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WUSA/DC Local Newser Puts Himself on “Permanent Furlough” via Blistering Resignation Letter

Alan Henney said what others clearly felt:  something’s changed–and not for the better–at WUSA/DC.  “We are doing less news gathering these days and more information posting,” Henney writes in a memo to the WUSA news staff posted on DCRTV.  “Somebody needs to be driving the news machine at all times, actively pursuing news leads. We’ve lost our focus.”

WUSA, as most who follow the evolution of local TV news already know, recently replaced traditional news crews with one-man-bands, and converted its newsroom into an “information center” devoted to fast-paced, multiplatform news production:  getting the story told fast, in a variety of ways, from Twitter, to blogging, and sometimes even on a regular old newscast.

Henney, a weekend assignment editor at Channel 9, says the “shock and awe” digital campaign has come at a cost in the most basic of places:  doing the news.  “WUSA frequently lacks the discussion that is vital to the success of a vibrant news operation and falls into this model. Many of us are reluctant to say anything, and the suggestion box on the first floor is not enough. The consultants and out-of-touch corporate management have ruined the newscasts with repetitive Web clutter, endless sidebar packages, and their preoccupation with the Internet. You won’t find a blog anywhere that will generate enough revenue to support a news operation of this size, there are simply too many. We’ve heard regular speak of “Web Winners,” but what ever happened to the “News Winners?” A dying breed?”

Web Alert:  Is Anybody Doing the News?

Web Alert: Is Anybody Doing the News?

Henney’s letter has sparked a massive debate on the dcrtv site, and among DC local newsers.  It’s an important discussion, and sadly sparked by a man who felt his only option was to walk out, leaving the weekend desk after nearly a decade.  “Any corporation that allows employees to blog as an excuse for not reporting to work on time is not an organization with which I want to be associated. Effective immediately, I am placing myself on permanent furlough from the Gannett Corp,” he wrote.

DC newsers:  if you’ve watched the content coming from the Info Center, do you agree?  Has WUSA traded reporting for Twittering?  Can stations successfully do both?

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Filed under Cutbacks, Furloughs, Local News 2.0, Social Media

And Now, Back to WHDH, Where Another Anchor Gets the Boot

WHDH's Rudat

WHDH's Rudat

It’s been a rough month at WHDH/Boston.  First, longtime and much-loved main anchor Randy Price was unceremoniously shown the door a week ago;  this morning we learn (again, from the Boston Globe, not from the station itself) that weekend anchor Brandon Rudat is gone.  He got the news yesterday, according to the Globe’s boston.com:  “I was told . . . that I am very skilled and that I am very talented but I am not right for the station,” said Rudat, 29, who started at Channel 7 in early 2007. His contract with the station expires April 22, which will be his last day. Rudat also anchors weekends on sister station CW-56. “Good things will come out of this,” he predicted, wrote the Globe’s Mark Shanahan.

According to the paper, HDH GM Chris Wayland wouldn’t comment on Rudat’s release, though Rudat, like Price before him, had been vocal inside the 7 Newsplex about the station’s flashy, sensational WSVN/Miami approach in more sober, less flashy New England.  Dissent, according to the Globe, did not do good things for job security:  “We should be able to debate what the story should be,” Rudat said. “If you debate, you suddenly become a target. . . . It’s really hard.” 

Tense Times in the 'Plex
Tense Times in the ‘Plex

The HDH departures have local Boston newsbloggers going into overdrive, with much speculation about what’s motivating the exodus:  money, or being unacceptably vocal.  The comments at bostontvnews make for interesting reading.

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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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Reporter Goes All Multiplatformy for a Chance to Cover Obama Inauguration

Yeah, I’m talking about me.  Look, I know I can write about multiplatform, convergence, hyperlocal and backpack journalism with the best of ’em.  And often, I’m harshly critical.  But to be honest, from my first day as a local tv newser, in Grand Junction, Colorado, I’ve never had to lug my own gear and shoot my own stuff.  I edited my own packages for a few years, but I was never, officially, a one man band.  

