Tag Archives: KNBC

Ron Burgundy’s Memo to Chuck Scarborough: “Stay Classy, and Go Home.”

The Man, the Myth, the Legend:  San Diegos Ron Burgundy

The Man, the Myth, the Legend: San Diego's Ron Burgundy

Ron Burgundy has a message for mega-anchors like WNBC’s living legend Chuck Scarborough:  “fly off into the sunset while there’s still a dash of news left.”

Okay.  The quote’s not technically from Burgundy himself (admittedly, a fictional character and all) but from the closest thing we have to Burgundy this side of Will Ferrell, “Anchorman:  The Legend of Ron Burgundy” co-writer Adam McKay, who writes in today’s New York Post that the day of the big time local news anchor is officially over.  “So farewell perfectly parted ones,” McKay writes.  “Adieu teleprompter readers.”

McKay’s op-ed comes on the heels of a rough week for high-salaried, deep rooted local newsers, like Paul Moyer in LA and Len Berman in NYC.  Both announcing unexpected departures from NBC O&O’s, and raising questions about the network’s continued investment in superstar anchors like New York’s Chuck Scarborough.

When Anchors Ruled the World:  WABC's Grimsby and Beutel

When Anchors Ruled the World: WABC's Monster Duo: Roger Grimsby and Bill Beutel

As McKay writes, “Their avuncular baritone voices reassured us in times of crisis and made us laugh when there was a frog leaping contest or a cat who had befriended a pig.  But slowly their days are coming to an end.”

McKay has a pretty good grasp on the changing local news landscape, noting that “gone are the days of only three networks, the days when these men were gods.”  And sure enough, he’s right.  I realized earlier this week that I may have been clouded by my own emotions–rooted in the local news of my childhood, with three stations doing news and big, oversized anchors chuckling and clearly ruling the Earth–when I wrote that it would be nuts for NBC to get rid of Chuck.

The movie man may have a better grasp on my biz than I do:  “Let’s face it,” McKay says.  “Local news has always been pretty sugary, but these days it looks like the National Enquirer and the Weekly  World News had a baby and taught it to only speak drug shootings and Madonna affairs.  It’s orange, loud, dumb and absolutely devoid of any news whatsoever outside of the occasional baby food recall or toxic spill.  I’m convinced their entire audience consists of people looking to see if they got on TV while waving their hands behind a reporter in the field.”

Ouch. 

Detroits One and Only Bill Bonds

Detroit's One and Only Bill Bonds

I’m tempted to defend my dear local news, with an impassioned argument of the irreplaceable role of local newsers in informing communities in the face of dangerous weather and in the aftermath of horrible tragedies.  But the impulse passes quickly.

McKay offers this to the goliaths who still toil in TV:  plan your exit, and plan it now, while you still can.  “What does a retired anchorman do?  He can yell at the neighborhood kids not to play in his yard in a pitch-perfect non-geographically specific voice.  He can watch the local anchor in Clearwater, Florida, and mumble ‘punk kid’ to himself.  Or he can host a PBS news show and bask in the joy of no producer handing him copy about a dog trapped in a drainage ditch.”

Too bad PBS isn’t hiring.

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The Inescapable Truth: NBC’s Secret Evil Plan to Destroy Local News as We Know It

NBC:  Out to Destroy the Local News

NBC: Out to Destroy the Local News


Who knows?  We may look back on this era and think, “Man, NBC was so far ahead of the curve!” They knew the model of local news many of us grew up with:  the big, well-paid anchors, the choppers, the liveshots, the stable of seasoned reporters–those were all, you know, expendable. In the future, the local news would come from content centers:  awkward, low-ceilinged newsrooms where recent college graduates would produce quick and dirty stories that air in endless repetition on digital cable channels somewhere between monster truck shows and classic movies. Oh!  And you can also get the stuff (sorry–the “content”) on your phone.

Well anyway, this Secret Evil Plan to dominate the next evolution of local news is well underway at NBC.  That conclusion is now inescapable.  A few cases in point from the past few days:  the departure of Paul Moyer in Los Angeles, and NBC’s enraged response to WHDH/Boston’s decision to ditch Jay Leno in favor of an hour of local news at 10 p.m.

KNBC's Paul Moyer: An Unexpected "Retirement"


First, LA.  Earlier this week, I wrote about the splashy yet debatable Defamer report that NBC had plans to kill off two of its golden geese:  Moyer at KNBC and Chuck Scarborough at WNBC/NY. Showing my bias as a kid who grew up watching local news in New York, I largely dismissed the idea as almost-too-stupid-even-for-NBC. The next day, Moyer announced his “retirement.”  As the LA Times reported, “Moyer, whose last day has yet to be determined, would not comment on the reasons behind his unexpected announcement.”

