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Has WQAD’s Sweeps Ploy Made a Better Newscast? PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Media
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 17 February 2011 09:53

In October, I took a snapshot of local television news by watching and analyzing four nights of 10 p.m. newscasts by the four primary commercial Quad Cities stations. I was, admittedly, harsh on WQAD, saying that the ABC affiliate was “stunningly weak in local news.”

So when WQAD announced that in February, its Monday late-night newscasts would feature “35 minutes of news, weather, and local-sports content with no interruptions,” I was intrigued.

At the outset, it’s important to note that this is clearly a stunt for the February sweeps. If WQAD can attract more viewers – on Mondays specifically, but with the hope that they’ll stick around the other six days of the week – it can charge more for advertising, which over the long haul would more than make up for the lost revenue on four Mondays.

But as sweeps stunts go, this is a ballsy and encouraging gambit. Rather than sensational coverage or giveaways, WQAD seemed to be promising a better newscast.

 
The Best Local TV News: KWQC Is Still King, but Surprising WHBF Is an Underdog Worth Watching PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Media
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 28 October 2010 05:21

Most of us like to root for an underdog, so here’s a story that our local television news stations should eat up.

When the River Cities’ Reader analyzed Quad Cities newscasts for four days earlier this month, there was one major surprise: The fourth-place local station at 10 p.m. – CBS affiliate WHBF, whose newscast has gotten trounced in the ratings by a syndication sitcom on Fox 18 – might just have the best local television news in the Quad Cities.

In just about every objective and subjective measure, WHBF’s late-night newscast beats or presents a strong challenge to established power KWQC, the local NBC affiliate.

 
“American Pickers”: The Inside Story of the History Channel’s Surprise Hit PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Media
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 17 March 2010 06:12

Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz, and Danielle Colby-Cushman. Photo by Amy Richmond.

In the American Pickers episode "Back Breakers," Mike Wolfe is donning a bright-red T T Motor Home Club jacket with the name "Louise" embroidered on the front.

The jacket is an "ice-breaker," a term that Wolfe and picking partner Frank Fritz use to describe an item that they don't really want but buy anyway as a way to warm up a reticent person to the idea of selling their old stuff.

It's a charming bit in the History channel's first-season reality-series hit, because it shows that Wolfe and Fritz aren't afraid to look foolish or silly. And Wolfe seems to enjoy wearing that jacket.

But it also works because it teaches viewers about how picking works. We learn the nuances of scavenging, and how they get people to part with the objects they've collected over decades. "We're like psychologists for people and their stuff," Fritz said on the show.

 
Bigger, But Better? The Quad-City Times Dwarfs the Argus/Dispatch’s News Coverage PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Media
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 10 December 2009 08:00

On December 1, the Quad-City Times ran 29 square inches of copy on the not-for-profit organization Skills Inc. shutting down at the end of the year. The Rock Island Argus ran an eight-square-inch brief on its front page.

This can be seen as a microcosm of the Quad Cities' two daily newspapers. A River Cities' Reader analysis found that last week, the Quad-City Times devoted 80 percent more space to local news content than the twin Illinois papers, the Rock Island Argus and the Moline Dispatch.

For the week of November 29 to December 5, the Times had 91 articles, editorials, and columns written by staff members or Lee Enterprises bureau reporters concerning local and state issues and news, totaling 2,300 square inches. The Argus/Dispatch had 69 such articles, totaling 1,274 square inches.

Including letters to the editor, the Times had more local news content each day last week than the Argus or Dispatch. Outside of Saturday's paper -- in which the amount of local news content was nearly the same -- each day the Times devoted at least 23 percent more space to local news content than the Argus/Dispatch did. On Monday, the Quad-City Times featured 307 square inches of local news content; the Argus/Dispatch had 30 -- all letters to the editor.

 
The Return of Terry Swails: How WQAD Scored the Biggest Name in Quad Cities Weather, and What It Means PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Media
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 08 July 2009 06:08

Terry Swails

When the National Weather Service issued a Particularly Dangerous Situation tornado watch on May 25 last year, Terry Swails was in an unusual position: He could chase the storm - and not via a radar from the confines of a television newsroom.

He was in Iowa City that Sunday, coming home from a storm-chasing trip in Kansas during which he saw three tornadoes.

That Sunday storm produced the EF5 tornado that hit Parkersburg, Iowa - the strongest tornado in the state since 1968.

His wife Carolyn dissuaded him from chasing it - she'd had enough of storms - but for the first time in nearly three decades, Swails has been able to indulge his love of weather directly instead of through the technology of a television station. "When the storms came, I had to work," Swails said last week. "I was always inside."

On Monday, Swails returns to the airwaves after an 18-month absence, doing weather on WQAD's 6 p.m. weekday newscasts. It's a part-time gig, meaning that Swails can devote more time to the actual weather and to his Web site.

For WQAD, this is a bold partnership that will almost certainly erode KWQC's local-news dominance and could start a sea change. Channel 8 will allow Swails to directly promote TerrySwails.com on the air, and in exchange it will get the Quad Cities' most recognizable weather personality.

 
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