So tomorrow (actually, later this morning) I’m going to get a taste of the future.  (Or is it the past?  Or the present?  I get so confused lately as things in this business change so fast.)  A few days ago my news director asked if I’d like to cover the inauguration.  Now this was waaaaaay past the point of your standard have-a-hotel-room-and-sat-time-booked point.  I jumped with “yes” before I even knew the details.  Short version?  Ride up to DC on a bus with folks who want to witness history;  no hotel, no shower, not even a bag bigger than a ladies’ handbag.  Just me, multiple layers, a coat, (hopefully, God-willing, a steady supply of decent coffee) and a laptop.  I’ll Twitter and blog on the bus, and while I will have a solid, professional photographer with me, I’m bringing my old XL1S also.  

As much as I’ve criticized the cutbacks and convergence, I must admit I’m excited.  Not just your standard get to be there for the moment in history excitement, but the guerilla reporting excitement.  The “we don’t need no stinking credentials for edit space” excitement.  Down and dirty, figure it out as we go along.  

I’ll be Twittering and blogging throughout.  I hope to experiment with videoblog entries from the bus on our www.localnews.com

Washington Post Photo

Washington Post Photo

 

 

site.  I hope we can make this an ongoing conversation.  I only wish I was going into it on more than an hour’s sleep (and that’s if I get to sleep in the next ten minutes).

UPDATE:  tvnewser and webnewser report there will be other first time “guerilla” reporters on the Obama story:  ABC’s JuJu Chang’s “unwired” and ready to try a new way to report.  The story’s here.

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Filed under Local News 2.0

Superstarr Blog Love–Postie Style–from NYP’s Michael Starr

nypmasthead2Standupkid’s localtvnews gets a nice mention in today’s Starr Report column in the New York Post, and that’s real estate that a novice blogger like myself can just not afford to pay for:  “Site seeing: (they DO love their puns at the Post) Ex-Ch. 5 reporter Mark Joyella, who’s now at WPLG in Miami, has started a local news-centric Web site,” Starr reports–in the very same column where he has news on former WVTM/Birmingham colleague and friend Rene Syler (most recently on the CBS Early Show) has landed a hosting gig for a new show.

So thanks very much for the mention, Michael;  and congratulations, Rene!

DISCLOSURE:  I have done freelance reporting for the New York Post (most recently yesterday), and have on at least one occasion made chitchat with Michael in the Post break room.  Also, as he mentioned, I previously worked at Post-owner News Corp’s NYC station, WNYW.

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We’re All in This Together

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Whether traditional television stations recover from the advertising setbacks that have forced layoffs for tv newsers from coast to coast, or some of those stations instead decide to eliminate their newsrooms, and send even more good people out of work, I know this much: we’re in this together.

Since I started this blog all of a week ago tonight, I’ve been jokingly called a “harbinger of doom” for noting the names of the reporters, anchors and other tv newsers who’ve been directly affected by the cost-cutting that’s having such a dramatic impact on the work we do and love. Many of my friends are among those who’ve lost jobs through no fault of their own. When it came right down to it, talent wasn’t the deciding factor. It was money.

At the same time, I remain exceptionally hopeful about our business. I believe that there will always be a market for a person who can tell a story, either with a microphone and a pad, a camera, or, yes, both. I’m curious to know what local tv news will look like in just five years. I want to talk to the smart people and share their insights right here on this blog.

And I guess I’m not the only one. In 7 days, this out-of-nowhere blog got nearly 2,000 page views, and I heard from a lot of folks, some good friends, others just people with an interest in television news, and the news in their town most of all. I hope to make this site a resource, not just to talk about “doom,” but to brainstorm about what might be, for all of us, an exciting future, telling stories in ways we never imagined.

Thanks for reading the blog, and thanks for sharing your thoughts. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to read a Facebook message from Brendan Keefe, who wrote, “I had no idea this website was new! It’s great. Suddenly I’m the most informed guy in the newsroom when it comes to what’s happening in the business.”

Doesn’t get much better than that. Thanks, everybody. (Now I’ve really gotta bolt… “24” is on and I gotta watch me some Jack.

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