Friday, August 8, 2008

The evening news with WMBF, Myrtle Beach's first NBC affiliate

Danner Evans is the right woman for the anchor seat in the WMBF local news operation: she's crisp, quick, charming and attractive.

WMBF is the new -- and the first -- NBC affiliate in the Myrtle Beach-Florence market. Friday (August 8) was the local news operation's first day on the air.

But even with Evans' solid handling of the co-anchor position with Michael Maely, the WMBF 11 o'clock news on Friday evening(running late due to the NBC coverage of Olympic opening ceremonies in Beijing) brought these questions to mind:

1. The segment with the Internet reporter is a smart idea, but will the camera get close enough to the screen, or will the screen become big enough, so that the viewers can see what is on the displayed Web sites? CNN has an Internet reporter who does the same thing, and it can be an effective and useful segment, but the CNN screen is larger, and the viewers can see what is on the Web sites.

2. Tonight's opening report, regarding the Olympics, was broadcast live from a local sports bar. The report had only one bar patron talking on camera; the rest of the report was a voice-over of the reporter talking while the viewers watched mundane shots of the people sitting around inside the bar. Will WMBF generally avoid mundane footage?

3. Was everyone a bit nervous tonight? The introduction to a segment on counterfeit bills was awkward and repetitive. Another segment about air quality in Beijing included a fumble with graphics and video. That's all understandable. After months of build-up, the big day was here, and the folks in the newsroom knew they were riding the NBC legacy. It was truly a big day. Brian Williams, reporting from Beijing, gave a shout out to the new WMBF during NBC's Nightly News.

All that being said, hats off to Justin Felder for two good stories about local Olympic athletes -- crisp reports with charm.

And, WMBF's graphics, color schemes, and set are appealing and engaging.

Only good can result from another news operation in the area.

The new NBC affiliate will make WPDE and WBTW work even harder -- and that's important when broadcast journalism's usual crib sheet, the daily newspaper, in this case The Sun News, has gone through a recent round of counterintuitive layoffs and belt-tightening.

Maybe the cuts were not so counterintuitive. Maybe locals just prefer TV news (the short version with bright, spiffy graphics) to newspapers (the in-depth, and best-reported, version), but Horry County, the so-called Independent Republic, needs all the public accountability it can get.

Even if every report ends with the reporter saying "live, local, and late-breaking." Which brings me to:

4. Will WMBF really end each and every report with "live, local, and late-breaking"? Really? I mean, time is everything on television, right?

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Newcomers to the area might not understand the significance of a local NBC affiliate. Since I moved to Myrtle Beach in 1996, I have had both the Columbia, S.C., and the Wilmington, N.C., affiliates available on my local TimeWarner cable box. Meanwhile, WBTW 13 (CBS) and WPDE 15 (ABC) both have been covering the Myrtle Beach-Florence market for several years now.

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Late update: Conan O'Brien just did a shout-out to the new WMBF on his Late Night with Conan O'Brien show.

-Colin Foote Burch

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