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

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.

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23 Comments on “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”


  1. TVH was still on the website as of 30 minutes ago, but Davis, Lunn and Dave Cera were gone. No one in meteorology, eh?

  2. joelarkins Says:

    Thanks for the update. I would think that any operation would want to keep their weatherguys since that is a huge selling point in this market….that is unless they have found a way to plug in the SooperDooper 5 gajillion Watt Gonad Cobra Viper See Down Yer Blouse and Up Yer Skirt radar and replace flesh and blood folks. But then I would have thought it would be a cold day when they replaced DD on the evening news. I predict there will be a backlash of some sort with that particular move.


  3. i think it would have hurt them less to cut Joe Birch, but I could be wrong. If the station DOTR could lose Jerry Tate and get to #1, no anchor is untouchable, IMO.

  4. joelarkins Says:

    Right now Joe and Dave Brown are the legacy folks and while I don’t want to take anything from Joe I think if it comes down to letting one of the two go, they would axe Joe and keep Dave. Having said that, Dave may not be that far from retiring and if they piss him off they need someone with longevity and that would be Joe. They may not want to screw with that right now but I would imagine that the huge numbers on the contract that Joe got a few years ago will be renegotiated down a bit, especially with the economy and numbers that aren’t quite as strong as they used to be.

  5. Doug Johnson Says:

    Many of the fmr NC3ers who work for a local shipping company were abuzz with talk of the WMC layoffs this afternoon. Several were asking me what I knew, and all I could come up with was “mebbe I should ask Joe…”

    And you do come off a bit crusty on the dressing for on-air issue. If you have the opportunity to whisk the lovely bride off to Hawaii for a visit, you’ll notice that a lot of the men in TV news are wearing Hawaiian shirts. Kinda strange.

    Be careful with the curmudgeon-ness… Next thing you know you’ll be the guy in his bathrobe standing on the front lawn yelling, “you kids get out of my yard!”

  6. joelarkins Says:

    Don’t forget that I shake my fist at them as they laugh and then skip on their merry way to school. As for the news people in Hawaii, my little sister shared that tidbit about their attire when she and her starter husband lived there while he was in the Navy. But what do you expect from a state where folks get you “leied” as soon as you set foot on their island.

  7. The GM Says:

    Sad news about the folks at WMC.

    Wonder why this happens right before Christmas? It has nothing to do with Scrooge and everything to do with the budget process. Most companies are on a calendar budget process. The original 2009 budget was put together in September and presented to corporate in October or November. That budget included a projection on how 2008 would finish.

    Think back to September. What has changed? How’s your 401k look since then? How about the credit markets? Every corporate executive is telling every GM to go back to work on the budget and come back with a plan that reflects revenue dropping significantly. While some profit drop will be accepted, each GM will be pressured to cut expenses to the absolute bone.

    Added pressure on this process is pacing for 1st Qtr. Normally by this time, the Big 3 Automakers have placed thier base 2009 buys — we’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars to a station like WMC. Guess what, they haven’t placed yet and frankly we do not know if they’ll even be in business next year.

    Think about it. You find out your salary is cut 20%, what are you going to do? You find ways to cut your expenses in the short term while pursuing new revenue in the long term.

    This is ugly. If you are at a station and have a singular task, beware. Learn to multi-task and make yourself more available. If you haven’t bought into your station’s web effort, you are making a big mistake.

    I wish all broadcast professionals well. We are in an environment none of us have every faced. Make sure when cuts are contemplated you bring more to the table than a good, live stand-up.

    The GM

  8. Latilleon Says:

    How long before WREG replaces Claudia Barr with Donna Davis?

  9. joelarkins Says:

    IMHO if Claudia gets replaced it won’t be by DD it will be by someone who makes a fraction of her salary. I think The GM makes some points that all news people ought to consider. The bottom line: What do you bring to the table and how is that helping the station’s bottom line. While no one is indispensable those left in the TV stations should make themselves difficult to replace.

  10. Lead pipe Says:

    Latilleon, why in the world would ‘3’ want to replace Claudia Barr? Ratings are through the roof right now with her and Richard. She’s doing a great job. Recent events at wmc have all mid-south radio/tv folks on edge. Let’s be careful with our words, show some sympathy and compassion, please.

  11. Eric Says:

    I have a relative that got the ole WMC axe yesterday. He had a newsroom position and had been with the company for 10+ years. Interesting that somebody mentioned the “multitasking” because he knew how to do a few things and ironically, he said last night that a co-worker said something like, “Man, you know how to do everything!” just a few days ago. His take on it was that Raycom is mired in tough times and there had been whispers for some time that stuff might be on the horizon, but the logic of the “who and why” of the majority of the 15 people just didn’t seem to be there. I feel certain that he has enough experience as well as industry contacts to land on his feet in the coming months.

  12. JD Says:

    Some real class last night Joe, by Joe Birch! He took a minute to pay tribute to Donna and the other people fired from 5 last night. You could tell he was upset just before they went to break. (Thanks Joe, but we already knew you were very human and compassionate)

    What surprises me is the fact that Channel 5 has always been a first and foremost in the local media for years. First in color and first with live remotes, and first with recorded video tape. (Plug for Bernie Mintz) First with 24 hour transmissions. I hope and pray that because they were first to let some folks go, that others won’t jump up and start doing the same thing.

