included anchors only. There was a nice program schedule on this site, and a decent history of the station.

    TV NEWS WEBSITES OF BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
    By Kyle McAlister, News Director KTAB-TV

    I looked at websites from two major angles: 1) the novice surfer who is just looking around 2) the serious surfer who probably still lives at home, and has already seen the new Star Wars movie 6 times.

    Some of the things I was looking for were clutter, aesthetics, local news, weather, national news, links to anchors, links to franchises, interaction and feed back areas. Also, I wanted to see how easy it would be for the "first time" surfer to find the site, whether someone can get everything they want in just one visit, and whether the web site looks like a giant commercial.

    Whew.

    In a nutshell, here's what I found:

    • WJZ, CBS 13
    • Their site was very easy to find, wjz.com took me there on the first try. Being a CBS station, this website is pretty full of CBS stuff. The local stuff kinda gets lost. There are a lot of sights to grab the eye (as opposed to just text links) but it is very busy. For the novice, it might be a bit intimidating. Front page was mostly National News with a good link to local news, but it took a few clicks to get there. I went to the weather page, but on May 12, the radar was from 10:12 am, May 9. As far as getting to the anchors, once I got there it was a good site, but it was buried, and took a lot of clicks. Hard to find any links to local WJZ franchises. The links to programming were done very well. And there was a lot there, so there's no way I could get it all in one visit. Didn't look like a giant commercial. Overall the site is a nice one, but maybe too much dedication to CBS links.

    • WMAR, ABC 2
    • Again, an easy site to find at wmar.com. This one I feel is too cluttered, and it's mostly text based without images to "break things up." This site would probably overwhelm the "novice" surfer, but give the "surf junkie" hours of entertainment. On first glance it's hard to find exactly what you want, nothing catches the eye. I had a hard time finding any local news. The news archive (on May 12) had one story from May 8, May 7 and then all the way back to April 2. The weather page was nice with a great radar link, but it was cluttered by the "advertisers directory." The anchors link had information, and good feedback opportunities. Franchises were again available, but lost in the clutter and small fonts. Had good links to ABC programming, but fonts were very small. Yes, it would make me want to come back, but only if I really wanted to wade through the material. There was also quite a bit of advertiser space. Overall, for the "junkie" this is heaven. For the novice surfer, it may be just too much.

    • WBAL, NBC 11
    • wbal.com is a radio station, wbaltv is this one. The Front page had a lot to offer, but was organized well. It gave me a good overview when asking "where do I want to go?" Good selection for getting to local news right from the main page. I liked the weather page with the BIG radar page, and associated weblinks. I didn't like all the links to MSNBC. I felt like I had left the "local feel" of WBAL, and was lost in the "network world" of MSNBC. Liked the links for anchors, and this site had a lot of places for interaction. MSNBC provided a lot of video links. There were a lot of "sponsor" links on almost every page. Overall a good site, very concise.

    • WNUV, WB 54 and WBFF, Fox 45 (the same link)
    • wnuv.com and wbff.com not the ones. It was wnuv54.com and wbff45.com. This could be a problem for the first time surfer. I liked the initial look of this one the most. It is clean, simple, and not very cluttered. This had a pleasant look, and offered links to many places. I liked the fact that the anchors are right there in the front, bigger than anything else on the page. This, to me, stresses the "local" aspect. Didn't see many franchise links other than the "question of the day." Couldn't find any place to "feedback" to station. Liked the anchor links and the weather site. Couldn't find any national news links, though. Didn't look like a giant commercial, and didn't "overwhelm me" with information, but still made me want to come back. Overall, I liked this one for its simplicity. But, don't know if "simplicity" is what Fox viewers want. Maybe if this one were renamed "When Good Web Sites Attack?"

    TV NEWS WEBSITES OF CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE
    By Vidya Srinivas, Former Producer

    • WDEF: (CBS)
    • The CBS affiliate in Chattanooga has the best website of all the television stations in town. The site concentrates on the local news and is connected to some useful websites including some for children.

      APPEARANCE: The CBS eye and city skyline background are well defined. There is no clutter. No news pictures merely the anchor pics. They have the ability to scan maps but not pics of the local news. Anchor team looks good but do I have to know everyone’s favorite food and the fact that they can afford to vacation in the Cayman islands while lesser mortals (viewers/readers) can’t afford it?

      NEWS CONTENT: Good story on taxes and well written but it seemed editorialized. Water company settlement could have been more detailed. They had a scoop there why didn’t they write about it instead of telling us to download those long documents which they say will take a while. The news was updated this afternoon. Good sports coverage Weather well done ... watch for spelling errors or was it an intentional pun (war weather?)

    • WDSI (FOX)
    • Takes the second place and it is because they are not as well connected as the CBS affiliate and I can’t understand why Programs and KFC have to share the spotlight with the news.

