Changing Channels

TV ain’t what it used to be.

Here in the Albany market we’ve seen a flurry of deals that are putting ownership and management of TV stations in fewer hands. That’s fine — except if you work at one of these places.

I got out of TV after 25 years because I could see the business was changing — and by changing, I don’t mean getting better. All over the country, people with job titles very much like mine were being axed. Some of them never worked in the field again. Creative services managers, directors of advertising and promotion, marketing coordinators — suddenly they had a target on their backs. Get rid of the position and redistribute the duties.

Over time TV stations have been shedding middle managers and hiring as many part-timers as they can. Why have a full-time news photographer when you can have several part-timers, people whose schedules you can shuffle around and who receive few benefits?

Consolidation will mean even more job shrinkage. Stations will share services and staff and there will be fewer career opportunities.

So what does this mean for news coverage? Nothing. This town was already over-served by TV news. A variety of news outlets didn’t mean better reporting, it just meant more of the same from different stations.

So that’s the new reality. My old boss used always drop this quote, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” Many people attribute that to Yogi Berra, but they’re wrong — it was actually written by Walt Kelly for the comic strip Pogo.

Me? I prefer this quote from Michael Corleone: “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”

4 thoughts on “Changing Channels

  1. I just love it when anchors and reporters, and the station’s too, insert themselves into the stories they’re reporting on. Not.

    1. There is a healthy dose of showmanship in local TV newscasts.

      One area station — and I won’t mention WRGB — loves to make the story about themselves and their crusading ways. They do not merely report the news, they ferret out the enemies of society, and then they do promos about how awesome they are. As someone who was in charge of marketing at a TV station, I have a word for that: brilliant.

      At many places, marketing and promotion follow the news product, but at this particular TV station (WRGB), building the brand comes first and the news is tailored to support that message. That may sound nutty, but consider this: the station’s news director used to be the person in charge of marketing.

      And in the interest of full disclosure, I always thought my newscast would have been better if I’d been the news director.

  2. “Consolidation will mean even more job shrinkage… there will be fewer career opportunities.” Sadly, this is true of many industries today. Look at all the banks that gobble each other up… the airlines…. even health care is experiencing consolidation as a cost-control measure. WORKING ain’t what it used to be.

    1. So true.

      Hate to admit it, but if I ran a business I’d be looking at anything I could to save cost, like centralizing my back office operations. Technology opens a lot of doors. For example, a TV station in Albany could do most of it’s video production in St. Paul. It used to be people needed to be in the next room; now you don’t even need them in the next state.

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