More Belt-Tightening at WREG, Just How Long Can Memphis Support All of These News Operations and a Former NYTimes Broadcast Executive is named GM in Memphis

Some folks at WREG are feeling the tightening of the financial belt and apparently it is being felt across the board as well at sister stations in the Local TV LLC group.  According to what I have been told there was a meeting late last week where personal time, sick time and vacation time were cut back and the benchmarks where one receives additional weeks of vacation were revamped.   Since it’s been four years since I was in the “system” there I can’t remember what the original bench marks were (one year you get one week of vacation, two years you get two weeks, etc.) but  those have been scaled back.  Now, instead of getting that extra week of vacation after ten years of employment, you must now be employed there for 14 years for that extra week.  Personal days were cut altogether, and you now only get one week of sick leave.  Apparently this applies even if someone is under contract.  And I would imagine if someone pitches a fit, then it would be time for re-evaluation on whether that person is indeed a team player.  I’m sure someone with more intimate knowledge of the system will want to weigh in and clarify.  Still, as more stations slash here and there, I would doubt that anyone would want to openly bitch and moan as they are still gainfully employed and there’s something to be said for that.

And speaking of which, it seems a growing number of stations are looking at the product they put on the air and the manpower (womanpower?) required to put those shows on the air and re-evaluating those things.  Apparently some stations are pulling the plug temporarily on some weekend evening news shows, especially those that are often pre-empted by sports programming running long.  I would imagine it is a tempting trend.   And that brings up a question that seems to have even more merit during these tough economic times.  HOW LONG CAN A MARKET SUSTAIN NEWS OPERATIONS AT EVERY TV STATION?  I know that just about every news operation has tried to squeeze as much as they can out of each employee and any employee who has half a brain knows they had better pitch in or they will find themselves out on the street.  But at what point in time do the people who control the purse strings say “hey, let’s cut news operations and save a million dollars or so a year”.  I would think that those folks in news operations that are perennial also-rans in the ratings have to be sweating bullets these days.

It is indeed a small world when it comes to the wonderful world of broadcasting.  I’ve said for years that there are only about 300 on-air people in the TV news business and every few years many of these folks shift to another station.  Well, it turns out that is also the case for managers as well.  It seems a former GM for one of the  former NYTimes stations is coming to Memphis to take over the operations of WPTY/WLMT.  Rene LaSpina will be take over when Mr. Peck departs.  LaSpina started out in sales at WNEP (sister station to WREG Memphis) in Scranton, PA before finally being named GM before leaving for WCCO in the Twin Cities.  She left there to take over Young Broadcasting’s WTEN in Albany, NY before heading to the Bluff City.  Welcome to Memphis.

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5 Comments on “More Belt-Tightening at WREG, Just How Long Can Memphis Support All of These News Operations and a Former NYTimes Broadcast Executive is named GM in Memphis”

  1. Doug Johnson Says:

    Another blog (NewsBlues) says “Local TV LLC is requiring department heads to take one-week furloughs; general managers are being asked to take pay cuts.” Mr. James also notes that Jack Peck is started today as GM at KMPH-26-Fox in Fresno (Market #55).

    I remember getting that 3rd week of vacation in my 8th year at WREG. That was the same year I left for Nashville, so I only got to enjoy it once. The huge shift from TV stations seemingly rolling in cash to where they seem to be now is incredible. Even with increased competition, there doesn’t seem to be much problem in local stations selling out their ad time — I still see the Watson’s girl (more like the Watson’s middle-aged woman now) every day.

  2. The GM Says:

    Rene LaSpina: I knew I knew the name but couldn’t place it when I heard it last week. Thanks for filling-in the blanks.

    All media is transforming due to two seismic events. One is the internet and the expanding platforms with people choosing different ways to get their news. The other is the fact that most TV stations are owned either by newspaper companies, investment groups and/or a combination of the two. Tremendous financial strain. Look for consolidation of news gathering; sharing of content; more technological advancements that eliminate positions.

    Not fun, but it is the world in which we now live.

    The GM

  3. The GM Says:

    It is not a matter of not selling the time. It is a matter for having to sell it for 30% less. It’s all about share and if a station tries to hold rate, they lose market share. If they lose market share — TROUBLE.

    The GM

  4. the tall tv guy Says:

    Let’s see…Rene LaSpina has worked in PA, Michigan, and New York. Coming to Memphis there will be climate shock from June to September. Remember, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity!!

    It sounds like some of these GMs are moving to a similar market size station. If a GM doesn’t agree with new policies or expectations from the corporate powers that be, then moving on will happen, one way or another.

    Hey Doug, Yes the Watson’s girl is still around, but the latest ad announces a name change from Watson’s to Family Leisure. She might disappear now. Time will tell.

  5. Doc Pepper Says:

    I think you will see more linkages.. Major newspapers in the top markets have a sharing arrangement. The goal is to cut the costs of using the AP wire.

    The commercial appeal has a relationship with Yahoo.

    TV will, I believe, do a lot of sharing with other market stations, newspapers, radio stations and internet news.

    The wildcard is cable/internet services. Both the CBS station in Nashville and the CBS station in Memphis offer local news channels.

    WMC may have an advantage in the sharing arrangement with a lot of nearby sister Raycom stations.

    The knoxville news sentinel had a virtual weather reporter that was animated to appear to be a real reporter.

    News is still a cheap local produced show. it may mean fewer faces and doing more with less, but I think it will remain as a product, but witha singular anchor, no sports person and a weatherman that works long hours.

    You may see faceless anchors

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