      APPEARANCE: They are definitely the best looking site... I’d say they are a bit on the flamboyant side but they are not sore to the eyes. Some great pics. Their news layout is good. The personality site is kind of curious with the anchors/reporters heads sticking out of boxes, you know, like they’ve been guillotined.

      NEWS: They did a great job covering the noon news but someone seems to have forgotten the rest of the day altogether. If the news was lined up the way it is shown I do question the producer's news judgment. I was looking for news or a tease for the 10pm show on the site that says 10pm show but all I got were some nice pics of the anchors, so I was disappointed.

    • WTVC (ABC)
    • This one ranks third on my list. Connects you to a bunch of websites but asking me to click on one to win 20 bucks is a bit too much to expect of me. They don’t give you enough information on the stations newscasts. They mention the morning and evening ones but where did the 11pm show go... don’t they have one? Also why would I want to know about Thursday’s show when Wednesday is still alive. There were no promotions for the 11pm show.

      APPEARANCE: Reasonably practical but a trifle boring, they could definitely do with some color, I’d say. Their personality site is interesting.

      NEWS CONTENT: They stayed local but it is obvious they are the crime station in town. Every bit of news they detailed was related to death and destruction. They just teased the tax story nothing more. WX:The local forecast took too long to download. I don’t suppose they have anyone who loves working on their websites.

      WRCB (NBC) The NBC affiliate does not have its web page up as yet. Spoke with them, they said they should be up soon.

    TV NEWS WEBSITES OF HARTFORD/NEW HAVEN
    By Tad Davis, Producer, WHOtv Des Moines, tadman5@home.com

    Overview: All four major network stations have comprehensive websites that are updated every couple of hours. Each site uses professional graphics, good basic layouts, and includes some special unique features. It's clear each station in this market has put a lot of time and effort into developing their sites. Each site is packed with information and links..sometimes too many. The UPN station in this market also has news as well as two low power spanish stations: Telemundo and Univision (no local websites).

      SITE LAYOUT: simple design=fast download.

      OPENING PAGE: local news headlines at top, ABC national news scrolling on side.

      NEWS: large number of current headlines, ABC8 or ap symbol at top shows source.

      WEATHER: live superdoppler, school closing information.

      SPORTS: long complete stories and scores

      SPECIAL FEATURES: weather forecast clips available on real audio player, also ride along on chopper cam with real audio..actual flights or promo introducing chopper. access to investigations and special reports material from opening page website question of the day, topical notes from news director explaining coverage and issues.

    • WTIC FOX (www.fox61.com)
    • SITE LAYOUT: simple graphics and background=fast download

      OPENING PAGE: simple menu bar gives instant access to news, programming...

      NEWS: only four or five local stories, special assignment info

      WEATHER: current conditions, comprehensive maps and animations

      SPORTS: local games scores, major league teams scores, and headlines

      SPECIAL FEATURES: feedback—you can submit story ideas online, also "be part of a story"...station asks for help finding people work stories they're working on. "student news" partner ship with local school, students present stories important to them or their schools. online coupon area, online fox61 merchandise store, star wars update link

    • WFSB CBS (www.wfsb.com)
    • SITE LAYOUT: graphic intensive site=slow download, CBS content mix.

      OPENING PAGE: easy navigation. Bar at top of page, current wx conditions.

      NEWS: Looks like cut and pasted AP Newsagenda, but it's up to date.

      WEATHER: 5day forecast, comprehensive maps, school closings -Sports: national headlines only, limited local content, no local scores.

      SPECIAL FEATURES: link to sex offender registry, online polls, editorials, access to stations special franchises

    • WVIT NBC (www.nbc30.com)
    • SITE LAYOUT: graphics intensive=slow. One word: confusing.Cluttered layout: big ads at top of page, small navigation bars at top hard to see, especially for first time user.

      OPENING PAGE: big ads at top make this look like a cheap sponsored site, they load before the station logo does.

      NEWS: moving headlines roll up on screen ... hope you read fast, you can stop them by moving your cursor over them, but it's confusing for first time user. There are also two news pages: one hotlinked from the menu bar takes you to the local news pages with rolling headlines. The other takes you to msnbc were there are local pictures to go with the stories. Why are there two pages??

      WEATHER: forecast page graphics very poor, looks like built with crayons.

      SPORTS: links and schedules...no headlines.

      SPECIAL FEATURES: community calendar online, extensive local web links to government and schools.

    TV NEWS WEBSITES OF TUCSON, ARIZONA
    By Anthony Reed, Producer, KOMU-TV, Columbia/Jefferson City, MO

    I really found all of the websites in Tucson to be pretty disappointing. I've seen much better websites in much smaller markets. In general, each of the websites was very simple and seemingly low-maintenance for the stations (as if someone just kind of slopped together the site and checks it every week or so). I strongly suspect all of them are done in-house.

