We’re Number One, We’re Number One and people are leaving.

You work hard to earn the Number One spot in the market and people start leaving.
A second reporter from down 0n the river turned in his notice that he’s leaving the market. R.E. is moving off to the East Coast where I’m told he will do some freelance work. A producer for the morning show is headed off for the Northwest and according to what I’ve been told just about every other producer DOTR is working hard to vacate the premises. I’m hearing the NYTimes has closed the purse and doesn’t plan to spend anything else at this point in time. While some would say the producers aren’t being overworked by doing double duty on some shows, the producers must have a different opinion and apparently want to show their feelings with their feet.
There’s no doubt the broadcast business is hurting these days and election year money from campaigns is usually a big boost to the bottom line. But in Memphis, the NYTimes poured a lot of money into the station after a promise was made to make the station Numero Uno for its 50th anniversary which is this year. They bought a chopper and expanded staff among other stuff to help boost the ratings over the folks over on Union. So with the July book wrapping up, it looks like a trend is indeed showing DOTR and they get to brag they’re tops in just about every local time slot. I say congratulations to them. I was working on the morning show down there when we managed to climb to the top spot twice during my eleven year stint. It’s a good feeling. Some of the honchos down there have been wanting to do that across the board since the head of the Broadcast group first started working at the station as a part-timer more than three decades ago.
As was pointed out to me, you would think everyone down on the river would be doing cartwheels at being at the top of the game in the market and that no one would want to leave now that they’re at the top. Maybe there is truth in the adage that “Wanting is sometimes better than having”.
I’m also reminded of something said be a former head of the Broadcast Group who also served a stint as GM DOTR. He said “I’d rather be a profitable Number 2 than a broke Number 1”.

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22 Comments on “We’re Number One, We’re Number One and people are leaving.”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Being number one is great for the sales department and management. But what good is “bragging rights” to the overworked folks in the trenches? The raises have been slim DOTR for a number of years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of folks don’t get a raise at all this year. You can’t pay the rent or the car payment with bragging rights. And even when profits were high DOTR, management didn’t spread the wealth by giving raises. My advice is to GET OUT as soon as you can. It’s just not worth it to keep flogging the dead horse that is TV news. There are other jobs out there and you may be a lot happier in the long run.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Joe,

    Channel 3 isn’t number one. They are 3rd or 4th.

    It’s not a riddle. It’s a fact.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    well it an easier jump sip to ship than to wait until the ship is sinking. But Joe, Think of the pressure on the reporters and producers. They have been humping. One fluke and a loss of viewers and more puressure. I’d say take the photo op of increased viewers and use it as a serendipity resume comment and jump to a better pay job!

  4. Anonymous Says:

    With July book becoming more and more important I don’t expect the demo info. to be very good for those of us on Union when the info comes out. They’re beating us by more than 2 full rating points DOTR at 10p. That’s a you-know-what kicking. Mornings are almost as strong. Yikes.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Ok, I’m not smart enough to figure out the comment on Channel 3 being 3 or 4. Would you explain?

  6. Anonymous Says:

    “It’s not a riddle. It’s a fact.”

    where do you get that fact from?

  7. Anonymous Says:

    According to the last ratings book, Ch 3 was #1, and the morning publication (use to term very loosely) confirmed that fact.

    They’re not third or fourth….that’s where 13 and 24 reside.

    Had an interest to work there nearly ten years ago behind the scenes…sounds like now’s not the time to be in the broadcast industry.

  8. Average Guy Says:

    Do coaches jump to a better gig when they’ve just one a championship or when they had a bad season. You got to strike while the iron is hot. Success leads to opportunity.

    The GM

  9. Anonymous Says:

    joe, just wondering, what is the salary range for reporters and anchors? is it really a profitable industry or are these on-air personalities struggling to pay the bills?

  10. Anonymous Says:

    You could get help from any local or national advertising agency, or your station’s research person.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    But in this case, success did not lead to opportunities.

