February 19th, 2013
Country Club Fire

Yes, helicopters are expensive to operate for TV stations.

But, when a crisis strikes, they can deliver the news in a very dramatic fashion that no other source can match.

That was certainly the case Tueday night when a massive gas explosion and fire broke out on the Country Club Plaza around J.J.’s Restaurant.

KMBC, the only station with its own copter and pilot totally dominated the news coverage. The story went national when even USA Today reported on the news.

KCTV and KSHB, which share a single copter, had to vie for shots of the horrendous fire.

Fox 4 had no helicopter coverage and almost delivered the news remotely–and it showed.

Veteran KMBC copter pilot Johnny Rowlands not only delivered the first and best shots of the fire with his HD camera, but he is also a pro at reporting the news. He showed why the ABC affiliate is the one viewers turn to for news for major events such as fires and severe weather.

It was all hands on board at KMBC with Cliff Judy, Haley Harrison and veteran Micheal Mahoney providing on-site reports.  Even sports anchor Johnny Kane delivered updates from St. Luke’s Hospital.

With veteran Larry Moore and Lara Moritz at the anchor desk (for the entire evening) when the crisis hit the KMBC coverage was unsurpassed.

19 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    And the FOX News Channel can’t depend on its FOX affiliate for help…pathetic.

  2. Gene says:

    Yes, but Rowlands has trouble telling the east side of the Plaza from the west and a tendency to shoot from the lip. Helpful if you watch him a lot and know how to adjust. Meantime, 41 and the others kicked butt on the ground, giving you a flavor what it was like there.

  3. blatant sucking up says:

    Is this a promo piece for KMBC? Sure reads like it….

  4. Person says:

    How the HELL was KSHB NOT first on the scene? Not only are they located RIGHT THERE on the Plaza, but my goodness, they should’ve been able to HEAR IT as well!

  5. Frank Grey says:

    KMBC has struggled with live shots. Len Jennings stutters quite a bit when he’s not reading a prompter.

  6. News Junkie says:

    Obviously you didn’t watch any coverage. KMBC may not have had to share a helicopter, but KSHB kicked ass on this story. It might explain why not only CNN, but FOX News and CBS quoted them!

  7. kmk says:

    I have held my tongue as long as I can, but John, you are just plain wrong on one huge fact that you’ve harped on over and over again. In no way do KCTV and KSHB vie for time from the chopper. True, they share a helicopter. But it is a common feed, meaning both stations can take the same shot at the same time. That’s all there is to it. Anything other than that is wrong. Plus, KSHB has access to, and frequently speaks with, the captain on board.
    There truly is no strategic advantage KMBC has over KCTV and KSHB. As for tonight, KMBC was simply in the air at the right time. I do not believe they fly every single night, but they were likely over some other breaking news. KSHB/KCTV fly their chopper just as often, they simply did not have theirs up tonight.
    I have no idea who gave you info about KCTV and KSHB having to fight over air time, but I guarantee if you flipped between 5 and 41 tonight, you’d see the same live aerials. Furthermore, I was looking for a nice post from you last week when the KSHB/KCTV chopper kicked KMBC’s butt on the KCK car chase. Here’s what happened. KCTV/KSHB captured almost the whole chase and carried it live. KMBC didn’t. And you know they would have had they captured it. KCTV/KSHB choppers was in the right place at the right time. KMBC was not. Just wanted to give you the facts.

    • kmk says:

      Also, unless you had 4 TVs running at the same time, I don’t think you can possibly say that KMBC’s coverage was “unsurpassed.”

      • JohnLandsberg says:

        The final word will be when the ratings come out on Tuesday’s coverage. They will tell us who was the most-watched station.

  8. matt says:

    Plus they had it on almost all their Stations METV/KMCW/KMBC but didn’t check This TV to see if it was showing it so did KCTV5 but not Antenna TV,KMCI/Acton Weather Plus soon to be COZI TV. Don’t know about Live Well Network because Surewestkc doesn’t have yet or Bounce TV.

  9. harwood benjamin says:

    I first turned on channel 9 and thought the helicopter coverage was good, and Rowlands, too. But soon the coverage became monotonous because it was just the anchors yammering (Larry Moore should not do coverage of serious tragedies like this–his happy uncle voice was annoying and inappropriate last night).