    • KGUN
    • I'll start with KGUN. It loaded pretty quickly, with its station logo at the top, followed by a franchise logo ("Crime Trackers") and way down at the bottom of the page is where the good stuff appears to be (note the word "appears"). The news link take you to a page with an ABC News link; no local news. The weather link? A link to the Weather Channel. Sports link? Links to ABC Sports, Monday Night Football, etc. The site basically had no substance. It was links to other places essentially. The anchor page was not surprisingly the best part of the site, but nothing to brag about. Definitely not a stand-out site. A presence on the web, but just barely.

    • KOLD
    • KOLD-TV 13 doesn't have the usual CBS clutter that most CBS station websites have. While it had a few more goodies than KGUN (like a virtual tour of the station, a pic of the new Chopper 13, and still pics of the station), it still fell decidedly short. "News" gives you news *links* (sound familiar?), "weather" gives you an NWS link, etc., etc. The site also has an on-line program schedule and a "still being updated" events page. Once again, I just can't see a viewer getting much use out of this site. The look of KOLD was slightly better than KGUN, though.

    • KVOA
    • KVOA 4 had the traditional NBC Interactive Neighborhood stuff on the left, about five news headlines/links on the right and wx currents next to them. It also had all of the other links on the top (news, programs, etc.) and a banner ad below it. The first headline was for Star Wars (a story I can't wait to be overhyped by us even more next week.. ahem... anyway...). I clicked on it, where I got what looked like copy from something off of NewsChannel—what appeared to an average viewer to maybe be local, but what I thought looked like it was made to be that way by the station. There was no reference to Tucson, but also no reference to any other locale, so I think the average viewer/surfer would presume it's local. The story was also written pretty poorly, too. Below it were all international MSNBC headline links. Once again, it appears there was no local news. And once again also, the look of the site was pretty amateurish.

      Overall, all of the stations' sites pretty much sucked (to be honest!). I got the impression that the GMs knew they had to get on the Internet bandwagon, bought a domain, got someone in promos or creative services to get a page up and running, and then they thought they were done and that there was no need to actually do anything with it afterwards.

    TV NEWS WEBSITES OF PORTLAND, OREGON
    By Deborah Stanley, Denver, Colorado

    I had four local news stations with websites to explore: UPN (KPTV), ABC (KATU), NBC (KGW) and CBS (KOIN). I decided to check out the web sites before I left work Wednesday, figuring I could see what changed when I visited again at 8:45 their time. Glad I did it from work with our ISDN line, KOIN and KGW were quite slow on my home computer, even with a 36.6 modem. I'll go station by station.

    • KPTV (UPN)

      This web site is more about promotion than getting local news. They had three stories on their main page, they didn't change in the 3.5 half hours between my visits. I searched to see if there was more news, I clicked on the 10pm news place and 6pm news and I got promo's for the anchor teams and shows. No more news. No news pictures or graphics, just copy.

    • KOIN (CBS)
    • Hey, found out Christopher Reeve is starting to walk, cool. This web site is very easy to read. They have 5 headlines on the front page (just a headline, no copy) and a button to click for more news. Inside there were 17 stories. Not sure how the web system works here, but quite a few stories credited the AP, not the local news team. Some did credit channel 6000 staff. After doing some surfing I found channel 6000 has some tie to KOIN, because there were links to humor pages and other things that came up with channel 6000 in the web site address. While some of the news stories were a couple days old, each one has a time on it at the top so you know when it was filed or updated, nice idea. There's an area to get information on their special reports. Not a lot of pictures, but that makes it faster to load on my computer. KOIN offers a place for email discussions, one topic had 28 responses, another had 4. One interesting note, you can sign up for an email with the headlines. (I should mention that between my visits 3 of the 5 stories on the front page changed)

    • KGW (NBC)
    • Dial up this home page and you'll find lots of graphics. (bad on my computer, but they look good) This web page offers tons! I found a link to many of the recent special reports (ie series, investigative, etc), school closings, cancelled events, links mentioneon newscasts, ski reports, weekend events, flight schedules and Y2K resources. It was very impressive. But.. where's the news? When you click on the links under news, you get those special reports scripts/info. I finally tried clicking on the sat truck and helicopter logos and VOILA, NEWS! Difficult to find, but once you figure it out, there are 41 stories. It appears 1 changed in the 3.5 hours between my visits, it was the lead. Not sure how old stories 38-41 were, they didn't seem too dated. But there was an explanation about what Cinco de Mayo is and I was reading the site on May 12th. Couple things I liked... lots of city and mountain cams to check out. (One said it was under maintenance, it looked like a picture from inside a bar) You can buy KGW caps and shirts and stuff on line. (I've worked at TV stations that didn't even offer the stuff to employees!) The web site says it updates Doppler radar on line every 3 minutes, good selling point. And I got to watch their news. Well I thought I was getting their news, it actually appears I got a copy of their local cable channel's newscast. The audio was good, it wasn't 32 frames per second, but I was able to see enough pictures to figure out the news, BUT! I could only watch the online newscast in a very small box. On a smaller computer screen, it would have been even tougher. Overall, good web site, tons of information, just hard to figure out where the news link is on the site.

