Tag Archives: NYC

Local Sports: Key Component of Staying Local and Relevant? Or First to Throw Overboard? (Both?)

Lets Go to the Videotape!

"Let's Go to the Videotape!"

Of all the things that have stayed with me about growing up watching local TV news, two things stand out: the evolution of WCBS/NY’s “2” logo over the years, and the time I got to sit in Warner Wolf’s chair on the Channel 2 News set.  As a kid in Connecticut watching New York news, I won’t ever forget Beutel and Grimsby and the Cool Hand Luke music;  I won’t forget Jim Jensen, Chuck or Sue.  But for some reason, it’s Warner Wolf who I think was the first true “character” that made watching the 6 o’clock news something I would actually talk about at school the next day, what with his trademark style and “let’s go to the videotape!”

Today, there aren’t many wise young sportscasters expecting to be Warner Wolf one day.  Sure, you don’t “go to the videotape” anymore, but more importantly, sports has become the go-to source for deep-sixing talent and freeing up cash at struggling stations from coast to coast. WCBS, Wolf’s old station and the one I watched as a kid, (Anybody remember “NewsBreaker Territory?”) recently fired its main sports anchor, Ducis Rogers, and the morning guy, John Discepolo.  Sports, struggling for air time, is down to one lone anchor/reporter.

New York still has Len Berman, but many markets may do away with local sports altogether. Managers claim there’s no need, since true sports fans get their info from ESPN, or regional sports nets.  As Stacey Brown writes in the Scranton Times-Tribune, “Nightly sports reporting and local news appear to be headed for a divorce.”  

WOLF/Scrantons FOX 56

WOLF/Scranton's FOX 56

“It is a shame you don’t see more local sports during the newscasts,” Jon Cadman told Brown.  Cadman’s GM at (ah, irony) WOLF-TV in Scranton.  He says costs are just too high, and something’s gotta give.  So forget about seeing your kid’s high school touchdown run on Channel 16.  Maybe it’ll make SportsCenter.

In my own newsroom yesterday, as the sports folk were busy writing scripts, producing their ever-shrinking six o’clock sportscast, I heard the bellowing boom of the Asst. News Director:  “Sports is dead!”  It happens a lot.  And as a newsguy, I get it–to a point.  When news breaks, you’d expect weather and sports to give.  But in this environment of cutbacks and layoffs, is killing sports altogether the next step?  And does that, in a sense, take away one more thing that sets local news apart?  

I’ve worked in some sports-crazy cities, especially in the South, and let me tell you, there’s hardly a bond as strong as that between sports fan and sports talent.  When they show up at the high school football game on a Friday night, that’s the kind of thing that earns viewer loyalty. (Remember the Friday night football shows where sportsteams would actually use the station helicopter to fly around to as many games as possible?  Bringing not only a camera to get the game on TV that night, but the chopper to fly the colors in front of a packed stadium:  “Wow, Channel 5 ROCKS!”)

But even in small town Scranton, sports is on life support.  And in big city, sports-crazed New York, calling it a sports “department” seems like a bit of a stretch.  Are we turning away viewers to save a few dollars?  Or do the viewers really not care anymore–have they truly moved on?

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Latest Layoffs: Anchor, Longtime Managers Out at WNYW/NY

 

NYs Fox 5:  Spinning in a Vortex of Constant Change

NY's Fox 5: Spinning in a Vortex of Constant Change

The departures at FOX flagship WNYW continue, with former weekend anchor Karen Hepp leaving the station last week, according to reliable New York Daily News reporter Richard Huff.  Hepp’s disappearance from the E. 67th Street studios follows that of entertainment reporter Toni Senecal, who declined an offer of a new contract in favor of a production deal elsewhere.

Behind the scenes, sources say the turnover Tuesday took the jobs of two top managers, Managing Editor Joe Farrington, and early news executive producer Mike Milhaven, both of whom had been with the station for several years.  No comment yet from FOX.

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Time Has Told… The Era of the One Person Crew Is Upon Us

Mitch Roberts/WKRN VJ and Anchor

Mitch Roberts/WKRN VJ and Anchor

It’s always educational to take a step back, turn around, and look at where we’ve been.  It helps to see where we’ve come from, and how we’ve gotten to this place.  In thinking about the spread of–call ’em what you will, one man bands, all-platform journalists, multimedia journalists, backpack journalists–single person crews, I looked back at the debut of the form, if you will.  The early reactions to the off-Broadway version of the show that’s now getting decidedly mixed reviews, but somehow selling lots and lots of tickets to news managers and corporate suits looking to find a way–any way–to cut costs and keep the profit in local news.

