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Five States Face Public Broadcasting Cuts

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee’s proposed budget would zero out state funding to Rhode Island PBS by 2014, and two bills in Oklahoma would remove state funding either next year or over the next five years, Current reports.

Meanwhile, Idaho is recommending a “no-growth” budget for Idaho Public Television and is considering removing transmitters in sparsely populated regions, Kansas nixed a bill that would have increased its public broadcasting funding, and state cuts in South Carolina that went into effect last year have taken their toll.

It’s not a pretty picture out there for public radio and TV.

The Rhode Island plan, if enacted, would take away $933,000, or a third of the station’s budget. Discussions, Current reports, continue.

State funding in Oklahoma has already dropped from $5.2 million in 2009 to $3.8 million this year; state funds now make up 41 percent of The Oklahoma Network’s (OETA’s) budget. According to OETA executive director John McCarroll, the network has already had to cut back on news production.

None of these threats are real yet—they still need to be voted on, signed into law, and so forth—except in South Carolina, where the broadcaster closed its office in Beaufort Feb. 2 and laid off two staffers. The office closure will save $180,000 a year.

Media General, Hit By Severance Costs, Reports Loss

Newspaper publisher and broadcast station owner Media General today reported a Q4 2011 loss of $3.3 million on revenues of $168 million, as the company’s severance costs and impairment charges overwhelmed its operating income of $27 million dollars.

Without the special charges, the company would have reported $4.5 million in income, less than half the income from the fourth quarter of 2010. Those $168 million in revenues were $22 million lower than the revenue from a year prior.

Partially offsetting the decline in revenues was an 8.6 percent decrease in operating costs, the company said.

Digital revenues, a closely watched line item for media companies, made up just 5 percent of the company’s revenue.

Media General owns the Tampa Tribune, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 19 other newspapers and 18 TV stations. In mid-December, the company laid off 165 at the Tampa Tribune, costing $3.5 million in severance costs.

How Dave Statter Became A Reporter

Awesome “as told to” in the January issue of the Washingtonian about how Dave Statter, a traffic reporter, became a news reporter first for radio station WTOP and then TV station WUSA, both in Washington DC.

Statter had just been let go from his traffic reporting job and was holed up in his condo. He was listening to the police scanner, a holdout from his days as a firefighter, when he heard about a plane crash.

This crash turned out to be Air Florida Flight 90, which had crashed into DC’s 14th Street Bridge on takeoff.

Statter says: “I called the WTOP newsroom and said, ‘Look, you don’t know me, but there’s been a plane crash at the 14th Street Bridge.’”

He was able to talk his way into a nearby hotel:

I was just walking up the hallway and there was a door open and I knocked on it. I looked in and they were all outside on the balcony watching. I said, “I want to do a radio report. Can I use your phone and stand on the balcony?”

I stood in the freezing cold, with my binoculars in one hand and the phone in the other, and gave WTOP live reports. I’d done some radio when I was in college and worked as a disk jockey in southern Maryland, but I’d never been a reporter for a radio station in a major market. This was my audition.

I was too stunned to be nervous. I could not believe there was a commercial plane between the bridges, in the river. I could see the helicopter swooping down, and I tried to make out what was going on with the rescues. I could see the damaged cars on the bridge. I just started talking, describing what I saw.

The next day, they said they needed an extra traffic reporter. “I walked in, got a tape recorder and car, and they said, ‘Here’s the keys. We’ll fill out the paperwork later.’ By Friday they said, ‘Would you like a full-time job?’”

Pittsburgh’s WTAE Staffers Ask For Scheduling Relief, Overtime

On-air talent at Pittsburgh’s WTAE rejoined AFTRA in 2010, after 12 years of being a non-union shop.

Now, in 2012, the union members can’t come to terms with management on a contract.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that WTAE’s on-air staff have launched a social media campaign that say they are being “denied severance benefits for workers fired without cause, a minimum salary scale, overtime pay after eight hours in a work day, retirement benefits on the same terms as other employees at the station, and consideration for unscheduled call-outs, split shifts and work on the sixth consecutive day and thereafter.”

The staffers say that since other Hearst stations have recently settled contracts, WTAE, which is also owned by Hearst, should follow suit.

“I believe they want us to start all over again. They say, ‘You can’t catch up with the other stations,’ ” said Bill Hillgrove, who provides reporting for WTAE.

Michael Hayes, president and general manager of WTAE, said he could not comment to the P-G other than to say, “We are negotiating in good faith and look forward to continuing those negotiations. We continue to value our employees and look to working toward the future.”

WHDH-TV Reaches Agreement With Union

The union that represents Boston’s WHDH-TV anchors and reporters has come to an agreement with the station for a new three-year contract that provides 2 percent raises in exchange for the gradual phasing out of fees paid to anchors and reporters for appearing on air.

The Boston Globe reports that this agreement is more than two years in the making and took some “difficult and protracted” negotiation.

After the station and AFTRA‘s Boston chapter couldn’t agree on the fee and salary structure or on how to handle age discrimination complaints, talks broke off over the summer, and the union even went so far as to urge its members to boycott WHDH’s high-profile health expo, which meant viewers couldn’t meet their favorite anchors as promised.

