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Lou Pickney's Online Commentary

June 2000

June 18, 2000
4:11 AM EDT

I figure it's been a month, so now might be a good time for an update.

I saw someone die tonight. Well I don't know that for a fact, but I saw the scene. Around 10:40 PM I went over to Kroger to buy a few groceries. This might seem like a strange time to go grocery shopping, at 10:45 PM on a Saturday night, but not for me. I didn't feel like partying tonight (I went to a WSAZ party last night) so I was just chilling here. Anyway, I got over to Kroger, and I saw all these emergency vehicles and I think even a fire engine over by the train tracks. My first inclination was that there had been a spill or some other sort of thing like that. Quickly it became apparent that someone was injured, as there were maybe 6 or 7 medical personnel gathered over by the train tracks, and the horrific image seemed to indicate that there was someone stuck underneath the train. As I tried to comprehend the situation, these two stoner looking guys walked up to me. One guy had a shirt that said, I kid you not, "Marijuana, it's not just for breakfast anymore!" Gotta love West Virginia. They told me that they had heard that someone got hit by the train, and we spent a moment lamenting over how god-awful an experience that would be. My younger bro Matt was in a car wreck nearly two years ago that killed his friend Charlie Green when they were hit by a train while driving over train tracks on a Sunday morning. It's incredible that my brother wasn't killed or seriously injured in that wreck. I've already had one brother die, so as you might imagine it's not something that's easy to contemplate, the what if's involved. I was over in England when that happened in October of 1998...

So after seeing that scene, I went inside and bought my groceries. When I got back outside I noticed that the 6 or 7 crew members by the tracks were standing there as opposed to looking around under the train as they had been when I went inside. So I called over to WSAZ to see if they knew about it, and Mike Goins told me that they had a photographer on the way. I flipped on the news a little later and heard that the person hit by the train had died. So that was a surreal mark on a Saturday night. This week at work was very good for me. The May 2000 ratings "book" came in, and the numbers for my morning newscast were way up. To give an example, the 6-7 AM slot posted a 10/48 rating, which was up from both the past book and most importantly from the book of a year before (which gives a more direct comparison as seasonal viewing habits can skew the numbers). But last May we had an 8/42, so being up by 2 rating points and 6 share points is great. In comparison, the other two stations doing news in the market had a 2/11 and a 2/10. But for me personally, in the two books since I came here, they've been up both times, and my boss is very happy with me.

I also had my six month review this past week, and the timing was perfect as the ratings came in the day before my review. They continue to be happy with my performance, and I continue to be happy at WSAZ. It's a nice combination.

There are a couple of big changes coming to the morning news that I can't comment on here. But I've stayed pretty busy working on one of them, and soon enough it will become evident what they are.

In a story that you might not be aware of, a group called the Parents Television Council, or PTC for short, successfully petitioned MCI WorldCom this week to drop advertising of the program "WWF SmackDown!" on the UPN network. Groups like these give conservatives a bad name, as they seek to take away freedom and promote censorship seeming more like something out of a Clinton White House policy than something "from the right". The PTC also uses typical liberal political miscasting and misrepresentations of the truth against their enemies, which in this case is the WWF. Similar groups have also waged battles against the likes of Howard Stern.

For my money, it should come down to public demand. If something "crosses the line" and is offensive to an audience, then wouldn't logic dictate that the audience would turn away, and thus the program would lose viewers. Conversely, if it's something that people WANT to see and ENJOY watching, then the ratings will reflect that as well. And don't use the argument of "Oooooh children might see it" on me, you have the ridiculous TV ratings system now (where a PG-13 move can be "edited down" to become TV-14), and television should not be a babysitter for all you irresponsible parents out there. Though among those who politically seek to take the parents' role out of child-raising and replace it with the control of the federal government, that's the sort of response they want to envoke in the public (the "this could be harmful for children" rhetoric).

On a lighter note, there's less than a month till my fantasy football league re-draft picks have to be turned in. I love the NFL, but my FFL league manages to make it even more fun. Check out my FFL page if you haven't before. At worst, you can laugh at my crude efforts at artwork on the team helmets. Later.

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