Saturday, April 14

The Gorilla of Local News

It’s trite but true. Every TV station out there really would like to be a part of your life—a member of your family—a trusted friend. OK, it’s not altruism at work, it’s completely selfish. If you love us you'll watch us, if you watch us we can charge advertisers more, if we can charge more we can make more. And making more money is probably a good thing.

I don’t know if in these modern days of fragmented media it still holds true, but years ago I read research that showed that people had, mentally, a “home” station. In their minds they had a station that was theirs. And when they switched the dial, they weren’t going to some other station, they were leaving home. I worked for a time in the early 70s for KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh—the dominant #1 station in town—where that was true. KDKA was everyone’s home station, a part of the fabric of everyone’s life. The anchors, led by Bill Burns, were more than friends, they were family members.

When you’re that powerful you can take chances—even poke fun at yourself—because you’re so loved and so respected.

KDKA produced a promotional poster way back when that I’d give anything to have a copy of today.

Picture this. 99% of the poster is blood red. It’s the scene in the original 1933 “King Kong” where the giant ape breaks through the gate and is just about to storm the native village. Every single human being in the village is fleeing—running straight towards us, away from Kong. Actually, every single human being but one. Down in a lower corner of poster is the only person facing Kong. He’s the only thing in black and white. He’s holding a CP-16 TV news film camera. Next to him, in tiny letters, it says, “Details on Eyewitness News Tonight at 6:00 and 11:00.”


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