The headline in the Denver Post puts it pretty much right the way many of us local newsers feel it: this is bad. Really bad. Like it’s never going to be the way it was bad. The Post’s Joanne Ostrow describes it this way: “On the local level, ad revenue is in free-fall. In newsrooms the mantra is ‘doing more with less.’ Experienced broadcasters are offered reduced salaries or shown the door. Ernie Bjorkman, Bob Kendrick, Nick Carter . . . gone. KWGN-Channel 2’s newsroom has been absorbed into KDVR- Channel 31 in an awkward merger resulting in dozens of layoffs. Rivals KMGH-Channel 7 and KUSA-Channel 9 are saving money by sharing a helicopter.”
You could probably write a paragraph like that in most markets across the country today. Familiar names are out of work, ad sales have evaporated and threaten never to return to the profit-driving levels they once reached, and the cost-cutting keeps on coming, in the form of one-man-bands, stations sharing resources, and, perhaps in the not-so-distant future, local stations getting out of the news business altogether.
“This economic downturn is probably the worst that I’ve seen in 25 years in this town,” KUSA president and general manager Mark Cornetta told Ostrow, who reports that nationwide, TV-station ad revenue is projected to fall 20 to 30 percent in 2009, according to industry research. As she puts it, “the glamour is gone.”
And in newsrooms everywhere, it just doesn’t feel the same anymore.