Archive for December 2008

Would the Real Governor of Illinois Please Speak Out, What Was Going On with The Weather Channel Thursday Morning and A Link to a Much Requested Video Regarding Local TV Layoffs

December 18, 2008

which-is-which1

Like it or not, I am a child of pop culture.  I was in the early years of grade school when the Beatles invaded.  I remember watching them on Ed Sullivan with my older brothers and sister.  I’ve been a huge Star Trek fan since the series came out.  I remember being scared to death as a young pup watching the original “The Day the Earth Stood Still” on NBC’s Saturday Night at the Movies.  I read comic books (I was a DC fan and only later in life came to appreciate Marvel) and I read Mad magazine.  I used to borrow copies from friends at school.  The face of Alfred E. Newman stood out like a sore thumb.  The whole “What, me worry?” thing still makes me chuckle.  So when the scandal about the governor of Illinois first broke and I saw this guy with his hair down across his forehead and this toothy grin and his attitude  of  “What, me worry….my butt may be in a sling but if I ignore it, it will go away”  really caught my attention.  I told my lovely and talented bride how much the governor of Illinois looks like A.E. Neuman and she agreed.  For those not familiar with the two, I’ve put their images side by side.  I report, you decide.

What was going on with The Weather Channel on Comcast cable Thursday morning?   I flipped on the TV to catch the weather and we had sound but no picture.  It was the same on several sets.  Local on the 8s had audio but no video.  Then a local commercial flashed on the screen and I thought the problem was remedied.  I was wrong.  After the commercial, the audio but no video situation returned.  It’s back to normal this afternoon.  If anyone knows what was going on, let me know.

I’ve had several requests from folks wanting to know if Joe Birch’s on-air story about the termination of several co-workers from WMC was available on Youtube.  It seems not everyone saw the announcement.  Well,  ask and ye shall receive.  This video link was shared with me privately and I am in turn sharing it with you publicly.   As always if you need something and I can get you the hook-up, let me know.  As they used to say at the station DOTR,  “I”m proud to serve”.

Advertisements

The Big Chill Here in the Midsouth, Possible Cuts Elsewhere in Memphis TV, & the Number 2 Man in News DOTR Prepares to Pull the Plug on Himself

December 15, 2008

It’s almost Noon on this Monday and I would rather go shopping on Christmas Eve than face the folks who have no doubt raced to the grocery stores to stock up on bread and milk in anticipation of the winter weather headed our way.  I was in contact with one of the local weather guys on a non-weather related matter and he was preparing for the weathergasm that was unfolding.  Perhaps Memphis will dodge the proverbial bullet on this round.  Truth be told, I’d rather deal with a foot of snow than a quarter inch of ice.  Snow generally doesn’t cause power outages unless somebody clips a utility pole.  Ice is just not nice.   Keep your fingers crossed and think warm thoughts so whatever freezes will thaw quickly.

I saw a blurb Friday on Newsblues that hinted of possible layoffs in Memphis.   That blurb : Major staff cuts coming to Fox O&Os? Notice that it ends with a question mark.  Anybody heard anything on whether cuts could be coming over at WHBQ Fox 13?  If they do make cuts it would come as no big surprise but I haven’t even heard any rumblings about that and I know a couple of the folks over there.  I saw over the weekend that former WMC anchor Donna Davis was featured in a column by Wendi Thomas.  According to Thomas: She’d planned to retire here, she told me Friday, and would have gladly taken a pay cut if it would have saved someone’s job.  Some have speculated that if she wasn’t given that option of a paycut that means she was destined to get the boot at the end of her contract and they were just waiting for the book to be wrapped up.  Still others have pointed out that younger faces can be found for a fraction of the salary and if placed next to long-time anchors Joe Birch and Dave Brown,  the viewing public will accept them.  It’s all a matter of viewing habits.    I also saw where former WMC anchor Bill Lunn got to say his farewell in the Commercial Appeal.  BL wrote a nice letter to the editor in Saturday’s paper.  If you haven’t read it, click on this link.

Speaking of cutbacks DOTR, I’m told that WREG has shared the news that NO Raises will be forthcoming in the new year.  I’m told that those folks under contract are being asked to forego any scheduled boosts in pay.  I’m not sure if there have been requests for voluntary cuts in those contracted salaries.  Those voluntary cuts would supposedly be made up when the ecnomy improves.  I would imagine those who “play along with this” will be smiled upon by the managers and those that don’t can expect to see the door at some point in the future.

