News-3's flawed Rogers segments still a positive sign


Stepping -- awkwardly, at first -- into tomorrow.

Credit Channel 3 for lurching forward, even if on the wobbly legs of a new morning-show segment.

Weekdays at about 6:52 a.m., the Wagners toss their "Wake Up" call to station owner Jim Rogers, who chats up local leaders in taped five-minute segments.

Explains news chief Bob Stoldal: "We've got to get out of the box we've been in and you have to start with an experiment and see how this plays out. This is part of the direction we are heading in, this longer format. With news consultants, everything has to be in 30-second sound bites because they think the public can't digest more than that, and I don't agree with that."

The owner's idea? Roger that, Houston. When it's your station, it's, well, your station and all that implies. But as a prototype, the format, if not the content, signals a positive shift in news thinking.

Particulars, however, are problematic in this first salvo.

Labeling Rogers' technique "interviewing" stretches the word out of shape. Spoon-feeding talking-point prompts to guests for their spiels is more accurate. Speaking to Dr. Marcia Turner, chief operating officer of the health-sciences system of the Nevada System of Higher Education, Rogers, its ex-chancellor, articulates his own on-air weakness by telling her: "I'm going to give you a few questions and let you ramble." And -- no disrespect intended -- she does.

Likewise, Rogers cradles new UNLV President Neal Smatresk, suggesting he discuss "the magic things" happening at the institution. Though Rogers theoretically questions Oscar Goodman, the mayor so controls the segment that Goodman sounds more like the host by interview's end: "When we come back tomorrow, I'll tell you all about that."

Interviews are edited into segments strewn through the week, so viewers who find the guest a snoozer on Monday likely will tune out Tuesday-Friday, conceivably curtailing lead-in viewership into "Today." And given that morning shows should skip along with weather, traffic, bright stories and host banter till 7 a.m., these segments nearly grind the show to a dead stop as interviewees, well, "ramble." And yet ...

"We'll play with the format," Stoldal says. "The question is, will folks in the morning sit and digest a five-minute interview, or is it better suited for 4 o'clock, or 5 or 6? It's a work in progress."

That's the encouraging point. This column advocates alternative rethinking of 21st-century newscasts, including transforming 4-6 p.m. news regurgitations into magazine-style programming to provide viewers more than endless hit-and-run headlines.

Experimentation -- say, using reporters for more probing questioning, inserting video, combining taped and live interviews with multiple viewpoints, and including local pundits -- could yield reinvigorating results.

News-3 is walking the walk, even if this segment still trips over itself.

At least this station is starting to stretch its legs.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

 

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