Analyzing Others Analyzing Beat The Press’ Cancelation by Boston’s Ch. 2

On that initial print from Boston-dot-com, they got a quote from Dan Kennedy from his personal blog (not related to his employers) his remarks of the cancelation of Beat The Press, that it appeared he was be blindsided by the mismanagement * ahem * bright minds at the highest powers at WGBH-TV in Boston. Kennedy mentioned that “I haven’t had a chance to talk with Emily yet, but I wish her all the best. She is a legendary figure in Boston media, as news director of WCVB-TV (Channel 5), at the national level and, for the past quarter century, at GBH News. It will be interesting to see what she does next.” Kennedy also stated that “It’s hard to put into words what I’m feeling right now. For so many years, heading over to GBH to record “Beat the Press” was simply what I did on Friday afternoons. I hugely enjoyed getting to know Emily, Callie Crossley and everyone else.”

One remark, to Dan Kennedy’s logic, Emily began hosting “Greater Boston” in the mid-’90s.” I suppose 1997 is considered “mid 90s”, I guess I learn something new each day.

Another mention was

“After that show had run its course, Emily pitched “Beat the Press” to WGBH executives (yes, the station still had a “W” back then), and we were off and running.”  (for kicks, she owns the trademark… it’s not owned by anyone other than her!)

Actually not true at all. The on-air branding was ‘GBH2 and I believe WGBX was replaced as ‘GBH44, again during the dark days of local content. The 2020 rebrand actually impacted both on air, and it’s corporate branding. The only time you see that W is on the hour per to FCC regs for Station IDs.  It’s only a matter of time “‘GBH Educational Foundation” as an incorporated name will appear.

Last week, Kennedy brought up some ol scribes in his days at the Boston Phoenix on GB’s inaugural week.

Quoting some of his observations, smashing the commercial stations a bit unfairly.

It’s crucial that ’GBH get it right. With commercial broadcasters in full retreat from serious news and public affairs, public-broadcasting stations are the last redoubt. Boston’s two major public stations — WGBH-TV and WBUR Radio (90.9 FM) — are among the most admired in the country. It’s by no means clear, however, that the people who run those stations are willing or able to fill the gap created by the commercial stations’ retreat into sensationalism and frivolity.

His article goes very lengthy on the history of the local programming, but no one in Boston in 1997 wanted to call out the lack of investing local programming on the flagship public broadcaster

WGBH-TV, meanwhile, has been struggling for decades to define exactly what its local presence should be, starting with the late Louis Lyons reading the news in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, through The Reporters in the early ’70s, and, finally, The Ten O’Clock News — co-anchored, ironically, by Chris Lydon — whose run from 1976 to ’91 was second only to that of Lyons’s show. Following a period of retrenchment over the past six years, when the station’s only regular local public-affairs shows have been The Group, the black-oriented Say Brother and the Latino-oriented La Plaza, ’GBH is at long last attempting to renew its commitment with Greater Boston.

Kennedy also paints all the comm-stations with a broad brush, when in reality WHDH really was the worse offenders in sensationalism. But remember unlike WSVN in Miami, the substance had an uptick for it’s time (whether you like it or not.)

At commercial stations, cost-cutting and competitive pressures have turned local TV newscasts into crime-and-celebrity-drenched triviafests, their rapid pace owing more to MTV than to traditional journalistic imperatives. (New England Cable News deserves some credit for bucking the trend, but not everyone gets cable, and not everyone with cable can get NECN.)

The “not everyone with cable can get NECN” could imply the old Haron cable systems in Northeastrern Mass, Southern New Hampshire and most of Maine.

And WGBH, despite a tradition as the “Tiffany” station in the Public Broadcasting System, is no exception. ’GBH is a national powerhouse, producing shows such as Frontline (the one shining exception to PBS’s public-affairs vacuum), NovaThis Old House, and Masterpiece Theatre, filling about one-third of PBS’s prime-time line-up. But when it comes to local programming, WGBH’s call letters for most of the ’90s might as well have been AWOL.

Let’s stop here, notice the boldface I inserted. This was written by a media professional. How could he screw that up? Remember for more than 13 years all PBS programs closed out with this. How could he forget that key fact? He slipped another time in his lengthy article. Remember he wrote about the industry at the time too!

Before I go further, as a sidenote: I really regret not going into J-school after high school, because people told me at the time I could be a good producer. Maybe I’d be a bad one because I’d be the guy making the talent deaf by screaming in their IFBs for small misinformation a talent will utter. There has even been times Emily Rooney will say something that is completely off the cuff, or miss some important detail (for an example the Friday Shep Smith got nixed by FNC, the program was off because of the Columbus Day holiday.) Earlier last year, in one of the Rants & Raves segment, Emily was wondering where Shep was. I did talk to my TV and said “he left on your day off back in October!” or something like that. I know no one talks back on their TV as discourse because everyone likes their feedback loop, where they only talk back to their TV in agreement.)

“If someone came along with a half-million dollars and said, ‘Hey, let’s do a documentary on “The Phillips Screwdriver, a Tool for Our Time”‘ — well, it just became interesting,” snipes an independent producer who’s worked with ’GBH.

Wait, wasn’t Ken Burns’ little documentary on The Civil War rejected by WGBH? I believe Burns told the Emmy folks in a 2007 interview that they did. Didn’t WGBH deny a lot of documentaries in the 90s? Wasn’t WETA Channel 26 in D.C. the one that piped out the docs? Except for that awesome production of The Machine that Changed the World, that’s the only doc in modern history that WGBH poured resources, and it took 2 years from produce to air…the first major interview of the series,  Steve Jobs was taped in the fall 1990, and the 5 part series aired in February sweeps of 1992!

The headline at the time is accurate, WGBH-FM was underlooked, and WGBH was strong on TV and WBUR radio was strong on local content, but at this time of the writing, WBUR would go more national, ala what WGBH-TV did, and many, many years later, nearly nine years after the new millennia, would they invest in local radio content.

In fact there is analysis on  The Ten O’ Clock News, I’m happy to follow up in a separate post, since I’ve gone pretty lengthy myself.


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