Tuesday, May 9, 2017

CA Follies: Get It Together Gannett

Posted By on Tue, May 9, 2017 at 9:48 AM

The Commercial Appeal's lost its editor to St. Jude, name brand staff to layoffs, and its ability to prevent tiny, tragic errors. You know, like when you run an above the fold A-1 headline about a woman from "Columbia," who runs a Colombian diner, right next to a picture of the smiling subject wearing a correctly spelled Colombia t-shirt.

Seems like somebody was sipping too much juice down by the Bug Light Stage this past weekend.

And here's a classic case of "don't know if they're coming or going" from Saturday's edition. Read the sub-headline, then read the opening paragraph. Then go ahead and cry in your cubicle a little. It's okay, really it is.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Commercial Appeal Reports Unfortunate Festival Sponsorship

Posted By on Mon, May 8, 2017 at 3:39 PM

Memphis in May's Beale Street Music Festival can be a gorgeous weekend on the river. It can also be a crowded, muddy, buggy mess, and turning one of the festivals concert stages into an enormous Bug Light is a terrible, terrible, terrible idea. That's why FOTW is happy to report this is only a typo.

WREG to Be Acquired by Conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group

What does that mean for Memphis?

Posted By on Mon, May 8, 2017 at 2:59 PM


With their overemphasis on crime and safety in the urban core, Memphis' TV-news stations already affect a potent, subtle, and effective right-wing bias. Today's media news suggest things are about to get less subtle. On Monday, May 8, Tribune Media Co. announced its 42 television news properties, including Memphis' WREG-TV, would be acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group for somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.9 billion.

If approved by the FCC Sinclair, will operate 233 stations in 72-percent of America's broadcast markets. The company will additionally assume $2.7 billion in debt.

Sinclair has a long, unapologetic (though occasionally denied) history of aligning itself with conservative politics and making local news less local. There's no point in repeating the origin story when this Memphis Flyer Viewpoint from 2003 does such a fine job of condensing things.

Like many a media empire, Sinclair grew through a combination of acquisitions, clever manipulations of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules, and considerable lobbying campaigns. Starting out as a single UHF station in Baltimore in 1971, the company started its frenzied expansion in 1991 when it began using "local marketing agreements" as a way to circumvent FCC rules that bar a company from controlling two stations in a single market. These "LMAs" allow Sinclair to buy one station outright and control another by acquiring not its license but its assets. Today, Sinclair touts itself as "the nation's largest commercial television broadcasting company not owned by a network." You've probably never heard of them because the stations they run fly the flags of the networks they broadcast: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and the WB.

The new deal, which also gives Sinclair part ownership in the Food Network, still requires FCC approval, but, as noted by CNN, the Trump administration has shown nothing but interest in approving these kinds of mergers. Once approved Sinclair plans to swiftly liquidate all real estate connected to Tribune Media's print holdings. That makes sense since, as noted by The Baltimore Sun, Sinclair Broadcast Group does two things very well: "It knows how to run local stations lean and mean. And it makes some of the most visually engaging local news in the country."

The Sun also notes Sinclair's history of "compromising its news operations with right-wing politics."

Of course Sinclair's only putting its mouth where its money is.  Last month Trump’s FCC reinstated a something called the UHF Discount allowing media conglomerates to blow through congressionally set ownership limits. The UHF Discount is an obscure rule from 1985 before the transition to digital eliminated the UHF/VHF signal gap. It allowed owners of UHF properties to declare half the coverage area reach compared to a VHF station.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Gannett Stalls Severance Payments to Former Commercial Appeal Employees

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 8:10 PM

Posted to Social Media by Commercial Appeal reporter/MemphisNewspaper Guild representative Daniel Connolly.

