Book: Six and Eleven by Ed Dague

Ed Dague was a consumate professional newsperson

six and eleven.ed dagueIt was a Thursday in mid-November. I was looking at some quiz and realized I had read but two books all year. So I scanned my bookshelf and picked out Six and Eleven: A Television News Anchor’s Story by Ed Dague.

I’d known who Dague was since the mid-1970. I was going to college at New Paltz, in New York State’s Mid-Hudson region. On cable, we got the stations from both New York City and Albany. I’d watch the NYC news during the week, generally WABC, Channel 7.

On Saturdays, I found myself watching this Dague guy from WRGB, Channel 6 out of Schenectady. He had such a command of the stories that I didn’t know why he was relegated to the weekends. He moved to the 6:00 and 11:00 pm weekday newscasts in 1976.

Channel 6 had a woman on sports named Liz Bishop, who is now the lead anchor at the station. If memory serves, the “weather girl”, a term they may still have used, was Linda Jackson, who later, as Linda Jackson-Chalmers, became a respected educator.

Eight years later…

Anyway, I started reading the book, which I had gotten for my birthday in March 2011, a couple months after it was published. I realized that I had read chapters from it before, but not the whole thing. I finished it in one read and thought I’d review it in due course.

Three days later, Ed Dague died at the age of 76. That rather weirded me out. It wasn’t that I was shocked. He had retired in 2003 when a painful and progressive form of arthritis forced him to stop working.

The book, written in a series of short chapters, relayed his great antipathy toward his brutal father. Ed was an engineering student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in part because that’s the only major his dad would pay for. He eventually segued into local radio, eventually landing at WRGB.

But he wasn’t just an anchor. He was the chief political reporter, and he had a thirst for all of the nuances of state and local government. In 1982, he was the only broadcast reporter to interview Albany mayor Erastus Corning in his hospital room.

In July of 1984, Dague left WRGB, the top-rated evening news in the market, to become the Managing Editor and Anchor for WNYT, Channel 13. Fairly soon, WNYT became the region’s top-rated news station.

Local news’ decline

ed dague.nysbhof
In the book, Dague is direct in his criticism of the dumbing down of local news. Covering fires and accidents are easy. Discussing the nuance of what a particular piece of legislation might mean is far more complex.

Ed was rather pointed in his assessment of a few former colleagues. His antipathy towards religion clashed sometimes with some of his more devout colleagues, and he mentions them by name.

Watch Ed Dague talk about the book when it first came out. And coverage of 9/11. Listen to his former co-anchor Chris Jansing talked about him shortly after he died.

The one thing about the book that is obvious is that he wrote the chapters not necessarily in order. Occasionally, there’s a bit of repetition. Also, there’s a couple of typos. I mention this only because I had wanted to contact him about this. I imagine it probably bugged him a little.

Ed Dague came to my church in the fall of 1993. I must have impressed him enough that he invited me to stop by to see a broadcast. By the time I took him up on the offer, I suspect he had forgotten.

Still, I hung out with him from about 8 pm until the end of the 11 pm news on April 18, 1994. I remember that he’d heard that Richard Nixon was sick – he’d die four days later. He said to someone, “Is he dead?” It was not a matter of spite but of newsworthiness.
Somewhere, I have a transcript of that night’s broadcast.

Ed Dague was one of the smartest, most self-aware people I had ever met. No doubt he was the best newscaster from this market. He was inducted into the NYS Broadcasters Hall of Game in 2007.

I loved his blog. Here’s when he hosted Answers Please. And did the weather.

Nostalgic for good old days of local news on TV

Tell local Sinclair stations and their advertisers know that you are boycotting both as long as the “must-carry” material appears on their news broadcasts

Liz Bishop, near the lower right, in front of the CBS 6 logo
When I was growing up, occasionally there would be an editorial produced by the general manager of a television station to discuss a vital issue of the day, such as whether to build a new bridge.

The words he said – it was virtually always a he – came from that local broadcaster, someone who lived in your community, not NYC or LA or DC, and had greater potential for trust and accountability. The editorial was well labeled and set apart in the local news broadcast, usually at the very end.

The Federal Communications Commission was very concerned about any one company having too much dominance in any local marketplace or nationally, and it had strict limits on radio and television station acquisition.

That was then. In August 2017, The Guardian ran a story This is Sinclair, ‘the most dangerous US company you’ve never heard of’. Michael Copps, the George W Bush-appointed former chairman of the FCC, said those words.

So did John Oliver, host of HBO’s weekly satirical show Last Week Tonight, when he introduced an 18-minute segment on Sinclair in July 2017, as he noted the dreadful “must carry” requirement the company has been imposing on its 173 local news stations across the country to “parrot right-wing propaganda” and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

The current regime’s FCC has aided Sinclair’s expansion. Jared Kushner, son-in-law-in-chief, said back in December 2016, “We struck deal with Sinclair for straighter coverage.”

Now, the broadcast group’s proposed merger with Tribune Media is in the spotlight. If this unprecedented-in-size agreement is approved, it will have control of local TV stations reaching 72% of the country, including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, the nation’s three largest media markets. “The FCC chair Ajit Pai — who single-highhandedly has sought to kill Net Neutrality — is under investigation by the FCC’s inspector general for greasing the wheels for Sinclair.

What has caught the nation’s attention recently is this viral video put together by Deadspin “showing news anchors all over the country forced by Sinclair to parrot the same canned scripts attacking their own profession.”

It was heartbreaking to see Liz Bishop, the longtime anchor of WRGB, Channel 6 in Schenectady, NY, one of the oldest stations in the country, on the Deadspin video. It appears that their contracts make it too expensive to quit. It is difficult for staff to fight their overlords.

What to do? Write to the FCC and members of Congress, opposing the Sinclair/Tribune merger. Write to your local Sinclair stations and let them and their advertisers know that you are boycotting both as long as the “must-carry” material appears on their news broadcasts. Lessee, what else?