Daily Archives: January 24, 2009

Thanks for Stopping By

There’s a lot to talk about in the local tv biz these days, and most of it’s rather depressing.  In a sense, that’s what prompted by lovely fiancee to suggest, just two weeks ago, that I put up a blog to talk about what’s happening:  the scary stuff, but also the inspiring things that are right around the corner for those of us who are willing to experiment, be flexible, and believe.

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5,000 Page Views Makes My Dad So Proud of Me!

Apparently, I’m not the only one.  In two weeks, this blog has had over 5,000 page views, and today, on a lowly Saturday, more people visited than on any other day:  nearly 500.  I am humbled–and excited.  I’ve heard from a lot of smart, insightful people and gotten to make connections in this business I didn’t have before.  I’ve been mentioned on sites I respect, gotten notes from well-known names who stunned me with word they’d been reading my stuff, and my baby blog even got a mention in the mighty New York Post.

I believe that if we share ideas, and stick together, we’ll not only get through this, but thrive.

So thanks for stopping by.  And please, pass the word to anyone who might want to join our conversation.

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Saturday Rant: Saving the Fat, Cutting the Muscle

I get it.  Times are tight.  Advertisers aren’t spending.  The local TV money machine isn’t functioning the way we’ve come to expect.  So budgets must be cut.  It would seem to be the responsible thing to do.  When less money is coming in, you’ve got to adjust the budget and start spending less.  But I question the way some station managers and corporate execs are choosing to trim.  They’re not going for the fat, they seem to be targeting the muscle.

When WJLA/DC hired Leon Harris from CNN, he told reporters the lure was “working with great co-anchors and an excellent, focused news team.”  It wasn’t the cool spinning 7 logo or the nifty treats in the break room. “The resources and commitment that WJLA brings to bear on news coverage are simply phenomenal,” Harris said.

At that time, Robert Allbritton, Chairman and CEO of WJLA’s corporate owner, Allbritton, said spending the money on Harris was “yet one more indication” of WJLA’s plans to be the “dominant TV news station” in the D.C. area.  Makes you wonder.  When Mr. Allbritton went about cutting his budget, he did as others have done in recent months, keeping the familiar face out front (in this case, Mr. Harris;  in New York, Chuck and Sue) but just below the billboard names, it was well-compensated experience that took the hit.  Andrea McCarren at JLA.  Jay DeDapper at WNBC.

We could–and we should–assemble a roster of what’s been lost.  Tally up the names of the A list, experienced veterans of local tv news–the people who went network and came back, the people who chose to stay in a community where they’d built ties and sources, and did the work that drew us into journalism in the first place.  Not to get our mugs on tv, but to truly “report” and tell stories that matter.  

Any kid can cover a car wreck.  But when the story is big, when it requires a little depth of knowledge about City Hall or the history of a community, where will those reporters be?  WNBC kept Jay DeDapper on the payroll–and the political beat–until the end of the election season.  Too bad his insight and knowledge of Albany’s no longer there to delve into the appointment this week of Kristin Gillibrand.

I know I’m naive and I don’t have to balance the books like GMs do.  I know that experience comes with a hefty pricetag, especially experience that has a “name.”  And I know the business is rapidly changing.  But when the advertising comes back, what will these “dominant news teams” really look like?

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WJLA’s “Massive” Talent Layoffs: “It’s Like Losing Everything at Once”

Some were called at home with the news, like 26 year veteran journalist Andrea McCarren.  “They said I didn’t need to come in today, McCarren told the Washington Post.

Andrea McCarren/WJLA Photo
Andrea McCarren/WJLA Photo

“I’m not bitter, but I am sad.”  

Reporter Sarah Lee was in the field, working the early morning shift.  She got a call telling her to come directly back to the newsroom.  “I don’t take it personally,” she told the Post.  “My contract was up, and I was legally eligible to be let go.”  Lee is pregnant, and will be out of a job when her contract expires at the end of February.

WJLA/DC’s 26-employee layoff was described by some as a “bloodbath,” and spread to other Allbritton-owned newsrooms across the country.  WJLA reporter Alisa Parenti told the Post’s Neely Tucker, “it’s just amazing to think how things were 20 years ago in this business and how they are now.  I loved my job, the people I worked with.  It’s like losing everything at once.”

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Latest Layoffs: Allbritton Bloodshed Sweeps Into Little Rock

Arkansas Businesslate reports tonight that the cuts that hit hard at Allbritton’s WJLA/DC and Newschannel 8, were part of a company-wide effort to trim jobs;  KATV/Little Rock, long a ratings leader, cut 20 jobs, including news talent, all announced at station meetings on Friday.  No names released yet.

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