Gannett deliberately stalls severance payments to former Commercial Appeal employees
***Please share this with your friends. This is important.***
I'm the head of the Memphis Newspaper Guild labor union, which represents some workers at The Commercial Appeal.
***I'm sorry to inform you that the newspaper's new parent company, Gannett, is deliberately stalling severance payments to 12 former newsroom employees.***
These former employees have not received a dime of severance since they lost jobs effective April 11.
Because Gannett is currently finishing up a brutal "fight-for-your job" contest in the advertising department. The company broke a ton of rules in the process. They're afraid of the legal consequences for their rule-breaking in advertising.
So they're stalling the payments to the former newsroom employees in the hopes of forcing the union to sign an amnesty that forgives the company for its rule-breaking.
I've seen plenty of bad corporate behavior in my life. ***Gannett's calculated decision to inflict harm on people who have lost jobs is among the worst corporate behavior I have ever seen.***


In advertising, Gannett fired everyone and made them reapply for new jobs. We call this process The Hunger Games.
Desperate to hold on to her job, advertising employee Marianne Sheridan competed in The Hunger Games and walked into a job interview with three Gannett employees she'd never met before. She was nervous at first. And then she felt worse.
*** "Frankly, at one point my head felt like it was going to explode," she told me. ***
She left the interview, sweat pouring off her body. Someone called an ambulance and she was taken to a hospital. She's out now, but still undergoing medical tests. It's not clear what happened to her.
"I think it was a huge anxiety attack," she said. "Since the beginning of April, we've been under this stress of having to reapply for our jobs."
She found out Thursday that she doesn't have a job anymore.
Six advertising employees applied in The Hunger Games and didn't get jobs. Around six others refused to participate in The Hunger Games and will also lose jobs. The last day for these 12 or so employees is May 1.
The Hunger Games isn't just stressful.
Our union contract lays out a detailed process for job cuts. The Hunger Games process - firing everyone and making them apply for jobs - is not allowed under our union contract. The company knows this and did it anyway.
Some of the people who "won" The Hunger Games competition will be paid thousands of dollars less than they were paid before. That's also not allowed under our union contract.
We're already hearing disturbing reports of sales staffers not being paid for commissions they rightfully earned.
And somehow, magically, the six people who participated in The Hunger Games and lost their jobs are all women. Several are African-American.
We're concerned about that, too.
**** Due to Gannett's willful, blatant violations of the rules, we filed a federal complaint to the National Labor Relations Board on April 21. ***
The federal agency will now investigate the complaint and take appropriate action. We also have another complaint pending through what's known as the grievance / arbitration process.
On Thursday, the company lawyer once again demanded we sign an amnesty deal that withdraws all our complaints.
Otherwise, he says the 12 former employees in the newsroom plus The Hunger Games victims in advertising will have to wait months or years for severance until an arbitrator decides.
If you ask the company lawyer, he'll say the delay is the union's fault. That because we won't sign the amnesty, we're the ones who are stopping these workers from getting their severance.
But think about that for a minute.
*** Gannett breaks multiple rules in firing people.
We complain about it to the feds.
And then Gannett says it will refuse to pay severance until we drop our complaints about its rule-breaking.***
I know I'm coming across as angry.
That's because I _am_ angry.
*** I'm watching good people suffer. I'm furious to see how Gannett fires people, then works very hard to hurt them some more. ***
We, the labor union, are going to pursue legal challenges hard. In the meantime, you can make a difference!
*** Call our interim publisher and tell him to pay a fair severance to the former workers. ***
His name is Mike Jung, he's based in Florida and temporarily working here.
His phone number is 239-335-0277 and his email address is
I've met him, and he seems like a good guy. But he needs to hear from you.
*** And you can reach out to help our former workers. Our former employees are great people who had the misfortune of losing jobs to cost-cutting. Why not hire them? Send job leads to Guild office manager Amy Olmstead: or 901-726-6857. ***

How Much News is on the News: A Guns & Bunnies Web Extra

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 1:52 PM

This week's cover story measuring violence and fluff on local TV news has generated a lot of questions. One more frequently asked: How many news stories make it into the evening broadcast, and how much time is allotted to each story?

This may not be a perfect answer, but it should at least point curious folks in the right direction.