Speaking of cutbacks, I see in NewsBlues that a Detroit newspaper is ending home delivery.  That has already taken place in the outlying areas for the Memphis Commercial Appeal.  If they ever cut home delivery in the city that would really mark the beginning of the end for that newspaper IMHO.  But what do I know.

And finally, the second in command in the WREG newsroom is enjoying his last week DOTR.  I would imagine Tom Moo is busy on this Monday compiling school closings and other closing announcements for the latest broadcasts.  TM came to WREG during the Craig Jahelka reign from a station in Texas if my memory serves me correctly.  He has managed to stay in that position as two other folks stepped into the ND’s role which IMHO is quite a feat since managers really like to bring in their own “Second”.   There has been much speculation as to who will fill that post when TM leaves on Friday.  I know if a couple of folks both inside the station and outside the station who would like step into the Moo-man’s shoes.  Of course with the tight budget, that position could go unfilled until the economy improves.  It’s apparently been advertised off and on for some time.  We’ll see.

Been There, Done That and It Hurts Like Hell

December 10, 2008

Somebody once told me that you weren’t truly a veteran of the news business until you had been fired. I’ve been thinking about that ever since the news came that WMC was lowering the boom on 15 employees.

I was let go from a news job once and let me tell you that it was an experience that I didn’t want to repeat.  If that’s part of character building then I would rather do without the added character.  I thought I was doing a good job at that station and I was told it was part of budget cuts.  I was one of about a half dozen people let go and it was around the Christmas holidays as well.  As I have stated before, there’s never a good time to announce that you are getting the axe but there are worse times.  And as The GM has pointed out, the end of the budget year just happens to coincide with the holidays.  It’s all about ……timing.

When you get the boot there is an immediate feeling of helplessness and self doubt.  What could I have done differently if anything?  Did I not see the warning signs?  What will I do now?  What do I tell people who ask?  Maybe I’m not cut out for this line of work.  O went through all of that.  Turns out my wife still loved me, my dog still wanted a butt-scratch and the world continued to turn.  Life goes on and it did with me as well.  I got another job in news and got to see another part of the country, made new friends and shifted to another part of life.  That kick in the ass was a step forward.

What I came away with was that sometimes bad things do happen to good people.  Sometimes nothing you could have done would have made a difference.  Stuff sometimes just happens.  Just as someone has to be lucky enough to win the good lottery with lots of money and sometimes someone has to win the bad lottery with the prize being not so pleasant.  These days it’s tough out there.  Sometimes your number just comes up.  I heard a TV weather guy describe the news  business like this:  All newsroom employees have a termination date etched into their forehead and only the GM and News Directors can see that date. If you like what you do make yourself as valuable as possible so that date gets blurred a bit.  Sometimes even that doesn’t help.  Sometimes you win the bad lottery.  If that happens, just remember, “Bad things do happen to good people”  and that a “kick in the ass is still a step forward”.

Merry Christmas and By the Way, You’re Fired, A Former Big Kahuna in Memphis Radio Passes and The Way I Want to See TV Anchors Dress

December 9, 2008

THE LATEST WORD TO ME AND CONFIRMED BY OTHER SOURCES NOW SAYS TIM VAN HORN ESCAPED THE SWING OF THE AXE.  CONGRATS TO HIM.  NOW BACK TO OUR PREVIOUS POSTING!!!

ROLL THE BREAKING NEWS OPEN.  MORE LAYOFFS AT WMC.

I received this email late this afternoon from a source with connections to WMC.  Donna Davis, Bill Lunn, and Tim Van Horn along with various rank and file members take it in the shorts for Christmas. Mediaverse reports sportsman Dave Cera is among the on-air people getting the boot but does not mention TVH.   More on the story below.

I got a call this afternoon from a friend of mine in Nashville who asked me if I knew anything about the layoffs at WMC-TV.  I told him I did not as the rain seemed to have knocked out my internet connection for most of the day.  As we chatted on the phone, I found I could log on and went to Mediaverse to see if they had any of the skinny on the dismissals.  They did.  Here is what they posted:

UPDATE: WMC graphic designer LaHenrya Boyd confirmed that she was laid off today.
ORIGINAL POST (12/9): According to sources, Raycom Media-based WMC laid off several employees today.
Neither Raycom nor WMC has commented; however, sources put the layoff toll at 15.
Sources said Bill Lunn, the NBC affiliate’s midday anchor and reporter, was among those impacted. Lunn could not be reached for comment. His bio is no longer on the site.
Other names were mentioned but have not yet been verified. Graphics and production were also impacted, according to sources.

