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As the November book draws near, it will be time for many stations to throw out "journalism" and go "tabloid." Reporters and photographers will be taken out of the mix for days and weeks while they "work on series."

Sweeps pieces are mostly high on glitz and low on contentÑdesigned to get viewers to watch. Most will have almost no news value and almost all will have music somewhere in the package. How come there is never music laid down in a story on the City Council? All the pieces will have sexy titles such as "My Mom is a Hooker," "Kids Having Kids," "SEX on the Net," "Dialogue of a Stripper," "The Miracle Diet," "Found Money," and "Behind the Scenes of CSI (or NYPD Blue, Judge Judy, 60 Minutes or whatever other hot show is on your station)."

Of course everything will be Exclusive! Only on Channel X! A Target 17 Investigation! The story you will only see here!

Why is it that newsrooms can practice real newsgathering skills for eight months out of the year, and then during the four sweeps months they become the Jerry Springer of ENG? November also has elections night. This is the only time the news director will blow the cobwebs off the petty cash box and buy pizza for the staff. It is also the night that you find out that your high-paid anchor can't ad-lib for shit.

Most stations have election night thrown out of the book--it won't count in the overall ratings. So enjoy your pizza and don't worry about the numbers.

But What If...

What if stations did not do sweeps stories in November and just covered the day-to-day news better than the other guys? I know that the promotions department would not be happy, but those are the guys that make your sweeps stories sound so much better than they really are anyway.

Then the viewer gets pissed because they stayed up to watch the 11:00 news thinking they were going to see Britney Spears naked in an exclusive story on how pop music is ruining the world.

Since Joe Blow didn't get to see Britney's boobies he decides he's no longer watching your newscasts. In the end, your sweeps story lost your station viewers. See how these stories can hurt you in the end?

I can only hope that one station will try going through November without doing these stupid tabloid stories just to try and bump the ratings by a 1/10th of a point. By the way, make sure you read my column next month when I will reveal sexy, never-seen-before pictures of a high-placed female anchor.

Scott Jones is a former photographer, reporter, assignment editor, producer, executive producer, and Top 20 news director. He runs www.ftvlive.com and can be reached by email at sjones@uemedia.com.



CNN Changes

I was going to write something about the changes at the top of CNN. But, since my deadline is almost three weeks out from the publishing date and the way CNN is going, the bosses may have been changed again.

CNN has changed their bosses, their anchors, shows, style, and format so much over the past year, there is no way anyone can stay loyal to them. It is sad to see a one-time progressive network now acting like the third place station in the 44th market.

Fox News is not out-foxing CNN. CNN just keeps shooting themselves in the foot. LetÕs hope that the gang in Atlanta can turn things around.

That will wrap it up for me. Until next time, may you keep your ratings up and your blood pressure down.

The Flat Panel Plasma TV

Last month I told you that I was trying to decide if I should buy a big plasma screen or a car. I never thought I would see the day when both cost the same price. In the end I went with the TV. I just figured that with a TV like that, I would never need to leave the house. Therefore, why would I need a car?

The TV is awesome!

--S.J.