Thursday, March 30, 2006

Turnover at WBRE

Two new jobs were posted to WBRE's website yesterday. And it looks like there's some turnover in the ranks.

First off, WBRE is looking for a new consumer reporter. Either consumer reporter Elliot Weiler is jumping to another station, or he's been promoted to anchor. My gut tells me it's the first choice. It's a shame for WBRE, as Weiler was much better at the job than his two predecessors. I'd even go so far to say he's better than WNEP's consumer reporter, Sherman Burdette

And it looks like interim news director Ron Krisulevicz (seen left on a talk radio show during his time at WHAG in Maryland) can take the "interim" off his job title. The job posting for executive producer looks for someone "to serve as second-in-command." And when we put two and two together, it's clear that Krisulevicz, who was second in command until Paul Stueber was fired, will be WBRE's next news director.

These job postings don't necessarily mean earth-shattering doom for WBRE or WYOU. Turnover is common at any station. But who knows what this will do for morale at a duopoly that lost both of its news directors in the span of a month?

UPDATE: A blog reader notes that WBRE weekend weather forecaster Brian Monahan is leaving as well.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Say what?

Stories like this only prove my point that WBRE doesn't care about its website. It's one thing to paste a verbatim script in and pass it off as a story, but whoever posted this story ANDY forgot LYNDALL to TAKE DOUBLE BOX take TAKE CONTROL CENTER the C1.5 GO ¶ Avid ¶ iNEWS ¶ commands ¶ out.

UPDATE: WBRE not only fixed the story, but actually rewrote it in more of a newspaper style, like what WNEP does. Looks like they might be getting a clue on making their website readable!

Monday, March 27, 2006

A tale of two stations

The Morning Call of Allentown had an interesting piece this weekend on the Wilkes-Barre newspaper showdown. If you missed it, check it out. It's a good rundown of the 25-year-old fight between the Times Leader and The Citizens' Voice.

There's a lot at stake in this showdown. The TL is fighting to stay alive, as CV parent company Times-Shamrock considers a takeover. And, and both papers still resent each know, newspaper strike and all. What is also at stake here is the quality of journalism.

You can compare a possible TL/CV merger to Nexstar's takeover of WBRE and WYOU. Before the takeover, both stations were independent of, and competed against each other. It wasn't enough to take down ratings giant WNEP, but both stations did their best to fight for second place. From the look of the newscasts to the stories themselves, both took their own approach. And all was good. If you didn't like how WBRE did a story, you could head to WYOU, and vice versa.

And then Nexstar Broadcasting came into the picture.

WBRE and WYOU (which is owned by a Nexstar shell company) were suddenly whisked together in the same building. What is the result? Pennsylvania Morning, Pennsylvania Midday, and evening newscasts that really don't offer anything unique. I can look at video of a fire on WBRE, and then switch to WYOU, and see the same footage minutes later. The quality of journalism at the Nexstar duopoly has suffered since the takeover. Why offer something different, when you and your competitor share the same newsroom?

I don't know if anything similar would happen to the TL, should Times-Shamrock move in. But after seeing how Nexstar basically killed the identities of WBRE and WYOU, let's just say I am very wary about two competing news outlets being owned by the same company.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Where are they now?

Today, we feature former WYOU anchorwoman/reporter Renata Troiani.

Troiani came to WYOU in 1992 after stints at radio stations in Berwick and Williamsport. She started as the station's Williamsport bureau reporter, before becoming a general assignment reporter. And like many reporters, Troiani moved up to the anchor's chair, sitting with Derry Bird on the morning newscasts. She also picked up WYOU's health beat in the evening.

And then Troiani saw the light...the bright lights of Las Vegas, that is. In 1997, she called it quits at WYOU and headed to Sin City for a reporting job at KLAS-TV.

Where is she now? Troiani is still at KLAS as their special projects reporter/producer. What kind of a job title is "special projects" anyway?

(NOTE: I was unable to find a picture of Troiani from her WYOU days; the above is her KLAS picture.)

UPDATE: Troiani writes in to say she left KLAS in 2003 and moved back east with her family. As for "special projects producer," they're the people who do all the work for the anchors. What, you thought anchors actually worked on their own stories? :)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Frank Andrews out at WYOU

To follow up to yesterday's post, Frank Andrews has resigned from WYOU to focus on his bid for state representative. But WBRE/WYOU GM John Dittmeier says Andrews will stick around as a "paid consultant" who will have no editorial control over the newscasts.

