Friday, December 30, 2005


You know, as bad as things may get in this market, I'm happy to say I don't work at WTEN in Albany, N.Y. This year was hell for their newsroom. Between the newsroom exodus and the pink slips, WTEN became known as the place where you can have your cake, as long as you keep it out of the newsroom.

And what horrible person could be manning the boat during this turmoil? Rene LaSpina.

She got her start in this business as a saleswoman at WNEP, where she rose through the ranks to become general manager. Her success can't be denied. But let's just say that reporters who were called to LaSpina's office made sure they had ample copies of their resume tape, just in case.

(She also hired Joe Snedeker. Good or bad? I'll leave that to you.)

Having kept WNEP far ahead of the competition, LaSpina headed west to Minnesota as GM for CBS owned-and-operated WCCO in Minneapolis. Like WNEP, this was a highly-rated station with a dedicated following. But lightning didn't strike twice for LaSpina. Instead, the ratings sank, newsroom morale hit an all-time low, and she even replaced a popular anchor who was on maternity leave. CBS eventually stepped in and fired LaSpina, and hand-picked partner-in-crime news director Maria Reitan quickly jumped ship.

With one newsroom decimated, LaSpina headed back east, where she now sits as GM at WTEN. Judging by how things are at the station, it's safe to say LaSpina can be described as the Grim Reaper of local news. So remember, if you find out she's the GM of your station, stock up on VHS tapes and postage.


I'm celebrating 2006 by taking some time off, but I'll still be checking the comment moderation queue, so you can still post. See you on Tuesday!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Push came to shove

It appears Nexstar Broadcasting has reached a last-minute agreement with Adams Cable and Service Electric over the retransmission fees issue. More to come...

UPDATE: A person familiar with the situation says a "deal [was] signed with Adams and [a] deal [was] reached 'in principle' with Service Electric," which means there's no outstanding issues with any of the cable companies that carry WBRE and WYOU.

It sounds like Adams ended up paying the fees, but some sort of compromise had to be made with Service Electric.

The Year in Review

Sometimes, you can't help but stick your foot in your mouth, especially if you're Joe Snedeker. Proving that he is a lightning rod for controversy, Snedeker joked that morning show co-anchor Kim Supon should choose between her job and her kids.


A visibly-upset Supon left the set during a commercial break, and no amount of excuses could cover up Snedeker's slip of the tongue. Working moms everywhere got pissed off and flooded the Talkback 16 message boards. The next week, Snedeker apologized on-air, and now all appears to be well.

While Snedeker's stupid comment was perhaps the biggest event for media watchers, 2005 also brought plenty of other things to newsrooms everywhere. New faces, diseases, expansions, and even a lawsuit.

Welcome to the jungle

Turnover is common in any television market, and 2005 was no different for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Dave Pingalore and his gigantic smile headed west to Cleveland, Justin Pizzi hopped on the turnpike and ended up in Philadelphia, and Megan Dardanell realized public relations paid more than reporting.

In their place came a set of fresh, new faces. With the exception of Dia Wallace, the newest crop of reporters seems to be younger, i.e. Ryan Leckey, Carmen Grant, and Laurie Monteforte. Joe Holden gets the "Wowzers" award for making a huge jump from Market 186 in Virginia to Market 54 right here.

What's in a name?

WBRE and WYOU got a fresh start this year with brand new on-air identities. Are you ready? Hold onto your seat for "WBRE News" and "WYOU News!"

Could they come up with anything less imaginative?

Anyway, the Nexstar duopoly ditched their old identities, which used their on-air channel numbers, because of their move to HDTV. That, and nobody really watches those stations on 28 or 22 anymore. Unless you live in Schuylkill County, where it seems some people don't know about this neat thing called "cable television."

Growing pains

Nexstar also loosened the death grip on their wallet and let WBRE and WYOU open a new bureau in Stroudsburg. The idea was to pay more attention to the Poconos region, which seems like a smart move.

In related news, WBRE is moving their Williamsport bureau. Their current one is set to be demolished for a downtown theater project. Let's hope their new place comes with an on-call exterminator.

Everyone needs a hobby

Quite a few people found ways to keep themselves busy when they weren't in the newsroom. Rosa Yum sold jewelry on eBay to raise money for hurricane relief efforts, Diane Lee recorded a CD, Scott Schaffer and Julie Sidoni cut a few rugs, and Phil Schoener realized he's getting sick of 50 Cent's music.

All we need now is for Lee to record a duet CD with Mike "I'm a little bit country" Lewis. Chart topping hits from the people who bring you the news!