The reason is this:  NBC is over big money anchors and believes young and nameless (and by definition easily replaceable) is the way of the future.  And now, more than ever, I wonder how long Chuck and Sue will sit at the desk in New York.  Sources this week confirmed what I had only jokingly suggested:  that yes, NBC has had “brainstorming sessions” that have focused on a WNBC without its longtime anchor.  If your goal is translating local news to an ever younger demographic, the thinking goes, why stay tied to a guy who, you know, is only getting older?

Jay Leno, Key Component of NBCs Secret Evil Plan

Jay Leno, Key Component of NBC's Secret Evil Plan


And then there’s Boston.  A key component of NBC’s Secret Evil Plan is the move of Jay Leno to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, bringing his sleep-inducing show from its position AFTER the local news, and putting it on as a LEAD-IN to local news.  Once upon a time, NBC produced excellence in the 10 o’clock hour:  dramas that were so good, the network and its local stations worked together to seamlessly move from the last frame of the drama right into the first tease of the local newscast, so as not to lose a single eyeball.  It was designed to deliver a profitable payoff for stations, especially NBC’s O&Os.

Now comes Leno.  An hour.  Every weeknight.  Imagine how tired you’ll be by the time 10:58 rolls around.  Ed Ansin, no stranger to maximizing an audience at ten o’clock, decided he’d be better off in Boston doing an hour of news.  As Ansin told the Boston Globe, “We feel we have a real opportunity with running the news at 10 p.m. We don’t think the Leno show is going to be effective in prime time,” Ansin said yesterday. “It will be detrimental to our 11 o’clock [newscast]. It will be very adverse to our finances.”

Even more interesting than Ed Ansin’s pushback against NBC (and do you think he’ll be the only one?) is the enraged response from the network:  “WHDH’s move is a flagrant violation of the terms of their contract with NBC,” John Eck, president of NBC Television Network, told the Globe. “If they persist, we will strip WHDH of its NBC affiliation. We have a number of other strong options in the Boston market, including using our existing broadcast license to launch an NBC-owned and operated station.”

So much to dissect in that statement.  But let’s go with the craziest first.  NBC would invest in starting its own station in Boston?  Over Leno?  The network’s been trying for months to offload some of the best local stations in the country, with no luck.  Clearly, NBC thinks owning stations is a losing proposition.  A year ago, LostRemote reported on a revealing NBC memo:  “We’re in the process of re-engineering the way we think, shifting our focus from a traditional stations business to becoming full-service local-media-production centers,” NBC Local Media president John Wallace said in an internal memo obtained by Broadcasting & Cable.

WHDH/Boston:  Ed Ansin Wants 7 News, Not Leno

WHDH/Boston: Ed Ansin Wants 7 News, Not Leno


So it’s really not about having a station in Boston.  It’s about destroying local news as we know it. And damn Ed Ansin if he still believes in local news as a profit center!  Not only that, but how rude of WHDH!  Leno grew up in Andover, Mass!  You’re basically stabbing a local boy in the back in the name of a few bucks!

Oh wait.  That’s what NBC does every day.  Never mind.

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WNBC Without Chuck Scarborough? NBC Couldn’t Possibly Be That Stupid. Right? Um… right?

Chuck (and Sue)... Somehow Making it Feel Like Nothings Changed

Chuck (and Sue)... Somehow Making it Feel Like Nothing's Changed

At first read, the dramatic Gawker headline was downright laughable: “NBC News to Axe Chuck Scarborough and Paul Moyer?” Uh… Sure. Just go ahead and kill the last shred of respectability at WNBC in the name of saving Chuck’s reported three million beans a year.  The very idea that “content center” suits would make such an astonishingly stupid move seemed simply beyond the realm of believability.

Right?  I mean, we’re talking NBC here.

Oh, no.

For the record, WNBC shot down the Gawker post this way:  “It is not true. He is not being bought out. Chuck is a big part of our station.”  And he is.  He IS the station.  Watching WNBC on a recent JetBlue flight, I thought to myself, my God, without Chuck this would be absolutely unwatchable.  Suave Chuck with his unflappable delivery and that oh so familiar, comforting voice somehow performs magic every day for Channel 4:  he makes it seem like the same old WNBC.  

Take Chuck out of the equation and what’s left?  

Could NBC even float that in the wildest of brainstorming sessions?  

