“I do not want to retire,” Len Berman told Richard Huff at The New York Daily News. But after 20 years as main sports anchor at WNBC, Berman’s getting the boot, the latest goliath to fall at a station that was once known far and wide for having assembled a stellar collection of New York journalists, many of them, like Berman, a nationally-known name with his appearances on Letterman and his “Spanning the World” segment. But hey, there’s that nasty downside to being a “name.” You know, that oversized salary.
So Berman’s gone. Not because WNBC’s eliminating sports, as some other cash-strapped and struggling local stations are doing. This is all about the money. WNBC news director Vickie Burns writing in a newsroom memo: “Going forward, we remain committed to our local sports franchise and will announce new plans for our coverage soon.” You gotta love those “we’ll figure out the rest soon memos. It basically tells you the key thing was getting rid of a superstar and his salary. How they’ll fill the big man’s shoes? Eh. We’ll figure it out. The key thing is we just knocked off a legend and saved a TON of cash. You can almost imagine the relieved high-fiving going on among the suits. That wasn’t so hard! Maybe we should ditch Sue next?
On the Daily News website this morning, they’ve got a poll: “Are you sad to see Len Berman go?” The overwhelming answer: “Yes. He’s a New York City icon,” with 84%. You’d like to think this was a not all that funny April Fool’s joke from Channel 4. And then you remember. It’s NBC. No sense of humor. No sense of history.