Category Archives: Local News 2.0

Seriously. Here Comes Everybody.

Mark Joyella and Tiffanie WongUntil a few days ago, I was the blogger in the family.  On my wife’s suggestion early this year, I launched this site to track the layoffs that were then a daily nightmare in newsrooms from coast to coast.  More recently, my focus has been on what happens next, and how all of us can stay relevant–and working.

When I walked away from my reporting job at WPLG in Miami at the height of the job-shedding, my blog got a sudden flood of attention, being picked up and linked by many of the major trade publications and websites.  It happened again when I wrote about NBC’s purchase of local domain names from coast to coast.

The other day my wife showed me what real web traffic looks like.  You see, she’s now the blogger in the family.

I could wail and moan about the injustice of it all–I write about journalism, for God’s sake, and the fate of a Nation and all that.  I write about jobs, and history and technology and blah blah blah.

My wife?  You may know her blog by now.  It’s certainly been in the papers and all over TV and the web:  she writes My Husband is Annoying, a site devoted to my quirks and eccentricities, like having a favorite green sweater (okay, sure, it does show up a lot in our vacation photos) and sometimes finding it difficult to get out of bed in the morning (it’s not just me, right?)

Well, as a joke, she posted a few less-than-flattering photos of yours truly, and described what it’s like to live with me.  And we figured, hey, our friends will get a kick out of this. Post it to Facebook and get some LOLs.

A few Facebook comments and Tweets later, and the wife’s blog was mentioned by a hyperlocal website here in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Heights Blog, which got things rolling with the pithy and classic headline, “Area Man is Annoying Husband.”

714275As Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody could have told me, things were about to get weird, and fast.  First came the commenters.  A few LOLs, but a few “you sucks” also, and some strange, very personal comments on the nature of our marriage and my wife’s motive in creating the blog.  It was a blunt reminder that the media has shifted forever to an everybody-can-speak-without-your-permission dynamic, and the Old Media gatekeepers have no gates anymore.

As is happening in digital newsrooms around the world, editors post news stories online, reporters and anchors blog about their lives and hobbies–and then here comes everybody; some loving it, others eviscerating it.  How are stations, websites and papers handling comments?  My wife and I debated it in capital-J fashion:  give everyone their say no matter how offensive?  Keep the blog light and fun, as it was intended?  Or only weed out the truly sickening and borderline threatening?  Where’s the line?

My wife, a strong and amazing woman, posted every insulting comment–and the LOLs and You Go Girls–save one, which was truly unfit to print.

Then came the second wave:  the media.  Snarky New York blog Gothamist wrote up the site, as did a Dutch blog that translated My Husband is Annoying (we think) as “Mijn Man is Vervelend. The pageviews began to skyrocket.  My LocalNewser record high fell quickly and it wasn’t even close.

Then the New York Daily News came calling, putting my wife and I across an entire page of the paper, and posting a video interview on the front page of the DN’s website.  I found odd satisfaction and pride in the News proclaiming me “New York’s most annoying husband.”

That article landed on BuzzFeed, and you could literally watch my wife’s pageviews jump by the hundreds every time you hit “refresh.”  It was astonishing.

Before we were out of bed the morning the News hit the streets, bookers from network morning shows and syndicated daytime shows were calling, along with radio stations from Florida to California.

I was recognized while shooting a story for WPIX at the New York Transit Museum by someone (I thought they were going to say “aren’t you the guy from TV?”) who said, “you’re the husband.  From the paper.  The annoying husband.”

This truly is a demonstration of the speed we’re working at these days.  Bret Favre signs with the Vikings and the reporter with the scoop goes to Twitter, not TV.  Why?  Have to. Can’t afford to wait.  It’s a new world.  If you can remember three-quarter decks?  Well, you’ve got to re-wire your brain and adjust to the new speed.

It’s fast.  And we, as journalists, don’t really have any access to the brakes anymore.  We can’t slow something down when it’s moving too fast.  If we do, all that will happen is we stop moving forward and other journos–or just the masses–will tell the story on their own.

Here comes everybody.

