The TV Model Is Broken

I love television. I’m a student of the media. It was incredibly important in shaping who I’ve become.

TV’s model is broken.

There were seven channels in NYC when I grew up. Most cities had less.

No remote control. No DVR or VCR. You watched it when it aired. If two shows you wanted to see aired simultaneously–tough.

In 1960, Gunsmoke finished the season in first place:

1 Gunsmoke CBS 40.3 rating 65 share

That’s 40% of all homes and 65% of those homes where the TV was turned on!

Last week’s number one entertainment show was “Big Bang Theory.” It had a 5.1 rating.

In those more innocent days you had to be careful not to get hit by the falling bags of money! Not today.

Before WTNH was sold in 1985, Geraldine Fabrikant wrote this in the New York Times:

The jewel in the ABC-Capital Cities package is WTNH-TV, the Capital Cities station affiliated with ABC, that covers the New Haven and Hartford markets. Its 1984 net revenue was $24.9 million, and operating income was $14.6 million. That meant operating profit margins of 58 percent. During the past five years, the margin has never been lower than 58 percent, and it has been as high as 62 percent.

They took in $25 million at 8 Elm Street for an operation that cost $10 million to run!

Those days are long gone. Though the broadcast networks and their affiliates are still the dominant force, their audience is a fraction of what it was.

Technology has been the difference. The pie has been sliced into many more smaller pieces.

Whether they take advantage or not, most people are currently equipped to see shows without benefit of television. We’ve got computers and tablets and smartphones and they’re all very capable of video playback.

I knew Saturday Night Live was going to be good last night because I read tweets from the East Coast. Why did I have to wait to see the show? Only because it breaks television’s business model!

The same with this afternoon’s Cowboys/Redskins game. It wasn’t on in SoCal. I wanted to see it and did… don’t ask. Free and easy access to all the games breaks television’s business model.

We need local TV. We need local news and other local programming (scant as it is), but won’t have it for long unless TV stations find a new business model.

I can see a future where shows will stand on their own without a station or network. Netflix productions are a step in that direction, but why do you even need Netflix?

TV’s current model is broken. The more viewers realize it, the harder it will be to hold back the tide.

Lasers Over The New Haven Green

It’s New Haven’s 375th. I know, it doesn’t look a day over 280.

The fireworks for the 350th anniversary were very cool. For 375 it’s a laser show. There was no way I wasn’t go to shoot this.

Foolishly I thought I could just drive to Quinnipiac’s York Hill campus, with its commanding view of New Haven, and watch from there. Nope. The lasers aren’t pointed up, they’re pointed south. QU had a blocked view.

Plan B! I headed downtown, carrying my camera, camera bag with lenses and a tripod to the middle of the Green.

The lasers are definitely there. They’re tough to miss.

What they’re not is awe inspiring, like the finale of that fireworks show 25 years ago.

Here are a few of my better shots. They’ve all been shrunk to fit in this column. Click for a larger view.



Back To New Haven

IMG_6592When I worked on Elm Street I was in New Haven every day. Now my trips have a purpose. Today it was lunch with my friend Josh, formerly a publisher, now a do-gooder for the United Way.

We found a parking spot right in front of Prime-16 where we had lunch (Lamb burger with feta cheese–yum!).

Has New Haven heard I’m leaving? Is it trying to win me back? Parking was much too easy!

IMG_6587If all you know about New Haven is what you’ve heard on TV news, you have a terribly misleading impression. New Haven is loaded with restaurants and culture. It is a classic American city in every sense of the word. The center of New Haven is made for people on foot.

We took a quick walk across the Green. Flags at half staff. Too much of that. My thoughts turned toward Boston.

IMG_6603The trees are still bare, but there are plenty of buds. New Haven will soon be under its summer canopy. Right now there are enough open spots to include Yale in my photos.

There’s a Shake Shack in New Haven now. I need to try that before we leave.

IMG_6611As we walked down Chapel Street, Josh pointed down the alley that leads to Zinc Kitchen. What you see in the photo on the left (click o n the photo for a larger view) is what we saw, but only when you stand in the right spot. Pretty cool!

We’re moving where cities are planned. New Haven grew up more-or-less organically. I like that.

I will miss New Haven. Good memories.

St Patrick’s Day Parade Two

No lie, I was excited about walking in the St. Patrick’s Day parade Sunday in New Haven. I spent 27 years on-the-air there. I know lots of people. Even more people know me. Doing stuff like this is my crack cocaine!

I met our group far up on Chapel Street and waited. This wouldn’t be as much of a wait as Saturday.

Meanwhile with a few extra minutes I walked around and schmoozed.

