The Numbers Are In

Nielen ratings are in for last night’s debate

The Nielsen ratings are in for last night’s debate. I’m confused by the list of stations aggregated which doesn’t include Fox News and MSNBC, both of which would add significantly to the final total.

If these overnight numbers stand, the ratings are well below other recent debates.

OK–I’m a little surprised. I thought for sure there would be a lot more interest considering all the buzz.



DMA Rank Market RTG Rank RTG SHR (000) 21 St. Louis 1 52.1 82.0 649 48 Memphis 2 49.5 67.0 330 26 Baltimore 3 47.1 66.0 515 9 Washington, DC (Hagrstwn) 4 44.6 68.0 1030 29 Nashville 5 44.0 66.0 424 46 Greensboro-H.Point-W.Salem 6 42.2 61.0 285 32 Columbus, OH 7 41.5 63.0 377 43 Norfolk-Portsmth-Newpt Nws 8 41.4 59.0 298 58 Richmond-Petersburg 9 40.3 55.0 211 18 Denver 10 39.7 65.0 586 24 Charlotte 11 39.3 54.0 426 7 Boston (Manchester) 12 39.3 58.0 944 22 Portland, OR 13 39.0 74.0 450 31 Kansas City 14 37.7 61.0 350 16 Miami-Ft. Lauderdale 15 37.2 52.0 573 38 West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce 16 36.4 55.0 282 27 Raleigh-Durham (Fayetvlle) 17 36.2 54.0 377 51 Buffalo 18 36.1 54.0 230 25 Indianapolis 19 35.3 59.0 379 53 New Orleans 20 34.8 48 209 11 Detroit 21 34.3 55.0 661 59 Knoxville 22 34.3 51.0 185 61 Tulsa 23 34.1 55.0 178 45 Oklahoma City 24 34.0 55.0 231 40 Birmingham (Ann and Tusc) 25 33.5 48.0 245 52 Providence-New Bedford 26 33.5 50.0 211 15 Minneapolis-St. Paul 27 33.4 59.0 569 19 Orlando-Daytona Bch-Melbrn 28 33.4 52.0 479 62 Ft. Myers-Naples 29 33.3 51.0 164 28 San Diego 30 33.0 59.0 349 50 Louisville 31 33.0 48.0 218 17 Cleveland-Akron (Canton) 32 32.9 55.0 505 37 San Antonio 33 32.9 48.0 261 20 Sacramnto-Stkton-Modesto 34 32.7 55.0 454 4 Philadelphia 35 32.1 51.0 941 44 Albuquerque-Santa Fe 36 32.1 50.0 218 23 Pittsburgh 37 32.1 51.0 371 6 San Francisco-Oak-San Jose 38 32.0 62.0 779 13 Tampa-St. Pete (Sarasota) 39 31.7 49.0 569 49 Austin 40 31.6 52.0 201 36 Greenvll-Spart-Ashevll-And 41 31.5 46.0 265 64 Dayton 42 31.4 50.0 161 1 New York 43 31.3 48.0 2317 8 Atlanta 44 30.9 52.0 714 3 Chicago 45 30.7 51.0 1067 14 Seattle-Tacoma 46 30.3 58.0 541 30 Hartford & New Haven 47 30.2 45.0 306 47 Jacksonville 48 30.0 47.0 196 33 Salt Lake City 49 29.9 63.0 261 35 Milwaukee 50 29.2 49.0 262 34 Cincinnati 51 28.3 49.0 256 42 Las Vegas 52 27.9 46.0 196 5 Dallas-Ft. Worth 53 27.7 46.0 671 2 Los Angeles 54 26.4 50.0 1484 12 Phoenix (Prescott) 55 24.8 47.0 448 10 Houston* 56 0.0 0.0 0 Weighted Avg. of 55 markets* 33.2

What Is Journalism?

It’s probably a good time to delve into this because there are two interesting journalism stories.

Who is a journalist? What is journalism? It’s probably a good time to delve into this because there are two interesting journalism stories unfolding today.

