Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Blast From The Past: Authority figures missing from local newscasts

I just love coming across old articles from the Fort Wayne Newspapers. They make me chuckle :).

Published Date: October 16, 1984
Paper: The News Sentinel

Where are all the authority figures on local television news, the anchormen and women who look like they've been around Fort Wayne a while and know what they're talking about?

You'll have a hard time finding them here.

When WKJG News Director Dick Florea, 47, gave up his anchorman post on Channel 33 Friday, that left us with the under-40 crowd.

At WPTA Channel 21, co-anchors Keith Edwards and Susan Alderman are barely in their 30s.

At WKJG, Jim Brook is in his mid-30s and co-anchor Marilyn Lis is just finishing her 20s.

The co-anchors at WANE are even younger; Liz Berry's in her mid-20s and her new partner, Ken Owen, is a mere 23.

Judging by the relative youth of Fort Wayne's news anchors, you'd swear 39 must be the mandatory retirement age.

And that's a mistake.

Filling a program with nothing but young faces may be acceptable in programs clearly intended for young viewers, but the news is a different case. Young people don't watch the news; adults do. You can gauge that by the commercials that air during the news. Advertisers know which shows are watched by which age groups, and they place their commercials accordingly.

During a local newscast, you won't see commercials for youth-oriented products like cereal, chewing gum, soft drinks or blue jeans. You'll see ads for farm pesticides, carcar products, grocery stores, home-improvement products - things adults use.

That's because adults watch the news, not kids. And many adults like getting their news from people who look like they've been around a while - not from newscasters who look like they're fresh out of college.

That's what made Walter Cronkite so popular, so trusted. That's why people look to David Brinkley, Charles Kuralt and Eric Sevareid for commentaries.

The networks understand the public's need for seasoned news veterans, and they staff their newscasts accordingly. But locally, 40-year-old faces have disappeared from TV news. There is, of course, a reason for that.

Fort Wayne is not a large city; it hovers around the 100th position for American TV markets.

When you're that size, you don't attract seasoned veterans for TV news jobs. Instead, you get young adults with a bit of experience who stop off here for a year or two before heading to a more lucrative TV job in a larger city.

The only time you get seasoned veterans like Florea to stick around is when they have strong ties to the community and are happy to settle down here. But most have their sights set on larger cities, making it hard to find news anchors who look like they've been around long enough to have a sense of perspective about this city and its people.

And that's a shame.


Colleen said...

Oh how much do I LOVE this blog! I grew up in the Fort, moved away, and came back. And the inexperienced (and sometims just plain not very good!) tv news people now make the "young people" of twenty years ago look like Cronkite.....

Bobby G. said...

It IS a shame the way newscasters have relative shiort "lifespans today as opposed to years gone by.

I've been tying to keep track of ALL the people that have come and gone from JUST at WANE over the past 10 years...then there were those lost when WKJG merged with WPTA.
The list gets longer...and longer.

Be nice to figure out where they all are now?
(if I could remember ALL their


Jeffry Burden said...

I stumbled on this tonight - and it was a hoot to read. I remember that article. I worked at WKJG-TV33 from '82 to '85 - I did the weekend news (with Kent Hormann on sports) and reported on weekdays. I had a blast, and learned a lot from Dick Florea. There was some good talent on the air then. I remember it all, mostly fondly. The Fort is a great town.

Pete said...

Bob Speaks and Ken Kurtz of WANE...

(Hey, somewhere in your wonderful blog you could find a place for Engineer John of WKJG...)