Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Branding the news

Do you watch a station because of the reporter or the station? As local news operations nationwide try to keep younger viewers from running off, it's interesting to see if good journalism (or, to be pessimistic, ratings) come from the reporter or the station backing that person. Which is the more-important brand?

People like Tom Powell, who started at WGBI in the 1950s and stayed on through the WDAU era, were the kind who gave the station its brand. He was a no-nonsense reporter - and later news director - who was probably the closest thing Scranton had to Walter Cronkite. And like Cronkite, the viewers trusted him. Powell had the personal brand strong enough to make WGBI/WDAU the dominant station up to the 1970s.

Today, it's less about the reporter, and more about the station. Some blog posters here have noted that this market has a short attention span. Today's star reporter becomes yesterday's news after they pack up and leave. Would Paola Giangacomo have the same effect if she wasn't on WNEP? I'd say no. Her personal brand was created by the station. It's not to say she isn't a decent anchor, but if she left tomorrow, things would not change at WNEP.

And history backs up the argument. Remember when Frank Andrews returned to local TV? WYOU picked him up, because he was a former WNEP anchorman who spent his life in the market. The station was hoping that having Andrews would steal viewers from 16 Montage Mountain Road. But that didn't happen.

People watch a station because of the station itself. That's what the promotions department is there for. Reporters are just the interchangable pieces who come and go every two years. It's pessimistic, but it's the nature of what television news has become.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed, Howard! WNEP started its domination of this market by promoting an all inclusive image. People as individuals were rarely promoted, it was usually the family of WNEP personalities. No one person would make a difference, but all were important to reaching the desired results.

As to whether the strength of WNEP moves with people to WBRE OR WYOU, it's an easy answer.

Here are some anchors and reporters who left WNEP for the competition and had little, if any, impact: Frank Andrews, Gary Essex, Barry Finn, Paul Heppner, Amy Kellogg, Andy Mehalshick and Bob Wilson.

In reverse, WNEP does increase the popularity of an on air person who switches from WBRE/WYOU. Examples are Brandie Meng and Andy Palumbo.

The WNEP machine always ran with interchangeable parts (people), although some of that magic formula seems to wearing off under the current management.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Tom Carten said...

I can think of only one exception to that "move and who cares" rule.

When I was doing radio in the midwest, we had the case of Fahey Flynn, a veteran anchor at some Chicago O&O. A hotshot consultant came in and said, "The old goat with the polka dot tie has to go." So he went -- across town, and took the news audience with him. It was a terrible mistake, as he was beloved and, as it turned out, perhaps the only reason people watched that original channel.

I think the police later found the consultant in the Chicago River, hands tied, wearing cement shoes. :)

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A little fine-tuning is in order here. Let's have a look at some names...

Essex: Left the market completely for some time before attempting a brief return. He did not jump across town overnight.

Finn: Part-part-timer at WNEP, left for Texas, came back some years later.

Heppner: Likewise, a WNEP part-timer.

Kellogg: Barely memorized the directions to work at WNEP before she jumped at the chance to make the move to WBRE.

Mehalshick: Left WBRE for WNEP, then begged to come back within six months or so.

Wilson: Worked at WBRE only.

As crappy as WBRE has become(the last five years or so), more of their people have gone on to "greatness" than have former WNEP staffers. I'm not sure if there is any significance in that, but it is true.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Howard Beale said...

As crappy as WBRE has become(the last five years or so), more of their people have gone on to "greatness" than have former WNEP staffers.

It's an interesting fact. I can think of few WNEP reporters who have went on to larger markets. April Amonica was at WNBC for a while, but is no longer there. Bob Constantini is freelancing in Washington, D.C. And Dr. Steve Greenberg was a minor in a few movies. WBRE and WYOU have sent more people to top markets and networks. Molly Henneberg (Fox News), Dawn Timmeney (WCAU), Bianca Solorzano (MSNBC), Jim Osman (KYW), etc.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Howard Beale said...

Oops, Solorzano works for CBS now.

9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many on air people from WNEP who went to larger markets and networks. Some are still in the jobs. These come to mind after thinking for just a few minutes:

New York-
WABC.....Dorothy Lucey, Stacey Sager, Joe Torres
WCBS.....Joe Zone
WNBC.....April Amonica
NBC/WNBC.Chris Cimino

Los Angeles-
FOX/CBS Network (non-news) & KABC.....Dorothy Lucey

San Francisco-
KRON/H&G Network..Susan Blake
KRON.....Joe Ducey

WPVI.....David Murphy, Joe Torres
FOX......Jacqueline Boulden

WDIV.....Joe Ducey, Dan Gallagher,
Dan Mountney

Tampa/Orlando..Kathi Belich
Cleveland......John Kosich,
Dave Pingalore
Minneapolis....Paul Douglas,
Mike Igoe,
Amelia Santaniello

And of course, Bill O'Reilly at Fox.

By the way, Bob Wilson did work at WNEP. He was hired by then News Director Frank Andrews.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Howard Beale said...

D'oh. How could I forget about Bill O'Reilly?

12:02 AM  
Blogger Tom Carten said...

How could I forget about Bill O'Reilly?

* * *

Where would Uncle Ted be without Bill O'Reilly? Still driving that milk truck. Well, not anymore...

2:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Dorthy Lucey married Joe Ducey she'd be Dorthy Lucey Ducey.

All those ex-16'ers were there when news content had more emphasis. The ones there now hafta deal with shtick and that's holding them back from being any kind of decent-market reporter

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 8:48am poster makes a good point. Dave Pingalore may be the only reporter or anchor who has moved to a large market since the current news director arrived. Others have left, but I believe they also left television (Megan Dardanell, Jodi Reynosa and Sean Bolen).

Were other WNEP news directors just lucky or does Dennis Fisher lack the ability to select and train quality people? I'm not trying to offend the current on air staff, but it does seems to be a few steps below those from earlier years.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many on air people from WNEP who went to larger markets and networks.

Not that you're wrong, but I was thinking more in terms of, say, the last ten years. And also thinking in terms of network versus bigger market. Right now, WBRE has Henneberg, Kellogg, and Banderas(Bidwell)at Fox, and Solarzano at CBS. What they all share in common is that they were came to WBRE when Art Daube was GM, which were probably as close to Golden Years as that place ever got.

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of Tom Powell. Has anyone ever hear of his casting couch? I spoke with several woman who said that during his interviews with them, he would say that "if" they got a job, certain "favors" would be asked of them.

11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those in the know---Powell had two other names F squared and "glass plate jobs"!!!!!!!!!LOL

11:48 AM  
Blogger Grace Powell said...

Back to Tom Powell,for those REALLY in the know he was the only journalist who was elected for two consecutive terms as president of the Associated Press.

He also had three other titles which were the most important to him: husband,father,and grandfather.

I have the inside scoop.I do because I am his daughter.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Bill Mecca said...


Jeff Barnd- WPVI, Boston and now Baltimore Fox affiliate
Greg Fox WESH Orlando
Beth Powers WESH Orlando (now out of the buz)
Russ Spencer- WAGA ATlanta
Keith Oppenheim CNN]
Mike Garguilo WNBC NY

10:07 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home