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Jonathan Murray Tells How To Get a Reality TV Job

As creator of The Real World and Road Rules and producer of Keeping Up With The Kardashians and Project Runway, Jonathan Murray gets asked one question an awful lot:

How do I get a job in reality TV?

In mediabistro.com’s latest So What Do You Do? interview, Murray said it’s all about getting that first gig — any gig — in the business.

“I think we hire 20 to 30 young people each year to start out as PAs and loggers and all these different entry-level jobs. And I always tell them that you really need to work in it to understand it. Get a good liberal arts education,” he explained. “I’m always looking for people who think well, who are curious, who can write well, who are well-read, who understand story, and then we can teach them most of the rest of the stuff as a company.”

Murray also discussed how he was able to get MTV to take a chance on the genre and whether Kim Kardashian‘s 72-day marriage was really a sham for the cameras. Read the full interview.

Two Hires At KVOA Tucson

Two new anchors have been hired at KVOA, the Tucson-area NBC affiliate.

TVNewsCheck reports that Rebecca Taylor (pictured) is rejoining KVOA after a two-year stint working as business manager for Christian Dior. She will co-anchor the weekend newscasts and report during the week.

Allison Alexander will anchor KVOA’s noon and 4 p.m. newscasts. She was previously morning news anchor at KTVK Phoenix, weekend anchor at KGUN Tucson, and also worked at WLNE Providence, R.I.; WOIO Cleveland; KSLA Shreveport, La.; and KTEN Sherman, Texas.

‘Significant Resources’ Added At KXAS Dallas’s New Investigative Unit

KXAS Dallas is launching a new investigative team and adding “significant resources” to its morning news coverage, TVNewsCheck reports.

Scott Friedman will lead a team that will include a producer, researcher and photographer.

“This is an investigative reporter’s dream, having the support and the resources to track down and report stories that can really make a difference for all of us who live here,” he told TVNewsCheck.

The NBC-owned station has recently renewed the contracts of key talent as well as making new hires, TVNewsCheck says. Deborah Ferguson, who has worked for KXAS for 20 years, recently renewed her contract, and the station has recently hired Keaton Fox, Samantha Davies, Ben Russell, Kendra Lyn and Tim Livingston.

Layoffs In Oregon Broadcast

Two anchors in small-town Oregon are losing their jobs as their parent station is eliminating their positions, the (Douglas County, Ore.) News-Review reports.

dan bainDan Bain, who has anchored the evening news on KPIC in Roseburg, Ore., for 20 years, will lose his job March 9, along with Tim Novotny, of KCBY in Coos Bay, Ore.

Parent company Fisher Broadcasting is planning to shut down the anchor desks at both stations, and instead staff KPIC and KCBY with reporters only—no anchors or news directors.

The reporters will submit their stories to parent station KVAL in Eugene, Ore., and anchors there will present them.

“We hope what we’re doing will enhance our news operations,” general manager Greg Raschio told the News-Review.

Bain received word two weeks ago that his contract wouldn’t be renewed; that meeting came, the News-Review said, just days after newspaper personnel chatted with Bain while he was filming a story at the paper. During that discussion, Bain, 61, said he planned to keep working at KPIC until he was 65.

WAMU News Director Resigns Over Fundraising Event

Jim Asendio, news director at D.C.’s WAMU-FM, resigned Tuesday over a station-sponsored event for donors in which journalists were expected to attend.

“I do not believe that reporters should be exposed to the real or perceived influence of individuals or foundations who fund the work of the newsroom,” he said in a message posted to Washingtonpost.com, and obtained by columnist Richard Prince.

Asendio told Prince that after he raised his objections to WAMU’s general manager, he received the following email: “Understand that your refusal to participate in a major station event involves a permanent, irreversible statement to me, about whether you are part of my team.”

The station’s development office had scheduled a breakfast for this morning for 30 people, with a panel of nine reporters and producers speaking. “Allowing people to see the impact that their investment makes in our work is completely appropriate. However, the station does not permit crossing the line between a funder seeing that impact and a funder being allowed input into the planning process for coverage,” a spokesperson told Prince.

Asendio said he believed the event reminiscent of a canceled plan developed at the Washington Post by publisher Katharine Weymouth in 2009. The Post had sent out brochures offering sponsorships for an “exclusive Washington Post salon” at Weymouth’s home, promising off-the-record dinners with reporters.

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.

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