The more I think about WSPD-TV General Manager Keith McKinney, the more I wonder if he really was stupid and nasty. Maybe he wasn’t stupid at all—just the meanest man in the world of broadcasting.
He had one trick to squeeze blood from the turnip that I think was his alone—and not necessarily official Storer Broadcasting policy. Don’t get me wrong—Storer could be cheap. But McKinney raised tight-fistedness to an art form.
Example? This one’s a beaut.
It’s certainly not unusual for GMs to keep pay rates and pay raises under their direct control. But McKinney was a master manipulator.
In the mid-70s when I was news director, WSPD employee pay raises averaged about $5 a week, and were given on the employee’s anniversary date. You get your raise from your department head, but he couldn't give it without direct written authorization from McKinney.
So let’s say you work for me and you’re supporting a wife and two kids on $130 a week. On February 1st, your anniversary date, you know, I know, and Keith knows you’re supposed to go to $135 a week. Joy of joys! Now you might be able to replace that cracked windshield on the Studebaker!
So in the middle of January your department head (me!) goes to Keith with the paperwork. He takes it and puts it in the pile on his desk.
And nothing happens.
Come the middle of February, and your pay raise is two weeks overdue. You approach me and say, “Did you forget?” I express my (legitimate) surprise, and promise to look into the situation.
I approach Keith, who angrily says, “I haven’t had time to get around to it. Leave me alone.”
March 1st, you’re getting impatient, I’m getting embarrassed, and Keith is getting angrier every time I mention your pay raise.
April 1st you’re looking at me like I’m probably personally pocketing your pay raise and Keith has kicked me out of his office twice.
Finally, long about May 1st, I screw up my courage and approach again. Keith—still angry—signs the paperwork. When I ask if the raise is retroactive to February 1st, he kicks me out of his office.
This scene if repeated over and over with everyone who works in my department. EVERYONE loses three months of pay raises. OK, it’s only $65 a head—but that’s a lot of cracked windshields on a lot of 15-year-old cars.
But here’s where McKinney’s genius pays off. Next February 1st, I go upstairs and say, “Keith, it’s So-and-So's anniversary date.” Keith stalls, but finally looks in his magic ledger and says, “What kind of trick are you trying to pull? He had a pay raise just last May. He’s not due again until this May!” And he kicks me out of his office.
Of course, in May Keith is “too busy” to give you your pay raise. He finally gets around to it in August.
And so it goes, for everyone, every year. Each year, your pay raise is delayed by three months and your "anniversary date" slides back by another three months. In four short years each employee has lost an entire year’s worth of pay raises. Keith and Storer have pocketed $265 per employee just by stalling.
Did I say earlier that my surprise was legitimate? Only the first two or three times.
Fool me once, shame on me—try to fool me 25 times a year, shame on you, Keith McKinney.