Tag Archives: The Ten O Clock News

R.I.P. WGBH-TV’s TOCN: Where’s Marcus Jones?

I’ve been busy like a spring bee, buzzing around in my workspace to produce some content. (Another post)

But I have access to my MacBook and YouTube, and one overnight where I didn’t get sleep, I did a literal search for some of the on camera people of WGBH’s Ten O’ Clock News. In fact some of the earlier embeds was from a YouTube channel I ran into, and it turns out that same YouTube channel is Marcus Jones…

This guy circa 1987

After a quick verification and a gratitude of your humble news gathering hobbyist, he left a lengthy reply last Wednesday after your’s truly asked about his professional whereabouts… so below is his reply (some is edited for formatting and for ease of reading).

Dear Steven…For about a year after the cancellation of the TOCN, I worked part-time editing show open videos for “The Group” on WGBH-TV. “The Group” filled in for the TOCN for awhile before “Greater Boston” came along. In August of 1992, I began a 2-year run as anchor and news director of Lowell Cable Television’s nightly “NewsCenter 6” cablecast. I also did freelance reporting for FOX 25, New England Cable News, and WBZ-TV’s “Eyewitness News” from 1993 to 1995. For a brief period in late 1994, I even did fill-in lecturing in broadcast journalism classes at Northeastern University. In May of 1995, I moved to the Washington, DC area to become the main weekday reporter covering the District for Newschannel 8.

Through the years, since relocating to the National Capital Area, I’ve done various freelance reporting, videography, and video editing for smaller county cable operations and for my own projects.

As my young son progressed through the public school system in Prince William County, Virginia, I transitioned into the field of administrative support, as well. For more than a decade, I served vice presidents, executive directors, even the town treasurer, in roles such as executive assistant, special assistant and deputy. With what little spare time I had during this period, I also mentored and instructed aspiring high school journalists from 1996 to 2008 through the Urban Journalism Workshop program sponsored by the Washington Association of Black Journalists. I’m pleased and proud to say several of those young people are now working journalists in markets throughout the country. In 2004, I contributed to the “The Tom Joyner Morning (Radio) Show” as a DC correspondent for BlackAmericaWeb.com. In 2010, I added webmaster to my quiver when I launched an affinity site featuring classmates from my generation at Boston University. The site has been the catalyst for numerous reunions and other alumni events and activities.

In 2012, I became, and remain, an active YouTube Content Creator. My most popular channel is VideoCollectables. The channel has more than 230 news, event and human interest videos available (many more to come), collectively more than 103 million content views, currently 150,000 channel subscribers, and growing, and an audience which includes every continent and notable island nation on the planet. VideoCollectables is highly rated by SocialBlade.com and tracked as an influencer channel by Noxinfluencer.com.

I do appreciate the last paragraph (boldface is emphasized by your’s truly)

But, enough about me, your message reminded me of a significant upcoming anniversary. I have mentioned to some of my colleagues from the TOCN, we should cobble together a video memoir reflecting on our experiences with the TOCN. I haven’t given up on the notion – which is why I fully endorse and encourage your project to memorialize what all of us, to a man and a woman, agree was the best news job we ever had.


R.I.P. WGBH’s TOCN: Commercial Compeitors as Subjects

I won’t say the packages that aired on WGBH’s Ten O’ Clock News was inherently a hit-job to Channels 4, 5 or 7 and 56 for the time; I’d say the tone of the stories on the local commercial media was mildly jealous?

This story was on if the local media (Boston, that is) that reports negative crime stories in certain neighborhoods would reflect that said locale badly as a whole. I think it’s a no-brainer for confirming such theory.

In the 1988 First in the Nation Primary, Channel 2 sent their crew to follow CBS News’ setup up here. The audience of the PBS world is a bit different than the commercial world; meaning that most average viewers who consumed commercial broadcast media at the time; kinda knew the behind the scenes and many of the PBS type of viewers still thought news was still “filmed”. I’m just speculating, since the story was in a way “educating” those very upper crust people how the news is produced, while us lower end peeps just know or just do it.

This package around 1989 was on the subject of local weather on commercial TV. While TOCN did do a weather segment in the form of a text based Chyron of the next 36 hours; following the live on set interviews before either anchor would walk back to the anchor desk, around 18 after; this package seemed to show what it was like to prep for a weather piece for that time.

Obviously this was for apparent big-weather events, like coldsnaps, blizzards and snowstorms, and those once in a generation hurricanes like Gloria in 1985 and Bob, just a few months after the end of the program in August of 1991, and the no-name hurricane in Halloween of that same year.

30something years later, “Weather” is the very reason why I do not watch local news. The weather department for a lot of ways was fused into the news department, and the news is dependent on even trivial events like downpours. WCVB these days love to promote “we are following the timing for your weekend/morning commute.” If it impacts my life or property (like a random unpredicted thunderstorm) you better damn well put it on the a-block!

Interesting the reporters at Channel 2 had guts to interview lower average people for those man on the street interviews. I suspect given how big the Boston market is, and how say Middlesex County as a whole has more people than the residents of Boston, that most people who lived in Boston then and as they do today, are not in tune to the average media consumer. With the no-answers on the weather guys in 1988 should say a lot!

In 1990, a woman named Pamela Smart had an underage student of the school she worked for kill her husband. Described by Christopher Lydon as “quaint” Derry, N.H… I am not sure if that should be taken as a complement or an insult. I turned 4 when the trial took place and this story didn’t just impact Manchester, but the Boston media as well. TOCN had even gave the alleged-star reporter Bill Spencer at WMUR-TV in Manchester face-time, as he had plenty of face-time across national programs like Geraldo‘s daytime talk show, and Bill O’Reilly’s Inside Edition.

