Thursday, August 27
First things first. I haven’t got a single bad thing to say about Ron. I enjoyed working with him, and I respect his talent and his drive. From my vantage point (here on the outside) I think he’s done a decent job over his three-and-a-half years in the hot seat, ATC/UTC. If you want to say something different, you can post a comment below. I’m just not feeling in a Ron-bashing mood. I’m sure he did his best ATC/UTC.
That’s my phrase to describe everything at Nexstar: All Things Considered/Under the Circumstances. You can read in my posts here how disappointed I was, how miserable I was, every single day I worked at WBRE. Any success I might have had in the past was in building news departments. Maybe it’s a shortcoming on my part, but I was never very good at dismantling things. My biggest accomplishment at WBRE was that I was able to do (I thought) a fairly decent job of disguising the cuts I was forced to make against my better judgment. I wasn’t built to manage a shoe factory, to rely solely on the bottom line in making news decisions. So I was out of step, out of touch, and then out of work. So it goes.
ATC/UTC I thought Ron did a pretty good job of keeping the WBRE news product inching in the right direction during very troubling times.
His legacy, unfortunately, is that he will always be remembered most as the news director who shut down WYOU-TV’s news department. A CBS affiliate in a (roughly) top-fifty market without a news department, without local news? Who’d have thought it could happen? Obviously, Nexstar thought it could/should happen, and it fell to Ron to make it happen. But it wasn’t his fault, really. I can’t imagine that he dreamed up the idea. As I said in another posting, WYOU hit the iceberg a long, long time ago. Ron just happened to be standing on the bridge when the ship finally sank.
So why is Ron out? I honestly don’t know. Don’t have a clue. Some sort of “smoking gun” that made his firing inevitable? I can’t imagine what it might be. Or did he resign?
I’m tempted to say it’s just showbiz. It’s just Nexstar, once again throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. “Well, that didn’t work, let’s try something else.” In many cases that means, “Let’s try someONE else.” Good luck to whoever sits in that seat next.
How many have there been since the late, much-honored Tom Bigler? I’m not sure even I know them all. But in there somewhere was a Larry, a Micah, a Terry, an Al and a Paul. Oh ... and a Ron. I might have missed someone.
I guess it’s like being a pro basketball coach. I love this quote: “The day a coach is hired, he’s also fired. We just haven’t worked out the timetable.”
Thursday, August 13
This, of course is the man who killed off local news on WYOU-TV (and the entire news department with it). I guess his "vision" for the future of WYOU didn't quite match the vision of the people who had worked there for 10, 20 or 30 years. But that's television, and we don't "do" TV anymore!
A friend commented that making Sook "Broadcaster of the Year" is like giving Hitler a humanitarian award for ending overcrowding in the Jewish ghettos.
B&C Names Perry Sook Broadcaster of the Year
Nexstar chairman, president and CEO will be honored September 10
By B&C Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/11/2009 12:30:00 PM EDT
"B&C has made an outstanding choice," said TVB President Chris Rohrs. "Perry pioneered the retransmission-consent revenue stream and has been a staunch advocate of multiplatform development. He is one of the industry's great innovators and visionaries."
Sook is hailed as a pioneer who fought cable operators for retransmission-consent cash back when nearly all in broadcasting were content to sit on the sidelines.
Nexstar also this year added CW affiliate WCWJ in Jacksonville, the group's first station in Florida and the 63rd for which it provides sales, programming or other services.
Under Sook, the company also cut a deal this year to provide management services for the seven stations owned by Four Points Media Group, an affiliate of Cerberus Capital Management.
Sook currently serves as a director of the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters, the Television Bureau of Advertising and as a trustee for the Ohio University Foundation.
The B&C Broadcaster of the Year award has been presented at TVB events since 2002.
Previous Broadcasters of the Year include Meredith's Paul Karpowicz, Gannett's Roger Ogden, Belo's Jack Sander, Post-Newsweek's Alan Frank, Hearst's David Barrett, Tribune Co.'s Dennis FitzSimons and Fox Television's Dennis Swanson (when he was general manager of WNBC New York).
Sunday, August 9
Up for discussion: WNEP-TV'S "Gerbil Racing". Discuss amongst yourselves and report back.
Our first comment (below) came complete with pictures of Bobby Gunther Walsh and J. Kristopher. Heck ... Dialing for Dollars was even before my time!
Friday, August 7
16 on 16.