    • KATU (ABC)
    • Another station that allowed me to watch their newscast. For both this one and KGW, you need to install Real Player. Here I got to watch the newscast on a Real Player screen that was about 25% of the size of my computer screen. You can pick any show from the last week and the people in my newsroom ended up watching a couple. One warning, this system does not catch the anchors looking their best. You get some pretty strange faces when you only get a few frames per second. The forecast information is right on the front page, I like knowing the weather right away. The front page offered headlines to 11 stories, no text, but lots of news. Also noticed that most of the stories were credited to AP, not KATU. One confusing thing. Top of the page features the station's logo with 2 male anchors. I wonder who they are. No names, no info about what they anchor, if they do weather or sports, just 2 guys.

      Overall, I enjoyed being able to watch 2 newscasts on line (KGW, KATU). I like the idea that one of the TV stations is willing to email you headlines, hopefully included is a plug of why they should watch the next newscast (KOIN). If it was snowing, I'd be on KGW's web site for the school closures, cancelled events and the radar. But I wouldn't know how to find any other news on their site. One other drawback, not sure I could tell you what the lead story was tonight in Portland. Maybe it's good that the stations appeared to have different news, not too many of the stories were the same.

      As for ads, KGW's & KATU'S ad banner were ads for their station, that's nice. KOIN had ads for other businesses, but it wasn't obnoxious.

      Last but not least, if you're going to visit Portland, check out KATU's web site. They have a place at the very top of their home page where you can get information on restaurants, arts & entertainment, careers, etc.

    TV NEWS WEBSITES OF LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS
    By Brian Shrader, Assignment Desk Assistant, WRAL-TV, Raleigh

    In the world of the web, the online offerings from the TV stations in Little Rock, Arkansas—market 57—are a little disappointing.

    Stations in smaller markets have taken a great interest in a quality online product—KXAN in Austin, TX, WIS in Columbia, SC, KTUL in Tulsa, OK, are just a few. But, Little Rock stations seem to embrace the Internet half-heartedly as the next frontier in journalism. In some cases, it looks like stations are just going through the motions.

    I looked at Little Rock TV websites, and here are my impressions—from worst to best. (I like to end on a happy note, whenever I can.)

    • KTHV

      Let's start with the non-existent. KTHV, Little Rock's CBS station, has nothing on the web. Come on. At least register the domain "kthv.com," and give the impression that you're working on something.

    • KKYK
    • The big surprise in Little Rock is the WB affiliate—KKYK, Channel 22. KKYK has carved a niche online by offering webcasts of their 9PM news. If you don't want to watch the herky-jerky video stream, you can look at the scripts from the past week. The stories are slugged, and some non-news folks may difficulty getting through it, but it's an interesting way of archiving. They also have the generic national and world headlines from ISyndicate.

      The weather section isn't the greatest. Images from Earth Watch and The Weather Channel are coupled with a video capture of the station's extended forecast. There's a link to The Weather Channel's Little Rock weather page.

      The sports section is basically a collection of links to teams' official site. The links section includes links to sites mentioned on KKYK's newscasts. There's no real context for the links (airdate, what the story was about, etc.). The programming schedule is nicely done. And, if you're interested, you can read all about the KKYK newsteam.

      Bottom Line: KKYK's site is impressive. The webcasting is the big hook, but they need to focus on the textual content a little more. Also, the weather and sports sections need some more attention.

    • KARK (www.kark.com)
    • NBC affiliate KARK has a decent web site. Page design is the biggest problem for KARK. The homepage is huge in size. There's lots of empty space in huge columns.

      The homepage has its good points, though. The news headlines and a brief weather forecast share the top of the page (they aren't updated on the weekends, either). They have included a link to a live image from their 4WARN doppler radar (cute name). The image is updated every three minutes. They have a nice evening-through-prime-time programming schedule on the homepage, but it's not updated on weekends.

      One of the most obtrusive design blunders is the garish banner graphic at the top of every page in the site. The style is nice, and tastefully sized, the elements are there to make for very attractive banner graphics. However, these are HUGE graphics. The homepage banner graphic is 41K! They take up over half of the screen. They're just plain garish.

      The news story pages are well designed. A video still is included with stories, as well as what appears to be transcriptions of packages, VO's and VOB's. The stories don't appear to be very in-depth, and we don't know how often the stories are updated. But, for a brief, no-frills overview of the day's top stories, it's not too bad. I couldn't find an story archive.

