Are Fast Food Sandwich Stories News or Free Advertising?
The majority of these stories that make air seem to involve chicken but even then, hiding behind the latest “sandwich wars” justification seems a bit thin.
Scarcely a week goes by where we don’t have an opportunity to watch, read, or listen to a “news” story concerning the latest menu item introduced or returned by a chain restaurant or fast food outlet. Yes, “news” is in quotations because I question just how this type of information finds its way into a legitimate rundown.
I’ve always wondered about this and nobody has ever successfully explained, argued, or come close to justifying this practice is legitimate. It’s advertising without the commercial spot break and I don’t know why we continue to do it.
First, let’s lay down the disclaimer that this is no criticism or finger pointing against any particular food, franchise, corporation, or drive-thru operation or employee. Additionally, no blame or negative evaluation is to be inferred against any news station, outlet, publication or staff member.
Frankly, you’re (we’re) all culpable and equally to blame.
I have sat in the control room and watched as a fast-food restaurant graphic popped up in between the anchor team or over the solo anchor’s shoulder as the prompter rolled out copy I myself would fight not to write.
And yet there it is, Murrow and other award-winning journalists enthusiastically telling us about the new chicken sandwich this place is rolling out next month or the latest two-for-one offer at that place if you go and eat there on a Tuesday.
“It’s their new olive burger…now with more olives!”
Actually, the majority of these stories that make air seem to involve chicken but even then, hiding behind the latest “sandwich wars” justification seems a bit thin.
So, again I ask why?
What makes this information suddenly become part of an article or news copy that costs a business nothing and not an ad campaign they should be paying for?
Seriously, we’re at the point where the lines have been blurred by mayonnaise or special sauce or two kinds of lettuce or several kinds of cheese if we’re really lucky.
I am on a soapbox here but not on either a pedestal nor an altitudinous mare. In other words, I myself have tasted the forbidden fruit. Often that fruit has come in the form of a free breakfast sandwich, flavored coffee, pizza or bacon double cheeseburger that found its way to the newsroom before suddenly becoming a topic discussed on the air.
Hey, I can’t review it if I don’t try it, right?
Well, yes and mostly no. I’m not advocating for it and unless I’m being compensated to extoll the wonder that is the addition of guacamole or coleslaw it’s not getting into my headline set.
On radio, the talkers can do it all they want. They’re about other stuff like fun and music and nobody is calling them out on credibility.
The newsroom is different.
When an individual does something good we go to cover it and a business, large or small should be afforded the same courtesy. So many fast-food chains and restaurant franchises do great things for charities and local people in-need and that is part of what we regularly like to showcase.
We get press releases, sometimes distributed as “news releases” from the food chains letting us know about the new offerings. “We’ve Added Wings!” This is not an ad copy, it’s meant to get in our shows and someone, somewhere decided this is okay and not to be questioned.
I tend not to read those memos that say, “don’t ask”.
In a different direction, there are legitimate incidents, developments and news stories that often must go through a screening process because the business involved is a paying sponsor or advertiser for news programming.
I’ve had and seen accurate and justifiable copy stricken, “massaged” until unidentifiable or outright killed because somebody’s commercial ran during the show or one of the dayparts.
No naiveté here, one understands the concern. However, if a pizza joint is facing a class action sexual harassment suit and good journalism has been practiced do we run from it because they’ve bought air time or worse yet have now added cilantro to the cheesy-bites?
Bill Zito has devoted most of his work efforts to broadcast news since 1999. He made the career switch after serving a dozen years as a police officer on both coasts. Splitting the time between Radio and TV, he’s worked for ABC News and Fox News, News 12 New York , The Weather Channel and KIRO and KOMO in Seattle. He writes, edits and anchors for Audacy’s WTIC-AM in Hartford and lives in New England. You can find him on Twitter @BillZitoNEWS.
Tucker Carlson Sees Ratings Surge With January 6th Videos
The Mar. 7th edition (4.165 million) topped all cable telecasts in total viewers that week.
Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson Tonight has featured the host’s many polarizing claims. The ones made on the Mar. 6th and 7th editions of his show could be labeled as among the most controversial.
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had granted Carlson exclusive access to over 40,000 hours of January 6th security camera footage. On his FNC show across those two aforementioned evenings, Carlson denied an insurrection had taken place at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021; instead, it was “mostly peaceful chaos”, most who were there were mere “sightseers”, and that the footage provided “conclusive” evidence “proving” Democrats “lied” about the events of that day.
On the Senate floor on the morning of Mar. 7, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called Carlson’s Mar. 6th show “one of the most shameful hours we have ever seen on cable television.”
The immense reach that Carlson’s rhetoric regularly attracts justified the high concern and swiftness of the condemnation and backlash. One glance at the ranks of the week’s top cable news programs at the end of this article, or any of this site’s past weekly news ratings items, can glean how highly popular Carlson is in, not only the cable news world, but also, the entire television landscape.
According to Nielsen Media Research, the Mar. 7th edition (4.165 million) topped all cable telecasts in total viewers that week and matched the live plus same-day total viewing figures for the 17th-ranked broadcast network show of the week ending Mar. 12, the CBS procedural East New York.
Carlson also took the week’s No. 2 and No. 3 spots on cable in total viewers; within the key 25-54 demographic, its Mar. 6th and 7th editions were tops for non-sports cable programs (it ranked 17th and 18th, respectively, in the demo with sports included, mostly from men’s college basketball conference tournament coverage on various outlets).
For Mar. 6-10, Tucker Carlson Tonight averaged 3.568 million total viewers, 469,000 with adults 25-54 and 312,000 with adults 18-49 — the program’s highest-rated week in all metrics since the week of the 2022 midterm elections (Nov. 7-11, 2022).
As a backdrop to all of this, it was revealed on Mar. 7 — due to the legal filings made public as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News — that Carlson privately messaged colleagues he loathed Donald Trump and his presidency. (The release of that communication received no coverage at FNC.)
Cable news averages for March 6-12, 2023:
Total Day (Mar. 6-12 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 1.359 million viewers; 172,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 0.673 million viewers; 71,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.408 million viewers; 81,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.155 million viewers; 41,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.111 million viewers; 27,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.104 million viewers; 12,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.101 million viewers; 18,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.083 million viewers; 7,000 adults 25-54
Prime Time (Mar. 6-11 @ 8-11 p.m.; Mar. 12 @ 7-11 p.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 2.237 million viewers; 274,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 1.088 million viewers; 108,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.443 million viewers; 95,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.199 million viewers; 53,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.145 million viewers; 36,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.131 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.094 million viewers; 11,000 adults 25-54
- NewsNation: 0.087 million viewers; 15,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.058 million viewers; 10,000 adults 25-54
Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:
1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 3/7/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.136 million viewers
2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 3/6/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.695 million viewers
3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 3/8/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.622 million viewers
4. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 3/7/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.300 million viewers
5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 3/9/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.289 million viewers
6. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 3/8/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.187 million viewers
7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 3/10/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.099 million viewers
8. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 3/6/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.004 million viewers
9. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 3/9/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.982 million viewers
10. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 3/10/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.911 million viewers
24. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 3/6/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.253 million viewers
170. Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO, Fri. 3/10/2023 10:01 PM, 58 min.) 0.765 million viewers
178. Erin Burnett Outfront (CNN, Tue. 3/7/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.698 million viewers
334. The Daily Show “Mar 8, 23 – Marlon Wayans” (CMDY, Wed. 3/8/2023 11:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.408 viewers
359. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 3/12/2023 11:05 PM, 34 min.) 0.348 million viewers