Pay for on-air talent is based on a combination of base salary and on-air appearance fees, which can account for up to half a reporter’s pay, the Globe says. But “People are glad that it’s [the negotiation is] over, and wanted to move forward,” Tom Higgins, executive director of the guild, told the Globe.

TV Journalists: Should You Take Money To Tell People How To Get On TV?

Former TV reporter Christine Clayburg (a former meteorologist, reporter and program host for WCCO and KMSP in the Twin Cities) now runs a consulting business called Clayburg Communications, where she creates news-style PR videos for clients.

MinnPost’s David Brauer was tipped off by a reader that Clayburg’s website has a section dedicated to the company’s “U-Team”—” seasoned on-camera TV journalists with impeccable credentials interested in your GOOD NEWS. Many are still working in news now. …Maybe you just need an hour to talk to a professional about how to make a story or event news worthy. Or maybe you need the brain power for an entire world of online content with a professional well versed in life on both sides of the camera. We make it possible for you to talk straight to the experts on what makes news for as little cost as possible.”

If working TV journalists were taking money to consult with clients, that’d be a conflict of interest in most newsrooms. “At KSTP, our contract employees (that includes reporters, anchors and many producers) agree to provide services ‘exclusive’ to us. To provide services outside would put them in violation of their agreement with the Station,” assistant news director John Mason told Brauer.

Brauer asked Clayburg if this was really what was happening. She ultimately said that the U-Team didn’t include any anchors or prominent reporters, only freelancers, and “to be honest, we don’t do it very often,” she said.

“When I asked again if she currently employed anyone working in a Minnesota newsroom today,” Brauer writes, “she said, ‘Not at this time.’”

But Clayburg also said that the TV world is different now. “Stations are cutting back [on full-timers] more and more; someone who sells cars is doing weather on the weekends.”

That’s undeniably true. But is selling cars and doing weather the same thing as working as a media consultant at the same time as working in media? Considering the state of the news media, this may not even be a question anymore. Pretty soon this type of thing may become a necessity, with employers obliged to simply look the other way.

Eight Layoffs At New Orleans’ WGNO

WGNO has laid off eight people, including the anchor of the now-gone 6:30 p.m. newscast, reports the Times-Picayune.

Those people are Jessica Holly, the anchor, reporter Glynn Boyd, sports reporter and weekend anchor Kristina Pink, and reporter Christian Jennings. Four photographers were also cut.

WGNO’s non-traditional newscast, “News with a Twist,” where anchors Susan Roesgen and LeBron “LBJ” Joseph host from bar stools, is expanding, and since that show requires fewer staffers, “the station’s decision to emphasize the “Twist” brand prompted the layoffs,” the Times-Picayune’s Dave Walker said.

12 Ways To Get Fired On Social Media

Just in time for the holidays, Ragan.com has compiled a list of twelve things people have posted on Facebook, Twitter, or even Myspace that ended up getting them canned. But reading about these bonehead moves isn’t all just the gift that keeps on giving: some of these employers display a seriously Grinchy outlook toward how they police their employees’ social media postings.

We have covered a number of these incidents in the past, from the accidental f-bomb posted to Chrysler’s twitter page to the “Cisco fatty,” but check this out:

An employee of NBC posted a clip to YouTube of “Today Show” anchors discussing the Internet. In 1994. It’s a hilarious video, but it got the guy fired. Worse, The Today Show actually saw the clip go viral and aired it earlier this year.

Could be that it’s not that NBC lacks a sense of humor, but that the company has strict rules about publishing content from its archives. Still…

Prize-Winning Reporter Out At Denver’s KUSA

Reporter and “colorful character” Deborah Sherman’s contract has not been renewed at KUSA, the Denver Post reports.

Sherman is “said to have great contacts but not the easiest professional temperament,” Denver Post TV critic Joanne Ostrow said. Ostrow also called Sherman a “colorful character when she was part of the investigative team at Channel 9.”

It’s possible, Ostrow says, that Sherman’s dismissal is related to the story she became involved in after meeting a doctor on a swinger site. That encounter “resulted in her winning a permanent restraining order against him, his arrest on drug charges, his firing and loss of a medical license, and her being catapulted to the center of a widely reported, rather unseemly news story.”

KUSA could have been trying to distance itself from Sherman since.

Major Layoffs At KMSB and KTTU In Tucson As Stations Fold Into Competitor KOLD

Belo Corp announced it is entering into a shared services agreement in Tucson, handing over Fox affiliate KMSB and My Network TV affiliate KTTU to the Raycom Media-owned CBS affiliate KOLD.

Under the terms of the agreement, KOLD will produce newscasts for KMSB and KTTU, and Belo will eliminate all Tucson positions besides sales, which amounts to at least 20 jobs, TVNewsCheck reported.

KOLD will be adding a local morning newscast and will “certainly” be staffing up, according to Belo Media Operations president Peter L. Diaz. “But how they do that will be their decision,” Diaz added. “We’re talking with our people about opportunities they may have at KOLD or our other Belo stations.”

Belo said in its announcement that “we have no plans to enter into a similar agreement elsewhere.”

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