This is what I’m thinking:
In local television news, lead-in programming still matters even though viewers have remotes in their hands.
That’s why it is somewhat surprising that the Bruce Jenner interview on ABC Friday didn’t appear to drive many 11 p.m. news viewers to Channel 7, the lowest-rated news channel in town.
Although the Buffalo market was the 13th lowest-rated out of 56 markets for the Jenner interview, the program still received a very healthy 9.7 rating on Channel 7, the local ABC affiliate.
A rating like that usually translates into a higher than normal rating for Eyewitness News at 11 p.m.
However, the 11 p.m. news Friday had a routine 4.3 rating on Channel 7. The last 15 minutes of the Jenner interview had a 9.2 rating on Channel 7, which means Channel 7’s newscast lost more than half of its lead-in audience. It started with a 5.5 rating in the first 15 minutes and slipped to a 3.1 in the next 15 minutes.
Channel 4, which had the strongest lead-in with the 10.9 averaged by “Blue Bloods,” finished first at 11 p.m. with a 9.2 rating. Channel 2 had the only newscast to increase its audience from its lead-in, “Dateline,” with a second place 6.8.
Interestingly, Channel 7 tried to capitalize on the Jenner interview at 11 p.m. by localizing the story.
Channel 7 led the newscast with a quick report on the Jenner interview, then reporter Katie Morse followed it with a heavily-promoted lengthy story about a local transgender. Morse did a good job, handling it very sensitively. However, I could have done without the syrupy music that accompanied the story.
About 42 minutes into the Jenner interview, ABC played a brief clip of a former decorated Navy Seal who came out later as a transgender.
The clip arrived after Diane Sawyer noted after a discussion with a doctor about transgender that “there are some children who channel fear and frustration into a redoubled effort to achieve impossible goals in what the world believes is their gender.”
If the story rang a bell, it might have been because the Navy Seal was from Wellsville and the subject of a CNN film, “Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story,” that the cable news channel ran last August.
Beck, who was known as Christopher Beck growing up in Wellsville, received a lot of attention a year earlier as the first transgendered former Navy SEAL on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.”
“Lady Valor,” which aired at film festivals before CNN carried it, highlighted many of the same things that Jenner addressed Friday.
However, Jenner’s celebrity undoubtedly made millions more people listen to his story.
Here are a few things I wrote about the Beck film eight months ago, slightly edited.
Readers might have the image of a very serious film about a subject that can be uncomfortable to some viewers. But as serious as the topic is, the film also has a decent amount of appropriate humor interspersed with file footage of Christopher Beck as a decorated SEAL who was so gung ho during dangerous operations that colleagues believed he might border on being suicidal.
And the film special suggests Christopher Beck might have been suicidal because since a very young age he was living with a secret about who he believed he really was and was unable to live the life he needed to live. Until now.”
Produced by Mark Herzog and Christopher G. Cowen, the film documents the likable, soft-spoken, friendly, highly decorated veteran’s fight for acceptance from family, friends and people who don’t know the story, told primarily through Beck’s own words.”
“I was at the breaking point,” Beck explains.
The pain she must have been feeling is unimaginable, especially when you consider she had to know many of the repercussions that would follow as she bravely battles for acceptance for herself and other transgender people. That’s what a colleague criticizing Beck for going to the media doesn’t understand. The media attention helps the cause.
Beck concedes the whole idea of being a transgender confuses people and adds that even she has trouble finding the words to explain things.
“It is like someone who has never had sight trying to explain the sunset,” said Beck at the end. “But this is still a beautiful journey.”
If you haven't seen "Lady Valor" yet, I suggest you do now.
On Saturday, I sent out this tweet: “If I were a late night host who made fun of Bruce Jenner in the last few years I would be very embarrassed today.”
I didn’t think I needed to explain, but some of my followers asked "why?"
If you watched the interview, Jenner clearly has been in pain since he was a young child holding his secret. It is never a good idea to joke about someone in pain. I’m not saying the comedians should have felt badly about those jokes when they made them unaware of Jenner’s issues. But if they are compassionate individuals, they might feel embarrassed now.
According to a guest on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday, the upcoming reality E! reality series about Jenner’s transition will have input from the LBGT community, as did the Sawyer interview. That suggests E! plans to make a much classier and more intelligent show than its viewers have come to expect.