So what's next for Nexstar's Wilkes-Barre duopoly? They've lost both their news directors, and if they're not in a rush to fill Paul Stueber's WBRE gig, how long will WYOU fly without someone in the captain's chair?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Talking 'bout politics

As of today, WYOU news director Frank Andrews is locked in the primary election for 113th District State Representative. The deadline to withdraw from the race has passed, but it is important to note this is only for the primary. Should Andrews win the primary, he would move on to the general election, and thus be forced to resign from WYOU due to conflict of interest. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens in May.

Nexstar also got around to taking Andrews' picture from WYOU's website. They had pulled him off-air and from station promos, but seemed to forget about his online presence until now. And speaking of an online presence, Andrews has his own campaign website as well.

Also, knowing that any post I make on Andrews will be met with a flurry of criticism, I remind you to keep it civil. Legitimate criticism is fine. Personal attacks and unsubstantiated rumors won't even make it out of the moderation queue.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Writing about television

If you worked in television, Saturday was always a big day. That's when (what is now) The Times-Tribune would print Rich Mates' weekly television column. It was the way to learn what was happening at each station; who was coming, and who was leaving. There would also be interesting features about current trends in broadcast journalism, and how it applied to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Mates was the right guy to pen the column. A former Scranton radio reporter, he knew most everyone in this market, and had good connections. You can have a look at some of his columns to see what I mean.

Sadly, complications from Parkinson's disease forced Mates to retire from The Times-Tribune earlier this year. His column was renamed Tube Talk, and was taken over by Geri Anne Kaikowski, a Citizens' Voice reporter. But as of late, there's been no updates. The most-recent Tube Talk from last month dealt with Paul Steuber's firing.

What happened? Did someone at Times-Shamrock decide to kill their television columns? If so, perhaps the Times Leader can pick up the ball. That is, if they can get over their police blotter obsession.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Dirty laundry

I'm wary about using my W*** e-mail account (Hah, you thought I was going to identify my station, eh?) for personal business. Given the amount of junk e-mail I receive from overeager PR people - who think a successful campaign involves spamming every newspaper, radio, and TV station in a 100 mile radius - I wouldn't even be able to find any messages from my family and friends.

But the other reason is because I know my employer can snoop in on my e-mail at any time. A producer at WNEP learned that lesson this month...the hard way. The word from a few tipsters is this producer was having an affair with other station employees, and was using her WNEP e-mail account to flirt with people.

Whoops! Needless to say, this producer was fired. Marisa Burke has replaced her.

This leads us to a Beale's Bites of Advice(tm) moment. Don't use company resources for your personal business, especially if it's something that will get you into trouble (workplace affairs, sending resumes to other stations, etc.). Either use a free webmail account, like Hotmail or Gmail, or wait until you get home.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Where are they now?

Today, we feature former WBRE reporter Justin Pizzi.

Like most people who work at WBRE, Pizzi's trip started on I-81. While at Syracuse University, he reported for WSYR-AM until graduation. Heading south on the interstate, he landed in Binghamton, and spent two years at WBNG.

Wash, rinse, repeat. South on I-81 again, and Wilkes-Barre was the next stop. From 2003 to 2005, Pizzi was a general assignment reporter for WBRE. He threw in some anchoring as well. And when Pizzi's contract was up, the southbound trek continued.

Where is he now? Pizzi is now a reporter for WCAU in Philadelphia. A logical move, since he is a native of the city of Brotherly Love. RANDOM FUN FACT: Pizzi's father is the president of Tasty Baking, and no, he's not getting you any free Tastykakes.

(NOTE: I was unable to find a picture of Pizzi from his WBRE days; the above is from his time at WBNG.)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Dot bomb: Redux

This week's not guilty verdict in the Hugo Selenski trial proved just how valuable a website can be to a TV station. Within minutes of the verdict, WNEP had a story posted online, with updates as they were made available. WBRE, on the other hand, waited until later that afternoon to post a pitiful story of only a few lines. The story on WYOU's website is even shorter.

I know getting Nexstar to spend money on a better website is like getting water from a stone, but more TV stations are investing in websites with actual information. I've covered this before, and it bears repeating. More people go online to get their news, and if you've got a big story, why wait until the 5 p.m. newscast to have the full story? You can slap the information you have on your website, and direct readers to watch your newscast for more info.

(And if you want to make the bean counters happy, just slam a bunch of ads on the website, and let the sales department worry about it. It seems to work for WNEP!)

Fact is, a well-done website is becoming a requirement for TV stations. As I mentioned in January, stations in Elmira and Binghamton (Markets 173 and 154, respectively) can manage to throw together an informative website. Why not WBRE and WYOU?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Drop it like it's hot

It looks like my earlier prediction of Binghamton resume tapes flooding the local market is coming closer to reality. Granite Broadcasting, parent company of WBNG, is running out of money. It's to the point that the company could default on its loans this summer, according to an executive.

