Tag Archives: wusa

Lost in the Layoffs: The Non-Reporters, Non-Anchors Who Don’t Make the Paper

Sony_MVS-8000a_lgI can’t operate a switcher to save my life.  In fact, in all the years I’ve been in and around control rooms, they’ve never failed to give me the creeps (the low light and monitors, glowing buttons and standys and takes and, of course, all that shouting) I’ve always been far more comfortable out in the middle of a hurricane or elbowing my way into the pack to get my mic in front of some indicted public official.

But the honest truth is this:  if I lose my job, odds are it’ll get mentioned in the newspaper (I treasure my New York Daily News headline:  No More Joyella in Mudville upon my departure from WNYW).

But lay off the entire control room, and not only will the newscasts look darn bumpy that night (you can just forget that quad box and custom wipe you were hoping for), but the people who lose their jobs will almost certainly not be mentioned in the next day’s paper.

Unless, of course, it’s “15 laid off at Channel 6–but fear not, it’s nobody you know…the wacky weatherman’s safe, the salty and avuncular anchor’s hanging on for another day, and that cute morning traffic girl will be back in the morning in that news-director-ordered tight sweater. The layoffs?  Just some, you know, behind the scenes people.”

Very rarely does the firing of a longtime but unseen employee merit mention in a newspaper by name.  It happened recently when Alan Henney, a weekend assignment manager at WUSA/DC put himself on “permanent furlough” and left the station with a blistering memo that suggested that the station’s longstanding tradition as a home of serious journalism was in danger, if not dead already.

It happened again when KARE/Minneapolis parted ways with a behind-the-scenes player considered the “heart and soul” of the KARE newsroom, Senior Executive Producer Lonnie Hartley.  His layoff was made newsworthy when the entire newsroom, led by talent with connections to print writers, voiced their outrage.

For most, though, it’s pink slip, then silence.  You walk out the door you’ve been reporting to for decades, and as far as viewers know, nothing’s even happened.  I know it’s part of the downward spiral stations across the country are in.  Only the lean have a shot at surviving.  Got it.  And yet, there’s something about all the pity pouring out for the poor dethroned anchors and reporters, who, after all, have their name to fall back on.

On this blog, the most popular comments continue–even months after the fact–to involve a laid off weatherman in Denver, and fired reporter/anchors in Washington, DC and Tampa.

DeDapper Media CEO (and ex WNBC reporter) Jay DeDapper

DeDapper Media CEO (and ex WNBC reporter) Jay DeDapper

This week the New York Daily News reported that former WNBC reporter Jay DeDapper’s started his own production company, DeDapper Media.  I applaud Jay and wish him well.  I’ve done the same thing myself, and I’d be the first to admit that having any kind of “name” is one card to play when you’re up against it.  “The jobs, they’re not just disappearing and they’ll be coming back; they’re disappearing permanently,” DeDapper told the Daily News’ Richard Huff. “There will be very few places in journalism on television for good people.”

The advantage to having a name, is being able to use it to find the next thing.  “The idea is, basically for 20-some-odd years, what I’ve done more than anything else is tell stories for a living,” he told the News. DeDapper has contacts and he’s a known entity.  And when a guy like Jay DeDapper decides on a new path, that itself becomes worthy of a news article, which never hurts when you hang out a shingle and start looking for business.

The laid off TD isn’t so lucky.  Brilliant in those dimly-lit control rooms, working magic on a Sony MVS 8000 (“I can give you eight boxes, but we don’t have eight live sources”) but separated from the control room, then what?  No newspaper mention, and no clear next step.  No, they’re not storytellers like reporters, who can find other ways of assembling information and telling stories, whether its for a production company, a PR firm, or as a TV pitchman.  Had there not been an injustice of Epic Proportions, I’d be playing the role of a TV type on the new season of HBO’s True Blood (I’m not bitter, mind you, just disappointed.  I don’t carry a grudge).

So how does the live truck op, the satellite engineer, the camera operator or the TD sit down, stare at their resume (which shows a clear flow from college to today that screams “I’m damn good at what I do!”) and think, this only gets me the job I just lost?