    Christine Connelly left without a job lined up. Roswell Encina is leaving without a job lined up. The Roswell Report says that the rumor is that he did not like the “out clause” in a contract that he was offered recently.

  12. Doug Johnson Says:

    Well Joe,

    Looks like you hit on a live topic here. I wonder whether this is a legitimate phenomena… After all, people ALWAYS leave TV stations, regardless of market size, regardless of position in the market.

    But, in a market the size of Memphis, it can be difficult for a rank-and-file reporter at any station to make a good living strictly on the salary they’re paid. When people stay for a long time, it’s often because their spouse makes enough to offset the lower TV pay, or they have strong connections to the area, or they may be at the point of a career where they have few (if any) moves left.

    Also, being #1 rarely translates into any gain for employees. If the business situation of the station ownership is good; then jobs are safe. If there’s a reasonable expectation that additional expenses (salary, new jobs, new gear) can translate into increased revenue and stock worth; then it’s a good option.

    Fox, NYT, Clear Channel all want to make money whether they’re #1 or not. The same is true for the pension system trying to support all those retired teachers in Alabama. Being #1 offers the sales and promotions departments some leverage, by making the product (ad time on the news) an easier sell.

    But, going back to the first post on this topic, there’s no reason to expect it to translate into anything tangible for employees. Companies will offer the lowest pay, benefits and raises they can get away with, because it helps the bottom line.

    So, people leave. The folks in the anchor chairs are the ones making the real money, plus, they’ve often been in a market longest, so they have mortgages, kids in school, etc. The youngsters, still on the way up, are always looking. Stations know the pay structure makes that the expectation, and as long as it won’t cost them any money, things won’t change.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Doug Johnson…

    WOW…that is scary!!!!

  14. Anonymous Says:

    Yes, Dougie Fresh is right. Television stations pay the lowest amount they can to producers, photographers, editors and graphic artists, because they know that there are always fresh young college graduates out there eager to take the jobs. They may have starting salaries as low as $24,000 to $30,000 a year. And since raises at a most TV stations are paltry, (you’re lucky to get 2% or 3% a year, if that), that annual salary doesn’t go up much. You can imagine after you’ve been at a station for 5 to 10 years, that $30,000 a year gets harder and harder to live on, especially since benefits continue to increase in cost. That’s why folks jump from station to station every few years for an additional 2 or 3 thousand dollars a year. They have to, it’s the only way to get a real raise. Staying with one station for a long time is only financially feasible for anchors and some valued reporters who are under contract and get guaranteed raises.

    News directors and gm’s sometimes gripe about the high turnover among employees and the difficulty in finding qualified producers and photogs, etc. They could find plenty of qualified folks to fill those positions if they paid a little more. But they won’t do that because they would rather hire on the cheap and make their existing staff double up and work long hours while they fruitlessly search for qualified people who will work for peanuts. Nothing will change as long as the contributions of the “behind the scenes” folks are undervalued as they are.

    Pay and working conditions are better in markets up north and in the bigger cities. Know why? Many of those are union shops. But apparently employees in the Memphis market are too chicken or just plain stupid to take advantage of their right to unionize that’s guaranteed under federal law.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Oooooooohhhwwwweeeeeeeee…umph. Scary.

