Wednesday, August 28, 2013

WPTZ-TV Town Hall Meeting: Dog But No Pony

"I heard Tom Messner has doggie treats!"

By Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH, NY - Aug. 27, 2013

Apparently Channel 5 viewers come in all shapes and sizes.

Tuesday evening representatives of WPTZ, the Plattsburgh-based TV station, held an open forum with the public in the Plattsburgh Public Library auditorium.  In attendance was a large but quiet dog dutifully held by its owner via a leash.

Unfortunately the friendly canine didn't bark any comments during the town hall meeting.  Maybe he was upset with the quality of dog food commercials aired on the station.  We'll never know.

While there was a dog there was no pony – unless WPTZ meteorologist Tom Messner counted as one.  He opened up the town hall meeting with an overview of Channel 5 history with a PowerPoint presentation featuring photographs he had taken over the years while employed at the station.

Tom was personable, affable, ever-smiling as usual.  He cracked a few jokes that the audience found funny.  As an ice breaker it was an effective presentation but if it was intended to completely mollify everyone it didn't work.

The main complaint heard during the gathering was one that has been raging for decades: WPTZ covers too much Vermont news at the expense of New York State coverage.

Others listen as a Channel 5 viewer talks about how the TV station overstresses coverage of Vermont over New York State.

With the aid of a laser pointer WPTZ-TV President and General Manager Kyle Grimes explains the breakdown of the viewership in the viewing area.

One woman in the audience mentioned that last May Clinton Community College had its largest graduating class but Channel 5 News only covered college graduations in the Burlington, Vermont area.  Recently college students have returned but, according to the woman, WPTZ has provided no coverage of colleges in the Plattsburgh area.

WPTZ President and General Manager Kyle Grimes addressed the issue by using a laser pointer and a PowerPoint image of a regional map.  He said that the Vermont market had the many more viewers and so the station's news coverage reflected that fact.  He understood the complaint but the market was what it was.

What wasn't said in so many words was Channel 5 is a for-profit entity, its existence based upon revenue from ad dollars.  Obviously Burlington and its surrounding communities are going to generate more income for the station.  So while some complain about the bias towards Vermont events – and I'm one of them – the truth is that the situation is never going to change.

Before the meeting I briefly spoke with the WPTZ GM and mentioned that I don't watch Channel 5 news.  One reason why was expressed by a few in the audience who said that they preferred to watch the competing TV stations for local news, even though those stations are based in Vermont.  After all, if you're going to watch Green Mountain State news, might as well watch it on a Vermont station, especially when that station seems to pay a little more attention to this side of Lake Champlain.

No one mentioned my other reason for not watching Channel 5 news but I've heard others make the same complaint: the incessant bragging through repetitive promos for its local news shown 24/7.  After hearing how great the Channel 5 News Team is for the nth time I don't want to look at their sickening faces.  Competitors Channel 3 and Channel 22/44 each promote their own news without all the extreme fanfare and bombast.

(A station contact flyer provided at the meeting notes that Promotions & Public Relations are handled by a Mr. Brian Damm.  So if you're annoyed by WPTZ news promos you can shout at your TV: "Damm stupid ads!")

And I didn't have a chance to say to the WPTZ reps that there's still a major misspelling in a story at the station's website that talks about an archaeological dig at "Pike's Contonement" [sic].   I make mistakes but it's not because I'm too lazy to use a spell check program.

There's no excuse for not using spell check.  It's quick and easy – simple enough for either a dog or a pony.  Or even Tom Messner.


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