I visited Chaz and AJ from WPLR. They were up the block holding court with two attractive almost fully dressed young women (green stockings–nice touch). They were within spitting distance of a large group recreating Civil War era dress.

At the corner were members of the Emerald Society, the Irish police fraternity. I got to learn the story of Sidney and Libby Glucksman the Holocaust survivor husband and wife who owned a tailor shop on the block. Years of walking the beat yields good stories!

Everywhere I went I offered my hand. I said hello. Some people still think I left Channel 8 and disappeared. I’ve got to change that perception.

The parade began. Rachel Frank, Sarah Cody and I crisscrossed the street walking from curb-to-curb as our co-workers rode on our ‘float.’ I hugged lots of women, posed for pictures, petted dogs, picked up babies and shook hands. A few people told me they were my Facebook friends–very cool.

The parade route was under a mile and a half. Not the way I walked it! A GPS plot would have provided prima facie evidence I was drunk!

It was great! The sky was blue. The crowd was friendly. The temperature was just warm enough to be comfy.

You Irish folks know how to throw a party. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Thanks For Remembering Me

I am not perfect. Surely there’s someone I blew off or treated poorly. Over time that stuff happens to everyone.

Email tonight from a viewer via Facebook. Justin Wells was about to test my memory going back 25 years or so.

Hey Geoff do you remember meeting my brother (he passed away in Nov last year)?

One night, back in the mid-80’s I’m guessing, he was driving in New Haven, saw you in a car and asked for your autograph. He said, “Hey Geoff any SNOW tonight?”

As a joke you wrote on a piece of paper (which I still have), “John no snow tonight.”

lol it was funny ta me. My brother was a real big guy. Just though u might remember…anyway good luck with Fox.

I am sad to hear about Justin’s brother. I was glad to hear the story. I am always fearful I’ll hear from someone to whom I wasn’t as nice.

I wrote back.

Justin – vaguely. It sounds like the kind of smart ass thing I’d do. I am sorry to hear about your loss. That’s a real shame.

Justin responded.

Thanks Geoff. You’re a good dude. Glad things worked out for ya. Have a happy 4th.

This is the major thing I learned between jobs There are a lot of people whose lives have crossed mine and who still have a memory. It’s a little overwhelming at first.

Obviously I’ve lead a very public life. When I am at any event I always try to visit every table. I don’t shy away. I enjoy the attention. I absolutely don’t mind you saying hello.

I am not perfect. Surely there’s someone I blew off or treated poorly. Over time that stuff happens to everyone.

Emails like Justin’s tell me what I’m doing is the right thing.

Nice To Be Back In New Haven

I don’t have as much reason to be in New Haven on a regular basis anymore. I miss its vibe. I was reminded of that today.

I had lunch with a friend today in New Haven. His treat. We went to Mory’s. I’m not sure I can totally explain the place except without him and his membership I’m on the street.

It was nice to be back in New Haven! The differences between it and Hartford are immediately visible.

Hartford is full of tall buildings. New Haven much less so.

New Haven is full of interesting places to eat and shop. Hartford much less so.

Having Yale downtown adds foot traffic you don’t get when everyone comes to the city just to take an elevator to work!

Both cities have problems with crime, though I’ve never been nervous walking through either.

Each city has its strengths and weaknesses, but it’s interesting that two cities so close together in the same state are so different.

I don’t have as much reason to be in New Haven on a regular basis anymore. I miss its vibe. I was reminded of that today.

The Invisible Parking Pass

You know where this is going, right?

I was a judge today at the New Haven Board of Education’s annual Science Fair. It was held at Yale Commons adjacent to Woolsey Hall on campus. That means parking was a mess! No problem, I was sent a parking pass to put in my window.

Please park anywhere in the vicinity of Yale Commons (next to Woolsey Hall) where legal parking is available. This parking pass allows you to park without paying the meter on May 11th in an open, legal parking spot. Your parking permit should be clearly visible through the front windshield on the side closest to the curb.

You know where this is going, right?

The $20 ticket was literally on the windshield directly over the parking pass! You can’t make this stuff up.

It will be fixed handled I am told.

I Came. I Saw. I Mingled.

I don’t know any more than those two sentences, but I was hoping just knowing Ruby on Rails exists would give me some geek cred.

I went to the New Haven Business/New Haven Magazine awards dinner tonight at Amarantes. If you’re ever invited to something like this if the “should I go longer/shorter” question comes up: shorter! That being said it was a well put together event with some impressive people and projects being honored.

The Bilco Door folks were honored as were a few local bankers, the architect (and driving force) behind 320 State Street and Covidien in North Haven.

