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.”
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.
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.
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.”