Tag Archives: denver

If They Can Kill the Rocky, What Makes You Think Your TV Station’s Going to Survive?

The Rocky's Newsroom Gets the News:  It's Over

The Rocky's Newsroom Gets the News: It's Over


We have these “truths” we seem to hold so damn self-evident in local news, the whole “they can’t live without us” stuff that the smartest tv newsers still cling to like baby blankets.  The problem is, these fundamental truths don’t really hold up under close examination, and with every passing day, there’s more and more evidence that what we do is not the “given” we have so long believed it to be.  Remember once, it was a “given” that a lower channel number was better than a higher one, and UHF?  Oh my God.  UHF.  The other day I mentioned the concept of UHF and got a blank stare from an intern at a top university.  They don’t teach it, because it’s irrelevant.  Not only is channel number irrelevant, as local stations go digital, the channel number we may be clinging to won’t even be the right number anymore.
The Rockys New Years Edition, 1900

The Rocky's New Year's Edition, 1900


It’s a new ballgame.  And it’s a game we can lose.  I crack up reading these determined posts on tv sites, where newsers debate the future ownership of certain stations.  Inevitably, someone will chime in that one of the networks is “dying” to buy this or that station.  Really?  Are networks buying stations, or looking for a way to get out of the local affiliate model altogether?  What are the odds your market will continue to support three, four, five or more local tv newsrooms over the next five years?  I hate to bring up the comparison, but without a new model and some innovation away from the news at 6, and 11 and “innovations” like weekend morning news and “webcasts,” we may be looking a lot more like newspapers than any of us would care to admit.

Print had a multi-paper heyday.  Now many cities are one-paper towns, and some have no paper at all.  Tomorrow, the Rocky Mountain News will hit the streets of Denver for the last time, shutting down after 150 years.  Don’t even start to say that can’t happen to your might fifty years of history at Channel 6.

WTVJ/Miami: Florida History Dating to 1949


In Miami, NBC’s WTVJ was as good as gone, offloaded by NBC to Post-Newsweek to be rolled into an ABC-NBC duopoly that many (especially in the TVJ newsroom) feared would mean, essentially, eliminating their newsroom and running WPLG’s product on two channels, with one staff, under one roof.  (The TVJ call letters, channel assignment and peacock making the move;  the majority of the news talent and support staff becoming the cost savings) The deal died, not for the concept, but for the banks.  The loans that underpinned the purchase faded with the rest of the economy, and, for the time being, WTVJ, with its decades of South Florida history, lives on.  But it was a close call that should open eyes.  If a set of call letters like WTVJ can very nearly die off as a true, living, breathing, competitive newsroom in a big city, it can happen anywhere.

In Denver, Rich Boehne, CEO of Rocky owner E. W. Scripps Company, put it bluntly to the paper’s people: “Denver can’t support two newspapers any longer,” according to an account of the meeting published on the Rocky’s website, which noted that some staffers cried at the news of the paper’s death.  “People are in grief,” said Editor John Temple.

On Saturday, Denver will become a one newspaper town, with the Denver Post the last man standing in an old west print duel that has waged since the 1920s.

Why not TV?  Over at LostRemote, Cory Bergman blames that old “wall” for a “fatal disconnect” between us local tv newsers and the folks upstairs who get the Pontiac guy to buy spots.  You know, when “they” get us some ads, we’ll be fine: “The problem,” Bergman blogs, “journalists wash their hands of the business side of the equation. That’s the business guys’ problem, said one newspaper journalist. But it’s not. It’s everyone’s problem.”  His solution? Work together to create a product that people might want to buy–or watch.  “By splitting journalism and business into two buckets separated by a longstanding cultural divide, the two groups fail to collaborate on ideas that tap the strengths of both. And neither have a track record of understanding how technology enables community, the greatest opportunity of all.”

Can the TVJ Legacy Be Saved?

Can the TVJ Legacy Be Saved?


Bergman believes–as I do–that finding a model beyond 5, 6, and 11, beyond the exciting addition of weekend morning news and email alerts (sent right to your mobile phone when weather threatens!) means recrafting the whole damn thing, which is something newspapers didn’t do very well, and tv’s not so hot at, either. (Look at the raging success of the DTV transition.)  Bergman boils it down to putting the “business” back in the news business:  “local journalists are losing their jobs, often blaming the business guys. But along with upper management, they’re all to blame for failing to collaborate. For failing to understand their users and advertisers’ evolving needs. Not OUR needs. But our CUSTOMERS needs.”

What do you think?  Will your station be doing news in five years?  Who will you be working for ten years from now?  How long can we count on viewers showing up for appointment newscast viewing–and getting advertisers to pay for the privilege of buying time on those newscasts?

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve worked at for E.W. Scripps, and Post-Newsweek, and know many of the people who would’ve been directly affected in the Miami duopoly, both the managers at WPLG who without a doubt would have created something unique and very likely profitable–and the journalists at WTVJ, who I consider good people and would have hated to see any of them lose their jobs]

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It’s the End of the World as We Know It (Feel Fine Yet?)

Denvers Mighty KUSA No Longer Flies as High

Denver's Mighty KUSA No Longer Flies as High

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.”

Experienced, Talented, Laid Off

Bob Kendrick: Experienced, Talented, Laid Off

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.

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Add Denver to the List of Local Markets Grounding Choppers

KMGHs Bird

KMGH's Bird

Two of Denver’s local stations, KUSA and KMGH have announced a helicopter “sharing” agreement, that will essentially ground of one of the station’s pricey birds. Byron Grandy, GM at KMGH, and Mark Cornetta, GM at KUSA, told the Rocky Mountain News this morning “the stations will share a helicopter and videographers, while continuing to maintain strict separation of each station’s decisions and reporter assignments.”

The move follows similar air wars cease-fires in Dallas and Chicago. “Obviously, there is an economic benefit to flying one helicopter and it’s not unlike sharing pool footage of a political event. Our news departments will each maintain their complete independence, while sharing the use of our most effective newsgathering tool,” Cornetta told the Rocky.

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LATEST LAYOFFS: KUSA/Denver Cuts Nick Carter: “It Was My Turn”

Gannett’s top-rated KUSA/Denver continues its cost-cutting ways, laying off 24-year veteran meteorologist Nick Carter, effective Friday. Penny Parker at the Rocky Mountain News reports Carter got the news back in October and has had time to look for work, but the job market is, to put it mildly, terrible. “On one hand, it’s kind of scary, but on the other hand there’s always new opportunity,” Carter told the Rocky. “Obviously, the (TV) industry is going through tough times and has had to reduce staff in many cases, it just made sense that it was my turn.”

Carter’s departure follows the release of top anchor Bob Kendrick, who was main anchor at 9News, but whose contract was not renewed after the November book. KUSA News Director Patti Dennis told the Rocky’s Parker, “The difficult changes in the media industry are hard on everyone, and these contract discussion are never easy.”

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