Who broke the John Edwards affair? The National Enquirer. Ouch, mainstream media. How’d you let that one slip away? And the Enquirer has been all over this story for a while. They also broke the Monica Lewinsky story. This is not your father’s, “Elvis Spotted At K-Mart” Enquirer.

I heard Steve Plamann, senior executive editor of the National Enquirer interviewed on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” today. He gladly admitted the paper’s sensationalist bent. They are after all, by his admission, a supermarket tabloid. But, does that disqualify them from being taken seriously or breaking stories?

Should the NY Times follow the Enquirer as they certainly do the Wall Street Journal or Washington Post? Do you disregard them at your own risk? I’ll answer my own question. They disregarded the Edwards story and it doesn’t reflect well on them.

Is the National Enquirer journalism? I think they are, but who makes this judgement?

The second journalistic fork in the road has to do with CNN’s decision to rely on more “one-man-bands” populating single person bureaus. Here’s how TVNewser reported it:

“Yesterday CNN announced it was expanding its domestic presence by opening bureaus in 10 U.S. cities. The press release called it a doubling of U.S. newsgathering. But when a 28-year-old company expands you can bet there will be changes to existing personnel too. And that is the case with CNN.

TVNewser has learned that after the announcement of the new bureaus and soon to be added “all-platform journalists,” nine CNN staffers were told their jobs were going to be redefined. We’re told the staffers are not being laid off, but being offered positions in the new structure.

The staffers work in cities including Chicago, San Francisco and Miami. As NPR’s David Folkenflik reported this morning, “let’s be clear [CNN/U.S. president Jon Klein] is only really talking about adding a handful of new staffers. Others will be redeployed in less-covered places like Columbus, Ohio, Orlando and Seattle.””

Is it less journalistcally pure when a single person covers a story instead of a crew? Is there something lost when a reporter also has to concentrate of his/her equipment during the time they used to be concentrating on the person speaking?

Video gear has become smaller, cheaper and easier to operate. I certainly could report and produce a news story on my own, but would that story suffer? I have colleagues who will argue the story will suffer and other friends, like Mike Sechrist, who truly believes we’re foolish to not take advantage of this technology.

There are a lot of constituencies involved here beyond the public who consumes this journalistic product. I am curious to see how this will shake out. This is a time when journalistic traditions might change rapidly.

Thanksgiving Recap

I am just beginning to reenter the world of the living. Going to New York was a major shock to my system because of the one day schedule upheaval. I went to work a few hours before I normally wake up.

It was well worth it. Make no mistake about that. I had a great time, in spite of the weather.

Steffie accepted my offer and came along. While I caught a few hours sleep Wednesday evening, she decided to just stretch her day. By 1:15 AM Thanksgiving morning we were getting into a town car for the ride to Manhattan.

The ride started under cloudy skies, but by the time we got to Bridgeport, it was snowing. The snow was light at first, but before the New York line it was covering the road.

The town car blasted along between 65 and 75. I was beginning to get a little panicky. I didn’t want us to be the first Thanksgiving highway statistic!

As we moved through Westchester and into the Bronx, the snow turned to sleet and quickly to rain. Now the highway was just wet.

I asked the driver to stick to the West Side because I assumed some streets would be closed for parade preparations. We headed down the Henry Hudson Parkway, past the beautiful George Washington Bridge. At night the lattice of the bridge’s towers are lit, making it look like a gigantic model bridge. It’s too good looking to be real or functional.

Traffic was light as we transitioned from the Henry Hudson to the West Side Highway. We were doing 74 mph when the cop caught us on radar!

I’ve never been pulled over in New York. It’s an experience. There’s no shoulder on the highway to safely stop, so the cop called through a loudspeaker, telling us to pull off at the next exit.

I got antsy and wanted to intercede. Steffie, wisely, kept me in check. As it turned out, the limo driver had things well in control.

