I remember a day when May sweeps meant tv newsrooms shined up and showed off. The most important ratings book of the year meant special investigative reports, multi-part series pieces on important cultural, political and criminal justice issues.
But this year, for many newsrooms May has given employees the effect of two Starbucks espressos downed within minutes of each other.
They’re nervous, on edge and maybe even shaky.
I don’t remember a sweeps period with so much change in personnel and management. My station, WKRN said goodbye to a general manager and a news director during the first weeks of the book. Stations in the former New York Times broadcast group said goodbye to a number of staff members, some in the news department and some in the important production department. The new owners of 19 and 3 have sent down word that there would be no more cuts. But those of us who’ve been in the business for a long time understand the business. They may “hope to make no more cuts”, but layoffs are never off the table when they look at profit margins.
What is happening to the business of local tv news?
I remember a post from Terry Heaton, former news director at WAAY-31 in Huntsville and now a consultant. Late in 2004 (the year I left tv news in Memphis) Terry wrote that 2005 would be a year of trouble for broadcasters. He predicted that because of a shrinking audience (that isn’t coming back) and disruptive technolgies that empower viewers, tv stations would begin making cutbacks sending many journalists to the unemployment lines.
I suppose we’ve all been holding our breaths for the past few years, wondering if maybe Terry was off or way off. Turns out maybe it was just premature speculation.
Is this the year? Or will 2008 be the year Terry figured was coming soon?
I hope Terry’s forecast was more like a meterologists 7-Day Outlook and less like a glance at the gazillion watt Doppler radar and an approaching storm.