I sue you, you sue me

Phil Yacuboski found himself in a bit of a quandry this year. Nexstar wasn't going to renew his contract at WYOU, so what's he to do? Sue! Because, well, what would this market be without a lawsuit to keep things interesting?

Yacuboski asked a judge to void the non-compete clause in his contract, which prevented him from immediately working on-air in this market, because it was somehow illegal. His lawyer said Yacuboski just wanted the option to look around.

Either that or he's itching to join Nexstar refugee Brandie Meng at WNEP.

I'm not aware of any further activity on the lawsuit, and unless Yacuboski is willing to become a Newsbot, he'll be sitting this one out.

Battling disease

Tom Clark got quite a scare when he found out he had prostate cancer. Fortunately, the cancer was caught early, and following surgery, he was back guessing the weather at WNEP.

Lyndall Stout is already the official media spokeswoman for breast cancer detection, so why hasn't Clark pegged himself as Mr. Prostate Exams Save Lives? He's a perfect success story for early detection. Come on, let's have someone look out for the guys!

Some free advice though, don't promote it like "Buddy Check." There's just something about calling your male friend and saying, "Hey man, didja check your prostate yet? The TV says you should do that!"

Happy anniversary!

2005 marked the 20th anniversary for scrappy little WOLF-TV. It began life as a tiny independent station that showed old horror movies, and after jumping to Fox, became NEPA's outlet for Married With Children and The Simpsons. WOLF also got notoriety in 1991, when it became the first station to have a newscast produced by a competitor (WNEP).

Terrorists lurk among us

Until this year, Bill Kelly was simply known as the head honcho at WVIA, and a former DJ during the glory days of WARM. Now, according to the Department of Homeland Security, he could be a terrorist!

Kelly's name somehow ended up on the mysterious no-fly list (probably because of the obvious TERRORIST BEARD), which means he'll be subjected to extra security screenings and perhaps some personal time with a fat, sassy security screener armed with latex gloves.

Riding the wave of blogs

Earlier this year, WNEP started to experiment with blogs. The plan was to have reporters and other staffers write about day-to-day events, and other mundane errata. Few reporters opted to blog, and Andy Palumbo is the only person who does regular updates. Still, it's an interesting read.

Oh, and then there was this schmuck who started a blog under the pseudonym of Howard Beale...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Crazy 'bout sports

All three stations in this market are pulling out the stops for next week's Orange Bowl. All are are sending their respective sports directors, but WNEP is topping it off with a few photogs, a producer, and for reasons unknown, Jon Meyer.

Overkill, perhaps?

I'd expect this army of coverage from the stations out in Johnstown/Altoona, where State College is, not here. Matter of fact, I don't think any station devoted this much coverage to Bucknell's surprise appearance in the Final Four NCAA tournament earlier this year.

Still, with the fate many sports departments face in this crazy world we call television news, this market is somewhat of a rarity. Not only does sports thrive here, but sometimes the stations will even throw extra money at it.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

I'm merry as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the set
Nobody was leaving early, that's a sure bet
The football game went longer than was thought
But the news must go on, the commercials were bought

The anchor in his chair, the weatherman at the wall
With the reporter waiting for her live shot at the mall
The producer at his desk and the director at the switcher
Were thinking of ways to finish the newscast quicker

When out in the newsroom, there arose such a clatter
Even the news director jumped up to see what was the matter
And to the newsroom I ran on my way
The photog in tow, because he wasn't going to stay

The camera lights flashed on, one in a row
Tripods set high to look at those below
When, what, to our focused lenses should appear
But a bright red sleigh, and eight giant reindeer

When we saw the driver, we knew we had a scoop
"Holy shit it's St. Nick! Now shoot, photog, shoot!"
More rapid than a deadline, the news director came
"This is breaking news," he said, "Cut into the game!"

Now anchor! Now reporter! Now producer and director!
On photogs! On writers! On assignment editor!
To the top of the newscast! To the opening scene!
Breaking news! Breaking news! All over the screen!

As reporters do when they hear of the large fires
The mics flew out, the new ones that don't have any wires
So up to the cameras and lights we hoped he would walk
For this live shot would suck if he did not talk

As the anchor adlibbed his hastily-written script
The production crew laughed over every word he tripped
As the anchor cleared his throat and looked all around
St. Nick showed up, "Now put that EXCLUSIVE tag down!"

