News story saddled with -- GASP! -- news content?
Nuisance, huh? Immortal grouch W.C. Fields would've nailed it by grousing: "Go away, kid, ya bother me."
News indeed skedaddled in a story last week on KSNV-TV, Channel 3 that pronounced itself a human interest feature that featured no human interest, but instead amounted to a default promotion for a business that fairly screamed for Mae West to purr to potential customers: "Come up and see us sometime."
(Yes, we know she technically said, "Come up sometime and see me" -- don't nitpick.)
Nearly four minutes, a not-insignificant chunk of a 23-minute broadcast, were allotted for a gushy valentine to a local, independent iPhone repair shop.
Anchors don't often employ props, but Jim Snyder produced one, twice holding aloft an iPhone with a blackened screen, either broken or off. Explaining that in a poor economy, jobless people can respond by launching their own businesses, he referred to a man who did exactly that.
After tossing it to reporter Anita Roman, we were told the man began with "$40 in his pocket." Sounds like an admirable guy with a compelling story -- whom we never meet, and which we never hear. Rather, Roman suggested "this might be the place to go" for repairs and took us inside for customer testimonials ("It's not a deal, it's a steal!") and an interview with the GM who extolled the shop's virtues and was never asked about the owner's jobless-to-biz-wiz story.
More? Roman declared that he "guarantees his technician can fix any iPhone for the fraction of the price you get anywhere else" and charges "a mere 50 bucks," cited a customer who "wouldn't take his cell phone anywhere else," enumerated its services and warranty, and introduced a gadget expert -- a News-3 engineer! -- warning folks against fiddling with busted phones and a YouTube fix-it-yourself video.
Wrapping up, Snyder noted Apple won't vouch for repairs by unauthorized providers, but added: "Their prices do tend to be better on repairs." Should Roman and Snyder have reported this news-o-mercial? Couldn't they find a Billy Mays doppelganger?
Feature stories often flatter their subjects if they're intriguing or inspiring, or are about arts, pop culture and sports that enrich the culture or entertain the masses. Enriched here? A pocketbook.
Left unexplored was any human angle or a wider trend that would've redeemed this love letter, such as Las Vegans' annoyance at iPhone glitches and the efforts of repair people, Apple and independent alike, to address consumer gripes.
Fawning over wonderful prices and wonderfully satisfied customers isn't news-worthy, just cringe-worthy. "We looked at it as a new business filling a need for new technology," says managing editor Jeff Gillan. "It wasn't our intention to do a commercial. If it missed the mark, I take full responsibility."
We take Gillan, a stand-up guy, at his word. Yet ironically, this story came courtesy of a station that last fall accused rivals -- by implication, without direct proof -- of disguising advertising as news, tattling to Mommy, i.e., the Federal Communications Commission, in a complaint.
Last week, the ex-stone-throwers, even if inadvertently, moved into a glass house.
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0256.