Unbeknown to us, he had a small metal NYPD shield in his wallet. His cousin is a cop in Midtown Manhattan (or so he said – does it really matter). Under the unwritten law of professional courtesy, the officer acted angry, asked the driver if he knew how fast he was going and then walked away. Just like that. Holy cow – those things do work!

My instructions from ABC said to meet at 79th Street and Central Park West. There was no way to drive there, so we got out at 77th and Columbus.

IMG_3112I talked my way past a young guy standing security at Columbus Avenue, only to get questioned again at Central Park West. This person was tall, unhappy, and actually speaking into his wrist! When I asked if he was with the police or Macy’s he said, “Both.”

He was a little more thorough, wanting to see some ID. I don’t have an NYPD press pass, but I did have my Channel 8 ID. He looked at it for a few milliseconds and said OK – but he’d accompany us.

We headed uptown, past workers getting ready to march. We walked by the stately, somewhat Goth, Museum of Natural History. When we got to the next corner it was 81st Street.

There is no 79th and Central Park West! Uh oh.

I called Chika, my producer. She too was on her way. She asked me to stay put until she got there. Steffie and I stood under my umbrella in the rain. We were next to the Manhattan North command post and there was a constant buzz of activity.

When Chika got there, we realized not only was there no 79th and CPW – there was no live truck! I was standing there wondering if we’d get on the air at all. That thought only lasted a few seconds, because this type of logistical miscue happens all the time. Somehow, it always works… well almost always.

IMG_3014The truck ended up on Park Drive South, with a long cable run to the parade. The photographer, Mark, set up and we were ready to go.

Before leaving Connecticut I had cut the audio for a package on the parade. That track was for timing. Now, in the truck, using the strangest looking microphone I’d even seen, I recut it with better audio.

Along the curb, camera after camera after camera set up. All the local New York stations were there, as was GMA (ABC, but separate from us) and Today.

As shot, each reporter stood with the street behind him. Truth is, we were all shoulder-to-shoulder-to shoulder.

IMG_3083Let me take a second to apologize for anyone near me Thanksgiving morning. I project… OK, I am loud. It must have been tough for the reporters next to me, because I’m sure they heard me. Disconcerting, no doubt.

I cut a tag for World News Now, ABC’s overnight show, and then the live shots began.

It didn’t begin smoothly. The IFB system (IFB for interrupt feedback, describes the communications system that allows me to hear both the TV station in another city and its producer) was flawed. I was hearing a few syllables at a time and then silence. Something was there, but it wasn’t usable.

The first few live shots ended up being me fronting my package without interaction with the local anchors. I couldn’t speak with them, because I couldn’t hear them.

It wasn’t long before the IFB was squared away and we started ‘servicing the affiliates.&#185’

IMG_3090Here’s how it works. Chika speaks to the producer via cellphone. My IFB gets switched so I can hear their ‘air.’ We go over the names of the anchors and who I’ll be speaking with. Sometimes, if while waiting to go on I hear a weather forecaster mention local weather, I’d ask Chika to get his/her name.

Once on, I ad libbed a little about what was going on and then tossed to the package. On the way out I’d talk about the forecast of wind or let the anchors see the new Scooby Doo balloon resting across the street.

We did live hit after live hit after live hit. Sixteen separate shots over the morning. It was great!

I suppose you might say I’m a live TV slut. It’s a rush – a seat of the pants experience each and every time. I have called it crack for middle aged white guys.

IMG_3030After it was all done, the folks at ABC NewsOne thanked me. I appreciate that. But, the truth is, maybe they were doing me the favor. It’s a job I enjoy doing and they gave me the opportunity to do it from a great location, on a fun story, on stations all across the country.

The icing on the cake was going there with Steffie. I introduced her early on as my daughter. As the morning wore on, and other people came and went, she was just accepted as part of our crew. It’s nice to see her as a grownup and to see other people see her that way.

