Category Archives: Journalism

Robot voices made me laugh in emergency landing

“Computer voices that countdown to destruction are curiously calm. Wouldn’t want to panic just before the end of the world.” I was agreeing with that tweet from celebrity scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson while recently assuming the crash position during an emergency landing on a Boeing 757. I didn’t experience anything close to Armageddon and the voices counting us down were not computers, although they were barely human. This potentially catastrophic event made me laugh, as I rationalized that my coping mechanism of finding humor was as unnatural as the deliberate, calm performance of the flight crew.

A half-hour prior to our scheduled landing into Minneapolis, MN, a silky smooth voice alerted passengers about a small problem, “From the flight deck, our on-time arrival will be a little delayed so we can take a few minutes to resolve a minor mechanical situation. We should have you on the ground shortly.”

Five minutes later, a new voice was more restrained than the previous smooth jazz host, “Due to a problem with our wing flaps, we will be preparing for an emergency landing.” That’s all we get? I’m hearing Apple’s Siri with a dying battery and Amazon’s Alexa on Quaaludes. I want Samuel L. Jackson in “Snakes On A Plane”  screaming, “Everybody strap in. I’m about to open some (expletive deleted) windows!”  or Lloyd Bridges in “Airplane”, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop using amphetamines.”

Do all pilots and flight attendants go to the same voice school or is there a robot translation machine? Our next announcement was slower and more contrived, “If there are any firefighters or police officers on board, can you please move to the emergency exits in the event of an evacuation?” To me, this sounded somewhat urgent, but the energy of their delivery was falling faster than our altitude.

I found absurdity in the deadpan delivery and imagined Siri and Alexa delivering doomsday messages:

  • From the flight deck, there is no need to use the lavatory. It is satisfactory to remain seated and evacuate your bowels and bladder. Many of you have already completed this task.”
  • “There is positive and not so positive news. You will no longer be required to endure political posts on Facebook, but it is unresolved who will remove your profile from this social media service.”
  • “It has been three hours since you heard the word “robust”. That is no longer the case. Delta Airlines’ robust training procedures will now be utilized.”

When the flight crew took over, it was obvious that they also graduated from The Calm Voice School of Broadcasting, “We will be making an emergency landing in five minutes and we will practice bracing against the seat in front of you.” This was my chance to stand-up for all the victims who have been squished by rude, reclining passengers. I expected some panic, but it was eerily quiet while flight attendants made final preparations, “Two minutes until touchdown, brace for impact.” We assumed our positions and due to the malfunctioning flap, we approached the ground at a rate way above normal landing speed. (I’m no expert but it looked really fast as I peeked out the window to record video) Anticipating a heavy thump, there was only a soft ripple. The rear wheels lightly kissed the runway, the nose lowered gently and we met the ground with fire trucks greeting us. The crew slammed the brakes and we rolled to a smooth stop, a nearly perfect landing. More than 200 passengers agreed, erupting in into applause.

Through the clapping I exchanged texts with my wife and daughters. We said that we loved each other and they jokingly asked if I was disruptive and forced the landing, or if Jack Bauer from the TV Show “24” was on board.

After getting off the plane, my friend and colleague, Alaine Johnson Westra and I took a sigh of relief selfie.  Next, I needed to make one more call.  Siri, “What are the odds of crashing in an airplane?” Before I reviewed her response, I briefly reflected and truly appreciated the professionalism of the Delta crew and admired how they prevented panic with their curiously calm performance, and then when I listened to Siri’s monotone answer, I felt even better, thinking this was probably my first and last emergency landing.





Media Can Do Better Than Deflategate

As an Indianapolis COLTS fan, I need to air it out as the investigation of deflated balls continues past the Super Bowl.

football 2015-02-01 at 1.28.09 PMI’m not deflated that it happened because as COLTS tight end Dwayne Allen tweeted, they would have lost to the Patriots no matter what.

I’m deflated because the media names so many scandals !#x-gate. It’s become boring-gate, tired-gate and lazy-gate.  The term gate began with the culturally shifting journalism by reporters Woodward and Bernstein for coverage of the 1972 break-in of the Watergate Hotel. This eventually cost Richard Nixon the presidency, just a little bigger than football.

That hotel in Washington, DC is expected to reopen next summer after a big renovation. Media, let’s take this opportunity to renovate as well and stop living in this “gated community”. Some other football examples of “gated” episodes include “Nipplegate”, Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction during a Super Bowl half-time performance and the New Orleans Saints’ “Bountygate“. The Washington Post and BBC wrote about this obsession with naming scandals, (not just football) and noted that gate was formally named as a suffix in its own right in 1991.

Mike and Mike, the popular sports talk radio hosts on ESPN, in George CostanzaSeinfeld mode, at least tried to break this pattern.

Even though their effort wasn’t a game changer on social media, they didn’t shoot an #airball, but what about this? Can the media use its replay challenge and rule that #airball replace deflategate.

