OnMedia: Do we need TV and radio traffic reports?
With gas prices on the rise and new policies and ideas on the table, it's time to look at how we get around. We all need to get someplace and we use many different modes of transportation to do so. As we kick off 2011 at OnMilwaukee.com, we're taking an in-depth look at how we get around with a special "Transportation Week," featuring all kinds of stories about how Milwaukee gets where it's going. So, buckle up, hop on and all aboard.
News, weather and traffic -- it's the familiar formula, along with sports, for morning TV and radio in Milwaukee. No, we're not Chicago with its chronic crawl to work on the expressways every weekday.
In fact, back in the late 1980s, when I wrote about transportation for the old Milwaukee Journal, a Wisconsin Department of Transportation traffic expert joked to me that we had a "rush minute," rather than a rush hour.
But stations up and down the TV and radio dials offer regular reports on travel times in both morning and afternoon "drive time," a term that is defined by traffic.
Lisa Manna spent three years doing the morning traffic on Channel 4. She left the station in 2009 to spend time with her new child, but still fills in from time to time.
She's a big backer of radio traffic information.
"Radio traffic is critical, no matter what time of day it is," she told me. "When I'm in my car, that's when I'm most concerned about traffic."
And TV traffic?
"It plays its most important role when something major is happening on the roads," Manna said. "And nobody can say when that will be."
While things generally flow pretty steadily between 5 and 7 a.m. weekdays, add a little snow to the mix and even experienced winter drivers have problems that slow down the entire system.
Mike Conway does traffic in the mornings for Milwaukee's Clear Channel radio stations -- including WISN-AM (1130) and WMIL-FM (106.1) -- along with Channel 6. He sees a new connection with Milwaukee commuters thanks to Twitter.
"I don't always have to seek out traffic information," he said, explaining that it's tweeted to him at his personal account @mikeconway03 or the Milwaukee Clear Channel Twitter feed, @totaltrafficmke.
"What I like about traffic reporting is the ability to interact" he said.
Of course, he also has a full bank of resources, from Department of Transportation cameras around the freeway system and DOT updates, to a data from a private company, Inrix, which contracts nationally with Clear Channel's Total Traffic Network.
"Obviously, our congestion doesn't compare to a Chicago," he said. "But there is a real-life need for it."
And Conway hears it every day from listeners interested in "how long it's going to take me to get from point A to point B."
Traffic is a part of the marketing campaigns of many radio and TV stations, a key component of the information package they're selling.
More valuable than the endless stream of closed hair salons and canceled church services that run without any order during snow "storms," traffic reporting can be important when, as Manna says, when something major is happening.
What do you think? Is traffic overdone by Milwaukee broadcasters? Or is it a vital bit of information for you?
On TV: Not surprisingly, a lot of us were tuned in for the Packers' win over the Bears on Sunday, just about half of us, according to final overnight numbers from Nielsen Media Research. A 49.8 rating is nearly 50 percent of all southeast Wisconsin TV homes. The game had a 73 share, meaning 73 percent of households where the TV was on were tuned to the game.
- Deadline Hollywood reports that Nickelodeon has ordered a ninth season of "SpongeBob SquarePants." The 26-episode season will air in 2012.
- John Roberts is leaving CNN for Fox News Channel.
- Chicago media watcher Robert Feder has launched his new blog at timeout.com.
A last chance for "V": ABC finally launches the second season of the only TV series with sets inspired by the Milwaukee Art Museum, the alien invasion drama "V" at 8 tonight on Channel 12.
ABC is gambling that this second season will do better than the first, and let's hope there's a bit more action than that painfully slow first run. Jane Badler, who was the queen of the evil aliens in the original "V," back in the 1980s, is being added to the cast.
Here's a recap of last season, and 4 minutes pretty much does the job:
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Great question, Tim! Thanks for asking it. I have often wondered the same thing. Yes, if I am stuck somewhere I want to know what the problem might be. So I think we probably need traffic alerts. But regular reports when there usually is no problem? I don't think we need them here in Milwaukee. We certainly don't need the kind of reports that we get from WTMJ, where the goal seems to be to talk as fast as you can. Hello? This is not New York or Chicago. We do things a little more leisurely here. Let's take advantage of our advantages! Something is wrong when WBBM in Chicago, where they really do have traffic concerns, can put out a traffic report that is more useful and comprehensible than the ones we get here every day. What we do need are pothole alerts. We need reminders not to create gapers' blocks. Along with the lowest pump prices, wouldn't it be great if the local TV stations also gave us some info about RideShare? Perhaps what we need most of all is someplace for drivers to suggest solutions to regular traffic problems they encounter. For example, wouldn't better signage -- earlier warnings about closed lanes -- greatly help to reduce the bottleneck that always greets drivers who enter the Marquette Interchange (I-94 West) from I-43 South? We need a more intelligent and responsive approach to our traffic problems, not the mindless -- mind-numbing -- non-reports we get now.
Yes, traffic reports are necessary. Chicago does an excellent job by providing reports around the clock and not simply during peak times. That being said, Milwaukee area traffic reports/reporters are deplorable. Mike Conway seems to believe Milwaukee freeways consist only of 94 East/West and 894 North/South. Occasionaly, 45 gets mentioned. He rarely talks about 43...especially 43 southbound during the morning rush. Had to stop listening to WISN, in the morning, when Conway missed a major sb 43 accident. Turned to WTMJ and they were covering it. Andi Miller (sp?) is alright as a traffic reporter. She does try to cover all parts of the freeway (although she ocassionally misses 43). However, she sometimes gets hung up on off freeway accidents, especially if they are in Waukesha county. 99% of us don't care if two cars hit each other at the intersection of cty hwy X and cty hwy Y. John Wyatt is, overall, a good traffic reporter and typically covers all of the freeways. I do find it funny when he and Belling yuck it up in the afternoon. Takes the edge off the day. As for TV, Caitlin Morrell does a good job (yes, she is good looking. However, she has talent as well). I gave up on Channel Six since, other than Kim Murphy, the entire morning show acts like fools on stage during Open Mic Night. Honestly, I don't know about 12 or 58....don't watch their stations. Good day!
What would I do without John Wyatt and Mark Belling goofing around on WISN? I feel like I got ripped off watching "V" last season,but I'll be a sucker one more time and watch the new one tonight,but if it is as big a let down as last seasons finale,thats it,no more.
Traffic conditions aren't vital because it's typically not going to change your route during rush hour ... MKE doesn't have a weave of freeway options like Chicago or Minneapolis. I'll turn it on if I hit something unexpected, but that's it. Traffic on radio or TV is just another sponsorship opportunity, plus it's a bonus when there's a pretty face attached to it.
Anything that gets Caitlin Morrall on television is fine by me.
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