My big score was meeting Ben Berkowitz and crew from SeeClickFix.

SeeClickFix allows anyone to report and track non-emergency issues anywhere in the world via the internet. This empowers citizens, community groups, media organizations and governments to take care of and improve their neighborhoods.

I asked Ben how the site was built. As soon as he said “Ruby,” I added, “on Rails.”

Ruby on Rails is an open source web development framework. It’s a structure to build data driven websites. I don’t know any more than those two sentences, but I was hoping just knowing Ruby on Rails exists would give me some geek cred.

RoR got me invited to a “hackathon” which is sort of a 21st Century hootenanny, but without the folk music and girls. I suspect there will be Doritos! I am honored and looking forward to it.

I did a lot of handshaking tonight. Some folks tsk’ed and said I’d been mishandled at work. I get that a lot nowadays.

Glad I was invited. Glad I went. I’m saying that even though I had to shave and wear a tie!

Reflections From An Old Guy At York And Elm Streets

Does anyone really want to get older once you’re in your twenties? That seems to be the optimum age. You’ve got your health. Nothing’s sagging. Happiness comes cheaper.

Doctor today. Annual physical. Pass! I already made the appointment for next year.

I said something to my doc about getting older. I want to be young. He called me Peter Pan.

Does anyone really want to get older once you’re in your twenties? That seems the optimum age. You’ve got your health. Nothing’s sagging. Happiness comes cheaper.

On my way from his office to the station I drove through the Yale campus. At York and Elm I could feel the vibe. Even cocooned in my car the power of youth penetrates. It’s that strong.

There they were — young, smart, motivated… thin. They were moving quickly–with purpose. Damn them. I wish I could be them.

Back in my college days I was smart enough… just not smart enough to give the impression of smart enough. The curse of the youthful underachiever.

The Yalies seemed carefree. How do you pull that off? I’ve forgotten how to be carefree.

If that’s Peter Pan so be it.

4th Of July Fireworks Photos

These shots were taken from an athletic field at the Foote School in New Haven.

I enjoy seeing fireworks and, since I now seem to be totally obsessed as a photographer, I also enjoy shooting fireworks.

“It’s not the same,” said Helaine when I came back from shooting the New Haven fireworks. “It doesn’t have the same excitement.”

She’s right (as usual). A still photo will never bring the oohs and ahs you hear from the live crowd.

On my drive home I was thinking this is a technical exercise more than anything. You never really know what’s going to be in the frame during the 5, 10 or even 20 seconds you’ve got the shutter open! The only thing a photographer must/can scope out is the shutter speed, aperture, ISO, lens focal length.

These shots were taken from an athletic field at the Foote School in New Haven. I used a Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 lens and varied my shots from 70mm all the way to 200mm. I was far enough from the fireworks that this was a near perfect lens choice lens.

The view was good but there were some trees that blocked a little of the action.

Click any photo for a larger view.

How Much Longer?

We headed upstairs past clusters of people smarter than us. I got a cup of coffee in the back and headed to my favorite spot–the magazines.


Thursday night in New Haven, CT. Noah was off in New York for the Big East Tournament. Ann left to have dinner with her husband and an old college friend. Ted and I were alone for dinner. Usually that means heading somewhere we can’t go with Ann (very picky with food). Thursday night that meant Gourmet Heaven on Broadway near Yale.

Dinner was great and quick. We were left with some extra time which meant walking down the block to the Yale Bookstore.

The bookstore is really a Barnes & Noble re-badged to reflect the community and probably ease the pain caused when the original Yale Co-op was squeezed out a few years ago.

We headed upstairs past clusters of people smarter than us leafing through heavy tomes on weighty subjects. I got a cup of coffee in the back and headed to my favorite spot–the magazines.

The photo at the top of this entry probably shows half the titles on sale at the bookstore. They range from the common to specialized to esoteric to totally off-the-wall weird. The computer mags are close to some with bikini clad tattooed women leaning against motorcycles.

This part of the bookstore might as well be on the endangered species list. Pulp publishing is a dying business.

I remember as a college student subscribing to Time Magazine and poring through its pages weekly. The news and analysis were still new to me when the magazine arrived. Now, even the morning paper is sadly dated by the time it hits my front steps.

Too slow. To expensive. Too bad.

I remember when growing up how my parents would claim radio drama had been superior to TV as a medium of the mind. I’ve heard old radio. They were mistaken. TV was better. Will I be looked upon as having made the same mistake?

The Internet is better for transmitting words and pictures than magazines. I’m still in love with type set on paper.

So, What Did You Do At Work Today?

By the time we rejoined regular programming, I’d been on-the-air live for a little over an hour straight.

