It Looks Like a War Zone and It Sounded Like a Freight Train!

It’s time to pull out the old soapbox and rant.  First let me say that if anyone doubts the power of a tornado then look at the video out of Greensburg, Kansas.  Up until the storm pretty much wiped out this town,  Greensburg was known as the place with the world’s largest hand dug well and the home of a one thousand pound pallasite meteorite. Since the storm, it is now the place that “looks like a war zone”.  It must be true because every local TV reporter that I’ve seen featured on The Weather Channel, CNN and MSNBC has referred to it at some point in time as “looking like a war zone”.  I guess they all skipped class after that first day of “Creative Writing and Use of Cliches’ for TV news”.  I’m not without guilt here.  I’ve used that term before and I’ve never been to a war zone. And it may be splitting hairs but if I used it, I tried to at least attribute it to someone who had said it.  Not these reporters breathlessly describing it as such.  It just seems to have been beaten into the ground with a sledge hammer on this particular story.  I expect to hear that in soundbites from the local townspeople along with their exclamations about the twister “sounding like a freight train” as it approached.  (Has anyone ever said that an approaching freight train sounds like a tornado?)  A fellow blogger currently working in the news business suggested that perhaps reporters describe the aftermath of a bad storm something along the lines of “it looks like what’s left after a weekend long flea market”.  Hey, at least it shows original and creative thinking.  Yes, it’s also slightly warped but if truth be told, so are many people in the TV news business.  Some will actually admit it.

Shifting gears, I got an email from a person wondering how the weather team at WREG avoided any cuts after the new owners took over the NYTimes group.  First let me say it was shared with me that one of the five people is a part-timer and that she fills in only as needed to help cover for those on vacation or sick.   I still have to admit I’m surprised that someone didn’t get the boot there.  I’m glad to see that they didn’t because I consider everyone in the department to be a friend and I hate to see any of them face the ax.  Are the cuts really over? I wouldn’t bet the farm just yet.

And speaking of the NYTimes cuts, the timing couldn’t have come at a worse time IMHO. There’s nothing like trying to rally the troops and get them pumped up for a major book and then start letting people go as the book gets started.  It would seem to prompt many if not most to lose their focus at a time when you want everyone to stay with their eyes on the prize.  This is not the first time that something like this has happened to a TV station approaching a book.  It happened just recently at WKRN in Nashville with the station losing its News Director last week and that comes on the heels of the GM there stepping down.  And wasn’t it just last year that both the ND and the GM were let go at WHNT in Huntsville as they were going into a book.  Maybe it’s just me but it seems like the timing could be improved.

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11 Comments on “It Looks Like a War Zone and It Sounded Like a Freight Train!”

  1. Doug J. Says:

    Well, there’s never a good time for job cuts. I was having an online discussion on this subject with another member of the former DOTR club, and he made the point that the investment bankers who bought the stations want to trim costs before turning the group around and selling it. If that’s the case, neither viewership nor journalistic pursuits may be on their radar.

    And there’s the veteran (but not well-liked) news director in Seattle who just axed three very experienced reporters. There’s a suggestion that it may have had something to do with the former employees engaging in union activities. That seems like something that could have waited until after the book too.

    But good timing is a difficult concept for some people.

  2. chris Says:

    I doubt it’s over at 3. I’d watch for numerous jobs to go empty either forever or for a long time once someone quits. This is exactly what happened at 5 when Raycom took over. the companies are basically the same, just there for pure profit. Profit is fine if you also CARE about the product you’re creating to make that money off of. It will get bleaker and from what I hear, 5 is making a Strong comeback this book and should win the 5-6-and once again the 10, with no thanks to NBC. Watch for the same cuts to come to 24/30 when their sale goes through. they’re pretty lean there but cuts can, unfortnately, always be made.

  3. Richard Says:

    In reference to the line of a “tornado sounding like a freight train” that people always seem to use…..I beg to differ.
    I went through a tornado in 1970 while a senior in high school at Whitehaven. That twister at 2 am never sounded like a freight train to me! Sounded more like the roar and whine of a jet engine.
    Most freight trains I have been around produce a variety of squeals and clanks as the steel wheels roll over steel rail, be it welded or jointed.

    I just hope I never have to go through a tornado ever again, and I bet the folks in Kansas feel the same way.

  4. The GM Says:

    Regarding the station DOTR and future changes. I have no idea what is planned but an educated guess is that the first cuts are on the back of the seller. They agree as a sales provision to shoulder the severance of those departed. Step two will be on the buyer and most likely in next year’s budget process. If the station DOTR is on a calendar year budget, look for additional cuts around November or December — just in time for everyone to say “how dare they do this at Christmas!”.

    Who is the new GM at the station DOTR? If it is someone from the new company, more cuts are coming. If it is a holdover, unless he/she agrees to more cost cutting, they too will be going. Remember Mason Granger’s exit from Ch5 — he fell on his sword because he didn’t want to implement what the new owners wanted.

    The GM

  5. the tall tv guy Says:

    One other effect I’ve noticed….the union station was involved in many community effort projects…with the sales, those have gone away. Then the station DOTR did more, had the telethons and the sunset symphony broadcast…and in recent years, the SS was gone suddenly. A sad state, all to improve that bottom line.

    After being laid off more than once and looking now, I’ve learned that employers don’t do what’s right….they do what they want to do. To the observer and employee, that’s different in most cases. But then, I could be biased.

  6. The GM Says:

    Tall TV Guy
    Doing what is right depends on the perspective. To the corporate entity that has to answer to investors, making a stronger, healthier bottom-line is what’s right. To the journalist or associate at the local TV station, doing what’s right is being community involved and dedicating resources to covering the news. In a sale, those things tend to conflict in the early period. Once adjustments are made, they tend to reconcile themselves to where they are not mutually exclusive.

    I have a friend who is going through his third layoff in three years. I don’t like it for him nor you. It is unfortunately a reality of not just the TV business but business in general. As new investors come in, they expect a certain return for their investment. Cutting costs is one way to get there.

    The GM

  7. Northern Spy Says:

    Funny thing happened today up here in Pennsylvania. The FedEx guy was delivering an envelope of NYT information to me at home, and he asked: “Are one of the guys let go from Channel 16? I don’t know if it’s just me, but those people sure look sloppy on the TV this week.” Joe, I am not making this up. My wife heard it, too. I don’t think it’s directly related to the people who were “let go,” but maybe the whole debacle had an effect on the remaining staff.

  8. Northern Spy Says:

    Funny thing happened today up here in Pennsylvania. The FedEx guy was delivering an envelope of NYT information to me at home, and he asked: “Are one of the guys let go from Channel 16? I don’t know if it’s just me, but those people sure look sloppy on the TV this week.” Joe, I am not making this up. My wife heard it, too. I don’t think it’s directly related to the people who were “let go,” but maybe the whole debacle had an effect on the remaining staff.

  9. JD Says:

    Joe I have to agree with the GM. No corporate entity can survive long if they do not have a strong return on their investment. Earlier you, and others, spoke of how “dog eat dog” it had become in television news. Newer kids are coming out with that hungry look and, a hefty satchel of educational loan debts. If the product is not attractive, concise and informative…..it will not be watched. Advertisers will not sponsor air time and the bills won’t get paid. TV news has become more entertainment tonight. Sorry to say but in corporate……the herd mentality rules! “The weak and the meek fall by the wayside”.

  10. John Says:

    So does WREG now have an official traffic reporter?

  11. Les Nessman Says:

    “Ace” Ventura remains the “official” traffic reporter. She survived the cut.


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