The (Potential) Power Of Email

Two months ago I could not think about anything to write for my column here. At the time, I was trying to decide if I should buy a plasma TV or an electric car called a GEM from DaimlerChrysler (they both cost around the same price).

Of all the columns I have written for this magazine, I felt this was by far my weakest effort as a columnist. Hell...let's be honest, I am not really a columnist at all, I just bang out a few thoughts each month.

Anyway, here is the part that shocked me: After my car versus TV column ran, I got over 650 emails from people telling me what they thought I should do. I was blown away that so many people took the time to fire off an email to me with their thoughts.

Don Spitzmiller said, "In 1958, color TVs were going for $1,200 and an average car was about $1,200. Did you ever see the color of a TV in 1958? I used to work on them. I think we've come a long way. Think of a computer in 1958. Think of the power of a computer in 1958. Think of the price of a computer in 1958. Who had a computer in 1958?"

Here's another point of view from Jim McKinnon, a director of engineering in Texas:

"I read your latest column and I agree 100%. I bought a Philips 55-inch projection TV and it works great as long as I don't care if I get HDTV or not.

"I built a new station two years ago and used a multiple-image processor for the monitor wall in production control. I bought two 42-inch Sony plasmas for the display at about $8,000 each through a distributor. One lasted a year and Sony replaced it with a new one. The other one lasted two years, still under warranty except for the plasma display module, which has only a one-year warranty, even though the unit has a 'three-year warranty.' I recently had to replace the second one, as Sony said to repair it would cost $4,700, so I bought a demo unit for $3,200.

"The one that they replaced is now displaying the same indications of failure that the original one suffered. My advice to you is buy the car and maybe you will only have to change the batteries."

This one, from Richard G. Ramsdell, a self-proclaimed "production czar,Ó had to be my favorite:

"If you have $3,500 spare cash you might want to stop thinking about new toys and start thinking about people who have no toys. There has to be a food bank, homeless shelter, or other charity not too far from where you live."

One day, when I was really bored, I went through all 650 emails that were sent to me here at the magazine. The results: two hundred ninety-nine said buy the car, 348 said go with the TV, and three tried to sell me ways to increase the size of certain body parts.

When I first started in TV news, email didn't exist. Now I wonder how the hell I ever lived without it.

But I have noticed that not many stations use email to their advantage. Here's an example: About six weeks ago, I was in North Carolina. I noticed that one Raleigh station seemed to take email to another level.

Whenever they put up a lower-third of the anchor or reporters it also included their email address. I think that was a great idea. I emailed one of the anchors and asked them how much email they got, since their email address is splashed all over the screen each night.

The anchor never emailed me back. I guess that answers the question. I do think that the lower-third with the emails is a great idea, but not if your anchor never replies to the email.

Then again, I only replied to a few of the over 600 that were sent to me. But those were only the people that were asking me a question--most were just giving me their thoughts on the TV versus car thing and therefore no reply was needed.

By the way, I did buy the TV and so far I love it.

I also gave a few bucks to the homeless. I hope that makes Richard happy.

Scott Jones is a former photographer, reporter, assignment editor, producer, executive producer, and Top-20 news director. He runs and can be reached by email at