And then I realized sure they could.  Of course they could.  Why wouldn’t they?  

This is the same station that, in the name of cost-cutting and creating a new kind of multiplatform content delivery machine killed off just about every name reporter they had;  it was like the Yankees, in a fit of cost-cutting to pay for their new stadium, had gone into the dugout and started firing their best players…suddenly fielding a team of up-from-the-minors nobodys.  The Yankees hoping to fill seats on the familiar name, the pinstripes, and Derek Jeter.  And yet that’s been the blueprint at WNBC.  

Kill Off the Captain? Fire the Franchise? Seriously?

But fire Jeter?  Chuck is Derek Jeter at WNBC.  Gawker reports:  “It used to be that, in local news at least, the anchor meant everything and was worth outsize salaries some of them have commanded in major markets. If Scarborough and Moyer, both of whom are giants in the business, get axed, it means that ‘NBC is essentially getting out of the local news business,’ one NBC source says.”

If only the managers at NBC were as reliable and focused on truly fielding a winning team as the Yankees. Because you know there’s really no chance anybody’s been brainstorming about saving a few bucks by offloading Derek Jeter.  But then again, the Yankees still perform.  They still sell out at home. And, most important, they have money.  

Lots and lots of money.

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The Tempting Candy Even the Good Kid Couldn’t Resist, and the Respectable Newscast Gone Bad

It’s like the dessert platter at a dinner party. Some dive right in, taking not just one, but two. They eat ’em up with obvious delight. Others ponder, thinking about it, weighing the caloric impact, then methodically decide, “sure, just this once.” Others stand on their laurels and resist, thinking instead about the body they’ve sculpted through hard work, and the reputation they’ve built of skipping the sweets in favor of healthier fare. Until, one night, even they decide THAT platter? That platter’s just too damn delicious to pass up. And they dive in with both fists.

So it was for KNBC/LA Monday night, and the tempting fare was an LA local news tradition, as much as cotton candy and funnel cake at the fair: a car chase. Pure spun sugar, of course, and some stations couldn’t care less. They love feeding it to their viewers for the sugar high and temporarily pumped numbers. Others, like KNBC, have tried to be more cerebral about the absolute lack of substance to such stories, and worse, their ability to turn off viewers in search of calorie-rich news. You know, like important stuff that actually means something.

Can Any TV Producer Resist a Chase?

LA Newsers Love the Chase

But this chase. Oh, this one was soooo tempting. Every station in town jumped on it, choppers out in force.  As Variety’s Michael Schneider writes, “With visions of O.J. Simpson dancing in their eyes, the stations almost giddily hinted that the driver was a “significant figure” who had recently battered his galpal.”

“R&B artist Chris Brown had just been accused the night before of allegedly beating his girlfriend, the singer Rihanna. Mix in a pop culture stereotype – urban singers and rappers love to drive Bentleys – and, well, it was enough for stations to scrap their late night newscasts and go wall-to-wall with chase coverage,” said Schneider in today’s daily Variety.

And KNBC gave in–big time. Out went the entire 11 p.m. newscast in favor of this chase. Basically, they tossed the steamed veggies and grilled fish and jumped right to dessert, which they gorged on for the full half hour. “”On rare occasions we’ll make them a part of regular newscasts if it seems to rise to the level of legitimate news,” KNBC news director Bob Long, a car chase critic, told Variety. “This one smelled like it might. We got some information that turned out to be incorrect, that a person of some prominence was involved.”

It wasn’t Chris Brown. It was a mistake–and Long, like the kid who ate too much cotton candy, admitted such as he rolled around with a stomach ache in the back seat of the car, telling the LA Times, “”It was a wasted newscast, and I feel terrible about that,” he said. “It irritates my serious news watchers. I got a lot of unpleasant mail today, and I answered everybody to explain my thinking.”

Then, as Schneider deftly points out, there’s the even more profound impact: local stations, struggling to attract advertising in the midst of the worst slump in industry history, blew out half an hour’s worth of spots–ads they’ll have to make up, while the sales force works to convince tight-fisted retailers that, yes, KNBC still stands for news. Forget the other night.

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LA Says “Thanks for Having Us In” to Chatman

After 35 years at KNBC/LA, weekend anchor Furnell Chatman announced in a newsroom email, “I have decided to trade my weekend anchor chair and my weekday reporter’s microphone for a seat along the Louisiana bayou and a mint julep.”

LA Observed has reaction from KNBC News VP Bob Long:  “It’s very much like Chat to act quickly after private reflection.”

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