You know the guy. He’s the guy who’s not talent, and not news director, but he somehow makes the trains run on time. The guy who’s as good in the morning meeting as he is in the convention center for the massive multi-camera remote. He’s the guy who gets good phoners when a breaker happens in the second half-hour of the noon show. He’s the guy who takes the news director’s new idea and somehow makes it happen–and look good.
At KARE, he was Lonnie Hartley, Senior Executive Producer, workaholic, and as David Brauer writes in his BrauBlog, KARE’s “heart and soul.” Hartley’s 70-hour workweeks earned respect from staff, but apparently meant little when corporate cost-cutters ordered another head to roll Wednesday.
As David Brauer put it: “Insiders say the newsroom had never seemed so shell-shocked as it was today, when a tearful Hartley told his troops goodbye.”
It makes you wonder what we’re doing to our newsrooms. For years, KARE had the reputation of a real hard news shop, the kind of place young reporters and producers and anchors kept in the backs of their minds: KARE would be a great place to end up.
But more and more, the gutting behind the scenes (and on the air, of course, with familiar faces vanishing) means stations are losing layer after significant layer; the people who get it done but don’t usually get their names in the paper when they get laid off. The truck ops, the veteran photogs, the MacGyvers of local news who mean so much to news staff, but don’t register in corporate boardrooms.
Sure, things won’t run as well now. More work to spread around, and some of it won’t get done. When the chips are down, and it’s hitting the fan, maybe magic won’t be made like it used to. But with the weekend show a one-anchor, one-backpack-journalist effort, and photogs during the week running on a strict no-overtime policy; with engineering cut back and the assignment desk understaffed and inexperienced…does it really matter?
Hartley told David Brauer “I have a huge passion for news — you know what it’s like to break a great story, the fulfillment that comes from that.” The sad part is, at places like KARE, that’s not the top priority anymore, if it’s a priority at all.
But hey, the new corporate graphics package looks nice.