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Local Newsers: Miserable on the Job, Desperate on the Beach, and The Return of Ramen Noodles

wisemug

John P. Wise

This week’s deeply honest and revealing post by John P. Wise has gotten a lot of local newsers thinking about the atmosphere in newsrooms across the country–about how the pressures from the top to make that damned money machine work again has trickled down to the producers and overnight editors and reporters and photographers and control room crew, making everyone flat out miserable.

And when I saw a tweet online from a Pacific Northwest winery about their upcoming employee summer Barbeque, complete with ribs and Pinot Noir, I was reminded of what it was like to work in local news just a few years ago:  at times, it was a hell of a fun place to be.  Then travel budgets evaporated, photogs lost their overtime, and along with that came a make-sure-the-crew-gets-lunch-even-if-you-miss-the-interview mandate and, as John so brilliantly described it, a complete lack of interest in the people doing the work.

Welcome to San Diego!  Clothing Allowance?  Ha!  No.  But Hey, Here's Your Camera and Tripod.

Welcome to San Diego! Clothing Allowance? Ha! No. But Hey, Here's Your Camera and Tripod.

Today, a post about one-man-bands in San Diego is good reading, as is the photo that goes along with it.  A reporter who’s just landed that San Diego job at a top station, only why is this woman not smiling? Not long ago, snagging a gig at KGTV would be a pretty sweet move.  Now, it’s almost a one step forward two steps back maneuver, with reporters arriving from smaller markets only to find the first part of life in the big city:  learning to shoot your own stuff.

And then there’s life after the job, after the layoff, after the cliche-ridden conversation with a manager who’s gotten too bored letting people go to even bother coming up with a new, personal way to talk to someone.  And in a flash, you’re on the beach, as they used to say in better times.

But as Gina Callaghan tells us today, it’s a scary place to be, where talent, skills, and smarts don’t automatically translate into paying work.  I think all of us can help each other out, and I urge you to visit LocalNewser’s companion site, CoachReporter, where we’ve just posted an article from a business coach on a key topic:  how do you take a resume that tells employers you’re absolutely qualified to work in a dying industry, and translate that to the emerging digital industry that’s replacing it?  We know we can do the work, but how do we show that?

Other coaches will be offering advice and suggestions on rebooting careers and, as Ann Nyberg says, navigating the change that’s surrounding us.

946pw8001DISPATCH FROM THE FRONTLINES:  Gina Callaghan

I hope that package of ramen noodles in the kitchen remains sealed.

In a strange way, keeping those noodles together means the strands of hope on which I base my future employment will also remain intact.

In June, I was laid off from my job as a Web producer at a local TV station. Between the festering stench that is the American economy and a contracting media industry, I didn’t harbor any great sentimental thoughts about the business. That chapter is finished, so move on.

But where does one move?

Many employers in the “real world” value writing skills, the ability to work in a deadline-driven environment, flexibility, multitasking, good time-managers – all attributes found in your run-of-the-mill newsroom staffer.

However, many of those same people will balk at hiring a newsie for several reasons.  A common red flag is when interviewers ask, “You are used to a fast-paced newsroom. Do you think you can adjust to a different way of working?”

Oy! The unofficial motto of the media business is “adapt or die.”

Of course, the above only applies if you are lucky enough to get an interview.

Then, there is age. One recruiter, impressed by my resume, looked off to the side and said, “I don’t want to get sued but I think my client might say someone with your, uh, background might find it challenging to work with people just starting out. And the site is all about music and pop culture.”

Huh?  Never mind the fact that I worked at Fox, home of “American Idol” and did a stint on the National Enquirer’s copy desk.

“How old do you think I am,” was all I could blurt out. Didn’t get the job. (By the way, I am over 30 and nowhere near death).

Sure there are some relevant job postings out there. I sit home, chain-smoking in an old bathrobe, zipping resumes to that black hole called: resumes@thiscompany.com.

And then there is the rest of the day. I recently started a blog about cats, did some gratis social media consulting and enrolled in a class. Perhaps most importantly, I have learned that generic orange juice is $1.99 as opposed to the $3.99 and up for brand names.

Whether my next job is in media or a real-estate office, I realize this period is a good time to take stock of personal passions and chart a new course. However, like many laid-off news types, the more pressing issue is navigating the choppy waters of daily survival – and keeping those ramen noodles in the pantry.

