So, Anybody Out There in TV News Ready to Take a Salary Cut, Is There Such a Thing as a Real Life Portrayal of Life in the TV News World and I Think I Have Some Numbers for Memphis from the November Book.

Times are tough out there for everybody.  Heck I’d propose downsizing in my household to just one dog but I’m afraid my wife would keep both of them and boot me.  I see where TV stations are REALLY looking at the bottom line as even the mainstay advertisers (car dealers)  are said to be cutting back.  (I read in Newsweek where one person who heads one of the Big Three automakers was asked if he would work for just one dollar a year ((like Lee Iacocca  when Chrysler fell on hard times years ago)) and the auto maker replied that his current salary was okay. ) It seems he makes about 21million a year.   It’s never been a secret that most of the folks in the TV newsroom don’t take home that much money while a handful of others do.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  That’s what negotiations are for if you can work it out.  But in an article posted last week in Shoptalk by Eric Sorenson proposed an across the board 15 percent cut.  Here are the first three paragraphs of that blog posting.

Erik Sorenson

These are the times that try the soul, across the economy especially for TV news. Ratings are dropping for national news with the election suspense behind us. Revenues are dropping for local news as car dealers and other local retailers cut back on advertising. Most news departments have had (or are about to have) some kind of 4th quarter cutback. (As our loyal readers know, TV Spy has been at the forefront of reporting news all year about anchor shuffles and talent cutbacks.)

Unfortunately, the pain has only just begun. Since the economy will worsen before it improves, more cuts are inevitable. But at some point, you are not just cutting into the bone, you’re cutting right through. At some point, you just can’t get the job done with any fewer people, no matter how much pooling and streamlining you do.

Instead of laying off another 15% of your department’s personnel next time the Corporate Reaper comes around, you should reduce salaries by 15% across-the-board. That way you won’t have to further cut service to your viewers and you won’t be contributing further to the national and regional unemployment problem that fuels a vicious economic cycle. Instead of slow incremental death, dollar by dollar, head by head, cut everybody’s salary from the GM and VP’s down the line.

Now, nobody wants to take home less money, but if the alternative is that there are fewer warm bodies around to get the job done, which makes more sense?  And I’m not talking about “fake cuts” here either.  We all know that management generally gets performance bonuses at the end of the year.  Depending on the level of the manager, that bonus can be staggering. I remember working with a manager who talked about the sacrifice he and other top level executives had made by not getting a cost of living raise for two whole years.  I asked if he was still getting his performance bonus and he just scowled and walked off.  Hey, I would have tried to sell it the same way.  It will be interesting to see just where the cuts have to be made in TV stations across the country and trust me, the cuts are coming.  Will use of the newschoppers be cut way back or dropped altogether especially since Jet-A fuel hasn’t dropped in price that much?  Will more stations delay the move to HD as they try to wrangle the money to make it happen?  What if a couple of the front-line anchors stepped up to the plate and said “hey, everybody is important in this operation and we want to be the first to say that we’ll take a reduction in pay for now”  We’ll see what happens.  Stay turned for more on that.

I’ve admitted before and I will state for the record again that when it comes to things on the cutting edge, I’m not there.  I’m still trying to get a handle on Facebook and LinkedIn!  So when I finally do get around to watching movies, it’s because they showed up on regular TV networks.  After reading all day I thought I would turn my fortified brain into mush by watching mindless TV and the boob tube was happy to accommodate me. There on the menu was Bruce Almighty, a film about a TV guy who gets the chance to fill in as God. This isn’t a rant about the film as much as it was about the portrayal of a TV newsperson or rather what some film maker must think is the routine of a TV news person. Having worked in TV and radio and watched a few TV shows and films along the way, I have yet to see “real” TV captured on the big or small screen.  I’ve seen many efforts and only one came even close and it wasn’t that close. (the name escapes me but it was back in the 80’s) If anybody knows of a show or film that accurately portrays what goes on in a newsroom, please let me know.

