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Change hard for TV news

I enjoyed Randall Rothenberg's column `"Nightline' fight masks need for change in static TV news" (Viewpoint, AA, March 18). He is right about the identity of news in general and network news in particular. There needs to be a change. His suggestion that one or two network news divisions fold seems intriguing on the surface. However, below the surface of network operations lies the affiliate station, where strong local-news product means everything. You might even say the localism of the affiliates, as defined by their news, feeds the identity of the network.

That is the theory at least. The practice has become murky in this time of hyper-competition. The networks will remain in the news business as long as the affiliate model lasts. And for the network owners, these stations are the profit centers that float the mother ship. While a category-buster program seems like an answer, the audience continues to demand the tried-and-true format.

Having dedicated a good chunk of my career to marketing TV news, I can say with certainty that there is not a waiting public for the differentiated programming he suggested. The business is littered with failed efforts. If you call it news, they want strong detergent. Otherwise call it something else.

As for younger demographics, format is not the problem. Instead, people aggregate the day's events from a variety of sources, including non-news programs. They rely less and less on appointment newscasts of any kind. We live in the Information Age. It's everywhere. And what constitutes "news" gets redefined almost daily.

Finally, Koppel used to be the compelling new format Rothenberg pined for. But Ted got too rich and too comfortable phoning in his show three days a week. If he worked "Nightline" as if it really mattered, or made room for somebody who would, then ABC might give "Letterman" some competition.

Richard Swanson

San Francisco

Ayer a wonderful stage for learning

Given its recent woes, the demise of Ayer is not a surprise ("Bcom3 pulls the plug on Ayer," AA, April 8, and "Almost dry eyes as Ayer tale ends," AA, April 15). Yet it saddens us nonetheless.

What a wonderful place to work. It was my first agency job. The environment was electric and warm. People meant something. The bottom line was important, but people seemed to come first. Sure, the big guys took care of themselves and their cronies (that's what all the big guys do). But you never felt it was happening at the expense of the everyday workers.

Maybe this was a good smoke screen, seeing that the place is now gone. But Ayer was a great agency, run by great advertising people.

As a young account guy, I was fascinated by the genius and lunacy that seemed to find its way into the agency, seemingly on a daily basis. It was a simple formula. Mix together one part good people with two parts "human contact" and the result is a lot of great work. Cyrus Campbell, Beth Gordon, Agi Clark, Skip Delegarde, Ted Reagan, Dom Rossi, Henrietta Creech, J. Desmond Slattery, Nancy Campbell, Carolyn Pascal, Dick Kennedy: They were all there, and they all took the time to touch the life of a young guy trying to make a career out of a business he could hardly explain to his family.

Ayer was a wonderful stage for learning, and learn I did. I met my wife there (in an elevator) and made many lifelong friends and associates. Gone she may be-but never forgotten to those who knew her intimately.

Marc Stephenson Strachan

Managing Partner

S/R Communications Alliance

New York

Mr. Strachan worked at N.W. Ayer from 1981 to 1985.

O'Connor made Ayer a vital New York shop

As a former client of N.W. Ayer, I was saddened to learn of its demise. It seems more than coincidental that it should happen after the recent death of Neal O'Connor, the man most responsible for making a vital New York shop back in the `60s out of a stodgy Philadelphia home for good old boys.

As a marketing manager for Sealtest, I was responsible for helping to revolutionize the dairy industry with the highly successful introduction of the Light n' Lively line of low-fat dairy products.

Thanks to Neal, I had an unbeatable team of brilliant, spirited and sophisticated people who were my partners in crime. Stu Minton (whose son, Tim, is a reporter for WNBC-TV), George Lemmond, Tom Raser and Dom Rossi (now executive publisher of Reader's Digest) were on the account side, and Agi Clark, Alan Glass and Jerry Siano, among others, produced outstanding creative work.

It took some necessary changes in staffing to put this team together, but I still believe that it's better to change people than agencies with all the harm it can do, both to people and to the brands involved.

I can only add my fond memories of another perhaps simpler and happier time to those already expressed by others in Viewpoint.

B. Michael Paschkes


Anbrook Associates Marketing Consultants

Riverdale, N.Y.


* In "Chevron's $100 mil gusher" (April 22, P. 1), the photo identified as ChevronTexaco Corp. Chairman-CEO Dave O'Reilly was actually that of former Texaco Inc. Chairman-CEO Peter Bijur. A correct photo of Mr. O'Reilly is shown here.

* In "Altriage" (April 22, P. 3), it was incorrectly stated that Philip Morris Cos.' shareholders would approve the selection of Louis Camilleri as president-CEO at PM's April 25 annual meeting. It is the PM board that voted on the selection. Shareholders were to vote on whether to approve the change of the PM corporate name to Altria Group. The name change would not be immediate but would occur at a later date to be selected by the company.

* In " Deutsch changes executive roles" (April. 22, P. 6), the name of Deutsch Partner and Director of Media Planning Colleen Kelly was misspelled.

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