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SlimeWatch, Part 3: What Local Stations Can Learn from NPR’s New Website

6a00d83451b26169e201053659b16a970c-800wiNPR.org doesn’t exactly grab you by the shoulders and scream “cutting edge!” At least, not yet. But give it time.

One thing that is clear is this:  the thinking behind the radio giant’s redesign is advanced, and should be studied by every local television station manager and web team–at least the ones that intend to survive as employees of viable, profitable businesses.

For NPR, the new thinking goes like this:  kinda, sorta, start not really focusing so much on the “R” in NPR: “This is an organization that’s in transformation into becoming a fully functional news content organization, not just a radio company,” said NPR’s Vivian Schiller in an interview with Newsweek.  Schiller’s the force behind one of the most powerful news sites on Earth–nytimes.com–but she left the Times six months ago to join NPR and get the old school org all multiplatformy and stuff.

As Newsweek’s Johnnie Roberts wrote, “For Schiller, that means building on NPR’s reputation as a broadcaster of national and international news, by extending its reach into local news. She plans on relying more on local member stations to fill what she sees as a “scary” void in local coverage as hometown daily newspapers fold.”

Supporting local coverage is obviously something most localnewsers can get behind.  Unless, of course, that means a network, like NPR, or NBC for that matter, coming in an bypassing its local station to do the local work itself. And NPR’s new model, as Schiller’s old shop The New York Times noted, “would make it easier than ever to find programming from local stations, (it) will also make it much more convenient for listeners to bypass local stations, if they choose.”

NBCChicago:  No Worries for NBC-Owned WMAQ.  But Boston, Tampa, Vegas?

NBCChicago: No Worries for NBC-Owned WMAQ. But Boston, Tampa, Vegas?

This is exactly the threat, as I’ve argued, that NBC’s “Locals Only” effort poses to NBC affiliates who don’t choose to accept NBC’s terms to do business on a local level.  GE’s already laid the groundwork by buying up domains from coast to coast that would allow the network to instantly be in the local online news business (as “NBC Boston,” for example) and bypass entirely another “NBC” entity in the same city. Welcome to the Wild West, folks, where allegiances may shift depending on who’s got better firepower, stronger horses, and cash.

Speaking specifically of NPR’s aggressive move into multi-platform news growth online, Jake Shapiro, the executive director of Public Radio Exchange, a group that supports local radio stations, told the Times, “That’s the risk. It increases the pressure for stations to offer compelling and distinct programming.”

As Schiller told the Times, NPR’s revamped website isn’t about offering National Public Radio a presence online, and certainly it’s not an effort to drive ears to NPR stations.  The new model reverses all of that, taking NPR’s website “from being a companion to radio to being a news destination in its own right,” Ms. Schiller said.

The Web's News Giants Smell Money in Your Backyard.  You Ready to Compete?

The Web's News Giants Smell Money in Your Backyard. You Ready to Compete?

With TV networks contributing their content to Hulu and ending the once ironclad arrangement that you see NBC shows on NBC stations, the “bypass local stations but own local advertising” model is no hypothetical threat.  It’s time for smart station managers and news directors to look at their own websites and ask if they can compete against their own network–if it ever came to that.

Can you?  Is your site that good?  Is it tied to your TV product or growing in creative ways away from the TV newscast and terrestrial station?  Is your local online reporting going to be better than NBC’s or CBS’s or Huffington Post’s?

You may not be thinking this way.  But trust me.  They are.

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From Murrow’s Boys to One Man Bands: War Reporting at CBS

I saw the news item like most of you probably did: CBS News Hires Digital Journalist to be Based in Afghanistan. Yup.

CBS' Mandy Clark

CBS' Mandy Clark

Who says the networks are shying away from covering highly important yet massively dangerous overseas stories?  Not CBS, snatching up former Voice of America VJ Mandy Clark, handing her a camera and a laptop (and hopefully battle armor) and sending her off into the poppy fields to see what the Taliban and al Qaeda are up to.

Maybe you had the reaction I did:  seriously?

