Rumors of Pending Layoffs in the Memphis Media, Why TV People Need to be Nice in Public, And An Encounter with a Former Member of Memphis Area Broadcasting

A couple of weeks ago I had a person with what I consider the appropriate connections tell me that a big layoff announcement was forthcoming in the Memphis news business.  The business?  The Commercial Appeal.  This person told me that the announcement was slated for October 23rd.  I’m not sure of why that particular date is of importance but that is when the axe is supposed to drop.  Mere rumor?.  Perhaps.  But I think it’s safe to say that there has been an air of uneasiness over on Union for a while now.  I’ve heard for years from people on the inside about how there’s a whole lot of middle management at the CA and that some people find it’s hard to lean back in their chairs because some have a lot of knives stuck in their backs.  The recent resizing of the CA and the “thinness” of some editions makes the paper look like it doesn’t have long for this world.  Still, as a local TV manager once told me, the amount of the money the CA makes is still tremendous or at least was five years ago, compared to what a TV station in Memphis makes.  And in light of the recent economic activity on Wall Street, I wouldn’t be surprised by anything that happens in the news business these days.

I stopped by a midtown business to get the oil changed in my old Pathfinder and after getting the good folks started on my vehicle, I stepped into the waiting room.  Sitting there was a middle aged black woman.  As I sat down, she remarked that I looked a lot like Joe Larkins from WREG.  We started talking and she asked what I was doing now and that she always wondered what happened to me.  Without prompting, she then told me that she didn’t watch local TV in the morning anymore.  I asked why and she said that she worked in the Memphis City school system and that one of the people on the station she used to watch on a regular basis made an appearance at that school.  Apparently she felt that TV person had a  condescending attitude toward the people at the school.  Real or perceived, this apparently was enough for this particular person to turn away from that station.  She went on to say that the co-anchor from that same station also made an appearance and there was an initial impression that this person also had an attitude.  The woman went on to say that was not the case afterall.   This just goes to show that for those folks on TV who still don’t get it, that people are judging you by everything that you do and that there is always somebody, somewhere watching.  And you may be able to sell it on TV everyday but if you don’t always sell it everyday that you are out and about then don’t expect your audience to stay loyal.  The viewing audience has come to expect the person on TV who comes off as warm and friendly on the tube to be the same way when they meet the public.  If they are not, the public is not happy.  And with  the tough economy and ever shrinking audiences, every little bit helps.

I was over at the Pink Palace shooting some video and ran into Rhonda Cloud.  It was the first time that I had met her face to face.  Rhonda is the PR/Marketing person for the Memphis Museum system and an escapee from the local broadcasting in Memphis (radio).  She tells me she still does some voicework and I think does some radio stuff still but her full time gig is the PR/Marketing thing.  I asked her if she missed the broadcasting thing.  She said she had actually left radio and then gotten back into it after two years and then got back out of it.   She said she’s still a news junkie but doesn’t miss the radio thing.  She’s quick with a quip and I found her quite entertaining to work with on my project.  Congratulations on someone who has proven there is life after broadcasting.

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10 Comments on “Rumors of Pending Layoffs in the Memphis Media, Why TV People Need to be Nice in Public, And An Encounter with a Former Member of Memphis Area Broadcasting”

  1. the tall tv guy Says:

    Joe,

    Not too surprised to hear of the coming layoffs at the CA. Sometime last year, I believe, The Memphis Flyer released the results of a survey taken on major newspapers. While most had a 15% drop in the Sunday edition, the CA had 25%. That’s a huge number.

    While newspapers have suffered at the hands of television news, tv news has lost viewers to the internet and changing viewship habits. With more people not getting home by 5:30, why have a network news broadcast at that time? Given the number of cable news networks, I wonder how many watch any major network news compared to 10 or 20 years ago.

    One thing’s for certain….change. (And no, that’s not a plug for Obama…if you haven’t seen it, the jib jab.com offering on this year’s Presidential race is amusing.)

  2. Richard Says:

    My dear departed dad worked for the “Memphis Publishing Company” for years, from right out of the army until his retirement, for the Commercial Appeal side as a linotype machinist. He was sad to see the Press Scimitar shut down!
    I’m sure that he is not happy to hear what is going on at the CA now!

    May he rest in peace!

  3. Doug J. Says:

    I know someone who knows someone inside the CA, and word had filtered down to me some time ago that cuts were afoot…

    It seems that a lot of folks just aren’t interested in the kind of information that newspapers provide. They graze a morning show, maybe some cable during the day and the late news before lights out. A lot of folks may feel like they get what they need from TV or the Internet. After all, we’ve seen a governor not be able to name regular publications she reads (which may be because she feels that she’s getting enough information from other places – you betcha I’m not gonna criticize Gov. Palin!).

    When I was delivering the afternoon daily when I came home from school, it seemed like we delivered to every house on the block. Now, if I see a couple of papers on the block, it seems like a lot.

  4. Chris in Brazil Says:

    Do you think the day is coming where, instead of the 30″ or 60″ newscast, we’ll actually see say 10″ updates during the day? Obviously local news makes money. But with the MTV generation, of little or no attention span, is this what we’re possibly looking at in the future?

    I’ve written before that local news in Memphis seems to be getting more magazine-ish, making news instead of reporting news. Now I say that living in Sao Paulo. But I do have a sling box which allows me to watch from here.

    There seems to be a news glut in the size the city of Memphis. I’ve wondered when one of them, say ABC24/CW30 might do something so radical as perhaps news all day but in shorter segments. Then, of course, how would you program around that?


  5. Joe just read this tonight in the Lake County Banner online, falls right in line with what you are hearing on the CA:

    “Commercial Appeal Drops Home Delivery in Lake Co.
    By: Evan Jones, Banner Editor
    Posted: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 9:54 am
    The Memphis Commercial Appeal, which has been carrier delivered in Lake County since World War II and probably well before that, will end home delivery here effective today.”

    The have eliminated rack sales in several outlying areas as well.

    Here’s the permalink to the entire story:
    http://www.lakecountybanner.com/news.php?viewStory=1563

    -T-

  6. joelarkins Says:

    I also just read in the Memphis Flyer where the CA was ceasing delivery to Clarksdale, MS but not Oxford.

  7. Vickie Patton Says:

    I to had an experience with a News Anchor while working with the CA, seems like the CA had an error in something she ran. She came in ranting and raving about it. After finally cussing several people out she stormed out. Needless to say, I do not like watching her now, if it was not for the other anchor and weatherman I would turn the channel. Being in the media, own time your conduct is a reflection of your job. As for the CA im am one of the victims of the last layoff, but from what I’ve heard from the ones still working there with the working conditions and all the rumors afloat I’m am one of the lucky ones.

  8. Lew Says:

    During my 25 years in broadcasting, I always made sure I took time to go out of my way to be nice to viewers. In my mind, first of all, they were people just like me. Secondly, they were our “customers.” Even when they disagreed with my station’s coverage of a story, I tried to be courteous. I always had the attitude to “treat everybody like they’re Jesus, because one day, it WILL be!.”

  9. Jim Peters Says:

    Scripps just announced 400 layoffs companywide and they of course own the Newspaper. So there will be layoffs at the paper.

    Big cuts at ALL the TV stations are also a given. But details still to come..

  10. shannon turner Says:

    rhonda was my neighbor back in memphis. nicest person you will ever meet!


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