WNEP is adding yet another half-hour local newscast (it's 16th) to its weekday lineup, at four in the afternoon. Sixteen half-hours of news a day!
You know the old police motto, "To Protect and Serve"? I think this is all about serving and protecting. Yeah, it's about serving the viewers, but that's its secondary purpose. It's really much, much more about protecting jobs. And since I'm for jobs, and for broadcasting, I salute the station and its managers.
So as of September 8th, the Newswatch 16 lineup will include local half-hours at 5:00 a.m., 5:30, 6:00, 6:30, 12:00 p.m., 4:00, 5:00, 5:30, 6:00, 7:00, 10:00 (on WOLF, the FOX affiliate), and 11:00 p.m. That's still not counting the four half-hour live newscasts produced specifically for and aired on WNEP-2, the station's cable and Internet channel from 7:00-9:00 a.m. each weekday morning.
Do we really need all that news? C'mon, fess up: the audience doesn't. WNEP does ... as a way to justify it's (relatively) expensive news operation.
What can I tell you. Up until the Internet came along, there were two ways to make more money in broadcasting: charge more for your commercial minutes or find more commercial minutes!
Actually, I'm old enough to remember when stations did both! Coming out of the 60s, when NBC stations (the leaders) signed off at 1:00 a.m. after the Tonight show and signed on again at 7:00 a.m. for the Today show, it was easy to find more minutes. Simply run old movies overnight. Or repeat the 11:00 p.m. news at 1:00 a.m.. Or (and this was the brilliant part) put on your own local newscast at 6:30 a.m.! Then, in the 70s, as news gained in popularity it was easy to charge more because you were delivering more "eyeballs" to advertisers.
These days with stations programmed 24/7 and audiences shrinking it's tough to find more minutes or charge more for them. The Internet may be what they call a "revenue stream" someday. It doesn't seem to be there yet.
What do you say when the corporate bosses come around asking for budget cuts in every department, asking you to reduce your "head count"? You say, "Wait ... we need every single 'body' in the News Department ... because ... uh ... we're starting another newscast! Yeah ... that's the ticket ... another newscast."
So you take your news and production budgets and spread them over more newscasts, and subtract the savings for the syndicated program you now won't be buying to fill the slot, and voila! Corporate goes away happy.
When I became WNEP's news director in 1983, the station was airing news at 6:30 a.m., 12 Noon, 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. I desperately wanted to add another dinnertime half-hour: 5:00 or 5:30.
I made my case ... repeatedly ... to GM Elden Hale. Finally he said to me, "What kind of additional staff would you be talking about?"
"Well, we do four half-hours a day with a staff of 50. I think I could add another half-hour with just twelve more people."
If you know Elden, you know he's not one to bust a gut laughing. He's not a knee-slapping, fall-on-the-floor-in-hysterics kind of guy. But this time he came close to doing one of those Laurel & Hardy spit-takes with his coffee.
In the end I got what I really hoped for in the first place which was, if I remember, a staff increase of 5 or 6 people.
I think over the years the WNEP staff grew to more than 60 ... maybe even 70 ... but I think it's down again. Of course, I don't know how many people are involved in the web site. I also know that computers and advanced electronics and "one-man bands" have made news gathering more efficient. But I don't care how many people on your staff, you're spreading them pretty thin (if you ask me) to produce eight hours of news programming a day. That's more than a 400% increase in news product in the last 25 years!
Of course, it's the same everywhere. I came to WNEP straight from WABC in New York. when I left we were producing 2 1/2 hours of news a day with a staff of 245 (including 22 two-person video crews, 11 of them in live trucks)! Today they're still #1, but doing way more with way less.
The trick is repeat, repeat, repeat! I've said here before that less news ... less real news ... is being covered in this market than at any time I can remember. Hey, I love spot news as much as the next guy (OK, maybe more). But do we have to cover every single fender bender and every single vacant house fire? I said in an earlier post, that's not reporting that's covering.
I'm sure everyone feels ridden hard and pout away wet these days, especially when you add in the demands of the Internet presence.
I remember, though, that way back when I thought we were stretching Chief Meteorologist Tom Clark pretty thin by having him do so many weathercasts. Does today's announcement mean he'll appear in six half-hours broadcasts a day? And Joe Snedeker shows up multiple times in eight half-hours?
More work ... the same (or fewer) people. That's the troubling "media math" in 2009.