30shift2_190

Rebecca Zucker

Rebecca Zucker

Rebecca Zucker is a San Francisco based executive coach and partner at Next Step Partners, a firm that specializes in guiding clients through career transitions.  She says in the current business climate, about a third of the firm’s business involves helping clients answer that question, “now what?”

“Formulate a hypothesis,” she says.  “Even a crazy daydream.”  What was it you wanted to do before you ended up in local news?  Actor?  Pastry chef?  Try and remember.  Zucker asks her clients to think back to the peak experiences–outside of work–in their lives.  “A time when you felt like you were thriving, alive, confident, competent and at the top of your game,” she said.  The exercise involves looking at those times and figuring out what made them so special.  Was it intellectual or artistic challenge?  Was it cooperation or collaboration?  Whatever it was, these are the keys to your own personal satisfaction, and knowing what they are will help you figure out what kind of work will make you happy.  “The reasons (those experiences) felt so great were because you were completely expressing your own values,” said Zucker.

Zucker urges clients to read Herminia Ibarra’s book, Working Identity, which offers tips for mid-career professionals on reinventing themselves–and enjoying the result.  Key piece of beginner’s advice?  “Don’t try to analyze or plan your way into a new career,” write Ibarra.  (Take that you over-analytical technical directors and producers!)

Zucker suggests trying out new ideas, even a bunch of new ideas.  If you think it could be pastry chef, figure out who you can invite to lunch for an informational interview.  Does it feel natural?  Could you see yourself doing that kind of work?  Attend a conference or a class.  Small steps.  “They’ll find out which doors they want to shut, and where they want to dive deeper,” says Zucker.

Oh.  And here’s a big one:  don’t obsess about what others are telling you.  What would you do for a living if your friends, former co-workers, spouse, and family didn’t get a vote?

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Filed under layoffs

Lost in the Layoffs: The Non-Reporters, Non-Anchors Who Don't Make the Paper

Sony_MVS-8000a_lgI can’t operate a switcher to save my life.  In fact, in all the years I’ve been in and around control rooms, they’ve never failed to give me the creeps (the low light and monitors, glowing buttons and standys and takes and, of course, all that shouting) I’ve always been far more comfortable out in the middle of a hurricane or elbowing my way into the pack to get my mic in front of some indicted public official.

But the honest truth is this:  if I lose my job, odds are it’ll get mentioned in the newspaper (I treasure my New York Daily News headline:  No More Joyella in Mudville upon my departure from WNYW).

But lay off the entire control room, and not only will the newscasts look darn bumpy that night (you can just forget that quad box and custom wipe you were hoping for), but the people who lose their jobs will almost certainly not be mentioned in the next day’s paper.

Unless, of course, it’s “15 laid off at Channel 6–but fear not, it’s nobody you know…the wacky weatherman’s safe, the salty and avuncular anchor’s hanging on for another day, and that cute morning traffic girl will be back in the morning in that news-director-ordered tight sweater. The layoffs?  Just some, you know, behind the scenes people.”

Very rarely does the firing of a longtime but unseen employee merit mention in a newspaper by name.  It happened recently when Alan Henney, a weekend assignment manager at WUSA/DC put himself on “permanent furlough” and left the station with a blistering memo that suggested that the station’s longstanding tradition as a home of serious journalism was in danger, if not dead already.

It happened again when KARE/Minneapolis parted ways with a behind-the-scenes player considered the “heart and soul” of the KARE newsroom, Senior Executive Producer Lonnie Hartley.  His layoff was made newsworthy when the entire newsroom, led by talent with connections to print writers, voiced their outrage.

For most, though, it’s pink slip, then silence.  You walk out the door you’ve been reporting to for decades, and as far as viewers know, nothing’s even happened.  I know it’s part of the downward spiral stations across the country are in.  Only the lean have a shot at surviving.  Got it.  And yet, there’s something about all the pity pouring out for the poor dethroned anchors and reporters, who, after all, have their name to fall back on.

On this blog, the most popular comments continue–even months after the fact–to involve a laid off weatherman in Denver, and fired reporter/anchors in Washington, DC and Tampa.