Finally, I received an email late this past week from one of the stations with what I would assume are numbers from the November book.  Since I don’t have an updated version of Word (mine is Office 97 I think) I couldn’t open the file.  I was disappointed as I was looking forward to seeing what happened here in the Memphis area.  Please, someone share.

And finally, thank those of you who sent Thanksgiving greetings to me.  I’ve been up to my ears recently with work and unable to get around to blogging.  I hope everyone had a happy Turkey Day.



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8 Comments on “So, Anybody Out There in TV News Ready to Take a Salary Cut, Is There Such a Thing as a Real Life Portrayal of Life in the TV News World and I Think I Have Some Numbers for Memphis from the November Book.”


  1. I just found this in the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/01/business/media/01anchor.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&hp

    Imagine if WMC did that to Joe Birch or Dave Brown…..

  2. joelarkins Says:

    Good article, thanks for sharing. As the article states, I wouldn’t expect to see a long time anchor at a number one station have this happen but someone at a number 3 station has something to be concerned about.
    Regards

  3. Paul Says:

    Joe…

    IMO, one movie that depicted a fairly accurate picture of a newsroom / news operation(of the time) was 1979’s “The China Syndrome” with Michael Douglas, Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon. Of course there was some dramatic license taken and a few minor inaccuracies, but for the very early days of ENG, they were not only technically accurate (for the most part) but they also did a good job protraying Jane Fonda as the conflicted reporter struggling with what management wanted of her and the kind of reporter she wanted to become. The behind-the-scenes action of the TV studio was well done and in the end, Jane’s handling of the “breaking news” was great live TV by even today’s standards.

  4. joelarkins Says:

    TCS is one of those movies that I’ve seen the beginning and I’ve seen the ending but I’ve nevr seen it all the way through, even though I vividly remember the 3 Mile Island incident. I guess it’s time to head to the rental store.
    Thanks for checking in.
    Regards

  5. Doug Johnson Says:

    The show you’re thinking of could be:
    “WIOU,” which was on CBS…
    “ENG,” a Canadian show that ran on USA cable…
    or “The Newsroom,” another Canadian show that ran on PBS. All were on in the 90s.

    WIOU was a little hard to believe, not because it was a station with money trouble… but that it was a station in the #3 market with money trouble. ENG was more believable about some of the day-to-day stuff involved in news gathering. The Newsroom was much more a pointed satire than a procedural.

    As far as taking a cut, across-the-board is regressive, because it hits the lower-paid people a whole lot harder than the better-paid staff. I don’t begrudge highly-paid people their earning power, because many of them have earned it. Still, they can weather the blow better than other employees.

  6. Former Fox 13'er Says:

    Found via mediaverse, the Memphis sweeps numbers:
    http://www.graberpartners.com/newsandnotes/?p=261

    What do you think? Almost everyone grew their late viewership, while Fox was the only one to keep their share at 5pm. The mornings are getting TIGHT!!

  7. the tall tv guy Says:

    Joe,

    On the sweeps numbers, if share means the percentage of sets on at the time, that means 5% less viewers in a year. That’s not good. I’ve noticed smaller businesses have been placing more ads on cable channels. I wonder how their rates compare to the local ones.

    Regarding movies showing the tv news business, Network was a farce. It was very funny but not realistic. Broadcast News was more accurate, with Albert Brooks, William Hurt, and Holly Hunter. I’ve always been interested in the industry so I enjoyed both movies.

    In tough times, I remember a boss giving me some insight years ago. When a company is fighting for survival, what is the owner or top management willing to do? That shows the level of commitment. Don’t ask everyone to take a pay cut when there are leases on luxury vehicles or a friend / relative is on the payroll and no one knows what his job is. Today, employees are like consumers….are smarter and know what’s going on than previous generations.

  8. former reporter Says:

    I think the movie you are thinking of from the 80’s is “Broadcast News”


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