    I began switching around and found both 5 and 41 had better information from reporters on the ground, as well as the copter coverage that was vital to this story. Channel 4 clearly suffered from not having a copter, but I don’t think 5 and 41 suffered at all because of sharing.

    I’m sure 9 will be the ratings leader–they are the market leader, and people turn to their preferred station for events like this–but ratings success is not the same as journalistic success.

  10. Jeff Davis says:

    John, the highest ratings does not automatically mean that it was the best coverage. I switched back and forth between 41 and 9, watching and listening to Haley Harrison and Len Jennings stumble. Making off-camera comments on camera. Larry Moore calling it a “rest-runt” just like my grandmother. I liked 41′s coverage, except for when Zack Tecklenberg asked someone if they’ll remember it like the Hyatt tragedy.

  11. Jim Overbay says:

    NOD TO 41
    John…I spent almost 40 years in local TV news and watched coverage continously from start to finish. Have to agree with those who say you’re much too biased for Channel 9. All stations did a good job (despite Channel 4′s obvious disadvantage), but I’d give the nod to Channel 41 as best overall.

  12. News Junkie says:



    Rating matter, yes. But I once had a news director tell me (I’m a producer)… ‘if you have a great show with amazing content, the viewers will catch on and the ratings will improve so you can’t always look at the numbers as the success of the show. Sometimes they are great, sometimes they aren’t. What matter is you know you did a damn good job’. As a producer I had all the live streams on three different computers.
    I must say 41 did the best job of all the stations. Their reporters were asking questions, were serious and professional, Elizabeth and Mark were on top of it constantly explaining what we were saying and giving us an idea of where the helicopter was in relation to the fire, etc. Hands down 41 beat the other stations. They didn’t jump on every Twitter update like Fox and 9 did. At one point Fox reported a death and their wasn’t one (at that point). For you to give kudos to 9 clearly shows your bias here.
    I have NOT worked in the Kansas City market and have no ties to it, but from a journalistic standpoint, no matter what the numbers show, 41 did the best job. When it is nature to turn to a certain station, that is what people do and is likely why 9 will see the bigger numbers. But if the people who watch 41 talk about what they saw last night it will make a difference at some point.
    I do not know if you have a journalism background or not, but it appears you don’t and I would say if you don’t, you have no right deciding who had the best coverage because hands down 41 did.

    • JohnLandsberg says:

      1. You are the first producer who I ever heard say that ratings are not that important. Isn’t that similar to playing a baseball game and not keeping score?

      2. In your opinion 41 had the best coverage. Others would say 9 won, 5 won and so on. It is a very subjective issue.

  13. Mike T. says:

    i didn’t watch KMBC’s coverage, but did have KSHB on. i thought the aerial coverage was excellent. there was one shot in particular that was impressive and i think the shooter knew it when he had it. the copter was facing east and just bit south of 48th looking right down on the fire with a fireman at the top of a ladder truck directing a water stream. he was perfectly framed in the fireball with the top of his head at the top of the bright orange and the smoke billowing right above above that. excellent shot and he was able to hold it for several seconds.

  14. News Junkie says:

    1. I did not say ratings don’t matter. Actually, the first thing I said was ‘Ratings matter, yes’… but at the end of the day it’s knowing you did a good job and the BEST job you could… Maybe you should have read the post again before replying.

    2. It is subjective. However, when you look at who had the most comprehensive, the most reporters, the best interviews, the facts the quickest, 41 did. Several times 41 was interviewing or had information well before the competition. Those are not opinions, but fact. A lot of that has to do with Amy Hawley and her quick information from the owner’s brother. She was breaking news quick and did a good job. Then there was Lindsay Shively with all the information from the hospital PR people. When you combine all that, that is what made 41 have the best coverage. FACT not Opinion!

    • JohnLandsberg says:

      1. Yes, you did say that ratings matter, but then you went on to explained why they didn’t. In TV I have known many people who did a good job, but are unemployed today because of low ratings.

      2. Just because you (anonymous by the way) claim one station won the coverage battle that makes it true? Let’s face it, you could be an employee at 41 in real life.

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