Who can you trust?

It’s been nearly five years since I produced a TV newscast. The reasons why may have to be saved for a novel based upon real-life events — with names changed to protect innocent and guilty. Think of my last post as an appetizer. The main course is going to have to wait a while.

Even though I’m not involved in day-to-day journalism, I do pitch story ideas and I’m happy to help FOX23’s news team where help is needed.

This leads me to the “brilliant” work of the one-man truth squad at FTVLive.com. I have to put “brilliant” in quotes because, for starters, if I had a nickel for each misspelling, subject-verb disagreement, and other proofreading error that ends up on his website, I could afford to buy a brand new car at its MSRP in one fell swoop — while expecting change soon thereafter and title weeks later.

Has this “writer” ever heard of Grammarly? I don’t mind telling you one of my former FOX23 colleagues recommended Grammarly to me. It’s been a big help in my writing. I wish I had the tool in my journalism days.

When it comes to his bad writing, that’s as far as I’ll go — for now. In late August, the “writer” posted the following. I would post a hotlink — but I won’t because I don’t want to add to his analytics. First, here’s a screen grab of his article from late August of 2022.

(To clarify, the article was dated August 29. The web address would seem to indicate the article was in draft at least one day prior. Either way, the finished product definitely comes from late in the month. The offending part of the article I highlighted in blue.)

Okay, I’m going to keep my opinions about the state of NBC News, its broadcasts, and its anchors to myself. The lack of attribution of sources for this story is alarming, to say the least. The “writer” claims to have worked previously as a news director. Did he practice what he previously preached? Judge for yourself.

But let us look at this sentence again: “If NBC puts Guthrie on MTP, it gives the show a female host, which would be a first.”





Every time I’ve seen this sentence, my blood boils. If he were a TV critic for a major newspaper, his editor would rip him a new one.

The “writer” failed to take a brief look at the long history of “Meet the Press” and the journalists who have moderated it through the decades. The “writer” apparently jumped to the wrong conclusion “Meet the Press” was, and is, moderated by males and only males.

With the possible exception of any female substitute or interim moderator (for example, and I don’t have it on good authority this really happened, Andrea Mitchell could have filled in for Bill Monroe at some point in time between 1978 and 1984), “Meet the Press” history does show the program had, in the “writer’s” words, a “female host”?

Who? For the correct answer, all you have to do is go to the first page of the “Meet the Press” chronology. Take a look at this NBCNews.com-official video which I wish I could embed — but will gladly link. You might have to wait for the answer after a brief ad — but the correct answer appears early in the clip.


At this point in TV history, the possibility of seeing a female lead any kind of news program may have seemed like 3720 to 1. No matter how you calculate the odds, “Meet the Press” was that 1 at its genesis.

Oh — but wait — there’s more about Martha Rountree the “writer” didn’t bother to research. Rountree was the co-creator of “Meet the Press”. Further, before “Meet the Press” was on television in 1947, Rountree created “The American Mercury Presents: Meet the Press” — debuting on the Mutual radio network in 1945.

Rountree died in 1999 and lived a full life at the age of 87. Two years before her passing, The New York Times reported Rountree attended a “Meet the Press” golden anniversary celebration. Tim Russert, whose name you most likely associate with the program, said this of Rountree: “She was a news pioneer who helped create a national treasure.” Russert started moderating the program in 1991, at a time when it was on shaky ground, and guided it handily until his passing in 2008.

Think about this for a moment. Before the parenthetically aforementioned Andrea Mitchell, before Jessica Savitch, before Barbara Walters, before Norma Quarles, before Connie Chung, even before Nancy Dickerson (mother of John), there was Martha Rountree. If you are female and are considering entering the world of journalism, take a look at the story of Martha Rountree. You might learn something — would that the “writer” did.

The “writer” needs to issue a retraction and a full apology to his readers, NBC News, all of the staffers at “The Today Show” and “Meet the Press” (whether he likes them or not), and the relatives of Martha Rountree who are still with us. A reference book indicates Rountree married twice and she mothered two daughters.

