Editor’s note: Tripp Frohlichstein, who previously was a St. Louis Journalism Review contributor, worked for Channel 4 from 1974 to 1986. He is approaching his 28th year in business as owner of MediaMasters, a company that specializes in training people to give better presentations, give better interviews to reporters and develop messaging.
As television stations cut back on people to save money, it shows up on the air with sloppy writing and spelling. Now, mistakes can happen in any media. But I have noticed a significant increase in errors on TV over the last year or two.
Like the anchor for St. Louis’ Channel 4 (KMOV) who read a promo on the air ending with, “I don’t know what that means.” Perhaps she should have read it at least once before going on the air.
Too often, misspellings are showing up on the air. During Channel 4’s weather, a graphic noted that some pollen numbers were “abscent” as opposed to absent.
On Channel 2’s (KTVI) weather, we saw a cold “frontn” was approaching. Channel 2 also had a graphic about what was happening “tjoday.”
Channel 5 (KSDK) wrote: “Suspect escape police after fatal accident.” Channel 5 also continues to forget how to display graphics and information. During the weather, the print at the bottom read, “We should be d.” The rest of the statement was blocked by the station’s own Twitter address, time and temperature.
Sometimes it’s writing that’s the problem. Channel 2’s Anthony Kiekow continues to struggle. He recently reported on a story in which employees at Mercy Hospital donated vacation times to colleagues affected by storms. First he reported in the story that “about 28 people” lost power. Later, it was “at least 28.” If it is “about” 28, couldn’t that be 26? Nitpicking? Yes. But it takes away from the reporting of the story and makes a viewer wonder about its accuracy.
And a soundbite he put in the story was worthless. A Mercy human resources person said, “They can send in a form and donate PTO.” Who cares how they do it? Let the person talk about the impact the PTO (I assume that stands for “paid time off”) will have on the people who are getting it.
At Channel 5, on its 6 p.m. news, an attempt to make a story sound current failed, making the writing sound like hype for the station. Anchor Ann Allred said, “We just received information about a deadly shooting in midtown St. Louis.”
New information? “Like what?” I wondered.
I never found out. Kay Quinn continued the story with, “It happened at 8:45 this morning.” What? That was more than nine hours ago. She went on to say what happened and what a witness said. Nothing special. And at no point did she tell us what information they had “just received.”