Liveshot rundown:

-- 0430 World News This Morning

-- 0515 WFTV - Orlando

-- 0545 WJLA - Washington

-- 0550 WTNH - New Haven

-- 0615 WFTV - Orlando

-- 0620 WTNH - New Haven

-- 0640 WCPO - Cincinnati

-- 0645 WJLA - Washington

-- 0650 WTNH - New Haven

-- 0705 WTNH - New Haven

-- 0720 WLS - Chicago

-- 0740 WTNH - New Haven

-- 0800 KABC - Los Angeles

-- 0820 KXTV - Sacramento

-- 0840 KNXV - Phoenix

-- 0900 KABC - Los Angeles

&#185 – When I ran into Al Roker and told him I was there ‘servicing the affiliates’, we both smiled. It does have that stud horse implication.

Early Thanksgiving Day Parade Picture

Originally uploaded by geoff_fox.

While at the parade this morning I decided to upload a few shots I took with my cameraphone. Here’s the scene a little after 3:00 AM.

The balloons are under netting on 77th Strret between Columbus and Central Park West. It was cold, in the 30s. Though I drove in through snow and sleet, it was just a chilly rain by this time.


The Rest of Our Philadelphia Trip

One of the prime reasons for going to Philadelphia was to go the see a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park.

Before we go on, let me say how displeased I am with naming rights to stadiums and arenas. It’s a shame there’s no longer a Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia or Oakdale Theater near me in Wallingford, CT. Maybe there is a benefit to me by having Citizens Bank or Chevy (in the case of the Oakdale Theater) kick in some cash… though I don’t see it.

I am tilting at windmills. It’s never going back.

My friend Peter picked us up at the hotel and it didn’t take long to drive to South Philly and the stadium. Citizens Bank Park, Lincoln Financial Field and the Core State Arena (it’s hurting me to write this) are all located on the same tract of land that held the Vet, Franklin Field and the Spectrum (still there, but now with a corporate name preceding the word Spectrum).

I paid the $10 to park and we found a space fairly close to the entrance. Helaine had bought four tickets from a broker – though they were only marked up $4. We walked into the stadium.

Since this was my birthday trip, Helaine had arranged for my name and age to be flashed on the scoreboard with the other 11 year olds. We went and signed in. There was a charge, but I got a very nice Phillies hat.

The ballpark itself is a very nice place. Whereas the Vet was all concrete and steel with no thought of aesthetics, there’s lots of exposed brick and other warm touches now. And, Vet Stadium’s turf – possibly the worst playing surface in all of professional sports, has been replaced by beautiful real grass.

Beyond the outfield is a huge food court – Ashburn’s Alley. That’s where we headed first.

Steffie wanted to have a genuine Philly Cheesesteak, and Geno’s of South Philadelphia fame is represented. This is not ‘old school’ baseball food. It wasn’t soggy. It was hot. It was delicious. We found a place to sit and ate our lunch.

The game was scheduled for 3:15, so we headed down and took our seats. I was surprised that there had been no hassle when I brought my camera and two lenses in. The Phillies web site said it would be OK, but I had a sneaking suspicion there would be scrutiny over any camera with a removable lens.

These were probably the best baseball seats I’d ever had. We were behind the Phillies dugout, in the sun, 25 rows from the field. We were in foul ball territory. We were very close to the action.

The Phils were playing the San Diego Padres… and the Phils had gotten hot! The night before, Chase Utley ended the game with a walk off homer. Is there a more macho act?

For us, the game began slowly. It seemed like Robinson Tejeda, the Phillie starter wasn’t in control. I say ‘seemed’, because when you see the box score, you see a pitcher totally dominating the opposition. It’s funny how those two elements don’t always match up.

I took a lot of pictures at the game. Some might say I took too many pictures. Here’s my favorite, Bobby Abreu ducking out of the way of a Pedro Astascio fastball. Judging by the catcher’s glove, this pitch was traveling where it was aimed.

We stayed until the very last out, anticipated the worst when Real Cormier was called in, but getting a one inning gem instead. Billy Wagner picked up the save.

