Thursday, October 05, 2006

"Whether you are talking products, advertising ideas, layout treatments, package design or what have you, we are in the greatest era of monkey-see, monkey-do the world has ever known." Sigurd Larmon, 1956

"The creative man has lost the chip on his shoulder, the fire in his eye. Success has made him courteous, obedient, cautious. Thin tie, thin skin. He has moved to the suburbs, bought a boat, which he is careful not to rock." Whit Hobbs, 1959

Self-abuse in the creative community never seems out of fashion. The quotes above have a tone that is still very much around today. One would have heard similar comments at the NAB/R&R in Dallas. The "herd instinct" has always played some role in advertising and media and, so it would seem, just about all of the creative and communication arts. Can follow-the-leader be a good thing? Well that depends on what the leader is doing and what results are produced. The recent round of FCC public hearings again bring this issue to the fore. Folks active in the creative community making the argument that everything looks and sounds the same. From their side of the screen or speaker that may be true. Especially for those that have failed to sell or clear their programming. Does public radio all sound the same? Do too many pubcasters rely on NPR, PBS or other syndicated product for the majority of their broadcast hours failing to produce any local programming of substance (with the exception of fund drives)? Are there a finite number of commercial radio formats? Do commercial music stations tend to play slightly different versions of the same music? Do talk stations feature too much of the same national syndicated talk product and too little original local programming?

My view is the FCC hearings are a good thing, a healthy exercise. Getting the commissioners out into the community trumps executive summaries of emails, voicemails and letters received.

The strength of broadcasting remains its local role,no matter the ownership. There was once a day when you worked for only two kinds of broadcast owners, local and absentee. Absentee was derogatory. The revenues of those stations sent out of state at the end of each month. Carpetbaggers, air pirates. Quaint and romantic notions perhaps but the local owner was thought to somehow be more responsible. They were not.

What we seem to lack at the local level these days is the abundance of talent, the affluence of imagination needed to drive local innovation and performance. Global decision making becomes the rule of the day when local teams fail to produce results, alternatives, or confidence. Walking away from the OASIS brand in Dallas radio seems to be another global decision. One driven, perhaps, by the failure of local sales to produce results. While I applaud Alan Burns for securing another station deal, it seems a sad day. Whatever you may think of the change, the OASIS being a market brand for 19 years, on two different signals, is a still a damn good run. Speaking of Movin, you may catch the Seattle TV creative via YouTube here while it lasts. (FD: I previously managed KOAI)

Which brings me to editorials. You remember those. Broadcast editorials are still around they have simply gone long form (e.g., talk radio). Jeff Jarvis gets into the subject of dead tree or so-called institutional editorials verus those electric powered blog kind of things and a fine conversation ensues. Bravo Jeff! Jump into the conversation here. Yes Virginia, there was a time when the great unwashed had their minds made up for them by some old white guys in a newspaper office downtown, those guys even told us how to vote, imagine that. Those same old guys invited our reply and then they decided if our letter to the editor was worthy of publication and if it was they reserved the right to edit our writing. While concerns of space are made moot by online forums some are said to still apply those tired old rules of censorship, somehow for our own good. How exactly is it bad that more voices, more and different viewpoints are engaged in the conversation?

We got your innovation: The Ad Age annual Innovators Report is a good read, here

All hail McVay: Did not get around to offering congrats to the many deserving NAB/R&R award winners. This year's R&R industry award, whatever that means, was awarded to Mike McVay. Mike does great work and deserves every recognition he gets. He understands and respects the important work of teaching. He makes a difference, his work matters. Congrats and cheers Mike!

Something bad wrong here: Interesting reading from today's Robert Feder. If a part-time radio talent writes to the local radio-tv writer and that letter gets published...

"It's unbelievable how many Chicago radio icons are not currently on the air in this town. It's amazing that we can no longer flip through the dial and hear Mancow, John Landecker, Fred Winston, Dick Biondi, Bobby Skafish, among many others. My heart goes out to those talented personalities, and I am empathetic to the many disappointed listeners. This situation is sad. Very, very sad."

And then the talent gets fired and management goes into print to defend the termination...

