Saturday, July 22, 2006

Good for Randy

Are you following this building controversy between Randy Lerner and his TV partner, WOIO, Channel 19?  Earlier this week Lerner served notice on Channel 19 that he was severing the three-year contract to show Browns exhibition games and other related programming just one year into the deal.  While speculation was that Lerner was upset about WOIO’s decision to air the 9-1-1 tape of Lerner’s sister calling police as her daughter was drowning, he confirmed as much in this morning’s Plain Dealer.

According to Lerner, he simply doesn’t want to do business with such an insensitive partner.  It should be noted, too, that WOIO was the only local station to broadcast the tape’s most gut wrenching moments.  Fox 8 broadcasted an edited version and the other two stations declined to broadcast it at all.

You have to love the irony in the fact that WOIO station manager Bill Applegate has a “no comment” sign hung outside his office door.  Channel 19 has, by a large margin, the worst newscast of all local stations.  It has known no bounds in trying to attract viewers.  Rather than reporting on real stories of substance, its nightly newscast is replete with crime stories of little relevance but with great visual impact.  When there is a lack of crime or fires, it sends one of its “reporters” to get naked to cover a story. In that context it’s no surprise that with that kind of judgment they stand on the precipice of losing a lucrative contract and further alienating themselves from potential viewers.

The only thing that is surprising is that Applegate hasn’t pulled out the old “first amendment” trump card.  Maybe that’s because he knows he’s stepped in it and his job may very well be on the line if he tries to defend what is indefensible.  The truth of the matter is that there is news in the untimely death of the young daughter of one of the most prominent families in Cleveland.  But it adds nothing to the story to actually play the tape of the distraught mother phoning in the tragedy to police.  At some point privacy and sensitivity to a horrific tragedy must come into play.

It’s understandable that Lerner wouldn’t want to do business with these jerks.  He might be forced into it because he does have a binding contract with Channel 19.  But rest assured, if Channel 19 forces Lerner’s hand on this, they’ll lose in the long run.  They already have.

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