I went back to the Flyer staff's original viewing diaries but only looked at Tuesday night's broadcast. Every night is a little different, obviously, so one night isn't a good data sample. Still, the formula is more or less the same broadcast to broadcast, so Tuesday, being a fairly normal news night, provides a reasonable snapshot.

Not counting weather, sports, and headline teasers, Memphis stations averaged 18 news stories on Tuesday night.  If all of Memphis stations were rolled into one big happy news team 42-percent — or 13-minutes —of their roughly half-hour weeknight (10 p.m.) broadcasts would be devoted to news content.

How much time was devoted to each story? I suppose I could go back and count it all up, but don't really see the point. 18 stories in 13-minutes? obviously not very much. A casual, anecdotal observation: There was more time burned hanging around in neighborhoods fishing for comments about children left home alone (and unharmed) than, say, comparing Memphis parking meter rates to other, similar markets.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Memphis is Ugly. Cleveland Still Uglier, According to BS List

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 1:28 PM

Hey look, another bullshit list for people to click on and argue about. This time Memphis has been named the 9th ugliest city in America. Based on what criteria?

Jesus, do you really care?


Reading the CA: This Column by I. Dunno

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 12:54 PM

Because I live in a glass house and everybody screws up sometimes and blogging without a copy editor is scary, I try not to get too hung up on the little things. But Goddammit, Gannett.

When Local News Isn't Local: A "Guns & Bunnies" Slideshow

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 8:00 AM

The Memphis Flyer's "Guns & Bunnies" issue measuring violence and fluff in TV news is on stands (and online) now. We didn't undertake a proper survey in this area, but it seems like most of the news content local stations pick up from other markets can be described as a Gun (violence, crime, disaster), or a Bunny (soft news, celebrity, trivia, novelty cute stuff). Here's a taste of what's out there. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dogs and People Get Along Well in Mississippi, Commercial Appeal Reports

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 11:10 AM

Good news out of Mississippi. People and dogs get along well. There's still a lot of work to be done in both the feline, and hamster, communities, and Mississippi's Gov. Phil Bryant recently signed off on Confederate History Month as a reasonable addition to "Black History Month and Native American History Month," suggesting the state's still home to a truly fucking astonishing level of institutional racism. But... Awwww.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Wiseguys Biggest Hits: Goodbye to a Very Funny Tradition

Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 at 10:06 AM


After a long run filled with laughter and long, uncomfortable silences, The Wiseguys improv troupe is calling it quits. Sort of.

In addition to their twice-monthly shows members of this comic collective were also frequent contributors to Fly on the Wall for a couple of very funny seasons. This semi-retirement seemed like as good a time as any to roll out some of my favorite contributions. 

When the state of Tennessee rolled out a poorly designed anti-DUI campaign all about how booze tricks dudes into having sex with unattractive women, The Wiseguys, and Fly on the Wall rolled out our own poorly designed campaign.

Once upon a time U.S. Rep Steve Cohen of Memphis suggested that White House security issues might be improved by digging a moat. He later claimed that he didn't mean a moat exactly, but some moat-like water barrier inhibiting access to the White Castle. It could be beautiful, he said. The Wiseguys, who are all crackerjack fake investigative news reporters, in addition to being fine comedians, discovered more of Cohen's alternative security plans.

The Wiseguys have written about social clubs, public incentives, Elvis, Trader Joe's, the weather, Jack Pirtle's gravy, pick-up lines that really work, the British Royal Family and Big Star fans. During the holidays, they even went caroling.

In addition to all the goofy stuff, The Wiseguys also broke huge news stories like the fact that Janis Fullilove is actually made of bees.

So, I guess what I'm saying here is these are some funny, funny folks. And they're having their last show (before the inevitable reunions) this weekend. If you've never seen them before, goodbye is a perfectly good time to say hello.  [event-1]

Friday, April 7, 2017

CA Gets Wrong Gasol, Ex-Reporter Breaks News

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 10:01 AM

April 7, 2017 will be forever remembered as the day Memphis' Gannett-owned daily, The Commercial Appeal, teased news about Grizzlies player Pau (not Marc) Gasol...
While Phil Stukenborg, a reporter who lost his job in the most recent round of Gannett layoffs,  broke real sports news using Google docs. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Pooping With WMC's Andy Wise

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 1:09 PM

Look how they follow you.
  • Look how they follow you.
WMC consumer investigator Andy Wise is many things — a survivor; a humanitarian; and a Christian martyr.  In addition to all of that, he's also an office pooper who knows how to deliver the "ew."