  16. UPnDC Says:

    Unions are not the answer any more. Even up here in the “north” in market 8, owners are busting unions right and left. Starting salaries are coming down. Barely enough to cover the cost of living. Unions don’t have near the leverage with corporate media as they did when stations were owned in smaller groups. Starting salaries for producers and photogs in Memphis haven’t improved much in the last 20 years. Back in the 70’s, Memphis photogs did well under the RKO, Scripps and NYT structure as most of their other stations were in union markets. Memphis wasn’t union, but newrooms benefited from the management structure that their sister stations had in place. Bottom line, only a very few people starting out in news today will retire from the business. Actually, very few that started within the last 15 years will as well, and only if they are on the air, or end up in management.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Whatever happened to GMs like the Mori Greiners and the Olin Morrises who tried to take care of their employees. Nowadays, those in charge are worried about how much bonuses they will make at the end of the year. The bigger the profit the station makes, the bigger the bonus, which is why stations like WREG have cut out company picnics and Christmas parties. Now you have to bring food to the studio on a weekday for its annual Christmas party. The station saves mucho dinero cause they don’t have to pay for those filet dinners at the University Club. And if you don’t bring any food and you partake of it, you get mean looks from the ladies upstairs. Hey, shouldn’t the station be paying for the food for a Christmas party in the first place. Those cheap bastards!!!

    Also, since there is no consumption of alcohol on company property, the station gets away with buying alcohol for the employees. Then instead of hiring a band, they have karaoke contests. WOW!!! Now that’s real entertainment.

    Nothing like a company looking after and taking care of employees for busting their butts to make the station profitable and making it No. 1, which saved the head of broadcast division’s butt with his promise of making WREG No. 1 by the end of 2006 with the purchase of a chopper and other things.

    Keep your Christmas party at the station and your evil looks if you don’t bring any food to the “pot luck”, if that’s the kind of thanks the station dishes out, you can keep it.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    Who wants to go to an officially-sanctioned party with their co-workers anyway? Most people would rather get the value of that University Club dinner in their paycheck instead. But since the station isn’t givng raises, that’s not going to happen either.

    If qualified people continue to leave the business because of the low pay and terrible working conditions, maybe sooner or later management will have to make some changes to hire enough people to put the news on the air. Oh wait, what am I thinking? As long as the University of Memphis keeps pumping out naive broadcast journalism graduates, there will always be somebody out there who will take those underpaid jobs and things will never change. It’s so sad that those young folks are so blinded by the “glamour” of working in television that they can’t see that they could get better pay, working conditions, job security and opportunities for advancement if they were working in a factory somewhere. A fact all news managers know, but seldom talk about is that it is the persistant fantasies of young people, many of whom see a TV news job as a stepping stone to stardom, that keep wages low in the broadcast business. Naturally, if college students knew just how low pay scales are and how bad working conditions are, they might change their majors. So it’s not something professors or leaders in the industry really want to bring up too often in class…

  19. Anonymous Says:

    The real reason more people (contract, on-air people) are leaving TSOTR is the new contract. It allows the NYT to lay off contract employees or even lower their contracted salary with no cause (except to save the NYT $).

    Of course, not everyone at 3 have been scared away, but wonder what will happen the first time a person with a contract either loses their job for no reason or sees their salary lowered.

    One sided contracts are a good reason to find new work. Of course, because of the contract, those folks can’t go until it has expired. And even then, they’ll have to leave the market. Roswell is leaving because the station pulled his out clauses. He’s not the first either.

  20. Anonymous Says:

    But that doesn’t explained why the low paying producers are leaving left and right. I seriously doubt many of them have a contract or even know how to sign one.

    They’re leaving for the way they have been treated – – overworked for a paltry pay, been demoted as a new producer is put in his place, etc. WREG is slow to hire producers cause they know they can make producers do more than one show as long as they can. That saves WREG all that money of not immediately hiring a new producer for 3-6 months. They’re saving several months salary by overworking those producers.

  21. Anonymous Says:

    Gotta love big corporations. You struggle to be #1, finally make it there and then the company pulls the cash instead of spending to insure a hold on #1.
    contracts SUCK and TN needs to follow other states by striking non-competes. other states have and it has not caused a mass exodus but it has made things more equal between employee and employer. good luck Roswell, sure it won’t take long. when is the party?

  22. Average Guy Says:

    Do coaches jump to a better gig when they’ve just one a championship or when they had a bad season? You got to strike while the iron is hot. Success leads to opportunity.

    The GM


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