News Director Report

Hey guys,

Quite a bit has happened here since last we visited. I’m sure you’ve probably noticed some new faces in new positions. I’ll start off this newsletter by updating on just who you can expect to see when.

Last time, I told you that Courtney Lassiter was taking over the anchor desk for AM-Kentucky. She’s now got about a month under her belt in that position and is settling in quite nicely. We still get a few “Where’s Carrie?” calls, but for the most part people are getting used to Courtney in that role. Carrie and Chris always had such a good chemistry in the mornings; it’s quite nice to have found someone with a similar level of chemistry. I will say the way Courtney and Chris relate to each other is different than it was with Carrie. A few viewers are having trouble adjusting to that, but I think it won’t take long for Courtney to win them over. By the way, Chris will be back next Monday the 31st. Last week, he went to St. Louis for some training and he’s taking this week off to get a few things caught up around the house.

There’s also a new face on the 10:00 newscast each night. Kelly Sparks is now the anchor for that show. Kelly been reporting with us for quite a while and has just really blossomed as an anchor. She’s a Kentucky girl (Paintsville) and a Western grad; she’s certainly going to become a strong presence at 10:00 each night.

That brings us to the weekends; there are a whole lot of new faces there. Fida Georges is the new anchor. If you remember, I told you a little bit about Fida in the last newsletter. She and her husband recently moved from Miami to Rockfield. I don’t think she’s ever seen snow before, so the next few months will be very interesting for her.

Forecasting the weather on the weekend is Christopher MacDonald. He’s a meteorologist from Michigan; he really knows his stuff. Unfortunately, he’s had to learn the ropes on the fly. Normally, we would take about three weeks before we put a new weather person on the air. It just takes a while to get folks used to the way we do things around here. First, there are the forecasting aspects to learn; we’ve got some of the most (if not the most) advanced weather equipment of any small market station in the country. As most of you know, learning how to use new software is never easy. Then you’ve got to develop your on-air presentation. In Christopher’s case, however, we didn’t have three weeks. Because of Chris Allen’s weather conference, we put Christopher on the air after only five days. I think he has done a remarkable job of learning under fire.

I also have two more additions to tell you about. The first is Ryan Dearbone. He’s our newest reporter. Ryan is also a Western Grad. He’s from Hopkinsville originally and has been working as a reporter in Clarksville, TN.

Meanwhile, Jeff Woods is a new photographer for us. Jeff is a former member of Western championship forensics team. Most of the time you don’t ever get to see our photographers on the air, but you will be seeing Jeff for one week in November. He will be filling in for Kyle Rhone doing the sports segment on AM Kentucky the week of the 14th.

Kyle will be in Jamaica that week on his honeymoon. That's right, K-Rho is getting married. He’ll be tying the knot to Leslie Ezell of Hopkinsville on Saturday the 12th.

And finally, we’re going to be losing Jared Austin in a couple of weeks. Jared is a photographer for us here and he also does the weekly Hometown Hero segments. He has taken a job as a Weekend Reporter for WFIE in Evansville.

I think that’s about all the personnel issues to tell you about. Let’s move on to a couple of other things of interest.

I want to say “Thank You” to everyone who helped make our St. Jude Home Give-Away successful. We ended up selling all 6000 raffle tickets for the home. We brought in $600,000 dollars in the fundraiser. The actual cost of building the home was very low thanks to all the volunteers who helped out. That means this community sent roughly a half million to the hospital to help treat sick children. We should be very proud of that accomplishment. By the way, the Grand Prize Winner was Martha Taylor from Munfordville. She works here in Bowling Green and has been driving back and forth to Hart County. She bought her ticket because the home was right across the street from her daughter.

Now I want to look ahead a little bit. In the last month or so, we’ve had several very bizarre stories involving children being harmed. The one that stands out in my mind the most is the one where several kids between the ages of nine and 12 beat up another child. My wife and I do not have any children of our own right now, but we do have a couple of nieces. Instances like the one above scare the heck out me. I can’t imagine how frightening they must be to a parent. Because of that, we are going to dedicate the month of November to issues relating to the welfare of children. I’ve challenged my staff to come up with ideas along that line and to plan on doing some stories relating to child welfare.

Here’s the schedule of what we’re looking to do:

On Nov. 3rd and 4th, Gene Birk will take a look at how many parents there are out there that aren’t financially supporting their children and just what effect this has on the lives of the children.

On Nov. 7th, 8th, and 9th, Lauren Hanson will investigate the rise in bullying in the schools. I know there were bullies when we were all in school, but you wouldn’t believe how bad it is now in some places.

On Nov. 10th and 11th, Ashley Davidson will show us how much stress is hurting our children. There’s a lot more stress on most kids than we ever had when we were goring up.

On Nov. 14th and 15th, Kelly Sparks is going to look at how much damage is done by sexual abuse. We all know about the physical damage that is caused by such abuse. What we often overlook is the fact that such abuse can cause lifelong emotional problems for the victim.