The fact that there were layoffs at a TV station comes as no surprise to anyone who has been following what is going on in the economy.  The fact that a high profile person such as Bill Lunn who came over to WMC from WPTY/WLMT 24/30 a few years ago kind of surprises me.  I”ve only met BL a couple of times and he seemed personable enough and he has a good presence on the air as an anchor and a reporter.  But money is money and I would imagine even a company such as Raycom is keeping a very close eye on the bottom line these days.  A cynic might say that WMC had to let some folks go in order to cover the cost of Andy Wise who appears back on the air in less than a month.  In fact, a cynic DID share that thought with me and perhaps there is some merit to that.    Afterall, there is only so much money in the newsroom budget and managers use it as they feel it will help the station.  I’m not saying that is the case here, I’m just putting it out there for consideration.  The bottom line is that there really isn’t a great time to be fired but there is a worse time and I think this might just qualify unless one waited to pull the trigger until the week of Christmas. Moving on….

I read the obit of Fred Cook this morning in the Commercial Appeal.  For those not familiar with Mr. Cook, he was a broadcasting force to be reckoned with in the Memphis market when most of the current crop of anchors and reporters were still using Clearasil or wearing short pants or perhaps both.  I only met Mr. Cook this past year and that was at the Valvoline Oil Lube place on Union.  He was sitting there  when I brought my car in and we chatted a little before his car was ready.  He didn’t have much of an opinion on the state of radio (his first love) and TV news.  Some might say he was a bit of a curmudgeon.  Maybe it’s a trait of all former newspeople.  Anyway, Mr. Cook left his mark on the news business in Memphis and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

And speaking of being a curmudgeon, I guess I’ve fallen into that category on certain things.  When I watch TV news, I want to see the anchors and reporters dressed professionally.  Unless an a male anchor is in the field, I want to see him dressed in a coat and tie.  Unless a female anchor is in the field, I expect to see her wearing a nice suit or outfit.  For goodness sakes they generally tend to make the most money in the newsroom so dress like it.  Of course when it comes to field work, they should dress to the occasion or story.  It’s silly to wear a coat and tie or a dress with heels if you are covering a wildfire.  I don’t have a problem seeing someone wearing jeans and a shirt when the story calls for it.  Just don’t look like you got poured into your clothes.  I swear I saw a woman the other day wearing jeans that were so damn tight they looked like they were ready to rip apart at the seams.  Plus, if she had been wearing corduroy I think  she would have burst into flames from her thighs rubbing together.  I don’t think she could have pulled off a walking, talking stand-up as she would have made so much noise it would have overpowered what she was saying.

Guys, if you are going to sit at an anchor desk inside, at least wear a tie with your dress shirt.  I see these network yahoos in the morning who wear a suit, not a sport coat mind you but a suit and no tie.  What, you didn’t think it was important enough?  Perhaps you forgot how to tie it.  Maybe you are too cool to wear it.  Please, give me a break.  Put the tie on or stay at home and let someone else  sit in for you.   I see nothing wrong with wearing a turtleneck with a jacket or a mock T with a jacket but come on, be professional in your appearance.   We’ve all been told not to judge a book by its cover but a number of people do.  Now stop reading this and get back to work before you get a call to the manager’s office who has a Christmas surprise for you.

Catching Up on What’s Going On in the World of TV Part 2

December 5, 2008

I don’t know what is more depressing these days.  Looking at my 200.5K (it used to be my 401K but it’s worth about half of what it was!)  or looking at the state of the media.  Yes, everyone is hurting and hurting in a big way.  I’m sharing a posting from The GM who left a comment on my previous post.  (As an aside, I’m glad to hear from The GM as I feared he/she had become a victim of the economy or some cranky owners.  I figured he or she was so busy keeping the TV station in the black that he/she didn’t have time to write).  Anyway, here is what The GM had to say:

It is as ugly as I have ever seen it — down right scary. TV gets 20% of its ad revenue from auto advertising. The Big Three are on the Hill with their hand out and as of yet, it is still out there, empty. What does that mean? Lower ad revenue. Not just auto but the housing bust takes its toll on furniture and everything else that a homeowner might buy.

Many, many media companies are over leveraged. When they took on that debt, the lenders put convenants into the agreement that said the debt to revenue ratio couldn’t exceed a certain amount. Well no on anticipated a drop in revenue like we are seeing across the board. Those ratios are not being met, which means default.

Not only will you see hiring freezes and layoffs, I predict within two years you will see many markets with only the top two stations producing a newscast — this will be particularly true in markets 50+. There is just not enough of a news pie to justify threee or four stations producing news. Losing money is not an option.

So, there’s my Christmas Cheer for the day. Feel better?

Focus on being efficient and effective in your job because your company is doing the same.

