There is no doubt that Sunday's tornado devastation in Joplin, Mo., is an important and compelling news story.
And television is a good vehicle to tell the story of the killer twister and its aftermath.
But is it big enough, or does it have enough of a connection to Milwaukee, to justify sending a local news crew down to Missouri to compete with the other TV crews telling the story?
The folks who run Channel 4's newsroom clearly think so, sending weathercaster Brian Gotter to the disaster zone Monday to report from the scene, and asking viewers to let them know if they have family or friends in Joplin.
Channel 4 general manager Steve Wexler explained the NBC affiliate's reasoning this way:
"We think there's a lot to learn with local coverage, this is one of the most devastating tornado events in history. We'll get a first-hand look and try to share that with our viewers," Wexler said in an e-mail to me Monday afternoon.
For the record, Channel 4 was the only Milwaukee TV news outlet dispatching its own people to this disaster scene.
The three other Milwaukee TV news operations used various means to cover Joplin. Hearst-owned Channel 12, for example, aired live reports from Hearst TV on this tornado, unlike the Alabama tornadoes of a few weeks ago when Chanel 12 sent weathercaster Mark Baden to the scene.
There are plenty of non-journalistic reasons to throw into the mix.
Channel 4 has carefully and consistently branded itself as the spot on the Milwaukee TV dial when it comes to covering weather. And we are entering the last days of the May ratings period (May sweeps ends on Wednesday night).
The Joplin tornado is a story that's likely to bring in viewers.
Coincidentally, former Channel 4 reporter Melanie Stout recently moved to the Joplin area and was on her former station talking about how the tornado passed a mile from her home.
Counting the days until July 8: Here's a trailer to whet your appetite for the upcoming eighth season of HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," scheduled to launch July 8.
On TV: After announcing last week that he wasn't running for president, Donald Trump told Fox News Channel Monday that he still may run for president. More importantly, early Nielsen Media Research numbers for Sunday night's "The Celebrity Apprentice" (where John Rich bested Marlee Matlin) were down 15 percent from last year's season finale.
- Speaking of ratings, the weekend's "Saturday Night Live" season finale, with Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga brought the best season finale numbers for the NBC show in seven years. It was also one of the best shows of the season.
- Showtime has picked up "Nurse Jackie" for another season, but has canceled "The United States of Tara." Also renewed was "The Borgias."
- BBC America is turning comedian Chris Hardwick's "Nerdist" podcast into a TV show.
- Former Channel 6 reporter/anchor Joanne Williams has launched a blog where this week she talks about Oprah Winfrey and what might have been.
Danny and his doggie: Wisconsin Vision is continuing its partnership with 2008 "American Idol" finalist Danny Gokey in a couple new TV spots that reunite the Milwaukee singer with that eyeglass-wearing dog, Josie (An American Bulldog, if you're interested).
Here's one spot:
Here's the other:
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.