    I have to be suspicious with these particular layoffs knowing Andy Wise is in the wings at 5. Is he worth that much?
    For the GM and others who explain these transactions as just business……I hope somebody remembers these folks were people at some point and not just dollar signs. Or have we all become just to buried in the “bottom line”?

  13. Latilleon Says:

    Lead pipe… Because Davis is younger, probably less expensive, and probably an equal name in the market to Claudia Barr.

  14. Former Fox 13'er Says:

    Gotta love the plug for Bernie Mintz! Great guy! Of all the people I know, he’s one of them. Plus, he’s more fun than a barrel of people. <- Both Bernie sayings… I think if this had happened any other time, most of those AXED could easily find work. Who knows in this economy though? Good luck to them!!

  15. Chris in Brazil Says:

    The novice from Brasil chiming in on Bernie here…I had the privilege to work with him an entire Sunday during my internship, just me and Bernie. We were doing the video for the 25th anniversary of the Blackwood Brothers. I had so much fun with him and he taught me quite a bit that day. I’ll never forget it. This was 1984 I believe. He told me that we would soon have more local news covered during more times of the day than anyone would care to watch. I laughed and thought, “no way”. The man knew what he was talking about. Okay, a little off the subject.

    But I will say that the 2 people that I admired the most and were the most helpful and went out of their way to help this college sophmore were Joe Birch and Dave Brown. Glad to see they’re still around. And I am very sorry for the cutbacks and those families which they are affecting.

  16. The GM Says:

    “For the GM and others who explain these transactions as just business……I hope somebody remembers these folks were people at some point and not just dollar signs. Or have we all become just to buried in the “bottom line”?”

    The crap side of management is making and carrying-out decisions like these. No one who does so loses sight that we are dealing with people. If Mr. Meredith was unwilling to carry-out this move, do you think Raycom would have just let things be or they would they have brought in someone else to do the job? Perhaps Mr. Meredith had the long-term future of the station as a whole to consider.

    I’m defending management because I’ve been there. Trust me, days like yesterday at WMC are no fun on either side of the table. The best one can hope is that the company stepped-up and provided a generous separation package.

    By the way, I wasn’t justifying the moves, I was explaining the why and the timing. The more people understand, the more they can be proactive in their career choices.

    The GM

  17. the tall tv guy Says:

    After being let go more than once over the last 15 years, I’m glad not to have been on the other side of the table. Within five seconds, your first thought is where will I land and how long will it take me to get there? It’s a very scary feeling. I hope my present job is my last job. It’s hard to do your best when there’s an atmosphere of insecurity around.

    After observing from a distance what one of my former employers has been doing recently, it’s tough to admit I was once proud and happy to work there. Things change and it’s interesting how your perception changes as well.

    Mr. GM, I agree, you need to be proactive, but sometimes office politics and personality clashes lead to someone leaving. Objectivity goes out the window along with common sense.

    A few years ago, friends tried to tell me getting a master’s degree or certification just doesn’t make that much difference any more. It’s more with networking and making connections, getting on that inside track. I tried that strategy lately, and didn’t even get an interview. Oh, well….Merry Christmas and hope 2009 is better than 2008!

  18. Anonymous Says:

    As an employee of WMC, I can tell you that, with a bow to The GM, yesterday at WMC was no fun for any person, regardless of rank. I do hope that some of you had a chance to watch Joe Birch last night because he communicated what the vast majority of us were feeling. His spirit last night is the same spirit that you see daily at WMC and it is that spirit, not numbers, that make WMC what it is.

    The people laid off will be dearly missed and while thoughts and prayers will not put food on the table they will be in both for many of us and we will do all we can to help them.

    If you or someone you love has YET to be affected by the economy, be thankful and don’t blink.

  19. JAC Says:

    How many Jobs could be saved with a Dave Brown Retirement? 3 Anchors? 5 Staff?

  20. the tall tv guy Says:

    Anonymous – could someone put the clip of Joe Birch from 12/9 on you tube? Several have commented on how Joe handled it and I missed it.

    Thanks

  21. Ready Camera One, Take Two Says:

    How many jobs could the dairy save if they would only get rid of those costly cows?


  22. JAC, I understand, but how many VIEWERS would be lost with a Dave Brown retirement? Lost those viewers, you lose more ad $$$ at a time when you can least afford it, and those jobs will be gone anyway. It’s downright scary how important the WEATHERGASM teams have become to local news. That’s why no one in meteorology was let go this time, I’m betting.

    GM, care to weigh in on this?

  23. The GM Says:

    I’ll be the first to tell you the brand is more important than the personality. The personality should reflect the brand. However, weather is a big exception. Weather drives local news and a trustworthy, likeable, reliable meteorologist is like gold. The last time WHBQ was #1 in Memphis, Dave Brown was doing the weather. Case closed.

    The GM


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