388. Varney & Company (FBN, Fri. 3/10/2023 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.297 million viewers
392. Forensic Files (HLN, late Fri. 3/10/2023 12:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.290 million viewers
441. Fast Money Halftime Report (CNBC, Mon. 3/6/2023 12:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.241 million viewers
478. Heavy Rescue: 401 “(511) No Other Choice” (TWC, Sat. 3/11/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.221 million viewers
492. Newsnation: Rush Hour (NWSN, Mon. 3/6/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.215 million viewers
Top 10 cable news programs (and the top programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:
1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 3/6/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.565 million adults 25-54
2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 3/7/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.556 million adults 25-54
3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 3/8/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.467 million adults 25-54
4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 3/9/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.395 million adults 25-54
5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 3/10/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.365 million adults 25-54
6. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 3/7/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.363 million adults 25-54
7. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 3/7/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.361 million adults 25-54
8. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 3/9/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.341 million adults 25-54
9. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 3/8/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.340 million adults 25-54
10. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Tue. 3/7/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.330 million adults 25-54
39. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 3/6/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.219 million adults 25-54
74. The Daily Show “Mar 8, 23 – Marlon Wayans” (CMDY, Wed. 3/8/2023 11:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.179 million adults 25-54
102. Low Country: Murdaugh Dynasty “2. Something In The Road” (CNN, Sat. 3/11/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.152 million adults 25-54
165. Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO, Fri. 3/10/2023 10:01 PM, 58 min.) 0.115 million adults 25-54
195. Forensic Files (HLN, late Fri. 3/10/2023 1:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.105 million adults 25-54
222. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 3/12/2023 11:05 PM, 34 min.) 0.097 million adults 25-54
344. Shark Tank “Shark Tank 1102” (CNBC, Mon. 3/6/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.070 million adults 25-54
498. Heavy Rescue: 401 “(508) This Aint Gonna Be Pretty” (TWC, Sat. 3/11/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.047 million adults 25-54
505. Kudlow (FBN, Fri. 3/10/2023 4:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.045 million adults 25-54
552. Newsnation Prime (NWSN, Sun. 3/12/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.039 million adults 25-54
Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research
Douglas Pucci is a Bronx native and NYU graduate analyzing news television ratings for Barrett News Media. He did an internship at VH1’s “Pop Up Video” in 1997. After college, Pucci went on to design, build and maintain websites for various non-profit organizations in his hometown of New York City. He has worked alongside media industry observer Marc Berman for over a decade reporting on all things television, first at Cross MediaWorks from 2011-15 then at Programming Insider since 2016. Pucci also contributed to the sports website Awful Announcing. Read more: https://programminginsider.com/author/douglas/
Jayme West Grew From Small-Town Arizona Reporter to KTAR Anchor
“I think my radio job was paying $4 bucks an hour. You did not make a lot of money in a small town. I was always broke.”
It’s natural for a young reporter to dream of being part of that huge story. You hope to cover the monumental event that puts your mark on journalism. Jayme West is a news anchor and co-host with Jim Sharpe on Arizona’s Morning News on 92.3FM KTAR. West learned there are stories embedded in your mind, details that will never diminish. The most memorable story for West was the aftermath of 9/11.
West traveled with Phoenix firefighters to New York. The first flight out of Phoenix after the terrorist attack was ten days out. As they drove down Lexington Avenue near the armory, every available light post was covered with posters of the faces of missing people. It was horrible, but I am honored to be part of that historic event.
“We went to ground zero and it was an incredible experience,” West said. “In the taxi from the airport to Manhattan, every available space was covered with an American flag. I’d just been to the top of the Trade Center three years before. To see it all reduced to a ten-story rubble, so compacted, it was disturbing.”
West remembers grabbing a cup of soup from one of the many food trucks that were feeding those on the ‘pile.’
“I was about to sit down on the threshold of a door, and I wiped the cement. Then it hit me. The ashes from the seat could have been ashes of a human life.”
Delivering her 9/11 stories to Phoenix was difficult at times, but she had a job to do. West was there to relate to listeners what the Red Cross from Phoenix was doing. She talked with firefighters on the ‘pile.’ West described what was taking place at the Javits Center. To help listeners visualize what was going on.
