August 7, 2008

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Tim Cuprisin Column

By Tim Cuprisin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Aug. 7--It's time to stop being surprised about how TV covers things like the endless Brett Favre saga.

This is the kind of story that television "news" is all about these days.

It's that simple.

Of course, that doesn't stop viewers from grousing about it, like the self-described "militant news junkie" and "avid Packers fan" who e-mailed this week after the coverage pre-empted network newscasts on two Milwaukee affiliates asking about the "news judgment" of such a move.

Here's a simple answer to that one: This has nothing to do with "news judgment," whatever that may be. This is business.

Regular readers are going to roll their eyes now, but here we go again: There are only two stories that matter much in Milwaukee TV news -- the weather and the Packers.

Those two topics drive the ratings like no other "news" in this market.

The e-mailer noted that the 5:30 p.m. coverage didn't add anything to the story, since "nothing had changed in the previous few hours."

But an important thing had changed over those few hours: the audience.

The TV audience is always in flux. That's the reason for all the repetition in TV news coverage, especially at a time when the bulk of viewers are coming home from work.

None of this is meant to justify the excessive coverage.

It's silly and frequently unwatchable -- just as silly and unwatchable as cable news' overcoverage of the latest missing young blond or overcoverage of a high-speed police chase that's a staple in other TV markets.

And you're not required to watch any of it.

If you need a dose of national and international news and you don't have cable, Milwaukee Public TV offers German TV's English-language "Journal" at 5:30 weeknights, on Channel 36, followed at 6 by "BBC World News" and at 6:30 by "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."

You can bet that none of them will ever be interrupted by coverage of Brett Favre.

CHANNEL SURFING: The trades are all full of reports that Laurence Fishburne is talking to the producers of CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" to replace the departing William Petersen.

--Noah's Ark Waterpark in Wisconsin Dells will be part of Travel Channel's "Extreme Waterparks" at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

--Milwaukee Public TV's "Black Nouveau" has picked up a "Salute to Excellence" award from the National Association of Black Journalists.

--Glen Mabie, who quit as news director of Eau Claire's WEAU-TV because his station had struck a deal with a local hospital to sponsor health segments that featured only hospital personnel as sources, is the recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists annual Ethics in Journalism award.

--Justin Wood of Trussville, Ala., won ABC's "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" and its $250,000 prize.

SUMMER IS ENDING: Well, not quite. But summer shows are wrapping up, with three finales tonight: Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" at 7 on Channel 6; NBC's "Last Comic Standing" at 7 on Channel 4; and ABC's "Hopkins" at 9 on Channel 12.

TV attention focuses on the Olympics on NBC and its various outlets starting Friday night and stretching through Aug. 24.

The political conventions air after that (with the Republicans starting their Twin Cities TV show on Labor Day).

Before you know it, it really will be fall. In TV terms, anyway.

Reach Tim Cuprisin at (414) 224-2397 or [email protected]


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