CBS News Senior Vice President Paul Friedman said in a release on the hire:  “Mandy is intrepid and her wealth of experience reporting from the Middle East, Central Asia and elsewhere and her adroit use of technology, make her a terrific addition.”  Hmm.  If you’ve read CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier’s gripping book about the Iraqi bombing that took the life of her two-man crew and nearly killed her, you know that in a war zone, even the most routine walk and talks surrounded by the toughest, heavily armed American soldiers is sometimes no guarantee you’ll live to file your story.  Dozier and her crew debated the safety of every assignment and argued pros and cons.  Dozier’s in-country producer was a key player in raising alarm bells when the crew didn’t report in as expected, ultimately involving CBS brass in New York immediately and leading to Dozier’s air evacuation to a hospital where doctors are credited with saving her life.

CBS' Kimberly Dozier After Bombing

CBS' Kimberly Dozier After Bombing

It makes me think about the levels of protection a one-man-band doesn’t have in a place like Afghanistan–even something as simple as a second (or third) set of eyes to watch the horizon for a fast-approaching Toyota in the sand while shooting video of something the Taliban might prefer not make air on Katie Couric’s newscast.

Clark’s come close already.  In a recent assignment, she described getting caught in a firefight:  “Then an explosion of sound. Gunfire was coming from everywhere, all at once. I lay my back against an alcove of rocks. A soldier was right in front of me firing at the surrounding hills. I pointed my camera but had to turn my head away because my skin was being pelted by his spent bullet casings. There were commands and curses flying all around, along with the bullets and rockets. I remember trying to just focus on what I was filming. I knew this was an important story and I wanted to tell it right, to get the pictures just right. If my shots were too sloppy, they wouldn’t bring the viewer to the battle.”

I don’t know Mandy Clark, and have only seen one of her stories on CBS.  But I wonder how fast a decision like this–so high profile–will filter down to local stations already looking to expand their fleets of “digital journalists.”  Hey, why not send a solo photographer off to Iraq?  It’s been done, right?  How about maximizing our hurricane or tornado coverage?  Drive yourself into the worst of the storm, get what you can and hey, don’t forget to shoot a standup.  And be careful!  You know your safety is more important to us than any story.

Another War, Another World:  CBS' Murrow in London, 1944

Another War, Another World: CBS' Murrow in London, 1944

Murrow and his boys demonstrated the unique power of war reporting to captivate listeners and viewers.  “This… is London” still resonates with Americans who can remember hearing it.  All war reporting is dangerous.  But going it alone?

Why do I feel so uncomfortable?

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On the Links: Content Matters, Going “Viral,” and Out-Tweeting the Competition

OntheLinksThe New York Times reports on its website today that a hacker claims to have accessed internal documents from Twitter that indicate the company’s expected growth:  reaching 350 million users by 2011, and ultimately becoming the first Web service to claim a billion users.  And to think, your news director still doesn’t “get it.”

Here’s what I’d tell you if I was your coach:  forget out of touch managers and change-resistant reporters (remember all the bitching about going nonlinear?) and make sure you are actively participating in a platform that could quadruple in size by next year (to 100 million users, according to the hacker, identified as “Hacker Croll” (he’s always been reliable, hasn’t he?).

Need more incentive?

baGordon Borrell, writing on his Borrell Associates Blog, says follow the money:  Local Ads Moving to Social Networks. “We just did an assessment of advertising placed on social networking sites and were surprised to find that nearly 20% of all ad spending is by local businesses,” Borrell reports.  It total numbers, it’s not big.  But the trend is important.  In fact, Borrell says watch Facebook, where 74% of ad revenues are from local businesses.

kndx_fox26_bismarckTVNewsday Editor Harry Jessell’s been having some very interesting conversations of late, and this one is worth a look:  Save Stations with Programming, Retrans.  The interview, with John Tupper, owner of FOX affiliate KNDX-KXND/Minot-Bismarck, ND, makes the case that it’s not the economy killing stations, and it’s not even the internet.  Tupper, who’s chair of the FOX affiliate group, goes old-school:  It’s the Content, Stupid.

picture-4I recently signed on as a freelancer at The Daily Beast, and in addition to the appropriate tax forms and payment info, I received a one-sheet entitled, Tips for Going Viral.  Now, if you hit this site with any regularity, you know I’m all about the links and all about spreading content around.  The Beast’s advice is nothing new, but worth repeating:  link, link, link.  Add RSS feeds of your stories to your personal website.  Post links on Facebook.  And yes, use Twitter.

twitter-pic_1369969cSince by now I have hopefully convinced you TwitterResisters to abandon all hope and enter the world of tweets and mini-URLs, check out Patrick Thornton’s Leaderboard post on BeatBlogging.org.  The focus is on live tweeting, which Thornton describes, naturally, as “the cousin of live blogging.”  (You never did get to live blogging?  Oh, what am I going to do with you?)  If you need a brush-up on hashtags, retweets and embedded Twitter feeds, check out the post, and gain the wisdom of Tracie Mauriello at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Nick Martin at Heat City.

