This year's vintage included an inspirational tale from KSHB Channel 41's Jack "Well, Hello Again, Everybody" Harry. You know, the crewcutted sports guy who looks like Peter Parker's boss? He offered up his own story of kicking a 40-year cigarette habit to be sacrificed in the name of Nielsen.
So how'd such a big cig lover quit? As Harry explained in the report, laser acupuncture from a company called New Beginnings had "worked wonders" for him. After just one treatment with a cold laser, Harry went three months without a smoke. "After my first treatment, I had a half a pack of cigarettes and I wadded them up and discarded them in an incinerator, and that was it," Harry said in the piece. "I haven't had one since."
What Harry didn't mention is that he's also a paid spokesman for the company. That's right, Harry got money to record radio ads for New Beginnings for WHB 810.
When the Department of Burnt Ends called him up to ask why he didn't include any mention of that fact in the TV report, Harry replied grumpily: "What's that got to do with it?" He said the paid gig and the news report were not connected. The radio spot came about because he does regular commercials for 810. The radio station asked if he'd do one for New Beginnings, so Harry said he agreed to try the laser treatment first to see if it worked. After he quit, he taped the radio ads and then also talked about it during radio shows. "They paid me a standard radio talent fee for it," said Harry, who declined to name his price. "These people don't even know who I was."
Nancy Monaco, president of Las Vegas-based New Beginnings, says it's common to find radio and TV personalities to plug a product during the course of a show. She says New Beginnings recently paid radio jock Adam Carolla to bring up laser acupuncture as if it were just part of a conversation. "I personally don't see a big conspiracy there to do a story," Monaco says.
After Harry's commercials began running, he says, KSHB reporter Cynthia Newsome approached him about doing a news piece on his efforts to quit.
Harry told Burnt Ends he was flooded with positive e-mails after the piece ran. "I am very proud of this whole thing because it helped hundreds of people kick the habit."
He said he doesn't see why he should've mentioned that he picked up a check from New Beginnings. "You're really off-base on this one."
Meanwhile, Debbie Bush, the station's news director, acknowledged that the piece should've included a disclaimer. She said the initial script had one, but it was cut at the last minute because of time. "That's my mistake," Bush said. "It wasn't that we were trying to hide something. I'll take full responsibility for this."
What's up for May sweeps? Burnt Ends hopes Harry gets a radio deal from Beauty Brands. We'd like to see him with blond highlights in that crewcut.