The “writer” has written about other broadcast journalists issuing apologies for their major misdeeds. Now it’s the “writer’s” turn to issue a mea culpa.

UPDATE 9/5/22: Since Doug’s Place called out the “writer”, he has updated his site. It’s an admitted light update due to the Labor Day holiday.

Of the five new stories published, not one acknowledges Rountree. One of the newest stories acknowledges the stabbing death of a Las Vegas print reporter.

Another offers new developments in the tragic Neena Pacholke story. Pacholke, 27, was a morning anchor at an ABC station in Wisconsin. She recently committed suicide. The new developments are so dark I will respectfully not repeat them here.

This widower is well aware the game of life is not easy to play. If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available by visiting www.988lifeline.org or by simply dialing 988.

This is the end (but be sure about the end, my friend)

For various reasons, I didn’t want to write this. But given recent events, I feel as if I must.

If you cover entertainment and/or pop culture with any regularity, you know the last few weeks have not been easy. Sports and entertainment legends have passed from this life to the next over that time: Nichelle Nichols, Bill Russell, Olivia Newton-John, Pat Carroll; the list, unfortunately, goes on and on.

While their passings have been reported accurately, two others’ stories in particular, originally, were not — the passings of Tony Dow and Anne Heche.

Dow, who played the title character’s older brother on the classic sitcom “Leave it to Beaver”, was admitted into hospice care at a time others erroneously reported his death. Dow actually died a day after entering hospice.

Heche, whose career began on the daytime drama “Another World”, was involved in two car collisions in southern California earlier this month. As her condition worsened, erroneous reports of her passing were moved forward. The actual story: Heche passed away days after being taking off of life support.

Dow’s and Heche’s stories, particularly the latter’s, made me think of a similar story that also was reported inaccurately. I’ll get to that in a moment.

But first, a setup is in order. As clearly indicated in the archives of this blog, I was a TV newscast producer. I still recall the day Prince’s health took a sudden turn for the worse. Initially, there were reports he died — but then co-workers and I weren’t so sure.

The executive producer took some initiative — going ahead and editing aerial video of Prince’s home in Minnesota while keeping an eye for official word from NBC, one of the station’s networks of record, for legitimate word the legendary singer had died. The EP also sought any file footage of Prince in concert, in a movie, etc. Finally having the correct information to go on, it was a breaking story just as the second block of the noon news I produced was starting.

That’s a great example of teamwork. Unfortunately, I have to turn the clock back more than a decade earlier to an incident that was anything but teamwork.

One morning, at approximately 8:30, my old TV station was alerted a student was injured in a horrific crash. The student, who I will only identify as Drew in the interest of anonymity, suffered a lot of injuries and was not expected to survive. Drew was on life support for the rest of the day.

The next morning, I, as the morning producer, call the nursing supervisor at the hospital where Drew was admitted. To my surprise, Drew was still among the living — and in critical condition. So, we reworded the story for the morning newscast in an effort to keep the story, with no new development, fresh.

On this morning, we had a substitute anchor, who I will only identify as Chris (it’s tempting to use the backup anchor’s real name and call this person out; I’m resisting such temptation). I told Chris what I had just written in the previous paragraph. “I checked with the hospital. (Drew) is still living.” “That’s amazing — but we sure need to keep an eye on that story,” Chris said. Hard not to agree.

For nearly all of that morning newscast, the station reported the story accurately. Things took a turn for the wrong when Chris was checking e-mail messages in the newsroom during a break. Keep in mind this was at a time before one could check e-mail on a smartphone.

A friend of Chris’s wrote Drew died in the hospital. Chris, unwisely, didn’t bother to check with anyone else for corroboration. Chris didn’t call the hospital or anyone else for that matter. Chris didn’t even give the rest of us a head’s up — only saying with seconds to go in a commercial break there’s a breaking story. Back from the commercial break, in the closing segment, Chris broke the errant news Drew died — alarmingly without any attribution. Then, we signed off to make way for the network morning show.