Let's have a look at the numbers:

  • A debt of $452 million.
  • A yearly cash flow of only about $12 million.
  • A stock price of only 11 cents.

    One would think that a company in such a dire situation would refraim from buying new stations. But this is the same company that bought WBNG for $45 million only three months ago.
  • In no rush?

    Since WBRE fired news director Paul Stueber last month, there's been no peep from Nexstar about a replacement. Sure, it can take a while to find a good news director, but oddly enough, there's no mention of an opening on either WBRE's or Nexstar's website. Not even talent agent Rick Gevers, who tracks where news directors come and go, has any formal announcement.

    Either Nexstar is in no rush to fill Stueber's job, or they're thinking of keeping acting news director Ron Krisulevicz where he is. Time isn't on their side though. If Frank Andrews wins the upcoming primary election for state representative, he'll be out as WYOU's news director. You don't want a duopoly without two permanent news directors.

    As for Stueber, he's thinking about moving into local radio as his next career move.

    Monday, March 13, 2006


    The Times Leader is looking for a new owner this week, hopefully one that loves police blotters. The newspaper is one of 12 that The McClatchy Company will sell as part of its takeover of Knight-Ridder, according to various wire reports. As for what this means for the TL, that's up in the air. Editor Matt Golas said nothing of it in his morning update, despite stories on the buyout being plastered all over the TL's website.

    Saturday, March 11, 2006

    Where are they now?

    Today, we feature former WNEP reporter Fred Lettieri.

    An Old Forge native, Lettieri got his start in 1984, as a reporter at WTOC-TV in Savannah, Ga. After a year in the hot south, he headed to the cold north of New Hampshire and accepted a job with WMUR-TV. But as is the case with so many NEPA natives, the lure of the area called Lettieri back. In 1990, he came to WNEP, where he covered the southeast portion of the market (Schuylkill County, Carbon County, etc.).

    Lettieri eventually discovered that balancing the hectic schedule of broadcast journalism with a family wasn't that easy. After 13 years, he decided to call it quits, and left WNEP in 2002.

    Where is he now? Lettieri is now an advertising salesman for the Yellow Book phone directory.

    Friday, March 10, 2006

    WYOU news director on paid leave

    WYOU news director Frank Andrews, who is one of many gunning for a seat in the state legislature, has been put on paid leave, pending his decision of whether to run for office. If he wins the spring primary, he says he'll resign. Otherwise, he plans to return to WYOU.

    For now, anchorwoman Diane Lee will be going solo in the newscasts, and WYOU has pulled Andrews from station promos. Looks like they forgot about their website though, since Andrews is still in the headline banner. D'oh!

    On a side note, I feel bad for Ron Krisulevicz. First, WBRE promoted him from executive producer to fill in for fired news director Paul Stueber. Now, it looks like he'll be filling in for Andrews as well.

    No competition

    Non-compete clauses have long been a touchy issue in newsrooms everywhere. The clauses, which keep talent from popping up on a competitor for a certain amount of time, have been used by stations to cover themselves, especially when it comes to popular anchors. Those who are subjected to the clauses say it's unfair.

    Over time, non-compete clauses have been made illegal through laws passed in places like Massachusetts, Maine, and Illinois. New York might be next (those of you in Binghamton and Elmira, pay attention). A bill in the state's assembly would make a journalist's non-compete clause unenforceable, thus allowing reporters and anchors to move where they want once their contract expires.

    I'd like to see a similar bill passed here in Pennsylvania. I can understand the argument for contracts in general, but why should a station have a say in where their employees work, once the contract expires? If a station is so concerned about someone jumping to a competitor, then management should find a way to entice their talent to stick around. Trust me, a station that wants to keep a popular anchor has a way of suddenly approving a pay raise and other whims.

    Until such a bill becomes law in Pennsylvania, those subjected to non-competes have the following options:

    1. Wait it out.
    2. Sue. And whatever happened to Phil Yacuboski's lawsuit?
    3. Newsbot.
    4. Find a loophole and exploit it.

    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    Giangacomo promoted

    Paola Giangacomo has been promoted to 11 p.m. anchor at WNEP. Marisa Burke has stepped down from the evening newscast to focus on producing the 6 p.m. newscast, which she will still co-anchor, according to station webmaster Mark Sowers.

    Given how Giangacomo has become one of WNEP's most-recognized anchors, the promotion seemed inevitable. Should Burke leave WNEP, her replacement on the 6 p.m. seems obvious.

    Hope you're not in it for the money

    For the past ten years or so, salaries for broadcast journalists have been dropping like a lead weight. That's no surprise, considering how many stations are being bought out by companies that bleed worse than a hemophiliac with a severed artery. That, and for every new job, there's about 50 people gunning for it, which makes it a seller's market.