At least, in another tweet, Mr. "On your side," finally answered a question I've been asking for a long time — What kind of crime won't WMC over-report and sensationalize? Unless, you know, he IS the Riddler...


Thursday, December 22, 2016

2016: The Year in Weird News, Memphis-Style

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2016 at 1:43 PM

2016 was a weird year for everybody. Here at Fly on the Wall, it was just another year. So, without further ado, here’s your damn recap.

Let's have a great big standing-O for former Tennessee state rep Curry Todd who was caught on camera stealing his opponent’s yard signs.
And in his honor, some ZZ Top. 
Weird Crime
• Who peed in your cornflakes? Hard to say. But a criminal investigation was opened when video surfaced on the internet of a man urinating on a conveyor belt at Memphis’ Kellogg’s factory.

• Delta Airlines flight attendant Rachel Trevor of Memphis became the Robin Hood of airplane bottle liquor sales when she was arrested for stealing approximately 1,500 itty-bitty bottles of booze from Delta and selling them on Craigslist for a buck a piece. The liquor was given an in-flight value of $12,000.
"Court is back in session!"
  • "Court is back in session!"
• If you're going down, go down swinging. Derrick Thomas, arrested in Jonesboro, Arkansas, last month for indecent exposure and "enjoying himself," decided to expose himself again — to Justice. After leave the courtroom for a drink of water, Thomas returned — running by all accounts — with his shirt off, his pants around his ankles, and his arms in the air." Court is back in session," Thomas was quoted as saying.

• LaShundra Smith, charged with indecent exposure for being partially nude on a bench at Mary Malone Elizabeth Park, told officers she was "trying to air out."

• Kasey Collins was an ordinary peeping Tom. He only makes it into this category because WMC left one very important letter out of its identifying text making him a "peeing Tom." That's a much more interesting crime.

• WTTE-TV Columbus reported on a thwarted plan to transport drugs to Memphis. A shipping clerk got suspicious and discovered a bottle of liquid codeine inside an adorable teddy bear.
  • Build-A-Mule
• There needs to be an addendum to the old saying "Don't cry over spilled milk." Don't stab people over spilled cheese dip, especially if it's not Pancho's. Seriously people, don't do that.
An unidentified 35-year-old Memphis woman was rushed into surgery at Methodist hospital after she wrecked the car she was driving to the emergency room. She'd been stabbed by another woman, Yolanda Tucker, who, according to a police report, became unreasonably upset after the victim spilled a container of Rotel.

• Here's a mugshot of Jerry Lawler.
The rang kang spent a night in the pokey following a domestic dispute. Charges were dropped when authorities couldn't determine who the aggressor was.

Weird Media

Weird Story of the Year: According to WMC Action News 5, thieves have murdered four people while attempting to steal hair weaves, "and now many Memphians say demonic spirits could be to blame." That's right folks, WMC scooped the rest of Memphis media on an important story about vanity, greed, consumer hair products, and secret doorways to realms infernal, where ancient evil lurks, waiting to swoop down and snatch a wig right off your goddamn head. Notable quote: "Whose-ever hair I was wearing on my head, that heifer had a bad omen."
Actual WMC image of hair that's cursed as hell.
  • Actual WMC image of hair that's cursed as hell.
General WTF involving a porn star. You'll probably want a soundtrack.

