Odds and Ends on a Monday Afternoon

I’ve heard a few complaints from the station Down On The River about the lack of money floating around. Folks I’ve chatted with say there just isn’t any cash forthcoming from LocalTV. Apparently complaints about needing money to help keep WREG “Numero Uno” have fallen on deaf ears. Don’t know if any of that had anything to do with the recent numbers posted by WREG. Still it has to be difficult for those used to seeing the purse strings opened on a regular basis by the NYTimes Company even when times were tough. Apparently they are learning to do more with less DOTR.

There’s nothing worse than trying to keep a secret in a newsroom, especially a TV newsroom. All kinds of rumors and whisperings leak out. I was told a few weeks ago that the ND DOTR may be weighing a few options. Of course I was also told not long after Bruce Moore got here from Norfolk that he was being groomed for a GM post and that post was at WREG’s sister station in ……Norfolk. That would have been a sweet deal for BM but then the NYTimes went and sold the group to LocalTV. Still I did hear that the GM post at the LocalTV station in Norfolk was given the boot…..hmmmmm. Then there is word today that former ND at WMC Peggy Phillip is leaving her post in Syracuse, NY. Where she is going hasn’t been announced yet. I know the Pegster always had a fond spot in her heart for all things Memphis. I haven’t communicated with Peggy but wouldn’t it be interesting if she returned to the Bluff City and worked against her former station. Again, I’m just speculating here.

And finally, I’ve been kicking around an idea about Memphis TV people confused with someone else in the news business. As I have stated in previous blog posts, I had countless people confuse me with Joe Birch even though we look nothing alike IMHO. They only things we really had in common were the same first name, a lot of puffy “anchor” hair and the fact that we both worked on TV news in Memphis. So, starting today, I’m going to be posting pictures of people I think look similar. Some of you may agree, some won’t. Some of you may have your own suggestions. If you do, send the photos to me at joelarkins1@yahoo.com and I will attempt to post them as well.

Here’s my first effort: Austen Onek at WREG and Craig Crawford who writes for the Congressional Quarterly and who is occasionally seen on MSNBC.   Maybe it’s just me but have you ever seen Craig and Austen in the same room…together…..I wonder…….

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16 Comments on “Odds and Ends on a Monday Afternoon”

  1. Doug J. Says:

    All TV people look alike to me.

  2. The GM Says:

    “I’ve heard a few complaints from the station Down On The River about the lack of money floating around. Folks I’ve chatted with say there just isn’t any cash forthcoming from LocalTV. Apparently complaints about needing money to help keep WREG “Numero Uno” have fallen on deaf ears.”

    Let’s see, private equity firm acquires television group and is carrying much debt. Said group was run like it was 1985 and there were printing presses in the basement churning out cold, hard cash. Now there’s no money flowing? Shocking!

    Folks, the business has changed. It’s about efficiencies. It’s about a return on an investment. Just like schools, more money does not mean a better product. Perhaps focusing on the brand and what the NewsChannel3 name means in Memphis and not on billboards and contests will be what keeps or returns the station DOTR to #1.

    I still don’t know how they’re justifying five mets.

    Pardon my exasperation but I’m amazed that so many people in this industry do not get it.

    The GM

  3. joelarkins Says:

    Well, we can nip those “Peggy Phillip returning to Memphis” rumors. Here’s what has been shared with me:

    Baltimore, MD (June 2, 2008)–, Bill Hooper, V.P. and General Manager of ABC2, WMAR-TV, announced the appointment of Peggy Phillip to the position of News Director effective June 24th.

    “I am very excited about this challenge I believe I have the energy and initiative needed to create positive change.” said Phillip “I look forward to working with the news team and others to improve our coverage across all platforms.”

    ABC2 General Manager Bill Hooper stated “We are very pleased to have Peggy’s varied experience in the newsroom. We feel confident that under her leadership we will build ABC2 news into a very competitive news operation.”

    Before joining ABC2 Peggy Phillip was News Director at WSTM-TV in Syracuse, New York. Phillip’s career in television spans thirty years, in markets such as Boston, Chicago, Miami, Tulsa, Reno, Memphis and Syracuse.

    Joe here. Congrats to Peggy. She’s gone from the land of barbecue to the land of softshell crabs in a little over a year.

  4. Anon Says:

    A quick note to the GM… first thanks for your insight, it’s appreciated by those not yet to the ranks of management.

    But.. I do wonder, why do you think WREG has 5 mets? Who told you that? There are four, just like all the other stations in town, with a lovely lady who fills in maybe a shift or two per month and could barely be called part time.

    By luck or design, it’s worked out well for “3” to have two guys in the afternoon with all the severe weather that’s been dealt to the midsouth, even 13 has someone with Joey in the evenings, (although I can’t find him on their website)

    And with the early show, cut ins, 9am show, noon, 4, 4:30, 5, 6 and 10, doesn’t “3” actually do more with same amount of folks?

    Again, thanks GM for your respected comments.

  5. The GM Says:

    I was counting the “lovely lady” as a full-timer. If she is not, I apologize. My mistake.

    I’ve harped on the abundance of meteorologist at WREG because a private equity group is going to question the need for four seasoned, name, meteorologists and the compensation that corresponds with that experience. I’d love to have four myself. The reality of the industry and the economy says three is the number. Perhaps I’m a bit envious.

    Just curious. Who is considered the chief?

    The GM

  6. Anon Says:

    Tim Simpson has been the chief since his arrival more than a decade ago. Jim Jaggers came on board after being let go from the Fox in town (13) he had been with them for more than 20 years.