    But how low can you go?

    The latest research from the RTNDA shows that salaries, with few exceptions, either drop or stay the same. TV stations may be willing to pay more for in-demand jobs, like producers, but reporters often get the short end of the stick. Consider that most of those fresh-out-of-college reporters are working for less than $20,000/year. Those student loans from the big, fancy journalism school aren't helping either.

    Salaries like that are typically common in small, crappy markets. But not even Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Market 54) is immune. Starting salaries around here average in the low to mid 20s. And a former reporter from this market e-mailed me to say he was making more money as a freelancer than he was here.

    In short, broadcast journalism doesn't pay, unless you're a polished anchor or a news director. But if you're the type who only thinks about money, then you might want to jump to PR.

    Monday, March 06, 2006

    Coming up next...burnout

    Oh, to be a producer. While the anchors and reporters get the glory, the producer sits at a desk, churning out smart things for the anchors to say, and praying that their carefully-stacked newscast won't tumble at the last second. And when the newscast goes sour, who gets the blame? Yep, the producer. What, you thought the anchor was going to get the blame?

    So, it was no surprise when I saw this study on Newslab that found 20% of all producers are experiencing burnout. Others are exhausted and cynical, which are sure signs that someone is going to get mad as hell, and not take it anymore. And to think, news directors are shocked, just shocked to learn there's a shortage of good producers out there!

    Why the burnout? Probably the day-to-day monotony of trying to fill the same old rundown with the same old stuff. Producers at WNEP continue to feed words like "flames" and "blaze" to Mike Lewis as he talks about minor house fire no. 39, while their counterparts at WBRE and WYOU struggle to find a show open that doesn't end with the weather forecaster saying, "WBRE/WYOU News starts right now."

    Perhaps this is a sign to each station that perhaps they should try something new? What's the worst that will happen? WNEP is so far ahead in the ratings that it would take an act of God to knock them off their pedestal. And WBRE/WYOU don't even subscribe to Nielsen anymore, so they have nowhere else to go but up (unless WYLN comes out of nowhere).

    To the news directors who surely read this blog: save a producer, change your rundowns.

    Saturday, March 04, 2006

    Where are they now?

    Today, we feature former WYOU anchorman Rex Hodge.

    After longtime anchor Derry Bird left WYOU, station management was in a bind. Who would they pair up with Penny Lindgren? Their answer was Rex Hodge, who came to Scranton from WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, Va. His career also included stops at WTLV-TV in Jacksonville, Fla. and KOMU-TV in Columbia, Mo.

    Hodge jumped into the anchor chair in 2000, and things really didn't work out. Former Times-Tribune TV writer Rich Mates said Hodge "was never a good fit" and did nothing but anchor. Turning down a contract renewal, he left WYOU in 2001.

    Hodge headed back to Virginia and hosted/produced "Virginia Tonight," a public affairs program on PBS affiliate WVPT-TV. The show was successful, but a lack of funding shuttered the show in 2004.

    Where is he now? As best as I can tell, Hodge is no longer in broadcasting. But if you know what he's doing now, please drop me a line.

    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    Get me out of Scranton!

    Everybody needs a helping hand in this business, even if you're destined to become a network loudmouth. That's how Bill O'Reilly felt when he was just a twentysomething reporter for WNEP back in 1975, itching to leave Scranton behind in the dust. Have a look at this letter he wrote to a producer in Washington, D.C., asking for career advice and job leads.

    The letter also includes a picture of O'Reilly from a local newspaper, which screams 70s better than anything I've seen. Big wide tie, big wide collars, big wide sideburns, and big wide hair. Funky!

    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    If it bleeds, it leads for WNEP

    With the stories WNEP has run thus far, you may as well call it "Deathwatch 16." Take a look at the stories from Monday and Tuesday that involve death:

  • Five dead in Trevorton fire
  • Woman found dead in home
  • Investigation continues in fall death
  • Another deadly crash leads to extra enforcement
  • Charges filed in deadly crash
  • Victim of fall lives in Scranton
  • Deadly crash on Route 61
  • Man dies in fire

    With the coverage WNEP gives to such things, you'd think people would be dropping left and right due to falls, fires, or car crashes. Of course, some stories can't be avoided, like the Trevorton apartment fire. And sometimes there are days where there is nothing else happening, so you have to stack your newscast with the information the State Police faxed to you.

    Regardless, I don't understand WNEP's obsession with fires, car crashes, and deaths. Yes, it's great newscast filler, and it lets people know that The News Station was there to spray-and-shoot what happened. But WNEP has the resources and capabilities to dig up and cover better, more important stories. Why are they wasting their time by letting people know that some house out in the sticks caught fire, or that someone's car ran off the Cross Valley?