The GM

Folks, those of you still working in TV land better take note.  To quote Norm from the sitcom Cheers, “It’s a dog eat dog world out there and I’m wearing Milkbone underwear”.

How bad is it.  Well, I see that Miles O’Brien, longtime reporter (16 or 17 years) for CNN was let go.  MOB was their aviation expert who covered the space program and aviation disasters and was at one time scheduled to be the first journalist in space before the Columbia disaster.  Along with the axe falling on MOB, about a half dozen producers were also let go from his “unit”.  Here’s a link to Shoptalk for the skinny.  Folks, IMHO, that cut went into the meat and not the fat.

Then I see buried in the “A” section of the Commercial Appeal that the parent company of the C-A,  Scripps is trying to sell the company’s  flagship newspaper located in Denver.  And if they can’t sell it, well then other avenues will have to be explored or something to that effect.  Can the C-A be far behind?  Or for that matter can some of the local TV news operations be far behind?  I would think that marginally performing news shows might be in trouble except that it might still be cheaper to air news in those time slots than to try to buy syndicated programming.  Perhaps The GM can weigh in on that as well.  One thing is for certain, if you work on a news program you had better make sure you are worth what they are paying you.  Remember, it doesn’t take that long to train some hungry person just out of school who is practically begging for a job anyway and there are plenty of Ken and Barbies waiting for their shot as reporters and anchors.  And to help determine just how much someone might be missed in any business try this: Get a bucket of water and very quickly stick in your hand and pull it out.  The size of the hole that is left in the water will determine how much the organization you work for can get along without you.

And one final note,  (thanks from DG for sharing,) Landmark, which recently sold The Weather Channel to NBC Universal (which then started swinging the budget axe, hitting about 80 people) has announced it is taking the two TV stations it owns OFF the market, according to NewsBlues. A deal had been set to sell WTFV in Nashville but financing fell through at the last minute.  I’m not sure if KLAS had any serious suitors.  I guess for now, this is good news for employees at both of those stations as long as the proverbial sugar-teat doesn’t dry up.


Catching Up on What’s Going on in the TV News World

December 3, 2008

It’s a amazing but if you don’t read your email on a regular basis how much you can get left behind.  I’m now playing catch-up.

First, congrats are in order to both WMC and WREG.  It appears what one didn’t win in November, the other did.  Since this is old news to most, I won’t bother posting the numbers.   And WMC is preparing to take the wraps off the new and improved Andy Wise.  I can only assume that AW is tanned, rested and ready to take on those folks who trample on the lowly consumer.  I would expect a big unveiling and promotional push as of January 1st and even get that bumped up a notch as we swing into the February book.

Anyone who doesn’t doubt that these are tough times for everyone including TV news operations isn’t paying attention.   If there was ever a time when some folks are probably giving serious consideration to how to squeeze the most from every penny, it is now.  I’m told that hiring freezes are the norm everywhere and it seems that not a day goes by that some long-time anchor is announcing his or her retirement.   I’ve been told that at WTVF in Nashville that some long time employees are being offered buy-outs.  I haven’t had that indepedently confirmed but that’s supposedly going on and that is the Numero Uno station in the Music City.  They do have some long-time talent in that operation and perhaps that’s what helped them get to the number one spot but these days it’s also very much about the bottom line.   Also, I’ve heard that Young Broadcasting which owns the ABC affiliate there (WKRN) may file for bankruptcy after the first of the year.  I think some TV group with deep pockets might snap that station up if it goes on the block as part of a fire sale.  I would say if you have a job in TV news you had better make yourself indispensable (and it better not be just in your mind).  I would say that stations would REALLY be interested in hiring someone right out of college at half the salary and a fraction of the benefits.  I would imagine those who have skated along could find themselves in the unemployment line.

Speaking of getting employment, I received a note about the former news director at WREG Michele Gors is now the president and CEO of KPTS in the Wichita area.  As some of you may remember MG left Memphis to become the ND at a station in Wichita and left that post earlier this year.  Also, there are some Asst. News director spots in Memphis.  AT WHBQ Fox 13 Matt Malyn is headed to KTVX to be the AND and WREG’s Tom Moo is calling it quits later this month. Don’t know if those posts will be filled internally or if they are looking for some outside talent.  I’m told that at least one person DOTR is lobbying pretty hard to get that post.  From what I’m told some will not be too happy if that person gets it.

The murder of that anchor in Little Rock should make those who work in the business want to take a few more precautions concerning their safety.  It came out recently that the female anchor had been sexually assaulted in addition to being beaten.  I think the perp on this one can say goodbye to freedom.