Daily Archives: January 23, 2009

Latest Layoffs: “Bloodbath” at WJLA/DC, Newschannel 8

leon_alison_timA horrible day at Allbritton’s WJLA/DC and local cable operation Newschannel 8, a story first broken by @dcrtv and expanded on tonight by the Washington City Paper:

“As far as on-air talent goes, reporter Andrea McCarren is out, DCRTV says, as well as reporter Alisa Parenti, sports guy Greg Toland, and reporters Sarah Lee and Emily Schmidt. Also out, LL hears, is planning editor Vince Vaughan.

Some other details revealed at a 3 p.m. staff meeting by Allbritton President Fred Ryan:

  • 26 fired
  • Across-the-board 3.9 percent pay cuts (the significance of the figure isn’t known)
  • Three-year salary freeze [UPDATE: until the economy recovers, which Allbritton is predicting will last three years]
  • No more company matching contributions to 401(k)s

What about Joe Robert Allbritton’s latest venture—Politico? They’re, for the most part, off the hook, LL is told, and will keep hiring. DCRTV says Politico “has also cut back on other expenses – travel and some salary re-negotiations. However, another source tells us that there are no trimmings at the Politico, which is the only Allbritton division ahead of budget.”

Says tipster: “this has sent shock waves thru the broadcast media in town.”

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Liveshot? Yes. Livetruck? Nope. Vol. 2, The Obama Inauguration Edition

Lauren Squires Goes Live by Skype

Lauren Squires Goes Live by Skype

I should probably label these posts NSFW, since if your news director sees them, it could spell trouble:  another Skype-enabled backpacker doing it all and going live…no photog, no truck, no satellite window, nada.  (Can you hear the dripping sounds of local tv news managers salivating?)

Lauren Squires, a bureau reporter in Dubuque for KWWL/Waterloo got a big gig:  the inauguration of Barack Obama.  She traveled to DC with a local group of Iowans and, in keeping with the multiplatform ideal, she blogged, shot her own packages, and even whipped out the laptop to do liveshots via Skype: 

“I traveled (26 hours) via bus with the Dubuque Colts Drum and Bugle Corps. They were selected to play in the Inauguration parade. I was an embedded journalist, who slept on a gym floor with hundreds of members of the corps (Alumni and current members, marching and spectators).   I blogged from the moment we left Dubuque on Saturday to the moment we arrived back to Iowa. http://addins.kwwl.com/blogs/scribbles/

Check out her work.  And think about it.  Seriously.  Think about it.  One day soon you’re going to get that tempting offer–“hey, we’d like to send you out of town…”

FULL DISCLOSURE:  My attempt at backpacking my way through the Obama Inauguration, complete with laptop, blogging and Twittering, was, shall we say, somewhat less successful, with snowstorms and bus breakdowns.  Read about my sad saga here.

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Local TV Newsers: Has Sports Run Out the Clock?

Richard Huff at the NY Daily News puts it bluntly to local tv sports anchors and reporters:  “That’s it.  Goodnight.  Go home.”  As stations’ budgets contract and reporters are cut from payrolls, Huff argues the money committed to a daily sportscast is not well spent:  “When die-hard sports fans are glued to ESPN – with tickers at the bottom of the screen giving them all the results – along with all-sports Web sites, what exactly do local sportscasters bring to the table?

Very little, if you think about it.

Generally speaking, local sports anchors update box scores and intro highlights.”

As we’ve reported, KVVU/Las Vegas just decided to drop weeknight sportscasts altogether, saving sports for weekends and special events.  George Michael unplugged the Sports Machine in DC.  

A High School Football Game... on ESPN

A High School Football Game... on ESPN/New York Times Photo

And if you take a moment today to drift over to the sports office in your newsroom today and take the talent’s temperature, you’ll notice an icy fear.  They feel time running out.  Anchors who once had extended segments in weeknight newscasts now struggle to get in a minute of scores, and most have had the experience of hearing, scripts in hand, IFB in ear, pancake on face, “Sports is dead!” as a breaking news story forced news producers to take back the few seconds sports was allotted to make room for live chopper pictures of that rolled-over bakery truck.

So, come on sportsters… what’s the argument for survival?  Can a regional cable sports net cover high schools as well as you can?  Can ESPN really do what you do?

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Fading Fortunes for Local TV News: It’s Not Just the Economy, Stupid

As if local tv newsers don’t have enough to worry about these days, here comes research from Ketchum Public Relations that shows local TV news has slipped significantly from its perch as the top information source for most Americans. According to Ketchum, there’s a “steady erosion of mass media authority,” with local TV news consumption falling from 74% to 63% in 2008. That’s an 11 percent drop, exactly the same percentage that blogs were UP… from 13% to 24%.

This isn’t about car dealers and retailers rolling back their ad spending. This is about viewers getting their information elsewhere. And that’s a big deal when pondering the viability of the medium in the future. Steve Smith at minonline.comketchum_logo_web puts it this way: “Professional content continues to have authority and a role in people’s media lives, but it has to be ready to speak and position itself as a part of a larger conversation. Social syndication tools, journalist blogs and email remain powerful tools for publishers. But just as appointment television is becoming a relic of last century’s mass media model, all forms of content will need to move into evolving usage paths.”

UPDATE:  Looking for an idea on how to bring your news to consumers who might not be sitting in front of the tube at 6 anymore?  Check out this idea:  WRAL/Raleigh’s iPhone app.  Read up on Outside the News Box.

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