After a short stop back at the hotel, the four of us (Peter included) went out searching for dinner and the sights. We hit South Street first, but realizing that wasn’t the right spot for dinner, headed to Market Street and the Penn’s Landing area.

Again, we found Italian food. Again, it was very good. But we were very tired.

Our walk back to the hotel was uneventful, but left me uneasy. There were too many places which seemed sinister.

Tonight, I sent an email message to Mayor Street. It’s attached to the link at the bottom of this entry. Whether this kind of message makes any difference or not is beyond me, but I am always willing to write and make my opinions felt.

We finished up our stay Sunday with brunch on the Moshulu.

Since the launching of the Moshulu (pronounced Mo-shoe’-loo) in 1904, she has had a long and exciting career on the seas working the ports of Europe, South America, Australia, America and Africa. She was confiscated by the Americans in one war and by the Germans in the next. She has traveled around Cape Horn 54 times. She has hauled coal and coke, copper ore and nitrate, lumber and grain. In lesser days, she has served as a floating warehouse. In grander days, she won the last great grain race in 1939. Today, the Moshulu is the largest four-masted sailing ship in the world still afloat.

I once heard someone say you should never go out to dinner at a revolving restaurant. I think the same applies to converted sailing ships. The food was OK – nothing special. The ship was OK too… but just OK.

The interior of the ship was larger than I expected. I know that because of the schlep from our table to the buffet!

By 1:30 we were heading home. We headed north on I-95, over the Delaware via the Betsy Ross Bridge (A white elephant when it was built, I hope it’s more useful now), Route 90 to Route 73 to I-295 and then the New Jersey Turnpike.

We waited as long as we could before getting off I-295 and onto the Turnpike. It made no difference. We were stuck in stop-and-go traffic for the better part of an hour before things opened up. The rest of the trip was uneventful.

Oh – there was that sign on the George Washington Bridge that I captured. I’m hoping it’s legal to take photos before you get to the sign, as I did.

So, what have we learned? We were surprised and pleased that Steffie enjoyed the game. Yes, she got a shirt and excellent junk food… but she bought another shirt with her own money and seemed to be interested in the game.

We also enjoyed visiting Philadelphia, the place where we met 25 years ago, as tourists. There are rough edges that need to be smoothed for Philadelphia to become a better tourist destination, but so much is in place right now.

Continue reading “The Rest of Our Philadelphia Trip”

Be All That I Can Be

As a student… even a distance learning student… at Mississippi State University I get the privileges and email of an on-campus student. When there are concerts or symposiums or notices on campus security, I get them.

I guess this also applies to giving my email address to interested organizations off campus. It hasn’t happened often, but I have gotten a few non-MSU notes to my MSU email address.

Tonight was the best. A little earlier this evening I got an email from an Army recruiter! I’m 54 years old. If the army needs me, we’re in huge trouble (though a few weeks of basic training would certainly help me firm up a bit).

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY

U.S. ARMY RECRUITING STATION (COLUMBUS)

2321D HWY 45 NORTH

COLUMBUS, MS. 39705

Dear Geoff Fox,

Congratulations on your decision to pursue a higher education. Continuing your education is a very important step in ones life, it can at times make you wonder if it is really what you wanted to do and of course the thought of education expenses comes to mind as well. At this important crossroad in your life it is essential that you consider all options that are available to you.

For students that are presently at this crossroad, the United States Army offers money to qualifying applicants to pay the high cost of tuition in the form of the Montgomery GI Bill and the Army College Fund. To those who qualify, this could mean up to $70,000.00 for your education. The Army also offers $65,000.00 in student loan repayment. Additionally, the Army will pay 100% tuition while you serve so that you may pursue an even higher degree.

If you are one that may be considering taking a break for a semester or so, the Army can offer quaranteed job skill training in over 200 military occupational specialties. Studies have shown time after time that potential employers prefer to hire U.S. Army veterans to those applicants not having military experience. This is evident by the Army’s new program referred to as the PAYS (Partnership for Americas Youth) program.