DeDapper Media CEO (and ex WNBC reporter) Jay DeDapper

DeDapper Media CEO (and ex WNBC reporter) Jay DeDapper

This week the New York Daily News reported that former WNBC reporter Jay DeDapper’s started his own production company, DeDapper Media.  I applaud Jay and wish him well.  I’ve done the same thing myself, and I’d be the first to admit that having any kind of “name” is one card to play when you’re up against it.  “The jobs, they’re not just disappearing and they’ll be coming back; they’re disappearing permanently,” DeDapper told the Daily News’ Richard Huff. “There will be very few places in journalism on television for good people.”

The advantage to having a name, is being able to use it to find the next thing.  “The idea is, basically for 20-some-odd years, what I’ve done more than anything else is tell stories for a living,” he told the News. DeDapper has contacts and he’s a known entity.  And when a guy like Jay DeDapper decides on a new path, that itself becomes worthy of a news article, which never hurts when you hang out a shingle and start looking for business.

The laid off TD isn’t so lucky.  Brilliant in those dimly-lit control rooms, working magic on a Sony MVS 8000 (“I can give you eight boxes, but we don’t have eight live sources”) but separated from the control room, then what?  No newspaper mention, and no clear next step.  No, they’re not storytellers like reporters, who can find other ways of assembling information and telling stories, whether its for a production company, a PR firm, or as a TV pitchman.  Had there not been an injustice of Epic Proportions, I’d be playing the role of a TV type on the new season of HBO’s True Blood (I’m not bitter, mind you, just disappointed.  I don’t carry a grudge).

So how does the live truck op, the satellite engineer, the camera operator or the TD sit down, stare at their resume (which shows a clear flow from college to today that screams “I’m damn good at what I do!”) and think, this only gets me the job I just lost?

30shift2_190

Rebecca Zucker

Rebecca Zucker

Rebecca Zucker is a San Francisco based executive coach and partner at Next Step Partners, a firm that specializes in guiding clients through career transitions.  She says in the current business climate, about a third of the firm’s business involves helping clients answer that question, “now what?”

“Formulate a hypothesis,” she says.  “Even a crazy daydream.”  What was it you wanted to do before you ended up in local news?  Actor?  Pastry chef?  Try and remember.  Zucker asks her clients to think back to the peak experiences–outside of work–in their lives.  “A time when you felt like you were thriving, alive, confident, competent and at the top of your game,” she said.  The exercise involves looking at those times and figuring out what made them so special.  Was it intellectual or artistic challenge?  Was it cooperation or collaboration?  Whatever it was, these are the keys to your own personal satisfaction, and knowing what they are will help you figure out what kind of work will make you happy.  “The reasons (those experiences) felt so great were because you were completely expressing your own values,” said Zucker.

Zucker urges clients to read Herminia Ibarra’s book, Working Identity, which offers tips for mid-career professionals on reinventing themselves–and enjoying the result.  Key piece of beginner’s advice?  “Don’t try to analyze or plan your way into a new career,” write Ibarra.  (Take that you over-analytical technical directors and producers!)

Zucker suggests trying out new ideas, even a bunch of new ideas.  If you think it could be pastry chef, figure out who you can invite to lunch for an informational interview.  Does it feel natural?  Could you see yourself doing that kind of work?  Attend a conference or a class.  Small steps.  “They’ll find out which doors they want to shut, and where they want to dive deeper,” says Zucker.

Oh.  And here’s a big one:  don’t obsess about what others are telling you.  What would you do for a living if your friends, former co-workers, spouse, and family didn’t get a vote?

2 Comments

Filed under layoffs

WUSA/DC Local Newser Puts Himself on “Permanent Furlough” via Blistering Resignation Letter

Alan Henney said what others clearly felt:  something’s changed–and not for the better–at WUSA/DC.  “We are doing less news gathering these days and more information posting,” Henney writes in a memo to the WUSA news staff posted on DCRTV.  “Somebody needs to be driving the news machine at all times, actively pursuing news leads. We’ve lost our focus.”

WUSA, as most who follow the evolution of local TV news already know, recently replaced traditional news crews with one-man-bands, and converted its newsroom into an “information center” devoted to fast-paced, multiplatform news production:  getting the story told fast, in a variety of ways, from Twitter, to blogging, and sometimes even on a regular old newscast.