Other reporters did MOS (really teenagers) closer to home, and it’s interesting how school age students could have a voice before FERPA, over protective mama bears, and other privacy policies forced no cameras allowed to easily tape students, especially giving them a voice when the 90s came to a close.

I cannot confirm if this was the only time WGBH ran with this story; but for the competition this was one of their first wall-to-wall stories they carried live and uninterrupted. Channel 9 OTTH had even the audacity to do a nightly recap of the events. I also felt in the Boston area, the Pamela Smart events gave them the open license to cover any sex or standard crime without any careful editorial judgement. Don’t read me wrong, I’ve done stories on BCOP-TV, that was completely more edgier and kinkier, but it never ran at the top of the A-block at 6:00. Some of those crazy sex stories would be at the end or somewhere in the B-block. Anyways back to “reality” I have suspected that after the trial, for WMUR-TV, they would cover any sex or murder story or trials that followed in almost a very raw and special-snowflake type of coverage, for decades after.

I actually know someone who once knew Pamela Smart professionally, I can see both sides to the coverage and what happened. She’s guilty of the crime, but the specific details is where both the Manchester and Boston press went too far, and that’s where the sensationalism began, and the facts got lost. Ironically, given what Bill Spencer had acted, that I suspect after this trial, he hadn’t been seen on local TV since. I don’t ever recall seeing him. I recommend that people watch the 2013 HBO documentary on the trial, and how the subjects indicted the media; which I would concur. 

R.I.P. WGBH-TV’s TOCN – First Episode’s “Graphics”

When The Ten O’ Clock News aired for the first time in 1976, art was almost virtually traditional in medium. Except for text, everything was not digital at all.

The Character Generator WGBH used at the start was the Vidifont, developed by CBS, and was the first marketable CG for TV to migrate away from type written paper that required a camera, and with magic of keying, the text would appear on screen.

It was very manual in nature, and designing titles for same day events would be so expensive. You want to design analog lower thirds? Go to your local Michaels or Hobby Lobby, buy stick on letters for whatever the price, use construction paper (use say blue color), take your camcorder, and do a still shot, and use whatever you use to edit to “key” in that blue, and that’s where sub/titles came from. And for 1970s dollars, it would get expensive really quickly.

Even with CGs, many over the shoulder graphics were still shots with traditional artists or media. In this full screen, this is a still photo of some trees. For WGBH-TV’s standards, this was used in various fashion, till 1987 where it more of an electronic look. They did migrate to a Chyron III and IV during the rest of the series.

Insider Clips – WGBH’s TOCN – 1988 (Producer Leaves)

Some Betacam tapes, if played on a Digital Betacam with a Firewire connection that is exposed to a computer application capable of digitization could have the potential to be posted online (like Bill O’Reilly’s tirade closing out an early 1990s Inside Edition that was one of the first viral YouTube videos way back? :))  I love when this happens!

I call these “Insider Clips” typically video that’s shot with the newsroom gear that is shown for the staff, often for people who depart and years go by and it becomes public. I’ve seen this in other stations and on YouTube. While this was shot I was just a year old , inside jokes and jabs are easy to interpret and understand, because most newsrooms have the same challenges and advantages, and workloads.

Anyways, that intro aside, a producer for WGBH’s Ten O’ Clock News was leaving to another career opportunity, so the production team did a 13 minute tape. The production is low-fi in quality – even for 1988 standards, because they didn’t have much graphics outside the Chyron – if there was a Paintbox, it might’ve been for their national shows instead. In one example you see it start with very cheesy WGBH ID (the ones you normally see on the start of a PBS show) without “Boston Presents” it has “HELP” instead.  Another soundbite chopped in was signature sounder for the funding spots for Nova at the time (in the frame where you see the tornado.)  You can tell they were slapping a lot of things quickly, because the rest of the clips are the goodbyes from 3 1/2 minutes in. The sarcasm of David Boreri at that point in was hilarious.

a screengrab from an internal video from 1988
“I gotta go. We got to cover this big mouth!” – David Boeri

Once upon a time when WGBH was based at 125 Western Avenue in the Allston neighborhood of Boston, the building was really interesting. I did get an opportunity to volunteer there in their last year at the location. I never got a chance to see the front of the building and the infamous WGBH neon logo lit up at the front door. I don’t think this moved to Brighton, and sadly the logo had changed last year.

I did go across the footbridge for the event I volunteered and again the building hadn’t changed much by 2006, but I do know a WGBH logo in blue color was placed on the front sides of the footbridge if you were passing by on Western Avenue by car. The size was similar to the one the sides of the building right before the front door.

R.I.P. WGBH’s Ten O Clock News – 30 Years Later

This month marks the 30th death-versary of WGBH-TV’s The Ten O Clock News. Most of my fans are probably young or don’t live in the Boston TV market (that also includes a vast region of Southern New Hampshire via cable) and mostly WGBH in the fan-community is well known for it’s logo and it’s national programming.

Your humble tape archivist and creative services expert and journalist when I feel like it, I thought it would be useful to share my observations of the program, what the market is missing and what occurred to WGBH-TV for most of the 1990s after the program had been canceled. I also feel it’s important to share history within the PBS-bubble. It was not abnormal for PBS stations to run local newscasts, I mean NJN in New Jersey did it for 30 years, and it’s 10 year death-vesary will be the end of next month (and I’ll do a piece on that too.)

If the technical gawds are looking out for me, I am planning to stream on my YouTube at 10:00 pm Eastern Time (US) the last program that is available online on Sunday, May 30th.

The TOCN theme on my page for the rest of this month, will be about it’s format, how it compared to comm-stations like Channels 4, 5, 7, and 56; what made it unique, can can the public trust the official statement of the station in 1991? Lastly, a subject on where the talent went, and if they repeated unemployment again.