West’s family moved to a small town, Pinetop-Lakeside. In high school, she always listened to the radio. In her bedroom was a record player with a microphone. West pretended she was running a radio station, spinning records, introducing songs.
When West finished high school, there were very few jobs for women in radio in town. “I played 45s,” she said. “I was not allowed to play two female artists in a row at the station. I learned everything there. We didn’t get free concert tickets. It was such a small town we didn’t get concerts.”
Spinning records was fine, but once she started doing news she loved it for several reasons.
“My parents were always behind me,” West said. “I think my radio job was paying $4 bucks an hour. You did not make a lot of money in a small town. I was always broke. Only one time did my father ask me if radio was the right career. But he never discouraged me from being in radio.”
While searching for news each morning, West said Twitter can be a solid source.
“I trust Twitter for news that is happening right at that moment,” West said. “With all the technology the news is right there. We won’t report on all of it, only what we can confirm. I started with a teletype. Ripped stuff off the AP wire. It’s amazing how much easier it has made my job.”
West said she does miss being out on the streets working on stories. Working leads with other reporters.
“I’m not out in the field anymore,” she said. “I monitor government agencies and law enforcement agencies.”
After thousands of stories, West has a few she can easily recall.
“British Airways was announcing their new Boeing 777,” she said. “We flew to London on a 747 and came back on the new 777. When we got to the airport they had the fire engines spraying water arches when we came through.”
West talked her way into the trip by telling her bosses she was doing a story on Yuma lettuce. Describing to listeners how the leafy vegetable made the trip from Arizona to the shelf in London the following day.
“While I was there we visited Piccadilly Square. We’d ask Londoners what they thought Arizona was like. One woman told us it’s where people cook beans, like in western movies. ‘It’s so hot there,’ they’d tell me. ‘If you don’t have an air conditioner you’ll die.’”
West didn’t attend college, but she could have. What she wouldn’t get in the classroom she made up for on the job.
“My experience came from life. From moments in history. I’ve met historical figures. I don’t regret missing college at all.”
West covered serial killers roaming the valley in 2008, the Serial Shooters. Two men were killing people at random. West spent time embedded with the Phoenix Police Department homicide division. She was with a detective from the initial call of a murdered woman.
“I went to the crime scene,” West said. “The woman was a waitress at Denny’s. She won $1,200 at the casino and drove home where she was robbed and killed. I went to her autopsy, and we searched for bullet fragments in her car. We notified the family. It took a couple of years to catch the murderer.”
She was asked to witness an execution at a prison. She declined the invitation.
“That’s one of those unforgettable moments in life,” West said. “I realize they do need media witnesses, but I did not want that memory in my brain. I had the chance to fly with the Blue Angels but didn’t do it. No way I was going to barf on a fighter jet.”
For 20 years West has hosted Silent Witness on KTAR. This is a show that covers unsolved crimes and asks the public for help.
“I’ve been told it has been successful, but they can’t tell us specifics,” West said.
West and her husband purchased a cabin two hours north of Phoenix in Strawberry, Arizona. “When we want an escape, that’s where we go.”
Jim Cryns writes features for Barrett News Media. He has spent time in radio as a reporter for WTMJ, and has served as an author and former writer for the Milwaukee Brewers. To touch base or pick up a copy of his new book: Talk To Me – Profiles on News Talkers and Media Leaders From Top 50 Markets, log on to Amazon or shoot Jim an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Turns Attention to Mississippi After Deadly Tornadoes
As most Americans were winding down their work week in anticipation of a restful spring weekend, many unsuspecting Mississippi residents were hit with a blow of destruction that will change their lives forever.
Just after sundown on Friday, deadly tornadoes tore through the Magnolia State, taking the lives of dozens and causing massive damage through a 100-mile path across the state.
Hours later, Griff Jenkins detailed the emerging story on Saturday’s Fox News Live. He welcomed Rev. Franklin Graham, President of the humanitarian aid group Samaritan’s Purse, and the two discussed the natural disaster and the immediate needs of the impacted citizens.