On Nov. 16th and 17th, Lori Mitchell will try to find out how many known sex offenders are attending school with other non-suspecting students. Quite often, the legal requirement to conceal the identity of juvenile offenders makes it difficult to protect the other children.

On Nov. 21st and 22nd, Amy Bingham takes a look at the dangers associated with some day care centers and how parents can choose a center where their kids will be safe.

And then on Nov. 28th,29th, and 30th, Tamara Evans will go inside the foster care system. She’ll explore some of the challenges that exist in trying to make sure that children in the system have a safe place to live.

Now, that’s the plan. As you all know, plans often change. Some of the stories may have to be rescheduled or altered, but hopefully everything will work out as listed above.

I promised myself that I was going to only use these newsletters to keep you guys informed about what’s going on here at the station. I was not going to use them as a platform for my personal opinions. Those of you who read the last one know that I failed to keep that promise. I’m about to break it again. I apologize!

If you are only interested in the “behind the scenes” portion of this newsletter, feel free to stop reading right now. You’re not going to miss anything important and you’re certainly not going to hurt my feelings.

To those of you who decided to keep reading, I appreciate your indulgence and promise to be brief.

My point today is very simple… we now live in a very rude world.

The internet is a great tool. In a few short years, it has not completely changed the way we get information.

Unfortunately, however, not all change is good. While the internet is a wonderful way of finding and exchanging information, it is also a haven for anonymity and rudeness. That’s right, the internet has made people rude! The anonymous email along with the equally anonymous message boards has provided a platform for people to say things to others that they would never consider voicing aloud.

Not a week goes by that I (or someone on my staff) don’t receive a handful of anonymous emails spewing venom our way. I certainly don’t mind constructive criticism; in fact, I welcome it. If any of you ever want to just drop me a note about some way you think we could improve our product, please do. The ones I’m talking about are the ones that say things like “Never in my life have I seen anyone as sickening as you”. I’m not making this up; that was actually in an anonymous letter sent to one of my anchors earlier this week. I don’t know who the person that sent this is, but I doubt he or she would ever say something like that to a person’s face. Exactly how is such a letter going to help us provide better coverage to you; it isn’t. Whenever I get a letter like that, I automatically assume that we did something to upset a viewer personally and that he or she is just firing back. That sometimes happens in cases where we do a story about so and so being arrested for something and their sister or brother doesn’t think it should have been put on the air.

The same level of rudeness also applies to message boards and that’s actually why I am writing this little essay. The problem with message boards is that there is no real way of judging the legitimacy of any of the postings. All too often, people use those as a platform for them to carry out their personal grudges.

Earlier this week, a member of my staff came to me and said she thought there was something that I needed to know. She said that she had changed her online bio. Apparently, her original bio had mentioned that she was a student at Western and also that she was a big University of Kentucky basketball fan. Some “anonymous” Topper fans decided to make a big issue out of this and heavily abused her by name on a local message board. She assured me that she wasn’t letting it bother her and I don’t think she was; you’ve got to be thick-skinned in this business. That’s not the point.

The point is that it is truly a sad state of affairs when a 21 year old girl can be publicly flayed by folks who have the luxury of remaining nameless. In the old days, a person who would stand in front of a large crowd and declare that someone has the “intellectual agility of a small soap dish” simply based on the team they support would have been immediately labeled as a classless idiot. Now message boards have made such behavior not only acceptable but commonplace.

This particular incident is exceptionally troubling to me. I would like to think that supporters of my alma mater would respect others more than that. Dr. Ransdell, Dr. Selig, Dave Elson, Darrin Horn, and Mary Taylor Cowles are all exceptional professionals who act with class and dignity. It is embarrassing there are some who support their work who choose not to follow their examples.

I assume that most of these anonymous “posters” are not normally rude. Granted, I don’t know that for sure; they are anonymous. They could be complete jerks in the real world as well, but I don’t believe that. I just think the message board venue allows them to say things in the cyber world that they would normally keep to themselves in the real world. The problem is the hurt caused by these statements actions is just as real.

I don’t want to live in a world where this level of rudeness is commonplace and I would bet most of you don’t either. As technology continues to evolve there will be more and more opportunities for people to dehumanize those around them. Rudeness begets rudeness; disrespect begets disrespect.

I don’t know if there is any way to turn this around; perhaps there is not. I do think that the best thing we can do is ignore this type of behavior and not validate it with a response. From this moment on, I will no longer respond to anonymous hostile emails or internet postings and I am going to be encouraging my staff to do likewise. I would also ask that you consider doing the same. Let’s let people know that we actually prefer a world where people still treat each other with respect.

I still welcome any constructive comments (either positive or negative) that might help us provide better coverage to our viewers. I certainly don’t mind criticism; it’s part of the business. However, if you’re going to criticize you should be willing to step forward and stand by your comments.

Thanks for your indulgence. I want to remind you that if you want to see previous News Director Reports they can be found on the right side of the “News” page of the website.

John Preston
News Director

WBKO 2727 Russellville Road Bowling Green, KY 42101-3976 Phone: 270-781-1313 After Hours Hotline: 270-781-6397 Fax: 270-781-1814
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