I got to work this afternoon as thunderstorms were firing. No surprise there. They had been well forecast by me (and everyone I would hope). As the afternoon progressed the storms increased in intensity until, just before 6:00 PM, we went to a Tornado Warning for Fairfield and New Haven Counties.

It might be different in the Midwest, but here we go wall-to-wall with Tornado Warnings and so we dropped what was scheduled for our newscast and began to do live weather.

When you start live coverage, you have no idea how long it will last–I certainly didn’t. Ten minutes in, Gil Simmons (our morning meteorologist) came in. He wasn’t dressed for TV, but he strapped on a mic and helped out off-camera. I can’t begin to tell you how helpful he was.

By the time we rejoined regular programming, I’d been on-the-air live for a little over an hour straight. It was all ad lib for me… and everyone else. You’ve got to remember, the producers, director and crew were trying to make sure we were all heading in the same direction, though we really couldn’t speak directly to each other. They were amazing–probably more than they realize.

I don’t think there were any tornadoes this afternoon. I’d rather have it work out that way. But while it was happening, who could tell?

Some Good Weather News

I know a lot of people love winter. Not in the Fox house. We like it hot.

Every year about this time, with her fear of driving when the tires no longer feel it necessary to grip the road increasing, Helaine begins to curse the cold… curse the early darkness… curse the snow… curse winter.

I’m with her.

Stef had no choice but to grow up with this mindset as well. It’s all she’s heard from birth. She too is a warm weather fan.

So, Stef and Helaine and anyone else who dreads winter. I’ve got good news. From a historical perspective, the worst of the winter is over!

The graph at the top of this entry plots the average daily temperature at New Haven, CT. As of today, it’s climbing. We are getting warmer.

Helaine looked and smiled. Then she looked again.

“It takes too long,” she said, but she wasn’t really complaining. Anything good is worth waiting for.

The Power To Impress

I don’t often get email from the FBI. In fact, when email with their return address first appeared in my inbox, I examined the headers to make sure it was real and not some Internet scam.

SA (special agent, not secret agent) Jim Butler of the New Haven office was asking me to speak at a conference sponsored by the Connecticut High Tech Crime Investigator

When Good Airlines Go Bad

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a big fan of Southwest Airlines. I still am at this moment, but they’ve shown a side I hadn’t seen before.

Our flight from Midway was due out at 8:00 PM. “Conditions” (a word which covers a multitude of sins) didn’t allow us to depart on time. Hey – it happens.

The departure time was changed to 9:25 PM, so Stef and Helaine headed out searching for food. I sat on the floor, playing online poker.

A little after 8:00 PM, I faintly heard an announcement from the boarding area. I wasn’t sure what I heard, but Hartford was included. With Helaine and Stef gone, my laptop open on the floor and five bags next to me, I was stuck.

Next to me, another laptop user was also sitting on the cold marble. I had heard her mention New Haven in her conversation. I asked if she’d mind watching my stuff for a moment while I checked out what was going on.

At the gate, the CSR told me “we’re boarding now.” Yikes!

I called Helaine on the cellphone. She was at the far end of the concourse and I was at Gate 24. “Run,” I said.

To show the agents I was earnest about getting on, I disconnected from the poker game, pack muled myself and carried all the bags to the gate.

I will remember that for a while because my hip is killing me with the twingy pain that probably means I pulled a muscle!

It looked like they were about to close the door, but they weren’t. A minute later, Helaine and Stef, who had ordered dinner and then canceled it (thanks Harry Carey’s who understood their situation), pulled up to the gate.

We got on a half empty plane. Many of those who held boarding passes were nowhere to be found.

Imagine you’re told that your plane is delayed nearly two hours. You walk away to get a drink, a sandwich, go to the men’s room. When you come back, your flight is gone! I suspect this counts as “your fault.”

A few more, but not all, the passengers made it on the plane before we left for Connecticut. We arrived at Bradley after midnight.

While I went to get the car, Helaine and Stef stayed for the bags. The buzzer buzzed. The carousel spun. Some bags came down – not all.

A disembodied voice on the PA system apologized. Another plane was about to leave. Our bags would have to wait a few minutes more.

I know it’s tough to be in the airline business on a night when Mother Nature just isn’t cutting you any slack. I just think, in this case, Southwest didn’t live up to its reputation – at least it didn’t in my eyes.

The delay in Chicago wasn’t handled properly. No one was ever advised the plane might not be held until 9:25. I’m not sure what to make of the baggage snafu in Hartford, other than to say we once had this same problem with Carnival Air.

Does any airline want their attention to customer needs compared to Carnival?