Best Worst Use of Social Media: When people are critical of your work it's always a good idea to follow the lead of WMC-TV weatherman Spencer Denton and remind all the haters there are dead children in the world, and it's sad. When Denton joined other local weather forecasters in over-hyping a winter storm that never materialized but still resulted in mass event cancellations, school closings, and business shuttering, people got angry. In response to complaints Denton dropped a post on his "Spencer Denton Meteorologist" Facebook page implying that people need to chillax and think about unrelated tragedies, like the death of 2-year-old Noah Chamberlin, an East Tennessee boy whose body was found several days after he disappeared during a hike with his grandmother. "We are already getting blasted by people about our forecast, and the event hasn't even happened yet. And some of the comments are personal attacks," Denton wrote. "Funny thing is, I really don't care. All I can think about is that little boy Noah and what he endured over the past several days. It puts things in perspective. If you get 3 to 6 inches of snow, enjoy a snow day with family and friends. If you get an inch or less, be thankful for less accidents on the roads. Whether my forecast is right or wrong, I get to go home to a little two-year-old girl tonight, for that I am truly thankful. #RIPNOAH."

Best Worst Cover Design: University of Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch has announced he wouldn't be returning for his final year of eligibility with the Memphis Tigers. Sports analysts have tapped Paxton as a likely first-round pick in this April's NFL draft. His position near the top of mock drafts has resulted in a flurry of national media attention and this picture in The Commercial Appeal.

Best Worst Media Promo (Runner Up): No comment required.

Best Worst Media Promotion (Winner!!!): "Memphis Most is now live." Run for the hills before it murders us all!!!
Best Typo that Should Be An Actual Word: CHOAS!!! Remember Elvis Week 2016 when Black Lives Matters demonstrators showed up at Graceland to engage in a bit of modestly disruptive protest, police showed up in numbers sufficient to ensure there wasn't any fan base mingling, and it rained like hell? Those were the days, my friend. Or as WMC-TV put it in an alarming all-caps headline: "Elvis Week CHOAS." As in "Get CHOAS a proofreader." Gotta admit though, CHOAS is a good word for the fictional world of mayhem out TV news stations drum up by over-reporting  crime without context. It's CHOAS out there! 
Best Misspelling in a Help Wanted Ad that Also Explains Everything Wrong With Contemporary Broadcast Media: The winner is WREG. They were looking for a new assistant news director able to...

"• supervise
• set the tone of the station's content
• put the "schizzle" into Breaking News."

Most Important Breaking News: Thanks CA!


Weird Odds and Ends

•Weird shit you can buy:
Have you been looking for the perfect toy to teach friends and family about inappropriate touching? If so, you may want to check and see if Family Dollar's still selling this T-Rex/Stegosaurus combo.
Here's how it works: The T-Rex has a yellow button where his junk should be, and he hollers whenever someone mashes it.

• Austin thought it could get away with something. Couldn't.
• Butt Plug is the New New Tumbleweave: Tumbleweaves — the lost wigs and all-too-familiar hair pieces we see blowing down the sidewalk — are so 2015. The future belongs to abandoned sex toys.
This adorable, pink butt plug was spotted in the Cooper-Young neighborhood, standing bolt upright in the middle of the street.

It raised a lot of questions. Questions like, Did it just fall out? Were words exchanged? Did somebody say, "It's not you, it's me?"

• David Gest RIP.
The David left us this year. Bless his heart.
He was a celebrity. He wanted out.
  • He was a celebrity. He wanted out.
Photo of the Year (Mississippi Edition): Remember when Hernando, Mississippi Mayor Chip (real name) Johnson told TV reporters that the nude photo he texted a girlfriend, while embarrassing, shouldn't interfere with his performance running city government? But what about everybody else's performance? Who can even think about mayor stuff when all they can think about is mayor stuff? YIKES!
I'm sure I left a bunch of stuff out. I always do, but that's what comments are for. Share your weird Mid-South, 2016.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Tony Allen's Big D Beats Stiff Competition

Posted By on Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 11:39 AM


Sometimes tweets have two meanings.

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Useful GIF of Andy Wise Saying, "We're Here."

Posted By on Mon, Nov 21, 2016 at 1:02 PM

WMC's consumer investigator Andy Wise got an IKEA preview last week. Wise previewed that preview by tweeting this GIF, which really deserves an afterlife. Share it Memphis. Use it well.


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