He was dressed in red, from his head to his feet
Approaching the cameras and viewers he would greet
A script in his hand from which he would talk
A story much easier than last night's perp walk

His eyes, how they squinted, under our blinding light
"You guys can turn those things down a little, right?"
His cheeks plumped up with the largest of a smile
Which would disappear, had he worked here for a while

The stack of papers he held in his hand
Would actually change our happy newsgathering land
"I'm from the head office, and there's going to be changes,
starting off with every one of your salary ranges"

Corporate had just lost a whole lot of cash
So St. Nick said, "The budget we shall now slash"
Operating expenses were just cut by a third
"No bonuses, no raises!" were going to be the word

Consultants would soon arrive to survey the matter
Their effects, we were told, would be just a smatter
And handing the papers onto our boss
Which spoke of everything that would be a loss

St. Nick sprang to his sleigh, with his announcement made
Out the door he went, his image quickly did fade
And as we all stood there, our news director made everything right
"Screw those stupid assholes," he said, "I'm giving you all off tonight!"


Hope your Christmas is filled with the people you love and the presents you don't have to return to the store.

Merry Christmas!
-- HB

Friday, December 23, 2005

Retransmission Fees II: Electric Boogaloo

It looks like Nexstar Broadcasting will yank WBRE and WYOU off Adams Cable and Service Electric come January 1st. Both sides can't agree on those pesky retransmission fees Nexstar wants the cable stations to pay. The company has had success getting fees from cable companies down in Arkansas, but not here.

I can't say I'm surprised. What incentive did Adams and Service Electric have? Both stations already carry the CBS and NBC affiliates from Philadelphia and/or Harrisburg, so nobody here will miss their episodes of "Law & Order" and "CSI." And since WNEP's parent company hasn't gone looking for retransmission fees, nobody's going to lose their local news.

You see, Nexstar picked the wrong fight in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Retransmission fees aside, telling people they will lose network programming and local news is a pretty stupid argument if those people have alternatives. They can get CBS and NBC from other markets, and can watch WNEP for local news.

Perhaps Nexstar should've just said "Cable companies that don't pay retransmission fees are supporting TERRORISM/COMMUNISM." Everyone loves a purely emotional rationale!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Much ado about the one man band

At one time, one-man-band reporters were an idea relegated to small TV markets with even smaller budgets. Today, more newsrooms are hiring these reporter/photographer combos, in markets as large as San Francisco. Even here in this market, we've got three one-man-bands. Self-styled "gurus" call this The Next Big Thing in broadcast journalism.

Proponents of the "video journalist" model say it frees up a newsroom to do more stories. After all, if you have five reporters and five photogs who one-man-band, that's ten people out in the field. And let's not forget the fact that it saves money, by combining two jobs into one, and keeping the salary the same.

Those "guru" news consultants say this is inevitable, that technology will force us into their way of thinking. It's funny, though, how the only companies "forced" into the VJ model are the ones losing money left and right. Are they looking for a magical new way to tell stories? Nope. They're looking for a way to save a few bucks.

And what happens to story quality? Let's face it, there are great reporters who can't shoot, and there are great shooters who can't report. A news director will be hard pressed to find someone with the qualities of a Tom Powell and Jack Scannella wrapped into one.

But again, overpriced news consultants like Michael Rosenblum defend it. "You can get pretty good quality this way, it just takes a lot more time," he writes. With the amount of newscasts a station does in a week (just look at WNEP), "a lot more time" doesn't happen in local news. One-man-band reporting has its place in television news (features, etc.), but for the everyday job, it just doesn't work.

I'm all for technology, but I'm against ways for stations to slash their budgets and cut their staff, without addressing the real problems: bad business decisions and idiotic news management policies. Investing money and actually covering the community works much better in the long run. It's too bad the bean counters don't see this.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Out of commission

WYOU news director Frank Andrews will be spending some time away from the anchor desk. He's currently nursing neck and shoulder wounds he got in a recent car crash in Clarks Summit, and is awaiting test results before coming back.

You can't say Andrews isn't taking this in stride, though. He told The Times-Tribune, "At least you can’t write 'they examined Frank’s head and found nothing' because I do have a concussion."

UPDATE: A well-placed source says Andrews will be back on Monday.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Where are they now?

Today, we feature former WNEP sports anchor Dave Pingalore.

Pingalore started in Florida, first as an intern at WTVT-TV and then as a weekend sports anchor for WJKS-TV, where he covered the Jacksonville Jaguars. He moved to Pennsylvania in 1997 as the sports anchor for WATM-TV in Johnstown, and not surprisingly, found himself following all things PSU. After two years of that, "Ping" came to WNEP, where he stayed for six years, until he left this year.

