Monthly Archives: January 2009

Caught in the “Perfect Storm” of Local News Layoffs: WNBC’s Gusoff Embraces Uncertainty

It takes guts to talk about being laid off, and Carolyn Gusoff’s got guts.  The longtime WNBC/NY Long Island correspondent’s sharing her feelings (something we local tv types usually bury under layer upon layer of sarcasm and bitching) about losing not just a job, but an identity:  “There is the emotional cost of unemployment. Parties have become a form of torture. I used to love to discuss my work. Now the conversation opener, “And what do you do?” leaves me at a loss. “I am, I was, I … um … and what do you do?”

Carolyn Gusoff

Carolyn Gusoff

Gusoff’s column in Newsday is unusually revealing for our breed (we didn’t end up on the asking-the-uncomfortable-side-of-the-equation for nothing) as she describes her impersonal layoff and the humbling experience of applying for unemployment compensation:  Applying for unemployment was still a harrowing and debasing ordeal. The 15-minute online application repeatedly ended with an error code, and the automated phone line cut off just as I was getting to the finish line. It took two entire days before I finally hit pay dirt: “Your claim has been submitted.” I later found out that the New York State computerized unemployment insurance system had crashed because 10,000 new applicants per hour, myself included, were trying to register for benefits. I clearly have company.”

Sadly, she certainly does.  So many of us are now finding ourselves caught in what Gusoff describes as a “perfect storm” of changing viewership habits and declining revenue leading inevitably to widespread layoffs.

Read Gusoff’s entire story here.

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Local Newsers: Doing More With Less, Making More Mistakes? Ponder the Hamster’s Mugshot

Look, we’re all doing the best we can. Our newsrooms are smaller, jobs are being eliminated, people are learning to do jobs they’ve never done before; producers making their own graphics, reporters shooting their own stories, etc. So is this a pretty process? Hardly.

So. This brings us to the hamster who was falsely accused of a nasty crime in Connecticut this week. Kinda funny, kinda sad, and kinda a this-is-where-we-are moment in local news: those fatter newsrooms may have had duplication and excess layers, but they also had more eyes and people who could look at things before they got on the air.

Doesn’t that matter? Or are we all too stressed to get the show on the air and keep our jobs to worry about what the product looks like anymore?

Whoa. Was I just preaching? Watch the clip.

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“Sudden, Devastating:” Media General Layoffs Hit Birmingham, Charleston

Media General’s corporate budget cutting hit two Southern markets Thursday, with employees cut at WCBD/Charleston and WVTM/Birmingham.

WCBD anchor Warren Peper tells the Post and Courier “I’m done.  I’m no longer employed.  It is sudden and it is devastating, but it’s very awkward for me to bemoan my situation.  Many others are losing jobs in the Low Country and around the country.”

Warren Peper/WCBD

Warren Peper/WCBD

The extent of the layoffs at WCBD remains unclear, but Peper told the charleston.net he believed at least one other newsroom employee was cut, a photographer.

In Birmingham, Media General’s WVTM laid off ten, across news, sales and marketing, but no on-air positions were affected. VTM GM Gene Kirkconnell told Birmingham News TV writer Alec Harvey:  “As a result of the continued business recession, WVTM has been affected by lower advertising spending.  Parting with valued employees is difficult.”  Kirkconnell said no more layoffs were anticipated.

FULL DISCLOSURE:  Gene and I worked together at WVTM years ago as the nightside reporter/photog team;  he’s a fantastic guy and close friend.  If anybody feels lousy about putting people out of work, it’s him.

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WMAQ/Chicago to Get the “Content Center” Treatment

If you like what they’ve been doing with WNBC/NY, you’ll love what’s in store for WMAQ/Chicago. WMAQ GM Frank Whittaker told staff yesterday that news producers, writers and editors would be required to re-apply for their jobs; the new jobs will be “multi-faceted,” with titles like “platform manager” and “content producer,” and the Chicago Tribune200px-wmaqtv reports it’s all based on the “content center” format unveiled in New York.

“A writer now has to write, an editor now has to edit,” Whittaker said. “These new jobs are going to require multiple skills. You’ll have to write, edit, you’ll have to know how to send a story to the Web, order graphics and design graphics for the story you’re working on,” reports the Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal, whose sources tell him there’s plenty of worry the new multiplatform model may mean layoffs or reduced salaries: “Privately, some current WMAQ staff members expressed concern that the most experienced – and most expensive staff members – would be vulnerable in the 21st century makeover. There also are fears that someone who is particularly good with a skill such as writing or editing might not be as adept at something else with which they have less, little or no experience.”

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UPDATED–“Lightning Rod” Oklahoma Sports Anchor Could Be Released from Hospital Today

KWTV/OKC sports director Dean Blevins may get to go home from the OU Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit as early as today, according to a report on newsok.com.

Dean Blevins/KWTV

Dean Blevins/KWTV

Blevins has been treated for a severe head injury after slipping on ice Monday and hitting his head on a step in front of his home.

Blevins tells Mel Bracht at newsok.com the injury will require the sports anchor work with a speech pathologist after his release from the hospital, “they are going to be monitoring it regularly.  There are questions about whether it affects your speech and some cognitive issues.”

No question about interest among Oklahomans in Blevins’ condition:  “The story on Blevins’ accident was the No. 2 most-read story on NewsOK on Tuesday, a fact that Blevins said Mayor Mick Cornett kidded him about in a telephone call Wednesday morning.

He said Cornett told him, “I always told you the reason that people wanted you to work for them was that you’re the No. 1 lightning rod, sort of like Howard Cosell. There were 27,000 people that read it — 13,000 probably hoped you die and the other 14,000 people wished you well.”

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“NY Nightly News” May Move to WNBC’s Cable Channel

Chuck Scarborough/Daily News Photo

Chuck Scarborough/Daily News Photo

The revamped news lineup at WNBC/NY may be getting revampier, according to a report in today’s NY Daily News. Richard Huff reports the Chuck Scarborough-helmed 7 p.m. “New York Nightly News” could be cable-bound in the next month, moving onto the yet-to-be-formally-named-or-described-but-definitely-24-hour-channel that WNBC has been planning as a key part of its evolution into a “content center.”

Huff reports: “As part of programming the new network, expected to launch next month, Ch. 4’s 7 p.m. newscast may slide over to the so-far-called NY Channel and become a “signature” show, the Daily News has learned.”

Sources also tell the News the 7 p.m. show will expand to an hour, and Scarborough will continue in his role as main anchor of Channel 4’s 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts.

What the remaining 23 hours will look like on the tentatively-titled “NY” channel remains unclear, though it won’t be an all-news competitor to Time-Warner’s NY1.

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NASDAQ Delists Young; Company Can’t Sell KRON, Onetime Powerhouse in SF

KRON/SF, once a strong NBC station, has suffered since its purchase by Young Broadcasting, losing its NBC affiliation, and this week, Young lost its listing on NASDAQ, as shares tumbled into the three-cents-a-share range. “Burdened by what some investors believe is a prominent asset with a questionable future and more broadly, the overall malaise in the ad market,” Young’s trading was moved to an over-the-counter market, reports mediapost.com.

KRON, ever a source of lively debate and rumor among San Francisco local tv newsers, has lost most of its marquee talent and moved to a one-man-band newsgathering model since becoming an affiliate of My Network TV. In its first day of over-the-counter trading Tuesday, mediapost.com reports Young shares dropped another 33%.

Other station groups in similar trouble, reports the site: Gray, Entravision, and Lin. Read more here.

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