September 14, 2009

More Anchors to Sink

A Christmas card addressed in a shaky handwriting was delivered to KHQ-TV’s newsroom shortly after I began working there. Randy and Deb, Spokane was all it read.

Wow.

Talk about name ID. No last names, no street number, no zip code---just two first names and the city. Even the Postal Service knew that you didn’t need to follow the rules to get a piece of mail to our long time, extremely popular anchors Randy Shaw and Deborah Wilde. These guys are bulletproof I thought.

Shortly thereafter Deborah was eased out; Randy was sacked.

Bigger wow.

But I didn’t even raise an eyebrow when I learned that Nadine Woodward was gone at KREM. Popularity, credibility and a 19 year tenure were no match for a high salary, enormous changes in TV and savvy management. Her departure was inevitable---others are as well.

As Woodward’s contract came up for renewal she was apparently asked to take a 15% pay cut and renegotiate favorable working hours. According to the Spokesman Review she acceded to a reduced salary but was unwilling to give up a flexible work schedule which included coming in an hour late, a two-hour dinner break and Friday nights off. OK…fair enough…making six figures in far less than 40 hours a week works for me. But KREM’s management didn’t see it that way and declined to renew her contract. Woodward says it’s all about money and that KREM can get someone to read the news for half her salary.

Yup---that’s TV. Broadcasting’s like any business---the bottom line is the bottom line. So when the bosses in a corporation based outside Spokane tell local managers to cut the first place they look is the high priced talent. Technology has allowed broadcasters to reduce staffs while producing about the same amount of content; colleges keeping graduating more TV majors than there are on-air jobs. Of course TV station owners take advantage---they too would soon be gone they didn’t.

And this surprises people? It shouldn’t.

The Journal of Business recently explained how local media are just following the national trend of steadily declining ratings owing to the Internet, the economy and diminished relevance. Woodward’s just a high profile example: KREM had a huge lay off this past spring including Nadine’s husband which led to speculation that she wasn’t far behind, KXLY dumped its weekend news earlier this year and KHQ started cutting back long before I left.

I tell people that I never get attached to my golf balls because I don’t see them for very long. Local news is the same. I left TV news a step ahead of the executioner---Woodward didn’t, alas. I’m sure other long time, highly paid Spokane anchors are looking over their shoulders for the man in the hood…if not they should be.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Enjoying your blogs! I grew up in Spokane, but now live in Seattle. I feel a new sense of vibrancy developing in my hometown and I am immersing myself in Spokane development news. I would love to be a part of this movement,and move back, but I'm not sure how to be involved. If you have any suggestions, or anyone reading this, I would appreciate it! Keep writing, Spokane needs people like you.