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SlimeWatch, Part 2: NBC Loves Local. NBC Affiliates? Not So Much.

Jeff Zucker:  Planning to Go Local With You or Without You?

Jeff Zucker: Planning to Go Local With You or Without You?

Lukewarm is really never a good thing.

Not for soup, not for bathwater, and definitely not as an answer when someone’s asked to evaluate the earnings potential of the business you work in. And yet, for us, right now, that’s what we’ve got.  The headline on televisionbroadcast.com:  Analyst is Lukewarm on the Future of Local News.

Rich Greenfield of Pali Capital, a financial services firm that advises clients worldwide on markets and business sectors, thinks Local TV’s not as bad off as radio and newspapers, but it’s not quite healthy, either:  “We believe the local TV business is in secular decline,” Greenfield writes on his blog.  “While revenues/profits may bounce whenever the economy recovers, we have a hard time believing that local news, weather, traffic and sports at 7 a.m./5 p.m./ 6 p.m./11 p.m. can sustain viewership levels, and in turn, advertiser interest over the next several years.”

I’m not a financial analyst, Wall Street guru, or Financial Times subscriber.  But I do know this: if your advertiser-supported business cannot “sustain advertiser interest,” you have a serious problem.  And, as I’ve been arguing here, I believe Local TV has an Everything-Must-Change problem.  The thing is, I don’t sense that most companies that own television stations have much interest in changing.

Or maybe they simply don’t know how to change.  The problem is, other companies are already working on that, and they will not share the fruits of their efforts with local stations when their new model becomes profitable.  And NBC may be one of those companies.  (Don’t feel relieved just yet, NBC affiliates, you might not be invited to the peacock’s party–in your own town)

Here’s NBC’s affiliate relations chief, John Eck, talking last month to TVNewsday about building deeper, stronger ties between the network and its affiliates:  “We invited all affiliates — whether our agreement is expiring this year or several years down the road — to talk about how we could modify the existing arrangements so that we could participate on more platforms together.”

The Bird:  Bullish on Local, Just Not Necessarily Local Stations

The Bird: Bullish on Local, Just Not Necessarily Local Stations

And then there was the big, bold, rah-rah smack on the affiliates’ lips from NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker at the NBC affiliates’ meeting in May, as quoted by Broadcasting & Cable:  “Let me set the record straight once and for all,” said Zucker. “Standing here on the stage of one of the most famous broadcast studios in the world–created for radio, rebuilt over the years for television, then color TV, then digital broadcasting–let me be as clear as I can be: We are not abandoning the business of broadcast network television. We are not going direct to cable. We are renewing affiliation agreements. And we are going to be in business together for a long, long time.”

A long, long time, eh?  I guess it depends on what your definition of being in “business together” means.  To NBC, it means getting a taste of affiliates cable and satellite retransmission deals, and in exchange, affiliates get a piece of NBC’s local online news and entertainment businesses.

Uh, did you say NBC’s local online businesses?

Oh yeah, you didn’t hear?  The peacock’s got big plans for local media, whether they own stations in local markets or not.  For NBC affiliates, the network’s offering a “gold” package, wherein the station and NBC cooperate on a local website, among other platforms, in exchange for a renewed and reinvigorated relationship in this troubled times.  “We’d be willing to go long, long for a gold package,” John Eck told TVNewsday.  What if stations don’t want to share the local web pie?  “Your affiliation arrangement is going to be much shorter term,” said Eck.

NBC station owners and managers have obvious reservations about the NBC offer.  NBC Affiliates Board Chair Mike Fiorile (COO of Dispatch Broadcast Group) talked about the “gold” plan with TVNewsday’s Harry Jessell:

“Do you want to be partners with NBC on local Web sites? For instance, they would want you to be NBCindianapolis.com.

