By Ron Fineman
TV critic Ron Fineman has created quite a stir among LA broadcasters.
He's got people mad at him and one LA TV station has even
boycotted his website. Nonetheless, he gets about 8000 hits
a week. Who is he? What's his background? Why does he think
he's qualified to do what he does? We asked the man behind
RonFineman.com to share his feelings. So, in his own words,
It can be painful to watch local television news. It has some
much potential, but yet it is caught in sensationalism, questionable
reporting, poor writing and you name it.
When I started critiquing LA TV news two years ago, I had
no idea how it would be received. I'm pleased to say I get
a lot of support from members of the TV community. Some go
on the record in OTR,
while others like to keep it confidential. Some TV news folk
tell me that I do make a difference. Sometimes it is anchors
who double check to rid their scripts of broadcasteze. Other
times, I'm told people are more careful about how they do
their job, just to avoid appearing in my column. That is very
likely the exception, otherwise I'd have a lot less to write
about. People tell me I'm filling a niche. If I don't take
TV people to task on a regular basis, who will? People sometimes
ask me how much time I spend on OTR.
I probably spend around 13 hours each week putting together
the three editions, not counting the time I spend actually
watching the news.
I think my column may give the false impression that all I
do is watch TV news. Since I do try to watch some of every
station, it might seem as if I'm watching everyone everyday,
which is certainly not the case. I'll usually tape someone's
10pm and someone's 11pm a couple of days a week; otherwise
I just write about whatever I can catch live.
I take notes of course, and without that note pad, I'd be in
trouble. As it happens I accidentally left my note pad at my
girlfriend's house last week, after I left for Bakersfield.
(I divide my time between both cities). Amazingly she was able
to read enough of my handwriting over the phone, so that I wasn't
left up news critic creek without a paddle. Believe me, my handwriting
can be so bad, sometimes I can't read it.
Young Ron Fineman
So, you may ask, what qualifies me to be a TV news critic? Well,
everyone is a critic. The credibility I have comes from all
of those who read my web site-which includes people both in
the media and out-who tell me they like what I do and they agree
with much of what I have to say.
I spent 12 years in Bakersfield television, as a reporter, a
producer and a news director. So I know how difficult it can
be to use video in telling a story, I know what it is like to
put together a newscast, and I know what it is like to run a
news room, albeit it a small one (I think had about 30 people
on my staff). When I was a reporter, I organized to bring a
union to the newsroom. It really divided the staff, which gave
me the experience of being respected and disliked at the same
time. Great preparation for OTR!
I do like to have fun on my web site. That's why I write about
commercials which annoy me, occasionally reference old sitcoms,
and also deal with social and political issues. I'm not a one-trick
pony. However, I know the core of what I do is news criticism,
and I take the responsibility seriously.
Ron and Christy Knorr doing the East Coast Swing
at Ron's 30th high school reunion last year
Since KCAL suddenly banned access to my web site (and others,
I'm told) at the same time I was printing some unflattering
comments about a member of their management, I guess it is fair
to say that others take my site seriously too. Ironically, the
buzz created by the ban could only help spread the word about
the web site. A little more than a year ago, I added Inside
LA TV to my web site. That is the part of the site where I ask
newsroom insiders to tell me what is going on where they work.
It has given me some good scoops, and it has also allowed some
to take shots at others anonymously.
Ron leading an informational picket against his old
TV station, KERO in Bakersfield, back in 1989
I know that bothers some readers, but without that sort of protection,
how many people would speak up at all? I would never knowingly
print anything false, but obviously some things may slip by.
The best example of that was a recent letter sent to me from
Dilva Henry's email address at KCAL. It turned out to be a fake.
Another time, someone told me that a part time anchor at one
of the stations got a job through nepotism. That is something
I would not print without checking it out. Turns out the tip
was a lie, and the 'story' never saw the light of day. That
tipster sent something else which I checked out and found to
be untrue, so I realize there are some who will purposely try
to use OTR
to spread false information. Fortunately, that is very much
the exception. Someone recently told me that they assumed that
page is what brings most readers to OTR.
But the reality is, the main page has the most hits, followed
by the Letters Page (about 50 percent of the main page), and
then ILATV (which has about 40 percent of the main page).
For those who may be curious about my personal life, or wonder
if I have one, I do. I have a grown son who I raised as a single
parent, and I have a girlfriend who not only is able to decipher
my handwriting, but also goes out swing dancing with me from
time to time. We're just beginners, but we do have fun!
In closing, I hope that some day, those who own LA TV stations
will take a good look at their news product, and realize how
standards of good journalism have fallen so far, and what little
respect they're showing for viewers. Certainly some are better
than others are, but I believe everyone still has a long way
to go. I plan to keep my eye on local news, and I hope OTR
can continue to grow, and be a positive factor toward encouraging
local newscasts we could all be proud of. I don't hold out much
hope in the near future, but I'll keep plugging away, continuing
to call 'em as I see 'em.
Ron interviewing California Supreme Court Justice
Stanley Mosk last year