That’s when the rest of us asked where Chris got this info. “A friend e-mailed me (Drew) didn’t make it,” Chris said. “Did you check with the hospital?” I asked. “Well — no”, Chris responded with an awkward pause.

Next thing you know, we called the hospital. The nursing supervisor still said Drew was in critical condition. Chris started to cry — realizing the backup anchor made a terrible mistake. So, when the network morning show allowed for an extended station break, Drew’s status changed in the top story of our 7:25 a.m. cut-in.

Later that day, Drew did succumb to the injuries sustained in the previous day’s crash. The station spent the rest of the day reporting on Drew’s passing — while apologizing on the air to the family, and the rest of the viewers, for Chris’s dreadful mistake. During the next morning’s local news, I made damn sure Chris read apologies.

Weeks later, Chris was suspended for a week for an unrelated misdeed. Playing fast and loose with the facts on two different stories resulted in Chris’s firing. Months later, Chris, somehow, found work elsewhere here in the American southeast at one particular television station — and then another in the same market. Apparently, Chris has left TV news altogether. For similar infractions? I honestly don’t know. I lost touch with Chris since the ultimate dismissal here. It’s probably just as well.

Back in the here and now, news broke of Nichelle Nichols’ passing during Rock 104 RockTrax, my Sunday radio show. Friends wrote about her on social media — and a few sci-fi blogs were reporting her passing. Even as a recovering journalist, I still wasn’t sure. I knew Nichols was in declining health at the time. So I waited until news broke on the Associated Press wires.

About a minute or two later, the AP indeed broke the news the original “Star Trek” cast member had died. National news outlets (FOX, NBC, ABC, etc.) echoed on their official social media presence. Suddenly, I had the correct story. Next thing you know, I’m breaking the news on the radio Nichols died.

The bottom line here is this. Sometimes it pays to be last on the story and have everything correct in the story — instead of being first on the story and going on the record with a lot of misinformation. Chris learned that lesson the hard way. So did certain people in the media when they reported the deaths of Tony Dow and Anne Heche too soon.

It’s gonna take a lotto luck (reprise)

As a voter, I wrote the state representative and senator who represent me in Jackson — urging them to vote no on the lottery. I got no response from one of them — and one response from the other. The other who responded assured me there would be a vote of no from that person. If I said the politician’s name, you’d likely know it.

Despite my concerns, the majority does rule — and the majority approved plans for a state lottery. With no turning back and plans going full speed ahead, what’s next?

There are two big things to think about. Here’s the first. If you hear proponents sing the praises of the lottery and note how it will help improve schools, infrastructure, etc., please take it all with a grain of salt.

As a refresher, let’s revisit this episode of the short-lived reboot of the classic quiz show “Now You See It” and cue the episode up to the 6:37 mark for a quick math lesson from the Ohio Lottery.

Going forward, if your school’s PTO makes plans for a spring festival in addition to the annual fall festival, you’ll know the Mississippi Lottery isn’t helping.

If school districts near you put levies and/or bond issues up for voters’ approval, you’ll know the Mississippi Lottery isn’t helping. Levies and bond issues were a combined thing when I lived in the Dayton area for most of the 1980s.

If you’re not seeing construction signs and orange and white barrels near roads and bridges that still show their age, you’ll know the Mississippi Lottery isn’t helping.

The other big thing to think about can be summed up in two words. Play responsibly.

If you have the money to burn on lottery tickets, good luck. As the punny title to this and the original post implies, you’ll need it. If you can’t spare the dimes, don’t.

Going back to my days in Ohio, I remember a time the long-running lottery game show “Cash Explosion” was in its infancy. It’s still on the air today, despite being canceled for “Make Me Famous, Make Me Rich” and only to be resurrected a year later.

Circa 1988, I can still remember seeing a lady at the service counter of a grocery store buying a scratch-off ticket for a chance to play for the then top prize of $50,000. As I recall, if a lottery player scratched off the ticket and uncovered the word “entry” in triplicate, that lucky person is one step closer to playing for the big money. If not, he or she gets some consolation prize or, likely, nothing at all.

