Last year at this time, I was starting a week-long temp job in Kansas City.
It required me to drive across the state the night before, on the night after Thanksgiving Day. When I arrived at my hotel room, and I flipped on the TV. One of the local eyeball newscasts promised “complete and comprehensive coverage” of Black Friday the next morning. I thought to myself, and then later reacted in this space — “What of Black Friday is so complicated and convoluted that is necessitates ‘complete and comprehensive’ news coverage? Film the drones waiting line, stampeding in at opening, hoarding their crap, checking out, and interview a few of them on their way out, cut, edit, in the can.”
RJP, my most frequent commenter on this blog, floated the theory that “complete and comprehensive” meant censoring the black and Hispanic violence. I really can’t disagree, either last year or this year. But…see below.
I now have come up with another theory on what “complete and comprehensive” means in this case.
During all this “complete and comprehensive” coverage, you’ll see news crews parked out in front of various big box parking lots, and they’ll tell you the name of the store. At first, I thought to myself, “you’re just giving the stores free advertising.” Then I pulled myself back and sulked on the word “advertising,” realizing that nothing is really free, and that the news business these days is really the ad business.
Maybe this “free advertising” really isn’t free.
Could local news stations’ Black Friday coverage be somehow related to the rate cards they give to the advertisers who they’re covering as “news” that day? I could see the negotiations between the TV station and the local consortium of a national big box chain being done in a way where it is understood that the station’s local eyeball news will be parked on the parking lot of that big box mart all day the day after Thanksgiving, so this either means that the stations can get more out of the retailers, or the “complete and comprehensive” Black Friday coverage will be a make good for ratings that fall under expectations when the rate card is negotiated.
As an experiment, to test my theory, I watched some BF coverage from the local sources before and after work today, and tried to cross-reference them to my memory of whether certain stores’ ads run on certain stations throughout the year. Of course, all the stations will show Wal-Martinez; that’s too obvious. But I wanted to see if there was a correlation between a local news truck being parked out in front of Oobie McDooberstein’s Garden Gnome Supercenter and Old Man Oobie running ads on that station throughout the year. I can’t find anything solid, but curiously, I found that during BF coverage today, Channel 2 leaned heavily on Bass Pro’s Shop and Channel 5 on Cabela’s, and BPS advertises far more heavily on Channel 2 than Channel 5, and Cabela’s more on Channel 5 than Channel 2.
We might be getting somewhere.
If you have any similar confirmation or a rebuttal of my theory, use the comment section below.
As an aside, there was a low-level chimpout at the Wal-Martinez in Kirkwood this morning that Channels 4 and 5 covered. Why? Think of the demographics directly to the east of that W-M, and the demographics of the neighborhood that was paved over to create that collection of big boxes where that W-M now sits.