      The weather page is all right. Links to live doppler radar, the extended forecast, and the towercam are included. There are also external links to forecasts for individual towns in Arkansas from a company called WeatherLabs.

      The "Features" page is a mess. All of the content appears to be in a table, taking up only the left half of the screen. It looks awful. The page consists primarily of links to items mentioned on earlier newscasts.

      The community calendar page in bad shape. Whereas the features page content takes up half of the screen, the community calendar page takes up twice the width of the screen. You have to scroll left and right, in order to see the whole page. Not good.

      The "Links" page consists of three links—one to the AP, one to NBC, and one to CNN. And, the sports page is fairly neglected.

      Bottom Line: The elements are there for a good local TV website. The content appears to be there, but the presentation is in critical condition. Streamline the pages. Make them smaller. Clean up (and shrink) the graphics.

    • KATV (www.katv.com)
    • KATV, the ABC station, has the best-designed website of all Little Rock stations. The homepage has a graphic navigation map on the left-hand side. Some text teases for the site's content are on the right-hand side. I can't get over the animated satellite truck graphic at the bottom. I love it. It's rich.

      The news section is nicely designed, but there are some problems.

      No headlines are given for stories—only what appear to be story slugs ("5MURDER," "5ESCAPEE," etc.). That's a big problem. Another problem is the scant number of stories. There aren't that many—only five or six—and they're just scripts.

      In VOSOT's and PKG's, the bites aren't labeled, so we don't know who's talking. A lot of people don't like TO READ ALL CAPITAL LETTERS ... EITHER. Some folks may not realize that broadcast journalists see no difference between a comma and ellipses. Oh, there's no story archive, either.

      The news page is clean and easy to navigate. News stories are updated daily, which is nice. Also on the main news page is a listing of links mentioned on newscasts.

      The weather section is also nicely designed. On the main page is a video capture from their live doppler radar. From the page, you can also sign up for their pager/e-mail weather warning notification service. They also have a towercam image. It wasn't working the night I checked. But, I visited later in the week, finding a nice shot of some bridges in Little Rock. There are links for severe weather safety tips, current conditions, and information about the station's weather equipment.

      The local sports section is fairly skimpy, but the link to ESPN's SportsZone website gives you what you need nationally.

      There's a nice program schedule, which is updated daily. The station's morning program, "Daybreak," has an informative page, with more information about stories done on their show.

      The "7 On Your Side" page is well-done. There is a kind of archive, as well as consumer links, and a place where you can send your consumer problem. One problem—the "Ripoff of the Week" hasn't been updated in two months.

      KATV has a nice job openings page, and an easy-to-use e-mail page.

      Bottom Line: KATV has the nicest TV website in Little Rock. The page is very cleanly designed. The content is fresh. They need to clean up the news section a little bit.

    TV NEWS WEBSITES OF KANSAS CITY
    By Sharon Downey, Medill News Service, Washington, D.C.

    I surfed the net in Kansas City on May 12th. None of the Kansas City TV stations updated its content for the internet audience. Only one of the sites offered video and that was from the May 3rd tornados.

    • KCTV

      KCTV, the CBS affiliate, offers a five-day weather forecast—and tips to survive a tornado. But the only news was through the CBS network, where Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin's resignation was the lead story.

    • KMBC-TV
    • KMBC-TV, the ABC affiliate, offered the same top local stories it ran during the afternoon.

    • KSHB
    • KSHB offered the best content in the market. The NBC affiliate is owned by Scripps Howard. Its home page is cluttered, but it has links to news, headshots and promos of the talent, and Mr. Food's recipes. The local news stories about expensive stucco repairs and a body found in a car were not updated from earlier in the day. KSHB was the most interactive. It asked the audience whether people planned to see the new Star Wars film and where to shop for the city's best tacos.

    • WDAF FOX 4
    • WDAF FOX 4 believes in branding. The home page said FOX four times. FOX NEWS. FOX SPORTS. FOX TV. FOX offered very little else in the way of content.

    TV NEWS WEBSITES OF GREENBAY/APPLETON, WI
    By Paige Gallagher, Producer, KXAS-TV, Dallas/Fort Worth

    The Wisconsin market has six local television stations with a website. Four of them have news: WBAY (ABC), WFRV (CBS), WGBA (NBC) and WLUK (FOX). Each has its own value, depending on your personal preferences. Each also has its own drawbacks. It just depends on what you want to find, and how long you want to wait.

      Click on wbay.com and this web page downloads quickly. News, weather and sports departments each have their own page. Local news headlines are updated after early evening news and after late news. Writing is similar to AP wire copy, with headlines listed on the front page. If you want to see pictures or streaming/downloadable video, you won't find it here. But you will find scrolling headlines and national headlines from abc.com. Bonuses: Allergy and severe weather information along with viewer feedback.