So back to the lady — who was unlucky with her first ticket. She struck out with her second ticket. Her third ticket was not the charm. I lost count how many more times she tried to buy a winning ticket. All I can remember was her noticeable losing streak. I made a mental note from there.

Exposing a fake

For those who’ve wondered or asked, yes, I have dated other women since Cindy’s passing more than a decade ago. If you got to know Cindy really well, you’ll recall her father died in the mid-1990s and her mother later remarried. Now that our marriage ended under the articles of “’til death do us part” before we could celebrate the births of children or grandchildren, I’m searching for my next success story in the relationship world.  Cindy’s mom and stepdad have encouraged me to search for same.

It’s true Cindy and I met online. However, as we got to know each other, we realized we had mutual friends — some of whom I hadn’t seen in years. As our relationship leveled up, we realized there was a higher power in play.

In what I call postmarital dating, the internet hasn’t helped. You name any legitimate website or app — and the odds are good I tried it and have nothing to show for it (save for wasted time, wasted effort, perhaps wasted energy and, at times, wasted money).

It appears social networking doesn’t help much either. It is here I must expose a fake.

Earlier today, I learned about the story of one lady’s apparent search for love. I give you, or perhaps loan you for the moment, @MaryDennisDoyl1 on Twitter.

Mary Dennis Doyle notes she’s in California and looking for a long-term relationship. Would she be willing to travel and find her Mr. Right? Time will tell.

If she’s looking for love, she needs to be honest. On this video clip…

…she doesn’t say her name is Mary; she says her name is — Amber.

In case the above clip has been deleted by the time you read this (and, for that matter, her  Twitter account in its entirety), here the transcription. “Hey, guys. This is Amber,” she said in the bathroom selfie video right at the start. Automatic fail. “I am totally wasted,” she continued — with an unintelligible end to her sentence due to low volume and, well, the admitted fact she’s drunk. “I am having a really, really, really great time,” she noted. Then, she told viewers she was drinking champagne out of what looked like a Dixie cup.

How authentic is the clip? Judge for yourself. Is it a good idea to post drunk selfie videos? I’d say no. But when you have the name “Mary” in your profile, “Amber” in your video and “Amber” is nowhere else to be found in said profile, odds are good you’re faking all this.

Bottom line: When you’re looking for love, online or offline, be honest about things.

Barred from television

Doug’s Place Flashback: I still remember the time Roseanne Barr performed — check that, butchered — “The Star-Spangled Banner”. What people usually don’t know, realize or recall is that happened before Game 2 of a Cincinnati Reds at San Diego Padres doubleheader.

Read all about it: http://articles.latimes.com/1990-07-26/sports/sp-1255_1_roseanne-barr

I lived in Dayton, Ohio, at the time and listened to the ballgames on the radio. ‘Twas a magical time in 1990 to follow the Reds. They started the regular season with a nine-game winning streak, stayed atop the standings through, and including, the last day of said regular season and went on to win the World Series in a stunning sweep of the Oakland A’s.

Not every day and night that season was joyous. (Anyone remember Lou Piniella’s disagreements with the umps? Stuff of legend.) On that night in late July of ’90 in San Diego, the radio announcers were perplexed as everyone was standing for a second performance of the national anthem. The legendary Marty Brennaman of the Reds’ network quickly criticized Barr’s performan– er, uh — butchering of the song.

Fast forward to the here and now. A racist tweet from Barr has resulted in ABC’s immediate cancelation of the revival of her eponymous sitcom. There’s word other networks that aired reruns of the original series have removed said original series from their schedules. There’s slim hope it can live on, and see the light of day, on a streaming service. Don’t hold your breath — unless you really like the color blue.

Then as now, there’s a lesson for all of us here. Think twice before you post, tweet or lampoon once.

Why aren’t there five W’s in the puzzle?

Okay, so in a previous entry, I advised newscast producers should avoid satellite media tours like the plague. Now, I’d like to expand that plea just a bit.

Oh, great gatekeepers of the television news broadcasts, please do yourselves and your viewers this favor. Program any and all e-mails from out-of-town PR firms to go straight to junk mail.