"I don't think Cara is a fan of what's happening here," Nyren said. "I have no problem with my people talking to you, but I want to have people here who believe in our industry and believe what we're doing is right."

What's going on here? The talent seems to be a believer in our industry, in fact she writes as a devotee of accomplished talent; Cara would seem safe on that score. The meat of Nyren's case appears in two lines "a fan of what's happening here" and "believe what we're doing is right." These would seem connected to his termination of Mancow and her mention of Mancow not being currently on the air. She writes she is empathetic of the many disappointed listeners. No doubt the ones she comes into contact with on the phone and in the community. Hey, what happened to Mancow? Why did they let Bobby go? Those not working in the trade always ask those questions of those of us at work in the media dodge. Their mistaken notion being we actually know the real story, the behind the scenes dirt. It's Nyren's candy store, he is free to do whatever he wants. My suggestion is he would have been better served taking the high road on this one. Let your talent be talent rather than expecting them to soldier on and remain silent while they watch the unexplained slaughter of stars, the cashier of iconic talents, termination of the heros of their chosen profession. These firings are an issue of importance and discussion within the talent community. The real issue, it would seem to me, should be less about whether Cara is with Nyren or against him in the public forum and, properly, only about what she does or does not do on the air. Or maybe this is all about disenchantment, scorn, the demotion from full to part-time. Not enough facts are known to make a guess here. Having said that it is common practice for media companies to have in place what amounts to a gag order, language included in the company handbook that prohibits any contact with the press. The thinking here being that employees are not empowered to speak for the company nor have any opinion of their own that might in some way come to reflect upon the employer. This is also language common to personal services agreements (i.e., talent contracts). The bottom line is one may be terminated for cause should you be caught talking to the press without approval. An aside: It always amazes me when media demands a transparency in others it is not itself willing to abide by. Lacking all the facts I just don't know what happened and I might be absolutely wrong about everything written on this subject today, except...this situation is sad. Very, very sad. On that I can agree without reservation. You may read the entire Robert Feder column, via the Chicago Sun-Times here. (FD: part of my day job involves working with talent, a number of talent named in Cara's letter are clients of my employer or have some association with a client of my employer)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dave,

Why not admit three things in your post.
1. You are a big fan of Feder
2. You are on the record in a previous post for being a champion of Tim Dukes.
3. You think Emmis is a great operator.
Why the disclaimer that you might be wrong? imho a weasely move on your part. The woman was fired for stating facts, for having an opinion, what is not clear to you??
I'm still a fan of yours and will continue to read your otherwise well done blog but you let me down on this one.

Sam

Dave said...

Sam,

Am now and for a long while a fan of Robert Feder, this should be obvious. Yes, by my own writing I have shown prior respect for both Tim Dukes and for the Emmis organization as a whole. These three "things" have not influenced my post and I fail to understand your point. Why the disclaimer? Simple. I am not aware of the facts. What is not clear to me are the circumstances, the history, the facts that may never come to light without the benefit that discovery may bring in a court. Is it wrong for talent to be fired for talking or in this case writing to the press without approval of their employer? The answer must include a discussion of the employer-employee relationship. The answer needs to include a discussion of those obligations, those promises made between employee and employer. The "conditions of employment". I stand by my remarks and my disclaimer. Thanks, as always, for your thoughts.

Vermont Neighbor said...

What's ironic is the number of shows that do use the corporate boss as the 'comedic pin cushion.' Howard Stern. O&A. David Letterman. It's an interesting double standard. While every employment relationship can be traced back to a set of written rules and agreements, it would seem that demoting a fulltimer to weekend status serves as a knife in the back, especially while demanding company loyalty.

Interesting too that in Chicago, talents outside of Emmis have targeted morning shows (/past morning shows) with outright hostility and lack of support -- all in the name of entertainment. This would be in reference to the recent Stern replacement at CBS Chicago, with on-air attacks and "lack of support" provided by its longtime mainstay afternoon show.

It's possible that Corporate crossed the line in Ms. Carriveau's situation. AFTRA and the attorneys will have to hammer it out. I'm afraid it won't do much to change the double standard that exists in radio; although many listeners would like to see her show (and the ones she mentioned) back on Chicago's airwaves.