    • WFRV (www.wfrv.com)
    • At wfrv.com news online seems to be important, yet an afterthought. This homepage downloads quickly for a basic reason: it's simple. The news headlines are updated after both the early and late newscasts. There's not much to see, no still pictures or video clips online. A limited amount of graphics yet it does provide links to news, weather and sports. The news copy seems to have been copied straight from the newscast into the website.

    • WGBA (www.wgba.com)
    • If you know anything about news and the internet, you'll understand what's available at wgba.com simply by knowing this website is MSNBC format. The site does have its drawbacks, but many amenities. There are scrolling news headlines, lots of graphics and links to everything. With so much to choose from, you might expect confusion, but this website is organized. If you enter the local news page, you'll find all the bells and whistles. If you don't figure out that's where you need to be, you'll end up finding the scripts online straight from the shows. The local news page obviously has its own webmaster. There are still pictures with links to video clips you can download and play. The local news is the most up to date in the market. It updates after the early news, late news and includes breaking news. Weather and sports are also just a click away.

    • WLUK (www.wluk.com)
    • This Fox affiliate's website has links to every department in the station. You'll also find still pictures of the news team, but none from the news of the day. It takes quite some time for this homepage to download. The last time the news was updated this day was 9:54 am. You'd be lost if you depended on this website for your local news.

      By far, the best website in this market is www.wgba.com. You need Windows Media player to watch any video you download, but if you're a news junkie it's for you. There were two other stations in the market which did not appear to have local news programming. This station appears to have its finger on the future of television news—the internet.

    TV NEWS WEBSITES OF SIOUX CITY, IOWA
    By Rehan Hyder, KDKA TV News

    KTIV's web site has its competitors beat hands down. Of course, the NBC affiliate kinda has it too easy, since KCAU (ABC) doesn't even have a local website. You have to get to KCAU's "site" courtesy of ABC's new on-line partner the go.com network [abc.go.com/localstations/kcau]. It's just a page go.com has set up for the station pimping ABC's primetime.

    • KMEG
    • Even better for what would seem a dominant NBC affiliate in this Midwestern market, the CBS station, KMEG, doesn't even appear to offer local news. According the schedule listed on its website, KMEG CBS 14 only does six weather cut-ins during its broadcast day. The website [kmeg.cbsnow.com] uses CBS network's on-line template from CBSNOW. Instead of allocating its resources for news, the station promotes 'Club KMEG' on its site and a big weather banner you can click on for a local 6-day forecast. The only other highlights of KMEG's site: a still picture from the local Quiz Bowl competition and upcoming contest dates (I think the station may even broadcast the competitions.) And KMEG must be the local sci-fi fans' station, cuz they've got a page teasing what's on Saturday night's Voyager, DS9, and Stargate. Ooh.

    • KTIV-4
    • Which brings us back to KTIV-4 (NBC). The webmaster(s) working this site certainly seem to know how to take advantage of the template MSNBC provides its affiliates. If you click on [http://www.ktiv.com/] you can choose "local news." And you get a good low-down on the latest in Sioux City news.

    On this particular night

      * Lead Story: 'Convicted Sex Offender Plea's [yeah, one of many grammatical errors rife throughout the site] Guilty to Trespassing Charges' (with titled mug shot)

      * Second Story: Siouxland deligation [deli—hmm, may have been lunchtime; or we didn't use spell check] is in Washington D.C. looking for support.

      * 3rd Story: Siouxland woman chosen MS Mother of Year—Dole visits Siouxland looking for support (w/ nice picture of Elizabeth & Co. credited to KTIV and the photog who shot it)

      That's just a sample. There are also lists of 'News Briefs,' some special reports, 'Sports Briefs,' and a link to road condition numbers. And at the bottom: a credit to the cyber-journalist who did all this work. That's great. I can send him an e-mail offering kudos for this example of his fine work (and a suggestion to proofread). The site's updated fairly often. I logged in the next morning and a new lead story had been added.

      All in all, KTIV does a great job of extending their on-air news product to its web site. I'm teased. If I were in town, I'd turn on Channel 4. I'm not a trekkie, so I'm not really wooed over to watch that CBS station. And the ABC station just wants me to watch their primetime, I suppose.


    HAPPENINGS

    The deadline is approaching for one of The Poynter Institute's most requested seminars, Producing TV Newscasts. The seminar will be August 15-20, the deadline for applications is June 15.

    During this highly interactive week, participants will learn skills for writing clearer stories and memorable teases; develop skills for coaching colleagues to strong performance; learn new skills to help make ethical decisions on deadline; learn principles that help producers become more effective newsroom leaders;learn new skills in how to effectively incorporate graphics in newscasts and explore areas of ethnic and racial diversity in story selection and newscast content.

