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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, April 17, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Reporting on the latest TV sweeps ignored the journalistic work area news stations broadcasted. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

TV sweeps reporting ignored journalistic feats


After the November sweeps numbers were reported for area TV stations, there has been – as there always is – a spin on what may have caused the results. As reported before, the math is always fuzzy when it comes to ratings and equations.

Just around 370 to 400 households determine the makeup of the sample in our designated marketing area (DMA). Those few households, and their viewing habits, determine the winners and losers in the ratings game, which determines the rate at which advertisers pay for air time.

For the most recent sweep, WISN-TV Ch. 12 was the ratings winner at 10 p.m. and from sign-on to sign-off, making it the most-watched channel in the area. WITI-TV Fox 6 won the morning news race, peaking with the most viewers between 5 and 7 a.m. weekdays.

In a recent Journal Sentinel blog post, the headline read, "Time Warner Cable lost subscribers during WTMJ blackout."

It buried the lead that the Hearst-owned WISN won the sweep. The story also buried the strength of WITI in the morning. Sure, the article reported the facts … however, the lead and headline focused on the recent block out of the Journal-owned WTMJ-TV Ch. 4 had with Time Warner Cable subscribers when retransmission fees negotiations went south. Agreed, the block out was the big media story of the summer. But, it diminished the work that the other stations' staffers did to earn the viewers.

Did the block out affect the viewing habits in our market?

Sure it did. The ratings showed a drop of viewership for WTMJ's programming.

SNL Kagen, a media monitoring firm, did report a drop in Time Warner Cable subscribers. That fact does deserve consideration.

But, the dispute between Time Warner Cable and CBS deserves consideration, as well. Cable outlets owned by CBS, like Showtime, were blocked out across the country.

Customer service issues, rising prices for programming and viewer frustration also deserve consideration.

I guess, when it comes to objective coverage of media in the Milwaukee market, considerations of slant need to be weighed, as well.

The article that ran in the printed editions of the Journal Sentinel and JSOnline was more even handed.

As a commentator on the media coverage in Milwaukee, I don't take issue with how the TV stations keep their best interests in mind when examining the reasons behind the sweeps results. What I take issue with, is when the work done by the staffers at each of the TV news outlets – WTMJ, WISN, WITI and WDJT-TV CBS 58 – is diminished and overlooked.

The sweeps are meant to be the time when each station presents its best work. The top investigations and best-told stories are promoted and presented. In November, we were treated to some of the best video journalism done in the state. That work may have been months in the making. The reporters, producers and videographers pour their best into these stories.

The engineers, sales staff and promotions personnel show off the best of their craft, too, as the station team broadcasts the pinnacle of its efforts. This work deserves to be recognized, even lauded and not treated as a simple afterthought in the process that measures which outlet earned our eyeballs.

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