14 October 2012

WTSP 10 News' change of voice over announcers

If you are a frequent viewer of WTSP 10 News (the CBS affiliate here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area) and their programming such as their newscasts (which I like as an alternative to Bay News 9, which partially survives on stories shared from the St. Petersburg Times as both have a news sharing alliance with each other) you have by now noticed some changes that took place at the WTSP camp out there on 11450 Gandy Blvd.

One change which is obvious is the return of America's most popular game shows - Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! - to WTSP.  Right after the Great Tampa Bay TV Affiliate Switch of 1994 and WTSP's conversion from being an ABC affiliate to a CBS affiliate as we know today both game shows stayed on for several years, then moved over to the relocated ABC affiliate in Tampa, WFTS ABC Action News.

Let me digress for a moment back in the days when Jeopardy! was on WTSP.  This was around 1995, back in the days of the reliable Emergency Broadcast System used to warn us of severe weather.  I was watching Jeopardy! at home and the weather outside started getting worse by the minute, due to the summer thundershowers that are a common occurrence in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.  Right after Jeopardy! announcer Johnny Gilbert announced, "and now, here's the host of Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek" then three beeps went off along with a text crawl on screen warning of severe weather on the horizon.

What I was thinking:  Was Johnny Gilbert playing with the beeper signal?  I knew that the beeper signal originated from WTSP's studios, but the timing was perfect to the nanosecond.  Luckily, the beeper signal was not the two-tone Emergency Broadcast System signal (which, by the way, would have required WTSP to interrupt programming).  (Today we have the Emergency Alert System, which is ineffective when it's used for a national emergency as was demonstrated in November 2011).

Now on to another change that took effect over at WTSP 10 News:  You may not notice this, but WTSP has decided to change voice over announcers.  Don't confuse this with the announcers that you hear on Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, but this is the announcer you hear anytime you watch a promo for an upcoming program, such as this example:  "Today at 4, on 10 News".

(I can only give you textual examples of what you hear on WTSP 10 News, as actual sound samples would more than likely violate copyright).

What I can say is this:  WTSP 10 News and its general manager, Ken Tonning, should be proud of the return of America's two most popular game shows back home after several years being on WFTS, the Tampa area ABC affiliate.  However, I think Ken Tonning made a mediocre choice when it comes to picking a voice over announcer for the station - besides, the past two WTSP station announcers did a much better job at promoting WTSP 10 News to its fullest.

Now for a backgrounder on voice over announcers who do TV station promotional materal (which are called in broadcast speak "promos").  Back in the old days, a TV station used to have a person called a staff announcer that used to work for the station as part of the team.  Not only the staff announcer did all the promos for the station, the staff announcer was called on to assist with other station related tasks such as voicing news summaries (especially back in the days when television was not 24 hours a day) and other tasks that may be determined by station management from time to time.

Fast forward to the technological marvels of ISDN telephone service and the Internet.  These two technological marvels enable anyone working in the voice over industry to perform their profession without the expense of moving to New York or Los Angeles.

Today, the typical voice over announcer has a few television stations plus numerous radio stations as their clientele.  A typical voice over announcer's day is receiving scripts from the clientele TV and/or radio station and recording the script in a studio built for that purpose.  Most voice over announcers set aside a portion of their homes and convert a room or two to accommodate the professional grade equipment needed, as well as make the room as soundproof as it can be to achieve the best possible sound.  Besides, having a voice over announcer setup at home significantly reduces overhead costs for the voice over announcer as office space can come at a significant premium depending on the metropolitan area involved.

As soon as the voice over announcer completes a voice over task the finshed products are sent to the client over a dedicated ISDN telephone connection.  Some voice over announcers have a restricted access FTP site on the Internet where their clientele can log in and retrieve the individual MP3 sound files.