Henney, a weekend assignment editor at Channel 9, says the “shock and awe” digital campaign has come at a cost in the most basic of places:  doing the news.  “WUSA frequently lacks the discussion that is vital to the success of a vibrant news operation and falls into this model. Many of us are reluctant to say anything, and the suggestion box on the first floor is not enough. The consultants and out-of-touch corporate management have ruined the newscasts with repetitive Web clutter, endless sidebar packages, and their preoccupation with the Internet. You won’t find a blog anywhere that will generate enough revenue to support a news operation of this size, there are simply too many. We’ve heard regular speak of “Web Winners,” but what ever happened to the “News Winners?” A dying breed?”

Web Alert:  Is Anybody Doing the News?

Web Alert: Is Anybody Doing the News?

Henney’s letter has sparked a massive debate on the dcrtv site, and among DC local newsers.  It’s an important discussion, and sadly sparked by a man who felt his only option was to walk out, leaving the weekend desk after nearly a decade.  “Any corporation that allows employees to blog as an excuse for not reporting to work on time is not an organization with which I want to be associated. Effective immediately, I am placing myself on permanent furlough from the Gannett Corp,” he wrote.

DC newsers:  if you’ve watched the content coming from the Info Center, do you agree?  Has WUSA traded reporting for Twittering?  Can stations successfully do both?

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Filed under Cutbacks, Furloughs, Local News 2.0, Social Media

Dispatch from the Front Lines: WUSA’s Scott Broom

A few months ago, Scott Broom, reporter at WUSA/DC got a nifty new title: “digital correspondent.” The Gannett station was busy transforming its old-fashioned “TV newsroom” into an “information center,” and its tired old teams of reporters and photographers into a fleet of shiny new DCs (hey! just like the City! was THAT why WUSA didn’t call them “backpack journalists,” “multiplatform journalists” or “one-man bands?”) like Scott Broom.

The elimination of the traditional reporter and photographer team sent some in the WUSA newsroom rushing to the exits, bemoaning the imminent collapse of the concept of hard local news. Scott Broom, however, is a believer. Profiled on Larry Smith’s BulletproofBlog, Broom says it’s all about staying current and competitive: “This is a web-first philosophy that is designed to make the TV station the primary source of highly-localized, moment-to-moment text, graphic, and video news online as well as on television.”

What a concept. Seeing past the bricks-and-mortar of the traditional TV model to the newsroom as a web-feeding factory. The idea, as Broom and his bosses see it, is nothing less than “a once in a generation opportunity to compete as the dominant media force” in local markets.

This is not a common belief–in fact, it’s a foreign concept–in most local TV newsrooms. You know the places where Facebook remains a “new” idea, and Twitter is, well, not on the radar yet. Broom says WUSA digital bosses like Lane Michaelsen and Patrick O’Brien encourage their reporters to take advantage of all these social media tools: “We know that a constant flow of new updates and content is absolutely essential to survival in the digital age…User comments and submissions of photos and videos are all sources of ‘new’ searchable content,” Broom says.

WUSA's Scott Broom

WUSA's Scott Broom

This kind of talk takes the debate over “content centers” out of the arena of cost-cutting and reporters lugging cameras, and into a new sphere: the idea that the medium itself is changing, and moving far more quickly than many of us may even realize into a web-style world: where news consumers want it fresh (and by fresh, we mean posted within seconds) and want to find it the way they find things online–links and keyword searches, not sitting down at six o’clock to see what streams out of the set at them.

If you’re a local TV reporter, ask yourself this: does Scott Broom inspire you, or scare you? Do you feel like “yes! he gets it!” or do you feel like your own grandparent, trying but failing to understand what it is you mean by this “internet” thing.

Broom admits context can be a casualty in the fight to serve multiple platforms all by himself, going live, blogging, and feeding, feeding, feeding. “The crew is gone. I work alone, shooting and editing my own video. I write and deliver content on all platforms all the time. I file text, video, and photo updates to the Internet throughout the day via wireless broadband. I twitter my followers when anything new occurs to drive traffic.”