Where is he now? "Ping" is now a weekend sports anchor for WOIO-TV in Cleveland.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hell hath no fury like a pissed-off photographer

A local one-man-band reporter appears to have angered a rather-bitter television photographer during a recent press conference. Have a look at this message board thread on, where the author talks about shoving the reporter out of the way and keeping her from getting a few shots, in retaliation for walking into some shots. Overkill anyone?

The reporter isn't identified, nor is the station. And while I can't confirm what was posted, I'll let you draw your own conclusions. Here's mine: that photog is an asshole.

UPDATE: Please read the comments for a clarification on this matter.


WBRE is either remodeling or moving out of its Williamsport bureau. A reader writes in to say the station office across from city hall is now empty. What's going on?

UPDATE: I've been told WBRE is moving the bureau to the former Lycoming Hotel, as their current bureau will be torn down for a theater project. There's more info in the comments to this post.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Where are they now?

Today, we feature former WDAU reporter/anchor Mary Ellen Keating.

Keating began her career at WDAU as a reporter and anchor. She got national attention in 1981 after her interview with a former Iranian hostage was broadcast on CBS News. After a few years, Keating left reporting for a career in public relations, first as a spokeswoman for the Scranton Diocese, and then for former Governor Bob Casey. After the governor left office, Keating headed to New York to manage the Hill and Knowlton PR agency.

Where is she now? Keating is now the vice president of corporate communications for Barnes & Noble.

Friday, December 09, 2005


Did you know it snowed today?

As Pennsylvania gets its first snowstorm, local TV stations get ready for coverage. Last night, it seemed like everyone was at the local PennDOT depot, saying, "PennDOT's gearing up!" Well, no duh. That's what they're supposed to do.

Today, we're treated to an array of standups from each station. Snow here, snow there, snow everywhere. Look, here's people shoveling! Look, here's people plowing!

I never understood why this market treats snowstorms like some crazy END OF THE WORLD deal. You would think Pennsylvanians never even saw snow, the way coverage treats it. But you know there's a producer breathing a sign of relief, because today won't be a slow news day.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Inflating the news

I don't typically talk about newspapers, but I found this interesting. A reader told me the Press Enterprise newspaper in Bloomsburg no longer puts headlines on the police activity logs it publishes every week. The headlines used to call attention to a particular item (i.e. a robbery or assault). Apparently, the newspaper got a few complaints that they were misleading or inflated, because there was no additional information about the crime mentioned in the headline.

Sounds like their copy editors have learned a thing or two from television news!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Adventures in PR

As a reporter, I can't help but avoid people in the field of public relations. I swear, they must be able to smell cameras or reporters' notebooks within a 50-mile radius. They pop out of nowhere once you arrive, and will cling to you throughout the assignment like a bumper sticker.

I can deal with that, because I've had my share of irritating PR people who watch me closely, because they think I'm going to pull a Mike Wallace and completely ruin their public image. But here's what I can't deal with...the hoops a reporter has to jump through to even get past the PR gatekeepers for an interview.

I'm not the only one. Here's what a local reporter told me he was told when he wanted to do a feature story about a local business (which is owned by a publicly-traded company).

To even speak with an employee, I would have to fill out forms saying who I was, what the story was about, who the audience is, and how it would benefit the company. After Media Relations approves it, everything would have to be approved AGAIN by their legal department, which takes more than a week.

And that is why I dislike PR people. From the annoying PR clingers to scary "Don't talk to the media" policies like the one above, I think I'll just bypass the PR department whenever I can.

Does anyone else have similar stories to share?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Where are they now?

Today, we feature former WBRE consumer reporter Jim Osman.

Following his graduation from Syracuse University, Osman started out at WILM-AM in Delaware, before moving next door to Maryland's WMDT-TV. After a two year stint as WBRE's second consumer reporter, Osman headed to Arizona, where he worked for both KGUN-TV and KNXV-TV as a consumer and investigative reporter, picking up a few big awards along the way.

Where is he now? Osman was recently hired as a reporter for KYW-TV in Philadelphia (see left).

That market seems to be a magnet for WBRE reporters, doesn't it?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Goodbye Coach Curry, hello Commentator Curry?

Now that he's no longer coaching the Berwick Bulldogs, could George Curry find a new calling in life? Tonight, he was paired alongside WBRE sports reporter Phil Schoener for a look at tonight's high school football games. Tonight's appearance may just be a one-time-only deal. But given how big high school football is in this area, and Curry's almost god-like status as a successful coach, WBRE would be very smart to peg him as a commentator or analyst.

Someone should tell George it is OK to smile while you're on camera. He barely cracked a smile until the very end of the segment. Sure, it's cold as hell out there tonight, but that didn't stop Schoener from smiling up a storm, did it?