Even though most voice over announcer work is done by way of ISDN and the Internet, we still have live voice over talent that is still used today.  A great example is the annual Academy Awards telecast on ABC, and Academy Awards telecasts 83 and 84 were announced by Tom Kane (with assistance on Oscar telecast No. 84 by a newcomer on the Oscar telecast block, Melissa Disney).

So, I gave you a little backgrounder on voice over announcers who do promo material for TV as well as radio stations.  As for WTSP 10 News, perhaps WTSP general manager Ken Tonning could have done better if he wanted to polish the image of WTSP 10 News for the new TV season to try to beef up the ratings in the Tampa/St. Petersburg TV market.

More Jeff Harrington Myth regarding Citizens Insurance

In Saturday's (13 October 2012) St. Petersburg Times there is a headline plastered on Page 1-A, the front page:  Opt out or stay?  Get the facts.
It's a Question and Answer column on if you want to stay with Citizens - the State of Florida's homeowners insurer of last resort - or go with the takeout company that Citizens is assigning you to.  This Q and A was written by none other than Jeff Harrington, the St. Petersburg Times' purveyor of anxiety and fear when it comes to articles on the economy.  (With one minor exception:  The recent sale of The Tampa Tribune and TBO.com to Los Angeles-based Revolution Capital, a private equity firm).
Did I mention Jeff Harrington?  Remember during the height of the credit crunch the St. Petersburg Times was nothing but lots of articles about how impossible it was to get a non-mortgage loan?  All written to instill fear and anxiety in the general public?
If you haven't read my topic on Surviving the Housing Crisis, please by all means feel free to do so.  After all, the news media such as the St. Petersburg Times - as well as other media outlets such as Bay News 9 - should not be drowning you in fear as far as your mortgage, your home's value or the ability to get homeowners insurance is concerned.
OK.  I took a look at that article with interest.  After looking at that article it's got some helpful hints, but unfortunately the element of fear is contained.  First, let me give you a backgrounder on why Citizens came about in the first place.
Let's trace back to 2004, and Florida's golden hit parade of hurricanes - Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne - plus the Florida platinum hit parade of hurricanes such as Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005.  Insurers were being hit big time with losses that came about from claims from homeowners for damage as a result of these hurricanes which we will know and remember for the forseeable future.
What did insurers have to do?  Stop writing homeowners policies in Florida and pull the homeowners insurance business out of the state.  With insurers cancelling or non-renewing policies at a alarmingly fast rate, the State of Florida stepped in and created a homeowners insurance company which would be dubbed the insurer of last resort:  Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, or simply called Citizens as we know today.
Several years have passed since the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005.  Citizens was writing the majority of homeowner policies for homeowners in Florida who are unable to get homeowners insurance through traditional means.  Then the State of Florida was enticing insurance companies to take homeowners out of Citizens and have the insurance company take the risk.  The process in which an insurance company takes over a homeowner's Citizens policy is what is called a "takeout".
But here's the good news:  You are not stuck with Citizens, nor the insurance company that Citizens assigns you to when you get your letter with a request for a response.  I have seen more and more insurance companies slowly getting back into the Florida homeowners market.
When you get that letter from Citizens saying that you will be assigned to another insurance company, what you should do is to call your insurance agent before you make that decision.  With more and more insurance companies getting back into the Florida homeowners market every year, your choices for homeowners insurance should get better - and hopefully see lower rates.  This is true even if your homeowners policy is one or two months away from renewal.

Very important:  You only have a limited amount of time to decide whether you want to stay with Citizens or go with the insurance company that Citizens is assigning you to.  When you get that letter from Citizens, call your insurance agent right away and have him or her shop around for the best quotes on homeowners insurance.  Same thing if you have condominium unit owners insurance - when you get the letter from Citizens, call your insurance agent.

In short, let me say this again:  You are not stuck with Citizens, nor the insurance company that Citizens assigns you to when you get your letter with a request for a response.  Don't let the St. Petersburg Times drown you, the homeowner or condominium unit owner, in fear.