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. My Twitter handle is Ronald Petrovich


Three Ways The Media Set A High Standard With Buffalo Snow

More than a dozen people are dead, residents remain trapped in homes and roads are impassable. As Buffalo digs out from a record snowfall the focus moves to building collapses and flooding. Mother nature’s big dump stirs feelings of isolation and fear when you know you’ll be crushed by a mountain of snow when you open your door, but as seen below, some people overcame that by downing a few cold ones before clawing out.

Alcohol may have helped, but TV, social media and digital devices played an even bigger role to reduce fear and isolation. Six feet of snow is a record-setting height and during this event, the media set its bar just as high; they all complemented each other and connected the Buffalo community and the world in real time. This is just a glimpse into the future of story-telling, where consumers demand multiple sources of news from multiple forms of technology, even drones.

1. Local TV News Does It Best– Local stations covered the storm wall to wall and proved that TV is still the most powerful medium for big events. Why is this? TV stations dedicate hundreds of staffers and spread themselves across the scene when major stories hit. This provides a valuable public service and the metrics back this up.  The Buffalo News reports that Channel 2, WGRZ was the ratings winner for the storm and viewership with stations beat a Buffalo Bills game, no small feat. Today’s TV news media is much more than reporters live in the field; journalists want want to share as many interesting human elements and public safety announcements possible. That’s why they dedicate personnel and resources to facilitate and coordinate the social media conversation.

2. Social Media Lit It Up -Posts ranged from warnings of a building collapse via the Erie County Sheriff’s Facebook page to multiple images of regular people trying to cope.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 4.14.36 PM

Lohud was one of many sites that chronicled stories of regular people digging out. Social Media posts appeared on TV stations, newspapers, other blogs and often went viral without media help.Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 4.19.55 PM

3. Digital Technology Flies High –It’s strongly advised that news choppers avoid severe weather and news crews on the ground encountered limited mobility, so James Grimaldi programmed his drone to record video the storm with this dramatic story.

The blanket coverage from television news, aka “smotherage” combined with social media and digital story-telling made this communications effort one for the ages, just like this epic storm. I won’t predict the weather, but it’s safe to forecast that this is the future of news delivery and consumption. Local TV will always play a major role in our backyard and from now on, it will have an even bigger supporting cast of credible platforms with stories and images that bring the news even closer to us, in real time, which benefits everyone.

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. My Twitter handle is Ronald Petrovich

picture of Ron Petrovich

picture of Ron

Twitter and TV go hand in hand to make history

I am so proud of my fellow-couch potatoes that I’d stand up and applaud except that I am holding three remotes and an iPhone in my hands and resting a MacBook Pro and Kindle on my lap. Tweeting and watching TVWe used to watch TV open-mouthed and drool on the furniture but that was so 2010. Today we’re onto to something big-our consumption of traditional and social media is making history. TV used to own the prime real estate of ratings and now it wants to share with social media. This is a good thing because the giant consumer research company, Nielsen, recognizes this trend and for the first time ever, has begun measuring Twitter and TV together like traffic and weather. TV shows like Dialing For Dollars, entertainment oriented web pages, blogs and Facebook built the framework to share a programming experience and today, Twitter has made interacting even better. It’s fast, easy, reaches millions of people and lights up the globe during big events. When the horse California Chrome lost his big for the Triple Crown at Belmont, the reaction to his owner’s tirade about fairness instantly ignited a real time conversation #CaliforniaChrome that has lasted for days. tweets on california chrome Why is this happening? It’s simple-television and Twitter have altered our brains and fingers to work as one to watch, talk and listen. I have to credit our daughter, @manthapetrovich, a TV aficionado, for introducing us to Jimmy Fallon and his creative use of #hashtags to engage his audience, as shown by buzzfeed.

(Article from buzzfeed that shows examples of hashtags with Jimmy Fallon

Anna Washenko Anna Washenko posted this story on the TV industry’s leadership of #hashtag use.  She references the creative crime solving comedy hit (now concluded) Psych on USA Network and how it invited viewers to help catch a criminal on Twitter. Twitter sees this potential too and has been testing TV engagement. It is probably biased, but I agree with this study conducted by Brandwatch and posted by the staff at that says TV shows with hashtags deliver better viewer participation, which possibly translates to ratings. Personally, I remember events better while Tweeting because to me it’s like taking notes. As mentioned in the top of this post, TV ratings company Nielsen has started measuring how Tweets and TV complement each other. (more in this report by ABC) It found that the Grammys, Oscars and SuperBowl generated the most tweets and reached the most people. Breaking Bad, one of the best TV shows ever, led the way with engagement, averaging more than 500,000 tweets per episode.

Click on this image to read the post on Nielsen Ratings

Click on this image to read the post on Nielsen Ratings

News organizations are using this same brand journalism formula. Reporter Dr. Nancy Dr Nancy SnydermanSnyderman is a journalist who brands herself and NBC News on Twitter. While she connects with audiences on TV and Twitter, she is also developing good sources for future stories and growing her fan base. What will the future bring? It’s logical to assume that the barriers between all the media are blurring and that there might be more happy places for popular platforms to prop each other up, something we all need when we’re in couch potato mode. Fellow coach potatoes, if it’s not too much effort, here is another chance to see Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake take hashtagging over the top. The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. My Twitter handle is Ronald Petrovich.