Clean Sweep

30 Oct

You’ve probably already noticed the shift in tone in the promos for your local news. Scary music. A Very. Serious. Announcer. Discussing all manner of horror.

The hidden murderer in your medicine cabinet. The secret “sexting” going on on your childrens’ mobile phones. The politicians with shady secrets. The politician who is sexting with teens while swilling the hidden danger in your medicine cabinet.

All the big guns of terror coming out in force. Because it’s Halloween? No, November sweeps is underway.

In case you didn’t know, 4 months out of the year, TV news departments lose their minds because of these little things called Nielsen Ratings.

I could explain in great detail about how ratings translate into advertising dollars, and how July is really a fake ratings book no one cares about because people go on vacation and viewing habits are skewed. And we could talk about how demographics vs. total household numbers figure in. I can do a Powerpoint to explain a share vs. a rating point.

No, really, I could. Because I spent a long time in TV news, and in fact, planned sweeps pieces for a living.

But an anecdote might explain better what is happening in TV newsrooms right now.

When my daughter Madeline was born (in September, a non-ratings month), she had a nightmarish heart defect and had to be flown to San Francisco where she spent 6 weeks in the hospital getting the first two of four heart surgeries. And that is mostly a story for another day, but gives you some context.

And after two surgeries and six weeks of only holding her with a ventilator attached under careful supervision, it was finally time to bring her home.  But things were still precarious. So first, they wanted us to spend 24 hours with her and no monitors, giving her medications on our own, recording feedings, and all sorts of things.

But even with nurses checking up on us, it was magical. Going home was within reach. And late that night, I was holding her, no tubes or IVs attached, and rocking her to sleep. My husband had stepped out of the room to get a snack or something, and in that moment was just so awesome that even at 11:40 at night, I needed to TELL someone.

And there was no Twitter then. Plus, it was really late. So, I called the newsroom, where I knew my 11 0’clock news team would just be finishing the newscast. And suprisingly, my news director was there. A grandfather himself, sure to be excited.

I told him my daughter was sleeping in my arms for the first time, and we’d get to come home the next day, and I couldn’t keep the excitement to myself. And he said “Congratulations! That is the best news I’ve ever heard.”

Then he paused a split second and added, “So that means you will be back for November sweeps.”

See? A little crazy. So just buckle up, DVR some episodes of “Everybody Loves Raymond” to watch if things get too scary. It’ll all be over in 4 weeks.

Until February gets here.

(FYI: If you read that and thought “What? He said ‘Congratulations’ first”? It’s fine. You are either in TV news. Or you’re Dick Cheney, check your pay stub. Dick, yours is made out to Voldemort.)

P.S. If you are in San Antonio, or even if you’re not, I’ve also designed a “San Antonio Sweeps Loteria” game you can play while you watch TV this month as part of my blog for You can customize it to your own city. Click here to read “Run! It’s the Chupacabra.” Come on, laugh to keep from crying.

9 Responses to “Clean Sweep”

  1. schmutzie October 30, 2009 at 10:51 am #

    This weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday –

  2. lettergirl October 30, 2009 at 11:06 am #

    Aww, schmutzie! Thanks!

  3. RJ Flamingo October 30, 2009 at 11:31 am #

    I’m to the point now that I only watch local news about once or twice a week – just to make sure a hurricane isn’t heading our way. 🙂 Seems like it’s sweeps here, every night!

  4. Toby October 30, 2009 at 1:57 pm #

    And don’t forget election coverage madness. To me election coverage was always harder and crazier than sweeps. And I never worked in big market TV.

  5. Beth October 30, 2009 at 6:29 pm #

    Yep. Lots of fear-mongering and catastrophizing going on, eh? I always thought it’d be cool to start a news station called “Good News” that only shared positive stories about the good things that are happening in the world. Probably wouldn’t be very popular. Cheers!

  6. Aunt Becky October 31, 2009 at 8:47 pm #

    I was just watching STAIRWAY TO DANGER. It was riveting. About escalator injuries, you know. I cried.

  7. LeAnn November 2, 2009 at 11:49 am #

    Actually makes me happy that I still don’t have TV. 😉

  8. ingrid November 2, 2009 at 10:13 pm #

    I don’t watch TV so I had no idea.

  9. Katie November 10, 2009 at 10:03 pm #

    Haaa! I DID think, wow, he said congratulations first?!

    Great blog. Your work is delightful and so fun to read!

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