Frankly, I don’t have a lot of interest in that. I’m already NBC Indianapolis. If someone does a search for NBC Indianapolis, I’d sooner they come to a site that I own as opposed to a site that I’m a partner with somebody else on.

Well, this could be a second site for you because NBC is proposing lifestyle sites as opposed to the news site you’re now doing.

Yes, but I’d rather have all the NBC Indianapolis traffic come to visit me.”

We're NBC in This Town, Thanks Very Much

We're NBC in This Town, Thanks Very Much

All well and good.  It’s completely understandable that the guy whose station, WTHR, has historically been NBC in Indianapolis, would like his website to be the source for news and information and all things Indy and NBC.

Well, here’s the interesting thing about NBCIndianapolis.  It already exists, and WTHR doesn’t own it.  GE does.  In fact, a quick survey of URL listings reveals that in market after market, NBC’s been on a domain-buying spree in cities where there are no NBC O&Os.

In Boston, where Sunbeam’s NBC station, WHDH has had a bumpy partnership with the network–most recently threatening not to air Jay Leno’s new primetime show–NBC’s ready to roll into the market with or without Ed Ansin.  NBCBoston.com is owned by GE.  Whether WHDH considers the domain simply a placeholder purchased by a network just in case station and affiliate ever wanted to team up on a site, or rather a threat to compete directly with WHDH’s whdh.com for local clicks–and dollars–is not something the station wanted to talk about.  “We are aware of NBC local,” WHDH’s Chris Weyland said in an email.  “We have no comment.”

Perhaps NBC’s just thinking ahead and buying up domains before some joker can get to them first, and has no plans for using NBCBoston.com to compete against its own NBC station.  But keep this in mind:  NBC’s business model has already moved beyond call letters.

NBCNewYork:  Peacock Yes, Station Call Letters No

NBCNewYork: Peacock Yes, Station Call Letters No

Jeff Zucker explained his thinking clearly in a quote on lostremote: “WNBC.com or WNBC4.com is an extension of the television station, it’s not a real scaled game. We don’t want to play just in that game. We want to play in the entire New York or Chicago or Los Angeles or whatever city you want to call it online media space and we can’t do that by just limiting ourselves to the call letters of our traditional analog TV station.”

“Or whatever city you want to call it.”  If you work at an NBC affiliate, punch in NBC and your city.  Is the domain taken?  Is that why NBC’s smiling even as the over-the-air business for stations fades away?

I’m just asking.  NBC, by the way, did not respond to requests for comment.

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On the Links: Innovation (Not TV) and Layoffs (TV) Anybody Seeing a Pattern Here?

OntheLinksThe future–and the fallout–on the links today.

A few stories on innovation, and as I’ve been telling you, they’re not coming from local TV:  newspapers, and (seriously?) the oldest of the old line, the AP.

And in fallout, more layoffs, layoffs, layoffs, and another new Content Center.  If there’s one thing I’d bet on, it’s that anything in TV called a “Content Center” will not be a Google-like hub of innovation, but rather a Kafkaesque exercise in overworked, underpaid newsworkers churning out the unwatchable on air, and the unreadable online.

Simon Owens at PBS’ MediaShift reports from Miami on an experiment in hyperlocal community reporting/blogging underway at the Miami Herald, where the paper teams up with local bloggers.  Again, don’t count newspapers out in all of this.  They’re doing way more experimentation (out of necessity, sure) than TV stations.

Ian Crouch at Neiman Journalism Lab reports the AP’s acting all new media-ish with plans to crowdsource its coverage of Sonia Sotomayor’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings next week. (Not sure what crowdsourcing is?  Oh.  What am I going to do with you?)

Paul Farhi at the Washington Post reports on a “reorganization” at WRC/DC that sounds so painfully familiar–the debut of a “content center,” and the layoff of legions of writers, editors and technicians.

Michael Roberts at Westword in Denver has the latest on talent and tech layoffs at KDVR, including top weather guy Chris Dunn.

James Rainey at the LA Times has a strange, but fascinating piece on the to-the-bone layoffs at FOX O&O KTTV:  “And now it must be said of the Fox News affiliate in Los Angeles:  So diminished.  So wretched.”

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