In my previous television work, a plethora of press releases from 5WPR, based in New York, provided many a chuckle. As the name should imply, 5WPR should fully disclose the who, what, where, when and why of a particular proposed story.

I can’t think of a time 5WPR went five out of five when it came to providing these specifics. The who was always an unnamed “local expert on (whatever).” At least one other W per press release was vague.

One particular August, I saw a golden opportunity to take them to task. I can’t think of the name of the PR rep — so it’s just as well I leave that who vague. A lady e-mailed me a proposed back-to-school nutrition interview. She went on and on about how the summer’s ending and the school bells will ring again. The lady noted a “local health coach” (as was the case umpteen zillion times before, no name disclosed) was ready to come our way to tell viewers how their kids can eat healthy during the lunch break.

Well, the PR rep made the who and the when look terrible in just that one press release. How? If you’ve lived in my neighborhoods as long as I have, you’re well aware school starts back — wait for it — in early or mid-August.

So, I wrote her back asking this question. “Um — did this ‘local health coach’ tell you school’s already back in session?” No response from her. Looking back, I should’ve called her asking for a name of this coach — and then addressed the when. Then — sit back and listen to that awkward silence.

She, like many others before and since, don’t bother to do research on a targeted audience. They just put on blindfolds, pick up darts and hope they land somewhere on the dartboard — not necessarily aiming for a triple-20 much less a bullseye.

A few weeks ago, there was word the founder of 5WPR was hired to handle crisis control at the Sinclair Broadcast Group. If you have to ask why, you’ve lived under a rock. Either that or you’re writing up a press release for 5WPR on SBG’s behalf while not clearly defining the why.

Bottom line to producers: Local PR reps do a much better job of defining the who, what, where, when and why of a particular proposed story than 5WPR. Review the locals’ press releases on a case-by-case basis and go from there.

Rest In Peace, Tom

My heart sank after I read Tom Russo died over the weekend. If you lived in the Pine Belt in the mid 1990s, you likely remember he co-anchored the news at 5 and 10 on WDAM-TV.

From time to time, Tom was also a guest of what was then WQIS Talk Radio 890.  You might also remember the night Tom kept calm while reporting William Hatcher and Robbie Bond were murdered in Perry County.

Tom’s career took him to other stations in Mississippi and Alabama. His last job was assignment manager at WPMI-TV in Mobile, Alabama.

Based on my own recollection and other online accounts, when Tom took on a new professional assignment, he brought his keen sense of humor with him to the newsroom.

Thomas David Russo was truly one of the good guys of the news business — and left this life much too soon at the age of 56.

His obiturary: http://wolfefuneralhomes.com/obituary/thomas-tommy-russo

It’s gonna take a lotto luck

Long before I came to the Pine Belt, my family and I called Ohio home. When we arrived there in 1983, it was home to a state lottery. It still is.

If you ever wondered how a lottery helped school systems elsewhere — particularly my former neighborhoods in and near Dayton, Ohio — here’s your answer. Not much. In the eight years between our arrival and our departure for Mississippi, the schools in and near Dayton still put levies and bond issues up for votes.

About two years before we left, there was this admission from the Ohio Lottery’s then director…

…okay, it’s an episode from a short-lived revival of the classic word search quiz show “Now You See It”. At the 6:37 mark, you’ll see the start of a 30-second commercial for the Ohio Lottery from 1989. The leader clearly states the lottery doesn’t do a lot financially for the school systems of Ohio. If anyone ever tells you how a lottery would do wonders for Mississippi’s school systems, please take it all with a grain of salt.

Yes, in the here and now, it would be tough to see our friends and neighbors leave Mississippi and go on day trips, perhaps even mini-vacations, to states with lotteries when certain jackpots reach leviathan levels. But, considering the odds of winning any prize much less the jackpot, most of the money they’d take with them would most likely be added to fund prizes. And, yes, tourism out of state might see a slight bump thanks to our friends and neighbors dreaming of winning that leviathan jackpot. But the residual effects really wouldn’t extend much beyond that.

