Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wait, what city am I in?

I've been travelling again, which is always a reminder to me of just how much we've turned some aspects of our cities into carbon copies of other places.

This is most obvious, of course, in malls. Once you walk through the doors of the typical mall, other than some variation in general decor or modern updates, you will find the same stores, which means every woman in America can find their bras at Victoria's Secret, their T-shirts at the Gap, clothes for the grandkids at Baby Gap, ice cream at Ben & Jerry's or Haagen-Daz, skin potions at Bath & Body Works and so on. After a few minutes, it's easy to forget what city you're in, much less which state.

Back out on the streets, there's a Starbucks every few blocks, a collection of familiar fast food restaurants. We've come to expect that no matter where we travel, we'll be able to get our favorite hamburger or coffee fix.

More surprising to me, however, was the discovery on this trip that features I thought were unique to my local television stations in Washington, DC, aren't unique at all. I suppose this shouldn't have come as such a shock. After all, even when I was reporting on the television industry a very long time ago, there were companies that sold the same on-air promotional themes and packages to news departments across the country. I didn't think, though, that the same kind of syndication would have lapped over into news content.

To be specific, my local CBS affiliate began some time ago promoting a Moms Like Me website and inviting local viewers to sign on for information, discounts, blogs and so on. Much to my surprise, I found the exact same website promoted by another CBS station in South Carolina. I suppose this wouldn't matter had not the implication by both been that this was a local feature being offered solely to their viewers.

Then, not minutes later, there was a Heroes Central report featuring a hero from the community. While the individual in the spotlight was local, the Heroes Central packaging was not, right down to the identical logo.

This got me to wondering just how widespread these two specific packages are. If one of your local stations promotes the Moms Like Me website or has a Heroes Central segment on your news, click on comments below and tell me about it. Were you aware that it didn't originate with your local station? Does that even matter to you? I'd love to hear your reactions. Be sure to include your city in your response.

Sherryl Woods


Blogger CityChateau said...

Dallas does have a "Moms Like Me" site, but I can't see a media tie-in on it. They're probably still seeking one. I saw the Indianapolis "Moms Like Me" ties in with the Indianapolis Star newspaper instead of a TV station. Dallas' Fox station, KDFW, has a "Hometown Heroes" section but not a "Heroes Central" one. This kind of thing is getting more and more commonplace as media outlets cut their staffing but continue to try to convince viewers/readers that they're still "in touch" with their communities. Plus, using moms around town as your reporters is much cheaper than using professional journalists (libel? what's that?).

October 20, 2009 6:20 PM  

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