Friday, July 18, 2008

Broken News


Well, it's official: WTVJ, NBC 6 in South Florida has been sold to Post-Newsweek, owner of competitor WPLG, ABC 10.

The announcement was made to the staffs of both stations this morning.

Here's what WPLG Vice President and General Manager Dave Boylan had to say:

"First and foremost it means that The Washington Post Company believes in local broadcasting. You should feel very proud that you are working for a company that is investing in our future. Bringing two legacy stations together is another commitment made by Alan Frank, Don Graham and the Board of Directors of our company to ensure that the Post-Newsweek Stations will continue as the leader in local news and in serving the Miami-Ft Lauderdale community. I can assure you that both WTVJ and WPLG will be even stronger local broadcasters under this new arrangement."

Feel free to go look up the word "platitude" if you need to. You'll find it in the dictionary, about halfway between "bullshit" and "unemployment."

Speaking of which, what did NBC have to say to the folks at WTVJ?

Well, some of them reported receiving Emergency Unemployment Benefits Forms in the mail yesterday -- before any official announcement had even been made.

On a personal note, I realize that yesterday's extended commentary on this impending deal was a little inside baseball -- maybe too inside for some. I said what I felt needed to be said because I care about these people -- my former co-workers at WTVJ, many of whom have been there for years, through good times and bad. They don't deserve what's happening to them right now, not after all they've done for that place and for NBC. Writing what I did -- expressing some anger, sadness, frustration, outrage, even heartbreak on their behalf and on behalf of the history of the station -- was, literally, the very least I could do.

I wish them all the best.

Hang in there.

(Update: For those who've asked what factors led to a deal like this, take a look at what appears in the #3 slot on Wallet Pop's list of the 25 things that are vanishing from America.)

8 comments:

quantumLCD said...

Ditto.

I wish all the `TVJ'ers all the best in this uncertain, confusing and sad time.

Suzy said...

I emailed back and forth with one of the reporters at WTVJ today and he said, "Rumor has it, WPLG will consolidate and get ride[sic] of a lot fo[sic] people at both stations and run both as cheaply as possible. An era has ended in Miami with WTVJ. We will have to see."

He sounded so sad. I told him to come up to Detroit where I can't watch the news with a beverage because everytime I take a sip I spit it out through my nose laughing. They're horrible here. Vonnegut's Mrs. Malaprop would do well here. Anyway, I told him to send his CV up this way if he didn't mind the tundra.

Anonymous said...

"On a personal note, I realize that yesterday's extended commentary on this impending deal was a little inside baseball -- maybe too inside for some."

Glad you said this cause I was going to ask for some Cliff or Chez notes so that I didn't have to read the whole thing. But then I figured you'd get mad at me and tell me to fuck off or don't read it. Sometimes you come across as one big raw nerve.

So tell me, at what second in your life as a producer for TV news did you lose your sense of humor?

largo said...

I'll say it for Chez...

Fuck off. People losing their jobs isn't funny.

Ms. Mix & Bitch said...

I have a serious question:

What do you think - if anything - can save local news...and

(o.k., two questions)

If local news across the country indeed becomes a series of duopolies, then where - if anywhere - do you think people will turn to for real news in the future?

Just curious about your take...

Chez said...

This is the natural evolution. Local news has been on the decline for years; it's dying as a medium. There are just too many alternative sources for news, even local news, these days for there to be four English-language stations in each market battling it out. The separate places simply aren't making money for the companies that own them.

To its credit, WPLG in Miami has gone hyper-local -- basically cutting out all the news you could be getting somewhere else -- and it's done wonders for their ratings. The future isn't broadcasting but "narrowcasting," and it's been that way for quite some time. You find your niche and stick with it.

Anonymous said...

Chez--
As one of the 'TVJers facing an uncertain future (indeed, one of the long-timers who worked with you),thanks for thinking of us, and saying (with your usual stiletto wit) some things that needed to be said.
Your words were widely consumed in newsrooms across Miami in the last couple of days, and I saw some head-shaking and rueful smiles in reaction to your Beale-esque post.
NBC has sold its folks down the river-- lock, stock and barrel. South FL will be poorer for the narrowing of journalistic voices. Some good people will see hard times.
'TVJ's impending disembowelment may feel a little Inside Baseball to some, but media consolidation isn't doing democracy any favors when/wherever it happens. Check your local paper for more blood-letting.

Aaron X said...

When I was a kid, my mom dated Bill Brazil, who was the general manager for WTVJ back when it was channel 4, if I remember correctly. That guy never paid for anything, everywhere he went everything was comped when they saw his card.

Oh yes, and that's a nice little point that should be brought up more often Chez, that whole media consolidation and the end to anything resembling a Free Press in this country. Rage against the dying of the light which illuminates, and cover your eyes and protect yourself from that light which only dazzles and mystifies.

I see Andrea Mitchell is making nice with the Obama campaign after her little tantrum, because she was treated the way the Obama treat the rest of the press, which is largely with disdain. We have quite a merry band of players in network news and commentary, Lou Dobbs, Campbell Brown both make me rather ill, at least CNN has Jack Cafferty and Wolf Blitzer, who still maintain a level of professionalism and credibility, but MSNBC's Mitchell really gets on my last nerve, she's not a journalist, and she is certainly no legitimate foreign correspondent either. Nothing more than a propagandist in my view, Andrea is just a bit slicker and more talented than the weasels at CNN, which is what makes her so dangerous, and so unsavory to me. It's like I can see the wheels turning in her head, she never says anything on air that isn't carefully calculated to produce a specific effect. At least when I watch Lou Dobbs I know I'm being conditioned, but Andrea has that little comely serpent smile that says, taste my Apple its savory and delicious. No thanks Andrea, nor sirens voice doesn't work on me.

Journalist's shouldn't be married to people in government either, because then they start getting the idea that they have some inside perspective that others lack, and they start thinking it's acceptable to manipulate people, as Mitchell did during the run-up to the Iraq war and afterwards. The responsibility for selling this outright lie to the American people rests on her shoulders and the shoulders of many other broadcast network folks who thought that it was politically and financially expedient to support the Bush administration.

The idea of a Free Press may only be an ideal that we aspire to achieve, but in recent years the mainstream media has surrendered far too much ground in the fight for that ideal. If this trend continues, the only genuinely Free Press may be that which is provided by individuals in the blogging world.