If a lottery bill comes up this legislative session, or any time after this year, my sincere hope is that the legislature will vote in the negative.

I lived in a lottery state. The lottery didn’t help the schools in Ohio. I can’t see how a lottery would help our schools here.

May TV co-workers, old and new, avoid certain PR tactics

Hi. Remember me? Long story short, 2017 was quite a busy one. Much of my free time was spent seeking new work and, ultimately, changing TV jobs. You can see the basic details at DougMorris.net if you’d like. The rest of the story is best saved for another blog entry or, perhaps better yet, my memoir that comes out in another two decades or so.

One thing I can go in-depth without much fear of retribution is this. Near the end of one year and/or the start of another, when I was a TV newscast producer, I would get showered with e-mails from certain representatives of certain products that would be on display at a certain Consumer Electronics Show in a certain Nevada city. Certainly, I’ve used “certain” more times that necessary.

These e-mails would invite stations (read: beg and plead) to book satellite interviews from Las Vegas as their products would be on display for stations’ viewers to see. If you’re a local newscast producer and you’ve already booked an SMT along these lines, bail out ASAP.

Broader picture: If you ever get a satellite interview request and the phrase “SMT sponsored by (insert company’s name here),” or something to that effect, is included therein, forward the e-mail to your news director and sales manager immediately. That company is looking to avoid buying up commercial time on your station and is taking a supposedly cheaper route (read: PR companies and representatives of products of company’s labors).

If the SMT request doesn’t have obvious commercialism, discuss the matter with your news director – who’s probably going to say no anyway. If the SMT is health-related, odds are good your boss will recommend a reporter speak with a doctor on the proposed matter at the local level.

Now — back to the Consumer Electronics Show. At my previous TV job, I had access from the feed services of two broadcast networks and CNN. History has shown correspondents from those feed services would be sent to Vegas to cover the CES – without endorsing specific products. I’m reasonably certain (there’s that word again) the 2018 CES will be no different in terms of news coverage.

As for said previous responsibility, my interest in satellite interviews was at an all-time low. The number of times I actually signed up for an SMT over a two-decade-plus-span I can count on one hand. About a year after I started producing a morning newscast, I would hear from several people on the phone wanting to book satellite interviews. Those calls would evolve into e-mail messages that would clog up my inbox.

I usually would respond with something to this effect: “Unless you’re offering an interview with strong Mississippi ties or a strong connection to a program that airs on our station, and it has *zero* business involvement, no dice.” In one of those rare moments of interest, I still remember actually booking an interview with Jillian Michaels, one of the original trainers on “The Biggest Loser”.

Michaels had written a book full of tips on exercise, weight loss, nutrition, etc. As I saw it, it was a golden opportunity to promote a then-popular show. Worries of product placement were minimal at best.

Days before the interview, I had to cancel. Change of heart and/or head? No. Mandate from the bosses? No. Technical issues? No. I still remember writing the companies that set this up that it was with major regret we had to cancel the arrangements in late August of 2005. We had to bail out because Hurricane Katrina was on the way.

The organizers were totally understanding. As consolation, they sent a DVD of generic clips from Michaels on her book. We ran a few of them months after the new normal settled in after the storm.

Bottom line: Thanks to evolving technology and evolving resources at the local level, TV newscast producers really don’t need satellite interviews. Local experts, feed services and content from sister stations should adequately pick up where SMTs leave off. Best to leave those SMT organizers – dare I say it – hurtin’ for certain.


As the old saying goes, the show must go on. My radio friends and I are working to make this a productive 2017 — as we will always mourn the passing of our friend Joe. He died December 12, 2016, after he was injured in a wreck in November.

Please click/tap here for a statement from Blakeney Communications, the parent company of Rock 104.

Please click/tap here for his obituary.

Joe’s family thanks everyone for their love, prayers and sincere generosity during this time. Many of you have expressed a need to help in some way. In lieu of flowers, a special account has been set up for Joe and Rachael’s children’s future education. Memorial contributions may be mailed to: Joe Stianche, 5 Neil Road, Ellisville, MS, 39437.