A TMZ Approach to Local TV News

Friday, July 12, 2013


A new tv news show launched in New Jersey this week, called Chasing NJ. It’s supposed to revolutionize local news by modelling it after syndicated celebrity-gossip show TMZ. Chasing NJ has already sparked outcry from Jersey politicians who want the FCC to rescind the license of its broadcast station, WWOR. Bob talks to the Brian Stelter of the New York Times about the new show.

Bob Pinado - Africa


Brian Stelter

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield

Comments [6]

Come to think of it, this show sounds in line with WWOR's pedigree: Howard Stern, Jon Stewart(I think), Richard Bey... MORTON DOWNEY JR.! NJ is splendidly rich in news but has no newspapers that cover it -- I don't think WWOR was ever filling any gaps...

As another commenter pointed out, if NPR throws in the towel on The Garden State you can't expect that Australian Raisin to pay attention.

Jul. 16 2013 10:59 PM
Art Hackett from Madison, Wisconsin

The requirement that WOR move its city of licensure to Secaucus dates to 1983 after parent company RKO General signed a consent decree with the SEC admitting to maintaining a slush fund to bribe overseas politicians. While the broadcaster lost its license for its Boston station, WOR's license was saved by legislation supported by U.S. Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ) allowing it to keep the license if it moved to a state without a VHF TV station which was the case in New Jersey.

But that didn't end RKO General's problems as noted in Wikipedia.

" In August 1987, FCC administrative law judge Edward Kuhlmann found RKO unfit to be a broadcast licensee due to a long history of deceptive practices.... Among other things, he found that RKO misled advertisers about its ratings, engaged in fraudulent billing, lied repeatedly to the FCC about a destroyed audit report, and filed numerous false financial statements. Kuhlmann described RKO's conduct as the worst case of dishonesty in FCC history."

As for the format being a distraction, is it any more of a distraction than that of "The Daily Show?" It's certainly not the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite but it is probably some of the best journalism on TV.

But if you really want New Jersey coverage, how about having a state owned network of public TV stations and have them produce the New Jersey Nightly News? Oh, wait.

Jul. 15 2013 02:17 PM
Tom from UWS

BTW, thinking a bit more, the Gulf+Western issue may have been connected to false reporting of ratings to advertisers.

Jul. 14 2013 11:10 AM
Tom from UWS

I was working for WWOR news in the early 80s when the license issue came to the fore. The full story runs something like this:
WWOR (then a cable "superstation", carried in markets nationwide) was owned by Gulf+Western. The parent company was charged with some FCC violations - i recall something about price-fixing of advertising - and was to lose their operating license - they wouldn't even have a station to sell.

Meanwhile, in Washington, New Jersey's Congressional delegation paired with Delaware's to pass legislation offering "automatic" or easy license approval to anyone locating a TV station in either state - the only two states in the country without a commercial television station at the time.

So, WWOR was sold and moved to New Jersey. Even before the physical move, WWOR shifted to New Jersey-focused news (while not ignoring NYC stories.) There was genuine effort to cover NJ - from restaurant reviews, to weather, to politics. Over 30 years of ownership changes this has morphed into something else, and as others point out, channel 9 does not seem to have the resources of Murdock's channel 5 Fox flagship.

But it must be admitted that local television news has suffered generally over those years. WNBC's News4, once considered the best among strong rivals, has accelerated toward the trash heap, with momentum perhaps culminating with this week's disgusting exclusive lead story about a masturbating New Jersey Transit bus driver. (Yes, New Jersey!) The story was teased throughout the evening's programming, then led the broadcast and was given several minutes of air.

Other recent "local news" stories included a New Jersey [!] teacher accused of urinating into a waste basket in his classroom. Certainly governor Christie gets equal billing with Governor Cuomo on NYC stations, and New Jersey crime and fire and flood are not ignored.

The question we need to ask is what is news? I think NOT the two examples above or similar tabloid junk. Since formerly respected news organizations like WNBC's have moved to best FOX and other sensationalist, politicized programming, what does the future hold - not merely for New Jersey, but for all of us?

Meanwhile, when examining channel 9's agreement with the FCC, it's important to remember that the very existence of the license was dependent on real coverage of the state's news. One hopes that this will include more than scandal and beach towns, but held against the standards currently in play, perhaps that's enough.

Jul. 14 2013 11:08 AM
Keith from Hoboken

WWOR-TV deserves to lose its license. No matter how the Channel 9 brass and corporate big-wigs try to spin it, Chasing New Jersey is not "news." There is no depth to the stories (you can't even call it "reporting.") There is no journalism. There is no storytelling. There is no 'news of the day.' It's a bunch of 20-something year olds giving their opinions. Real news isn't riddled with opinion. It has facts. It has balanced reporting. Something this tabloid show is severely lacking.

What happens when there is a big crisis -- when the people of New Jersey need information in order to make decisions about their family health and safety? Are the people of New Jersey going to tune into this circus called Chasing New Jersey and their "Ringleader," a failed politician with no journalism experience? Does the Chasing New Jersey "chasers" and crew have the experience, the know-how to deliver "news?" The answer is no. Television news is supposed to be about public service. The airwaves belong to the people, and the people have a right to be served.

Jul. 14 2013 01:47 AM
Robert from New York

Clearly this show is garbage, unworthy of a society where an informed citizenry is a virtue. But strip off the veneer of (maybe) one or two stories a week about the substance of local governance, and the ability to move quickly on a story that DOES matter, and sad to say, the average local newscast on an average-to-slow news day doesn't really do much better. TMZ production values are clearly in the gutter, and the breeziness of some of these stories insults all intelligence ... but are we not also insulted by "if it bleeds, it leads," silly live remotes, the incessant distortions of the language to make stories sound fresher than they are, and the number of times that happytalk anchors can manage to offer lame, unsupported opinions and fit the word "shocking" into one broadcast? This show is definitely a step down from what channel 9 was doing and what the other local news shows commonly do, and an absolute insult to the concept of what news should be, but sad to say it is ONLY a step down.

PS ... has anyone asked channel 9 whether it might preempt this trash and use the resources of its sister station channel 5 on nights when there really is a compelling story that demands live coverage?

Jul. 13 2013 10:21 AM

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