The first station group to go “VJ,” as they called it, was Young Broadcasting, which put cameras on reporters’ shoulders at WKRN/Nashville and KRON/San Francisco, copying a news-on-the-cheap model that had seen success elsewhere, notably at outfits like New York’s local cable newser, NY1.  Variety wrote about the “Crew Cut in News Biz” in 2005, quoting a WKRN anchor: “It’s like they took the rules here and hucked them out the window.”

Steve Schwaid/CBS Atlanta

Steve Schwaid/CBS Atlanta

A lot of rules have gone out that window, especially lately.  In addition to the expansion of one man banding to stations like WUSA/DC and WNBC/NYC, WGNX/Atlanta news director Steve Schwaid recently updated his Facebook profile to read:  “Steve is looking for one person bands – send dvds to me at CBS Atlanta.”  The whole stations, he says, won’t be going OPB;  he says “there will always need to be some working in teams and some can work by themselves…back to the future – we worked like this when I worked at whio in the late 70s.”

The mere suggestion of one person field crews drew fire on Facebook, with one person commenting on Schwaid’s profile page, “Nice BS-ing around the reality. One person does 2 times the work for less pay. That is the reality.”  Schwaid responded:  “hey, the reality is the business model as we know it is dramatically changing…so you can be working for the last company that made the buggy whips or looking ahead…I prefer looking ahead.”

Is KPIX Next?

Is KPIX Next?

And he’s clearly not the only one looking ahead and seeing lots more reporters with cameras on their shoulders (or photographers reporting, however you want to look at it).  Word is KPIX/San Francisco is bringing the one person crew into the mix, and some say it will soon show at NBC O&O’s like WRC/DC, and WMAQ/Chicago as they undergo the “Content Center” transformation.  (So, in DC, you’d have a Content Center competing against an Information Center?)

Is there any way to argue now that this isn’t happening and won’t keep spreading?  Did naysayers suggest the three-person crew would never end?  (before my time)  And what, pray tell, is the union strategy in all of this?

As the Nashville anchor said waaaaaaay back in ’05 (remember the good old days, when we didn’t fear for our jobs every minute of every day?), the rules, they’re getting “hucked” out the window.

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LATEST LAYOFFS: WCBS/NY Cuts Rodgers, Discepolo

Ducis Rodgers/WCBS Photo

Ducis Rodgers/WCBS Photo

NY Daily News TV writer Richard Huff quotes a source at WCBS/NY this morning, saying Channel 2 has pink slipped sports director Ducis Rodgers and morning sports anchor John Discepolo, leaving the CBS O&O with a sports team of precisely one: Sam Ryan. Huff says station officials refused comment, but Huff’s source credited the cuts to “cost cutting.”

The layoffs (Rodgers’ last day is reportedly Thursday, with Discepolo ending his Channel 2 run on Friday) come just days after Huff’s column
 arguing that local tv sports itself is an endangered species.

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WNBC Set to Unveil “Hyperlocal” 24 Hour (News?) Channel… One of These Days

NBC New York

WNBC/NY’s “Content Center” debuted to splashy graphics, low ceilings and low ratings, and the NBC 2.0 plans still call for some kind of 24 hour cable channel to be dubbed “NBC NY.”  What the “content” of that channel will be–well that, like the launch date, seems to be a closely guarded secret.  Or something.

The New York Post’s intrepid “Starr” Reporter Michael Starr tried to get someone at WNBC to agree to an interview, but had no luck.  In a story in the Post today, Starr quotes NYC news insiders who say what many believe:  “They’re doing it as cheaply as possible.” 

And the folks at Chelsea Market continue to sleep well at night:  “I don’t think they’re going to give NY1 a run for its money,” Starr quotes a local tv newser, talking about New York’s original 24 hour local cable news operation.  Many–including execs at Time Warner’s NY1–expect NBC’s effort will focus a lot less on news, and a lot more on entertainment:  “It makes sense for WNBC to focus on lifestyles rather than to compete with us,” said NY1 regional VP/GM Steve Paulus.  “We feel that NY1 has become the place New Yorkers turn to for hard news.”

As New York’s O&O’s cut costs, offload experienced talent and focus on fluff, NY1’s motto “the only local news worth watching,” seems a lot less like a marketing concept than it did years ago.

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