    When these two came together, some thought there would be a battle of egos and for control of power. None of that ever happened. Tim handles the 4, 4:30 and 6, Jim the 5 and 10. When teamed during severe weather they do a good job of working together.

    Oh, and, weather is extremely important (competitive) in this market.

    From what I’ve heard, the private equity firm, new owner of “LocalTVllc” has been pretty much “hands off” allowing each station to keep doing what they are doing. Yes, I know, that probably won’t last forever.

  7. The GM Says:

    Thanks for the clarification. It’s easy to opine from 33,000 feet. Facts are nice.
    The GM

  8. I hope Peggy enjoys the seafood in Baltimore–and the sports. She’s inheriting a mess. WMAR is one of those perpetual cellar-dwellers; the station lags far behind WJZ and WBAL in the ratings. In fact, the Sinclair station actually pulled higher ratings for some newscasts in a recent book.

    Peggy is a competent, capable news director, but she’s no miracle worker. It will take the TV equivalent of parting the Red Sea to make WMAR competitive.

    My guess is that Peggy pulls the usual two or three year stint, then she’s looking for a new job. WMAR is one of those jobs I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

  9. JD Says:

    Joe or “The GM”…..
    One of the information channels is saying that an Alycia Lane was apparently fired a few months ago over some misdeed. This channel also says that she was earning close to $700,000 per year.

    Is that really what I read? Is that possible that anchors get that much money?

  10. The GM Says:

    She’s in Philly, correct? Even though Philly is top 10, it sounds high. Now if you said $450 or $500k, I’d agree. Just based on industry information for a top 10 I think its high but then I’m not her agent or her GM.

    The GM

  11. joelarkins Says:

    Yes, that is what you read and yes it is possible for anchors to get paid that much money in a local market. But be aware that AL was an anchor in Philly which is a top five market (I believe) and she works at an CBS O & O (owned and operated) and she has a heck of an agent. You wouldn’t see those kind of anchor salaries in a market like Memphis since there wouldn’t be much money for the rest of the staff. Still, there are some generous salaries in the Memphis market. According to numbers shared with me by someone in the know, Joe Birch is the highest paid TV anchor in the Memphis market while I’m told Richard Ransom is paid roughly about half that amount. (Of course all of this information is about 3 years old and RR may have gotten a bump after his newscasts achieved Number 1 status during some of the books). JB has been in the market for 30-years and not only has a great reputation on-air, he has a great rep off air with his many efforts to help the community and a variety of charities. I was also told of one anchor team in Birmingham that was so highly paid, they barely had any money left to pay the rest of the newsroom and even then the folks in the field didn’t get much. But I think it’s safe to say that the days of the really mega-salaries are over as the bean-counters constantly eye the bottom line. I’m sure The GM could weigh in with a more accurate picture than the one I’m painting here.

  12. joelarkins Says:

    By the way, the comment I posted was written BEFORE I read The GM’s comments. He’s faster on the keyboards than I am.

  13. Anon@5 Says:

    Question for GM. Don’t know about other Memphis anchors, but here at WMC it’s common knowledge that both Joe and Dave are each making more than 300K. Donna is at low 200’s. (Most of the bldg knows these numbers after they got leaked accidentally a couple of years ago).
    Anyway, no one’s questioning their experience and kindness (esp. JB and DB) and wouldn’t question the salaries IF we were still a strong number one. But we’re not anymore and all of the rest of us on the ‘team” wonder if such high salaries can be justified in these tight times. For the money they’re making.. shouldn’t we be doing better as a station than we are?

  14. prophet1 Says:

    I have to agree with Anon@5 because those are some high salaries. I’ve always heard about Dave and Joe which they both deserve. Donna Davis is high questionable. She is not wrth 200,000 so I hope that’s not true. I hope Richard Ransom, Claudia Barr, Markova Reed, Kris Anderson and Alex Coleman are bringing in at least 150k. There numbers prove it except for the morning drive this time. Can someone explain how they lost the morning ratings? I attribute it to the Early show time change but who am I?

  15. The GM Says:

    Stations with long-term anchors from the 90’s are saddled with a high payroll costs. One can argue who is worth the price (since weather drives most markets and Memphis is hyper weather, its hard not to justify DB’s number. That’s why the situation at Ch3 amazes me. I can’t see any of their mets testing anywhere close to DB). The trend is to cut salaries to market averages. Talent quickly understands that they cannot duplicate that big number in another market and taking less to stay is “their best option”.

    It’s ugly, it can be considered cruel but broadcasters have to cut costs. How many reporters — or forgive me for saying, one-man-bands/vj will half of that money buy? It’s all about coverage. The stations that drive viewership via their brand and not their talent are and will always be in the best shape. Talent should reflect the brand, not define it.

    The GM

  16. joelarkins Says:

    It will be interesting to see what happens to some of those big salaries as revenues/income continues to decline. Delivering the ratings numbers are one thing but come contract time I’m sure there will be questions such as “What have you done for me lately” from those who have to write the checks and the numbers aren’t what they used to be. And I think a good point is made about getting the most bang for your buck. The reality is, some high price talent would not be able to command the big bucks outside of Memphis and may have to settle for less come contract time
    And as for what happened to the WREG Morning show numbers, I haven’t heard anyone place any blame. Perhaps someone might weigh in on that particular item. Maybe I’ll post on that as a new thread. By the way, welcome back Bishop.

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