South Florida media blogger SFLTV has had plenty to write about in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale over the last year or so, from a potential Post-Newsweek eat-and-destroy operation involving NBC O&O WTVJ, to the standard SoFla anchors acting strangely. (See SFLTV for ongoing coverage)
Today, SFLTV put the latest this way in an emotional tweet: “WTVJ is dead.”
As the site quoted an unnamed WTVJ staffer about the day’s developments: “I hate today. Hate it, hate it, hate it.”
WTVJ, rich with a storied history of journalism dating to the earliest days of broadcast news, is not, technically dead. The onetime mighty Channel 4 became the not-quite-as-mighty Channel 6 in a misguided signal swap years ago, but the real destruction was more recent. The looming–and ultimately failed–effort by Post-Newsweek to buy WTVJ and create a major market ABC/NBC duopoly led to a mass exodus of talent. Many saw Ocean Drive-style neon writing on the wall, and decided to get out before they were fired when the new guys took over.
In the end, the deal collapsed. But WTVJ remained understaffed, fueled with a sense of uncertainty, and a melancholy for the end of a long run of big names doing big, real news. Suddenly, WTVJ seemed like any other station, or worse, like a really bad one.
Today, SFLTV reports, an anchor layoff involving longtime morning anchor Kelly Craig, news reporter-turned-sports anchor Andrea Brody, and reporter Joe Carter. The blog reports the station’s weekend morning news may be eliminated as well.
I’m not ready to throw an epitaph on the mighty TVJ calls. But it’s obvious to anyone who follows local news what happens to a strong station that is let to decay through lousy management, underfunding, and, in NBC’s case, a seeming lack of interest in being in the O&O business anymore.
The Miami market (where I’ve worked two tours at Post-Newsweek’s WPLG) had long been a destination market: a place where young reporters could land and learn to be fast, talented, and worthy of a trip up the market ladder: a market that made careers. It was also, and maybe more importantly, a market where those Miami-bred network newsers could come home to, sink some roots and do solid, serious reporting on issues ordinarily ignored by flashy, cotton-candy local news. A faded newspaper ad puts it best: once upon a time, WTVJ bragged about the longevity of its people: “Our 11 o’clock news team has lived here for years. So it’s only natural that they have a better idea of what’s going on.”
When did that idea get stale? Is Miami now nothing more than a stepping stone market?
The Who’s Who list of heavyweight reporters and anchors who rose to the top, then returned to Miami is long and filled with bold-faced names. Sadly, the trend seems to be coming to an end, and the sending of three more TVJ-ers to the loading dock to pick up their Emmys and plaques says it all.
Can anyone build a real career in any market anymore?