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The Foote Files: Viewer Feedback

By Ken Foote, CBSDFW.COM
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Hope everyone had a wonderful Father’s Day! I know I did and to my surprise one of the gifts I received was Douglas Brinkley’s new biography, “Cronkite.”

Anyone who has kept up with my blog on CBSDFW.COM knows how much I admired Walter Cronkite as a kid and later as a broadcast professional myself. As I was scanning the book looking at the pictures, I came across a passage that brought back some memories: both sad and funny. Shortly after the 1963 JFK assassination, the CBS newsroom in New York received a call from a female viewer (we don’t know the person’s real name nor locality) but somehow the call was transferred to Walter. He picked up the phone and this person started to berate “Walter Cronkite” as a person who disliked JFK and thought that his coverage and commentary of those four days in November 1963 was disingenuous.

Cronkite then asked her, “Madam, what is your name?”

“Mrs. Blank.”

“Mrs. Blank, I am Walter Cronkite and you are a g–d— idiot!” And hung up on her!

Can you imagine how that person felt when being told off by the most trusted man in America at that time! And only Walter Cronkite could have gotten away with it in that day, but certainly not in today’s world! Sort of like you don’t see cigarettes, cigars and pipes on network TV news broadcast or public affairs shows like we did in the 1950s! Have a network anchor today light up a pipe after a broadcast on network TV like Walter did? Head for the hills!

When I started in TV in 1978, the preferred method of viewers contacting TV stations with comments was either the telephone or a letter sent via the U.S. Postal Service. Today, that has changed. Viewers still call and send postal letters but now with the Internet and other social media sites, viewers can also vent their feelings through email and online blogs. Stations receive viewer comments every single day of the year, even on holidays! Comments usually come in three forms: complimentary, need information, or critical of what a station is doing. Stations are required to retain viewer comments in their public inspection file for a period of three years from receipt. At CBS 11 and TXA 21, we try to answer as many as we can via email and/or telephone.

When there is breaking news during CBS Daytime, aka “The Young & The Restless” and “The Bold & The Beautiful,” we will get an influx of viewer calls that we can’t possibly return. But we do our best! I love reading comments from our viewers as many times they have great ideas about things we can do. Others are just plain rude and derogatory. In a market of 6.5 million people, pleasing everyone all the time is a challenge! During the NFL season, we get email when people don’t like the game assignment we have but also when we have to adhere to the NFL’s home market rule that requires a station to be blacked out for NFL coverage when the home team (Dallas Cowboys) is playing at home. So many people are surprised to hear about that rule, yet it has been in existence for over 50 years. That’s why dealing with public everyday is an adventure I look forward to!

See you next time.

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