    The program is lead by former News Director, now Poynter broadcast faculty associate Al Tompkins. Visiting faculty for the week includes: Scott Libin, News Director KSTP Minneapolis; Ken Jobe, Assistant News Director WABC New York and Teresa Nazario, special projects producer WITI Milwaukee. The faculty brings decades of national award winning producing, reporting and managing to this seminar. For information on how to apply for "Producing Newscasts" click on this link: http://www.poynter.org/class/classb.htm Or contact Al Tompkins (tompkins@poynter.org) or program assistant Betty Headley (bettyh@poynter.org) 727-821-9494.

    ARE YOU PREPARED TO COVER A CRISIS LIKE LITTLETON?
    RTNDF invites working news managers and journalists to a workshop on covering tough issues under pressure. Using video and audio examples, this interactive session will:

    Prepare you and your staff to cover crisis situations. Explore issues of fairness, accuracy, coverage of victims, the use of graphic video or audio, confidential sources, hidden cameras, conflicts of interest and privacy. Teach you how to report the story aggressively without exploiting individuals or jeopardizing their safety. Provide you with advice on how to successfully weigh the competitive pressures of covering breaking news. Give you tips for making better, more confident decisions on deadline.

    WHEN & WHERE: Friday, June 25, 6:30 p.m. -9:00 p.m., a dialogue with the public at the Old South Meeting House, downtown Boston. Saturday, June 26, 8:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., a full day of hands-on sessions at the Omni Parker House, downtown Boston.

    FACILITATORS: Ramon Escobar, Vice President & New Director, WTVJ-TV, Miami. Jill Geisler, Former News Director, WITI-TV, Milwaukee; Associate, Leadership and Management, the Poynter Institute.

    COST: $40 per station for RTNDA members ($50 non-members.)

    TO REGISTER: Contact Avni Patel, RTNDF, (202) 467-5215, avnip@rtndf.org For agenda, application and additional details, visit RTNDF's web site at http://www.rtnda.org/prodev/rtndf/workshops.htm

    OVERNIGHT ACCOMMODATIONS: The Omni Parker House 60 School Street Boston, MA 02106 Phone: (617) 227-8600

    Call (617) 227-8600 or (800) 843-6664 and request reservations for the "Radio and TV News Directors" group. Rooms are available at a discounted rate until Tuesday, May 25: Single $155; Double $175.

    RTNDF is sponsoring the Broadcast Critique Center for radio and television journalists at the Unity '99 conference in Seattle. Critique sessions will be held Thursday -- Saturday, July 8-10. Seasoned news professionals will be on hand to view and listen to tapes. These sessions are a unique opportunity for journalists to receive immediate and constructive feedback on their work. To sign up, contact NABJ's Linda Jackson at (301) 445-7100, ext. 104; linda@nabj.org. Deadline to register is June 18 so ACT NOW!

    (( EDITOR'S NOTE: Since the newsletter is late, I've blown your deadline on this one. But if you're interested, you might call or email anyway, just in case the deadline is extended again.))

    Attention women and minority TV news producers: The deadline to register for a special workshop has been extended to June 8. If you are interested in getting additional training and meeting other talented producers, you don't want to miss this opportunity from the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation. RTNDF is hosting a Producers Workshop for women and minorities on June 18-20 in Syracuse, NY. This workshop, in partnership with the S. I. Newhouse Journalism School, provides hands-on training in writing, people skills and production techniques. A $50 dollar registration fee ($40 for RTNDA members) covers two nights of housing, meals and seminar materials. Only 30 full-time news producers accepted. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis, with only two spots per station guaranteed. Refer to RTNDF's web site to download a registration form at: http://www.rtndf.org/prodev/rtndf/producer/index.htm. For more information, contact Michelle Thibodeau Loesch at 202.467.5206 or e-mail michellet@rtndf.org.

    TWO GREAT OPPORTUNITIES OFFERED to WOMEN and MINORITY JOURNALISTS from RTNDF at UNITY '99 in SEATTLE!

    ATTENTION WOMEN AND MINORITY TV NEWS PRODUCERS:
    Are you currently a TV news producer interested in additional training and meeting other talented producers? If so, register today for this special opportunity offered by the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation. RTNDF is hosting a one-day Producers Workshop for women and minority news professionals from 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM on Monday, July 5, in conjunction with the Unity '99 Conference in Seattle. This workshop will provide hands-on training in writing, leadership and management skills and the latest production techniques. A $30 dollar registration fee ($20 for RTNDA members) includes breakfast, lunch and seminar materials. The registration deadline is June 18! Only 30 producers (working in television news as line producers or assistant producers) accepted. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis, with only two spots per station guaranteed. Refer to RTNDF's web site to download a registration form at: http://www.rtndf.org/prodev/rtndf/producer/index.htm. For more information, contact Michelle Thibodeau Loesch at (202) 467-5206, or e-mail: michellet@rtndf.org.