“We have people on the ground right now, we have equipment en route, we will be set up this time tomorrow. We’ll be taking volunteers, trying to help people find their things and try to recover as much as they can,” Graham began. “But Griff, the most important thing right now is prayer. As the Governor, Tate, has said, the devastation will be felt forever in these communities. As is the loss of life, 23 people and the number will probably go up.” Sadly it has, in the few days since.
Since 1970, the world has grown accustomed to Samaritan’s Purse quickly offering assistance in times of trouble, both domestically and abroad. The group models its mission around Jesus’ command to “Go and Do Likewise,” after the Samaritan helped the hurting man that others had passed by in Luke’s Gospel.
“People need prayer that God would just comfort their hearts and He’d put his loving arms around them during this very difficult time,” Graham said. “The houses can be rebuilt after time. Businesses will come back after time. Those things can be fixed with time. But the loss of life, that’s so difficult and it’s going to be felt for a long time, as the Governor said, forever. And I agree with Governor Tate, we need to pray for the people.”
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) earlier had issued a statement which said, in part, “please pray for God’s hand to be over all who lost family and friends.”
For his part, Jenkins seemed to understand that God can often be heard best during times of tumult and difficulty.
“Prayer so important for people facing a very uncertain future,” Jenkins noted, as he recalled encountering Samaritan’s Purse in other disaster-ridden parts of America over the years. “If you can for our viewers, explain the challenges of getting in there and dealing with the destruction, and how you can help people.”
“First, we go in and we meet with the local officials, FEMA. We want to get their input and we don’t want to go down and get in people’s way,” Graham said. “We want to go to an area that certainly needs our help, where people haven’t gone. There will be other volunteer groups going in – Convoy of Hope and people like that will be responding – and so we all coordinate and we all work together.”
Graham said his organization basically spreads out and helps people in the most pragmatic ways possible.
“We’ll just go in and assess it and start helping,” he said. “We bring in volunteers. If a person’s house has been flattened, they’re looking maybe for a wedding ring or for pictures. Things that can’t be replaced. And our volunteers we’ll go in and help go through the rubble of the home, trying to find the valuables.
“Houses that just lost a roof but are still standing, we’ll have tarps so we can get the house back in the dry to keep it from being further damaged. The list just goes on and on, but we’ll take work orders and we go and help people that are asking for help. And we’ll be there. We’ll be there for some time, Griff. This is a bigger storm. You know, over a hundred miles and it’s just massive.”
Fox rolled footage of the destruction from Rolling Fork, Mississippi, which showed bridges, homes, roads and vehicles utterly destroyed.
“The first thing, for the local officials, this is search and rescue,” Graham said, noting that Samaritan’s Purse has been helping in similar conditions in Turkey since last month’s earthquake. “You’ve got to try to find people that may still be alive under the rubble. So you have to just stay out of the way and let the local authorities do what they do.
“And tomorrow things will begin to open up where we can come in and start helping the homeowners. But right now it’s search and rescue, and we need to pray for them. That if there’s somebody alive that God would direct them to them and get them out of that rubble right now, because time is very important.”
“SamaritansPurse.org if you want to try and help and support Samaritan’s Purse. They are among the best in situations like this. And certainly bringing a lot of relief to those who need it the most right now ,” Jenkins concluded. “And of course, as you said Reverend – prayers, prayers for this community and all of those affected in this hundred mile path.”
Rick Schultz is a former Sports Director for WFUV Radio at Fordham University. He has coached and mentored hundreds of Sports Broadcasting students at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, Marist College and privately. His media career experiences include working for the Hudson Valley Renegades, Army Sports at West Point, The Norwich Navigators, 1340/1390 ESPN Radio in Poughkeepsie, NY, Time Warner Cable TV, Scorephone NY, Metro Networks, NBC Sports, ABC Sports, Cumulus Media, Pamal Broadcasting and WATR. He has also authored a number of books including “A Renegade Championship Summer” and “Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues”. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @RickSchultzNY.