Monday, June 21, 2010

Youth Movement Visible on Local TV News

Who’s That Girl with the unusual name?

No, not Madonna.


Inquiring minds want to know where Channel 4’s newest reporter, Nalina Shapiro, came from before she recently popped up on newscasts.

Okay, a buddy of mine asked me who the new pretty blonde was on the area’s news leader.

The answer illustrates how much the hiring methods have changed in local television these days.

Shapiro was hired straight out of college. It doesn’t say that on the biography on Channel 4’s website. The bio notes that she graduated from Franklin Pierce University and adds she’s “worked with” news teams on the CBS Evening News in New York, WBZ-TV in Boston and WMUR in New Hampshire. It doesn’t say what year she graduated from college and what “worked with” means.

You can get more information from Google and You Tube. I Googled Shapiro and discovered she graduated college a few weeks ago and “worked with” means she was an intern at the three stations.

But her video resume also is in You Tube and it’s so impressive that her hiring is understandable. She is very smooth as a reporter and obviously very aggressive in seeking a job.

One can imagine that some people in local news are a little jealous of Shapiro, who didn’t have to toil in Elmira or Erie, Pa. before landing on a big Buffalo station as reporters had to do in the past.

However, times clearly have changed in these economically-distressed times. The Youth Movement on TV isn’t only on YNN, Time Warner’s 24-hour news channel. It is also is highly visible on all three broadcast stations. A member of Channel 4’s weather team, Amelia Segal, undoubtedly would get carded in any Chippewa Street bar that wants to keep its license.

Young and cheap obviously is the way it is going to go in local TV. The good news is younger reporters are more likely to be comfortable with being backpack journalists, which means they shoot their own stories as well as report them.

It remains to be seen whether younger reporters have the news instincts that in the past were developed in places like Elmira and Erie, Pa.

* Buffalo News editor Margaret Sullivan wrote a compelling column Sunday about a much-needed change in the newspaper’s policy regarding how the online comments to stories will be handled starting in August. The paper will then require people making online comments to give their real names and the name of their town as they do for letters to the editors.

In her column, she quoted a reader named Bob Gallivan. “What is intended to be an open forum for individuals’ thoughts and opinions is all too often the outlet for small-minded, omniphobic hatemongers, racists and just plain mean-spirited people,” wrote Gallivan.

Gallivan works at Channel 4 as its researcher. He is not part of the news-gathering process at the station, which also allows offensive comments to stories that are online.

Besides requiring names and addresses to be used, The News might also consider adding occupations and workplaces. None of the comments to my Buffalo News columns over the years disturbed me. But it was clear that some of the more vicious personal attacks came from people who worked at the local stations and were hiding behind anonymity. I’m not suggesting that the occupations and workplaces be carried online – just that they be given so News editors could know whether the writers had an ax to grind.

* Finally, I guess it’s too bad that Nalina Shapiro doesn't do sports. On Sunday night, Channel 4 news anchor Mylous Hairston did a lengthy sports report on a busy night, apparently because sports regulars Paul Peck and John Murphy need a night off occasionally. Hairston did a good job. However, with all the people in broadcast journalism schools hoping to become the next Bob Costas or Al Michaels, you’d think Channel 4 could find one to be the third member of the sports team as quickly as it found Nalina.

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