    ATTENTION MINORITY AND WOMEN NEWS PROFESSIONALS:
    Are you looking for a career in news management? If so, you don't want to miss the opportunity to attend RTNDF's News Management Training Seminar on Tuesday, July 6 from 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM, in Seattle, in conjunction with the Unity '99 Conference. This one-day seminar will provide the latest information, hands-on training, and counseling on management issues and techniques specifically geared towards minority and women news professionals. A $30 dollar registration fee ($20 for RTNDA members) includes breakfast, lunch and seminar materials. Register today, deadline is June 18! Only 30 professionals (working in radio or television news) accepted. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis, with only two spots per station guaranteed. Refer to RTNDF's web site to download a registration form at: http://www.rtnda.org/prodev/rtndf/newsmanagement.htm. For more information, contact Michelle Thibodeau Loesch at (202) 467-5206, or e-mail: michellet@rtndf.org.


    PRODUCERS ON THE MOVE

    Luke Funk, (lukefunk@sisna.com) stays in the Fox O&O family. He moves from KSTU in Salt Lake City to WFXT in Boston.


    PEOPLE ASK FOR ADVICE

    NOTE: Remember the rules here. If you send advice, I'll probably publish it in the next issue, so be specific about attribution.

      Hi there. I'm writing for some advice, I guess. I am a senior at a liberal arts school, trying to break into TV news. I'd like to be a producer at some point, but I'm ready and willing to start at the bottom rung of the ladder. I've interned at a national network, a local affiliate, and the NBC Olympics, and still I can't seem to find a place for myself to start in June. Granted, I have my eye set on returning to Washington, DC, but no one returns my calls and this has got to be the most frustrating experience in my life. Most people in the business who I've talked to (and I do have a lot of contacts in DC) have told me that the thing to do is to move down there, and the job search will become a lot easier when I'm local. I respect their advice, and I'm planning to take it, but I wonder how that will make it any easier to find a job. People aren't not calling me back because it's a long distance call. I'm not going to walk into an office building and demand to speak with the director of HR. So I wonder if anyone has any advice, any insight, any contacts... I can't tell you how hard I have worked to be here, and I'm ready to give a job all I've got. I just need to find one.

    Alice:

      I'm Jason DeRusha, weekend anchor and producer at KWQC-TV in the Quad Cities, Davenport, IA/Moline, IL. I've been producing, assignment editing, and anchoring the weekends for about a year-and-a-half. I was wondering if there are any other anchor/producers out there, and if they have any advice or tricks they use to balance the two jobs. It's awfully difficult to separate the two jobs. I thought it might be interesting to hear from someone who has done this for a longer period of time than I have.

      I must say, being a producer has made me a much better general assignment reporter during the week, and when I fill in anchoring other shows—I think it makes me a much better anchor. I think of the big picture, the whole show—not just my minute-and-a-half, nor just the copy I am reading.

      Thanks for the newsletter—it's a great resource!
      Jason DeRusha, KWQC-TV

      (respond to AJMain@aol.com w/"ANCHOR/PRODUCER ADVICE" as subject)

    Advice for EP Who Needs Help Motivating Producers:

      I just left a job where I was supervising 15 people. As to firing them up and motiviating them, as a manager, I believe it is each individual's responsibility to motivate themselves. If they no longer have a passion for the business, then it may be time for them to move on. This is a business of constant burnout for people (me included...this is why I just took 6 months off). I believe it is really important for producers and other staff to involve themselves in outside interests and create a balance in their lives. As for hiring, I always look for attitude. The desire, the hunger, the want to succeed and producer top quality programming. Exceptionally strong multi-tasking, organizational & time management skills. It really is a crap shoot when you hire people as I am sure you are aware. Some work, some don't.

    Please Help This Researcher:

      Remember when there used to be an absolute barrier between news and advertising in television journalism? Do you have any concrete examples of the influence of advertisers encroaching on television news? I am a university professor doing a study on the direct influence of advertising on TV news content. Please send any specific examples that you know of to me at rpmellen@american.edu.


    ABOUT THE PRODUCER NEWSLETTER

    The Producer Newsletter is a free publication for TV news producers worldwide, edited by Alice Main, executive producer at WLS-TV in Chicago. All opinions expressed by me in the newsletter are mine alone, and aren't meant to represent the views of ABC or Disney. The newsletter has been around since 1995, and now back issues have been compiled into book form on the internet (www.scripps.ohiou.edu/producer/thebook) thanks to Professor Robert Stewart of Ohio University's EW Scripps School of Journalism. Subscription information is also available online. All submissions should be sent to AJMain@aol.com.