Stay classy, Philadelphia: True stories of the anchorperson's life

As the new movie hits screens, PW offers a non-Burgundy salute to our favorite anchormen (and such)

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After a couple years, she headed to Harrisburg to work for the local CBS affiliate. By now, she’d learned a couple things about TV news reporting, including the big faux pas that have the potential to make or break a reporter’s tenure in any city. Lesson no. 1: Don’t say Lan-caster. “Everybody calls it Lan-caster who’s not from here,” she says. “Don’t say that or else everybody will hate you. I guess in California, it’s Lan-caster, California. In Amish Country, it’s [pronounced] Langkister.

In Philly, she says, new on-air personalities face their own pronunciation challenges. No, you’re not expected to say wudder or jawn. But whether you grew up here or not, you are expected to know what the hell the Schuylkill is. “Schuylkill Expressway is something you have to say often,” she notes. “You have to know where it is and what it is, and that looks like a tricky word on paper if you have an accent coming from a different market.” Indeed. Lord save you if you accidentally call it “Skull kill.” / R.L.

 

From the Past to the Future: Ian Bush

He’s only onscreen sometimes, but KYW Newsradio 1060 anchor and technology editor Ian Bush has just about seen and done it all, from on-the-ground reporting to announcing home games for Wildcats basketball. A Villanova alum, Bush was the first student to graduate from the school’s masters program in communications in 2006, and he’s been with KYW ever since he was still a student. Bush sounded off to PW recently about topics as diverse as BuzzFeed, internships and the human price of always-on media.

So what do you prefer most: TV anchoring, radio broadcasting, writing or on-foot reporting? TV viewers are lucky that I rarely appear onscreen, although KYW Newsradio anchors do news segments on CBS Philly Plus on Channel 3.2. One of the best things about the different job titles I hold at 1060—anchor, reporter, editor—is that I get to do something different almost every day, from street and Skype reporting to directing on-air content and writing and delivering news shows. I love telling stories—or, really, letting people tell their own stories—through this medium. And I think there’s something about Philadelphia and its us-against-the-world, we’re-all-in-this-together mentality that deepens the intimacy of radio.

This spring, you told a Villanova communications student asking for professional advice to intern and intern hard. Aren’t you still working at the place where you first interned almost 12 years ago? “Intern hard” doesn’t have to mean [building] a resume chock full of places you spent half a semester or a few months after collecting a diploma. To be sure, there are benefits to all that exposure, including getting a sense of the job and kind of workplace that best suits you and learning about personalities and how yours gels with colleagues and corner office-holders. But I think there’s also a lot to be said for going all-in at one place: Why not be damn exceptional at answering phones, refilling the printer paper, and anticipating the needs of the people collecting a salary? We don’t have to succumb to the sweeping pronouncement that “Today’s college graduates will work at a dozen different companies by the time they’re 40.” If you’re good at what you do, and if you think your company is good at what it does and how it does it, why shouldn’t it be a lasting lovefest?

Can we talk about BuzzFeed? Alarmingly, it’s a wildly successful beast that’s hiring more and more “new media” hopefuls. This can’t be the future of the news media, can it? A quick check of Facebook: it’s BuzzFeed, Upworthy, Distractify and Deadspin dominating the shares. I get it. I get the value of the click-through on the business side. I get the benefits of buzz that aren’t always measured by the bottom line. It’s just that outside of the stories I do for work, I rarely produce it, and I rarely consume it. I’ve never typed buzzfeed.com into a browser. Inane lists—10 Amazing Photobombs! 25 Cozy Cats Curl Up Into Small Balls!—make my eyes glaze over. But I raise a glass to those who are making a living compiling such things. BuzzFeed is not to be underestimated, and for today’s student of journalism, I’d imagine that landing a job there would carry as much cache as those in my day would ascribe to one of the cable news channels.

My perspective as KYW’s technology editor was shaped, in part, by one moment: observing, through a window at Cosi on 4th and Chestnut, a table occupied by late-30-something parents and their child. As I walked by, mom was scrolling on her iPhone, dad on his iPad, and their little girl was sitting, staring into the distance, sipping a smoothie through a straw. No one was talking. Attention paid only to electronics, not humans. It really got to me. I decided then that my reporting would be informed and balanced by the ability of technology to bring us together and drive us apart. Innovation doesn’t always mean improvement.

An electronic music artist named Jon Hopkins was recently quoted in Pitchfork’s “Year in Quotes,” saying: “The idea of listening to an album and tweeting about it as you go through it on your first listen offends me on so many levels. This is not how music is supposed to be listened to. Nobody wrote an album with that in mind. I’m not a huge Internet person in that I find the sheer speed and updating of everything not good for the attention span. I don’t think it’s natural.” News organizations, on the other hand, have mostly embraced Twitter as a vital and effective tool to reach a wide audience fast. What do you think?
I know some will say I’m a dinosaur in that I believe there is still room for the half-hour network newscast—and that translates to other forms of traditional media, like local news radio and newspapers. There is vast value in having an editorial staff, anchors and reporters who devote each day to working a beat and learning about what’s going on in this world and delivering stories in a way that makes you want to tune in or keep turning the page.

This year, especially, we’ve witnessed much hyperventilating over stories sparked over social media that turn out to be anything but what they’re presented to be: the “lady in seat 7A,” the “snubbed gay waitress.” To be sure, plenty in traditional media fall victim to these hoaxes, too, as they vie for a share of that socially-connected audience. I just wonder if the truth penetrates as significantly as the fiction. Another example is the Obama-Cameron-Thorning Schmidt “selfie” at the Mandela memorial. AFP photographer Roberto Schmidt, who snapped the moment, sums up the state of our affairs quite nicely: “I guess it’s a sign of our times that somehow this image seemed to get more attention than the event itself. Go figure.”

I respect and admire the power of Twitter for democratizing the intersection of the web with our world. Besides broadcast, I can’t think of a tool that has such immediate, inclusive impact. Our listeners are often the first witnesses to breaking news events, and their tweets are the genesis of so many stories. Though I must admit that I’m no longer the “power scroller” on Twitter that I used to be. It’s been liberating: I’m no longer a serf to the surf, no longer pulling down for a refresh in every moment of boredom.

What was the most powerful technological moment of 2013? And what’s going to go down in 2014 that’s going to blow everyone’s mind? The earthquake that is Edward Snowden rocked the world with revelations of extensive surveillance of Americans’ Internet and phone activity by their own government—an intrusive data grab within and far from US borders at the hands of the NSA and its foreign allies. It seems our civil liberties have long since been reduced to rubble; we’ve only just been given light to witness the devastation. We’ll see in 2014 whether the aftershocks are enough to influence the debate over electronic privacy on Capitol Hill and in Silicon Valley, where tech companies have suddenly realized it’s in their best interest to safeguard ours.

And in this Snowden era, with more talk about encryption and data security, I’d like to put money on a savior swooping in this coming year and moving us from the misery of passwords. Though despite Apple’s foray—with the iPhone 5S—into fingerprint authentication, there seems to be little interest among other big players in biometrics technology. I hope someone else is ready to step up and offer a solution. / BILL CHENEVERT

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