My Favorite Don Pardo Video

I think this Live at Five intro best exemplifies who Don Pardo was and why he was so damned cool.

pardoWord has just come down, Don Pardo has passed away. He was the announcer on Saturday Night Live since day one.

I’ve known his voice and face since I was a little kid. He worked on the NBC network and also Channel 4. In the fifties and sixties he was on my TV all the time.

I think this Live at Five intro best exemplifies who Don Pardo was and why he was so damned cool.

End of an era. Last of the staff announcers. Gone.

NBC’s Olympic Failure To Communicate

What we have here is a failure to communicate! All these events were shown live! Every bit of the Olympics is available live as it happens. The NBC Television Network (your local NBC station) is just one of many places to see the games, but it is by-and-large not the place to see them live!

We’ve been watching the Olympics a good part of today.

“I know how this one came out,” Helaine said more than once.

That is the curse of the early 21st Century. She, along with some Facebook friends wonder why they’re suffering through tape hard drive delay? The results have already been on Twitter and Facebook. The cat’s out of the bag.

Steve Schwaid, the über competitive Bobby Valentine of TV news directors, tweeted:

Curious – does it bother you that nbc is not showing some of the major events live- like the Phelps/Lochte? Pls send me ur thoughts.

What we have here is a failure to communicate! All these events were shown live! Every bit of the Olympics is available live as it happens. The NBC Television Network (your local NBC station) is just one of many places to see the games, but it is by-and-large not the place to see them live!

NBC (seen on WVIT-30 here in Connecticut) is more a “Best of” channel with recorded coverage that’s been sliced, diced and produced for maximum TV effect. It will be the most exciting channel with the most motivating backstories… as long as you’ve kept your head in the sand until you watch.

That TV savvy people like Steve Schwaid and my wife don’t understand the game plan is NBC’s fault! Along with my complaints about the difficulty in seeing their streaming coverage, NBC has failed in explaining and showing people how to watch what they want to watch.

What NBC is doing as far as depth of coverage is concerned is unprecedented. They’re getting almost no credit for that! No one in their audience will get it without a little educating.

The Google Play Store shows NBC’s Olympics Live app with 100,000+ downloads and around 3,000 raters. That’s a sad installed base.

There’s almost two weeks of coverage left. I wonder if NBC’s online and secondary channel strategy will change?

Olympics Streaming Nearly Gets It Right

Earlier, Helaine called me to her computer. The free online Olympic streaming was hung up at the point where her Comcast credentials were requested. The process failed by returning her to the point where she was asked to specify our cable provider.

The photo above is the table tennis venue at the 2012 London Olympics. OK, no one was playing when I tuned in, but at least I was finally able to tune in. Mostly the online Olympic video has been a pain or a fail.

Earlier, Helaine called me to her computer. The free online Olympic streaming was hung up at the point where her Comcast credentials were requested. The process failed by returning her to the point where she was asked to specify our cable provider.

Oh, yeah. You need to subscribe to cable or satellite to get the free streaming. Cord cutters are not welcome!

As it turns out most flavors of Linux, the operating system on Helaine’s laptop, are suffering this same indignity. Considering the streaming seems to come out of a custom YouTube channel and YouTube videos are usually easily seen on her laptop this is a head scratcher.

The problem is Ubuntu and some other Linux ‘flavors’ don’t automatically load the DRM (digital rights management) software necessary to protect NBC’s investment. Finding this solution was not easy. In fact my last blog entry is a small attempt to make it easier for others following in my footsteps.

Helaine can now watch Rhythmic Weightlifting and the Javelin Catch even if they’re not on TV.

For my Asus Transformer Prime tablet the problem is a little more vexing. It’s not supported, period!

The “NBC Olympics Live Extra” app will let users watch more than 3,500 hours of live events on tablets and smartphones. But only customers who have a cable or satellite subscription will get full access — and the app is available only on Apple devices and a “select” list of Android phones and tablets. — (CNNMoney)

Not only isn’t my tablet ‘selected,’ neither are those made by Samsung. This isn’t rocket science. There are already loads of streaming sites that have figured out how to serve me.

The rating for NBC’s Android app speaks for itself. I’m not the only unhappy camper this evening.

Brokaw Gander Documentary Set To Air Again

Everyone wanted to know when the story would air again? NBC was silent until Thursday.

When I wrote about Tom Brokaw’s documentary and the 7,000 people stranded in Gander, Newfoundland on September 11, 2001 I didn’t expect it to be my most read, most commented blog post of all time! It surely was.

All my commenters were touched by the outpouring of love and graciousness from these residents of an isolated community in a thinly populated province. Everyone wanted to know when the story would air again? NBC was silent until Thursday.

MSNBC will telecast “Operation Yellow Ribbon” this Saturday, 12-1 p.m. ET and Sunday, 1-2 p.m. ET, hosted by NBC News’ Tom Brokaw. Originally broadcast during NBC’s coverage of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, “Operation Yellow Ribbon” is the story of the town of Gander, Newfoundland where, on September 11, 2001, 38 jumbo jets carrying nearly 7,000 passengers were diverted.

I cannot recommend this beautifully shot and produced documentary more highly. If you can’t be around this weekend, make sure you record it–it’s that good.