I would encourage you to check out the www.goarmy.com web site or simply call 662-328-1741 if you have questions. We, the recruiters at the Columbus Army Recruiting Station wish you well in your studies and once again look forward to speaking with you about the great opportunities the U.S. Army has to offer you.

Sincerely,

Randy Gentry

SFC, USA

Station Commander

Here’s my response

Flattered as I am, I’m guessing age 54 might be a little old to be all I can be.

All the best,

Geoff Fox

What Is Life?

The two NASA robots continue to poke around on the surface of Mars. We are explorers – even robotically. The difference between these explorers and a Columbus type explorer is what they’re looking for.

Back in the 15th Century, man was looking for a shortcut to goods he could use. If the trips were successful, spices, gold and other treasures would come back on a triumphant return. At the moment, nothing’s coming back from Mars.

Today’s explorers have a somewhat more ethereal goal. We’re looking for signs of life, the origins of life, the origins of our universe. It’s heady stuff. It’s exploration in the abstract. Unlike the 15th Century, there may be no practical payoff.

Today the AP reported; “Mars rover Opportunity has found evidence that the Red Planet was once wet enough for life to exist there, but the robot has not found any direct traces of living organisms, NASA scientists announced Tuesday.

Of course, the next step will be to look for signs of life. But (with apologies to George Harrison) what is life? It’s not a stupid question. If you’re thinking people, insects, plants, you’re way up the ladder from where scientists will look. In fact they will be looking for incredibly simple forms of life – forms so simple, that to me, it’s difficult to separate life from simple chemistry.

A few years ago I went to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to look at ALH84001, the Allen Hills meteorite. Some scientists believe this chunk of Mars, which through an unbelievable confluence of events ended up on Earth, holds fossilized evidence of Martian life. But the fossils are so simple, the life so rudimentary, that most lay people would yawn and turn away. That’s how I feel about its fossils – though the story of how it got to Earth and how why scientists know to go to Antarctica to find meteorites is more than a little fascinating.

Over the next few months, NASA will probably use the results of this incredible engineering triumph to try and fund more missions, and people will start talking about searching for life. Just remember, it might not mean what you first thought.

New York City Trip Report – Day 2

Click here, or on any photo to see my album of photos from this trip.

I grew up in New York City. OK, it was in Flushing, Queens, in what is referred to as a “two fare zone.” Still, it’s part of NYC.

I never attended Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Sure, I watched it on TV when I was growing up, but that was totally different. Well, I assume it’s totally different. How would I really know? There was always the possibility that watching Macy’s parade in person is like watching professional football in person. Professional football is much, much better watched on TV (Did I mention my friend Barry invited me to see the Eagles – Dallas game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on December 7… and I’m going).

Helaine says she woke up around 4:00 AM. I was sleeping. I’ll take her word for it. Steffie and I woke up closer to 5:00. We were out of the hotel before 6:00 AM, on our way to the Upper West Side.

At this time of day I felt better taking a cab. We walked to 6th Avenue and found a taxi within a minute or two. The trip uptown was uneventful.

Because of the parade, many streets were closed to traffic. So, we got off the cab at 72nd and Columbus and began to walk toward the park. At the corner, we saw an open deli and walked in for coffee, juice and some carbs.

As we walked up 72nd Street, you couldn’t help but notice the police presence. They were everywhere. I’m not sure if this has changed over time, but it seems to me that cops are younger, and less athletic than they once were. Granted, at age 53, it’s starting to become more and more difficult to find people older than me.

Central Park West was deserted. Across the street, we saw bleachers that we had spied the night before. Steffie thought they might be ours for the asking, but alas, they had been promised to folks with better connections and more pull than we had.

I had contacted Al Roker, asking him if he could help and he said he only got two! He hosts the telecast, for heaven’s sake! I am way down the totem pole from where Al sits. I didn’t have a chance.

We found a spot, at the curb line, under a construction scaffold, in front of an apartment building. We were right on the line of march. There would be nothing between us and the parade.

The 6:00 AM Central Park Temperature was 43