So who does context in the content center model? And is this model the prescription for what ails local TV? Or just a low-cost recipe for killing what was good about local TV news in a losing battle against a medium that already works well on its own: the web?

Check out Broom’s complete comments…and then let’s have this discussion. It’s important, and we’ve got to figure this out together.

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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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Filed under Cutbacks

Twitter Resisters of the Local News World, Sit Down. Breathe. Read This.

Don't Panic. Be Like Capt. Sully.

There’s a sense in local newsrooms around the country that the economy’s so bad and jobs are so vulnerable that “now’s not the time to try new things!” This stubborn, panic-fueled sense of shock reminds me of the refreshing calm that radiated from US Airways Capt. Sully Sullenberger in his gripping 60 Minutes interview. It all happened in 90 seconds. The mighty bird that just can’t be simply knocked out of the sky, suddenly was, and the crew had two options–soil themselves or try something new.

It sounds a lot like local news managers and GMs. The bird that was so strong–the local affiliate that reliably printed money since the dawn of time–is suddenly falling out of the sky at an alarming rate. Passengers are screaming “we’re all going to die” back there, and it feels like a lot of managers are just staring at the cockpit controls repeating a mantra: “the car dealers will advertise again…the car dealers will advertise again.” But even when they do, things will have changed. The financial model, the way consumers get their info, it’s all changing, mighty bird or no mighty bird.

Some are trying new things. In DC, Lane Michelsen and Patrick O’Brien are crafting an Information Center out of what was one of the most old-school of old-school stations, WUSA. Reporters provide for multiple platforms, Channel 9 hits its followers with Tweets, and you get the sense these guys stay at work late thinking, “what else? what are we not thinking of?”

Steve Safran/Media Reinvent

Steve Safran/Media Reinvent

So for those of you who still aren’t even sure about Facebook (don’t get me started, In mentioning to a friend that my engagement pictures were up on Facebook, and he should have a look, he told me he didn’t have time for Facebook, couldn’t I just show him the pictures? Huh? Like I carry them around in a paper envelope like it’s 1978?) and for those of you who twitter at the mere mention of Twitter, Steve Safran at AR&D has assembled a gentle, it-won’t-get-in-your-eyes-Mommy-loves-you post on “10 things to try right now that are cheap or free.” He writes: “Here are ten things you can implement in your newsroom right now, cheap or free, that will improve workflow, Website performance or both.”

What’s the harm in just reading it? So sit down, take a breath. Take another. And click the link. Oh, sorry. You know the words that have lines underneath them? If you put your cursor (the think on the screen that moves around when you touch the mouse) over those words and click, you see the article. It’s like magic! Anyway, click through and read. And don’t freak when you see that Twitter is idea number 1: “Get several staffers on this.”

A good, sensible read. You might learn something.

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Filed under Local News 2.0

Local News 2.0: Job Titles of the Future! (And the Future, Like it or Not, Is Now)

Think of the evolution of job titles in local news over the last few years: out goes “studio camera operator,” in comes “robotics camera operator.” I guess there was a specific title for the guys who developed the film (“footage,” as the interns still call it), a job long gone before I showed up on the local newser scene, and now we have “ingest coordinators.” And at WUSA/DC, they have a “Digital Development Director,” in the form of tech savvy Patrick O’Brien. And please, stay on his good side by not suggesting that he’s the guy who runs Channel 9’s website. How 1990s of you. No. He’s the Main Man of Multimedia at Gannett’s flagship, which made major local newser news by becoming the first big-city station in the country to go all video journalist, ending the era of two-person field crews.


Newslab‘s Deborah Potter, ever at the cutting edge of local news evolution, has a timely profile and, naturally, an embedded video interview with O’Brien, on her spinoff site, advancingthestory. It’s worth a look if you’re interested to see how the future is playing out now in DC, and believe me, whether your newsroom Twitters yet or not, your managers and corporate types are watching O’Brien and recently hired WUSA News Director (oh, silly me.. what a 2003 job title… he’s the VP/Information Center) Lane Michaelsen to see how the new vision works.

Oh, and if you’re already in the Twitterverse, add O’Brien. He’s a good one to follow.

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