February 18, 2003
Just when I’d gotten over the lack of holiday season jingles as the music beds in commercials, something unexpected appeared on my television…an editorial.
Yes, a real, honest-to-goodness editorial. One that took a stance on a topic. I haven’t seen an editorial in years. I didn’t think they existed anymore. I’m proud to say I was wrong. But in how many markets would I be wrong? Would I be wrong in yours?
Now, don’t go whining that your station does editorials too, especially if it only airs them at 3 a.m. (besides, if you really need to kill ad time, run some more PSAs). The station that ran the editorial I saw did it during the 10 a.m hour.
It turns out that Murray Green, the former general manager of WFLX (Fox), West Palm Beach, FL, offers commentaries in a spot called Afterthoughts three nights a week. The editorials are then repeated during the day. Green retired from his GM position several years ago, but continued doing his commentary, which the station started in 1991 in conjunction with its 10 p.m. newscast.
Now I will admit that it’s a little strange for a former GM to be doing editorials, but the one I saw by Green was good, contrasting the small Social Security cost-of-living increase (1.4%) with the automatic $5,000 annual pay raise that members of Congress will receive. Green reminded viewers that Congress doesn’t pay into Social Security, as it has its own retirement plan, which could be equal to a Congressperson’s full salary. He finished by saying that perhaps Congress should be put on Social Security so its members can get an idea of what the nation’s seniors (many of which are in South Florida) are going through.
Green reminded me of that little Congressional action that automatically grants pay raises unless the members themselves vote to stop it. A raise this year would be the fourth in a row, and a cumulative raise of more than $18,000 since January 1, 2000. These raises add up to more than the average annual Social Security benefit for a retired worker and spouse, and more than someone working at the minimum wage can earn in a year and a half. Nice work if you can get it—being in Congress—but it did cost them all a small fortune to get elected, plus there’s that federal budget deficit thing...but I digress.
When was the last time your station took a stand? I’m not talking about the non-contentious issues, such as being part of the Amber Alert or supporting the Race for the Cure. That’s easy. I’m talking about a real stand on an issue of importance to your viewership. You know, something that might (gasp) create controversy.
I remember growing up in New York City and seeing editorials almost every night on what was then WOR (now WWOR), usually after the late-night newscast. They would always end with “what’s your opinion, we’d like to know.” I would also see a lot of editorial replies, with the disclaimer that “the opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the station or management.” Now the only time I hear or see that disclaimer is before an infomercial. Sad, really.
It’s not as though there aren’t any issues out there. Some of your stations have news partnerships with newspapers in your market. Newspapers have a thing called an editorial (or opinion) page. You might find something there you could talk about.
Then again, maybe there’s no one at your station that can come up with an opinion. It’s possible. Or more likely, maybe your station’s lawyers won’t let you come up with an opinion. Remember, lawyers are paid to say “no” and protect the organization. Heaven forbid that your station actually serve in the public interest.
What’s your opinion? I’d like to know.
Michael Silbergleid is the editor. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org