After you watch it, please come back and let me know what you think. I suspect you’ll be as deeply affected as Helaine and I were.

Tom Brokaw’s Gander, Newfoundland 9/11 Lookback

Back here in the family room I was crying like a little baby. OK, I’m a soft touch for crying, but this real story is a real tear jerker.

On March 11, 2010 NBC announced this documentary would re-air. More details here.

Helaine and I were watching Olympics coverage this afternoon when Tom Brokaw was brought on to introduce a feature piece about Gander, Newfoundland’s part on September 11, 2001. I already knew much of the story. Helaine hadn’t heard any of it.
From Gander Airport’s website:

On September 11, 2001, 39 heavy aircraft were diverted to Gander International Airport when airspace was closed in the United States because of tragic terrorist hijackings. Runway 13/31 was converted to a temporary aircraft parking ramp. The airport terminal was turned into an aid centre as food and clothing was distributed to stranded passengers. The airport and its surrounding community afterwards received high praise for their response to the tragedy.

gander airport 9-11-01.jpgAll of a sudden Gander’s 10,000 residents had 7,000 guests¹!

The piece started slowly. At two minutes in it was obvious they’d buried the lede, until I realized this was no two or three minute piece. Brokaw and team had produced and NBC was showing a full length documentary!

It’s a shame to say if NBC had told its audience they were about to see a full length documentary they would have bailed in droves. They probably did anyway in which case they missed a truly wondrous story.

There are few superlatives to describe how kind and generous these Newfoundlanders² were. They opened their schools, homes, and wallets.

Back here in the family room I was crying like a little baby. OK, I’m a soft touch for crying, but this real story is a real tear jerker.

In the crush of news this 9/11 story was mainly lost. Without this Brokaw package it was destined to become more obscure. I was surprised at how many abandoned links I found while trying to find some interesting quotes for this entry.

Mostly the Twitteratti seem to agree with my assesment:

  • cukawen : Watching the brokaw special on #gander on 9-11-01…all I can say is wow.
  • porcupineridge : Great NBC/Tom Brokaw story on Gander, Newfoundland during 9/11 ground stop. Why can’t I find it online?
  • villageous : Just saw Tom Brokaw’s report on Gander, Newfoundland. Compassion people everywhere showed that day truly is lasting legacy of 9/11.
  • trs614xc : this tom brokaw segment about Gander, Newfoundland’s response to grounded flights on 9/11 is one of the most touching things i’ve ever seen
  • RoccoDeMaro : Tom Brokaw is a legend. But his never-ending, meandering piece on Gander / 9-11 felt like a trip to my wife’s grandmother’s house.

Thanks Rocco. There’s one in every crowd!

I agree with “porcupineridge.” Why can’t I find it online?

¹ – To say Gander is rural is an understatement! I landed there for refueliing on a westbound Overseas National Airways DC-8 transatlantic flight in the mid-70s. We flew in over a deep pine forest without seeing a sign of civilization. I figured we’d see the town on the way out, but again, nothing but pine trees until we were back over the Atlantic.

² – Originally this entry contained a less elegant nickname describing Newfoundlanders. Brian J. Mallard of Memorial University in St. John’s told me, “The majority of us do not like the term.”
My apologies to anyone offended. It was a poor attempt at showing affection.

Bob Ryan – The Weatherman Pushes Back

Moving is never without risk both to the talent and stations. I am happy because for the first time in a few years someone on-the-air in local news has some leverage in contract negotiations.

Bob Ryan is a weather fixture in Washington, DC. He’s been on the NBC owned station for around 30 years. Today he is my hero. On this pre-blizzard day when his station will probably show huge viewership he’s in the news.

From the Washington Post:

A dramatic change may be ahead for Washington’s weather forecasts. And it has nothing to do with Friday’s much anticipated snowstorm.

Bob Ryan, the most-watched television weather forecaster in Washington and a fixture at WRC (Channel 4) for nearly 30 years, is considering leaving the station and jumping to rival WJLA, people familiar with the discussions said Thursday.

bob-ryan-dc.jpgDon’t get me wrong. I am not happy because Bob may be leaving WRC. Moving is never without risk both to the talent and stations. I am happy because for the first time in a few years someone on-the-air in local news has some leverage in contract negotiations.

The trend in my business has been falling salaries, not rising. This is the first I’ve seen where that trend might be bucked!

What boss or owner doesn’t want to buy the same thing for less? Bob’s station is owned by NBC which has been very aggressive in that regard.

Some of the cuts anchors and reporters have were huge. Often they’ve been accompanied by added responsibilities and/or reduced benefits and security. All the cuts have been taken with impunity.

Bob Ryan is pushing back against bosses who’ve forgotten that can happen.

Granted, we’re talking about a guy who should receive no sympathy over compensation. If Bob Ryan isn’t making 7-figures he’s certainly in the high hundreds of thousands per year. As a longtime AFTRA member he’s got a very nice pension plan. This is not about whether his family will eat or not.

There will never be another Bob Ryan in Washington. The kind of following he has, built over years when TV stations had much more commanding audience numbers, just can’t happen today. He knows that. They know that.

I will be very curious how this turns out. So will every other high profile on-air performer. It’s more than idle curiosity.