Thursday, November 29, 2007

Employee Bomb About To Drop In Youngstown

In what's no surprise to anyone not in denial, the coming days will bring news of employment status to workers at two Youngstown TV stations.

The Youngstown Business Journal reports that employees of Parkin Broadcasting ABC affiliate WYTV/33 will find out - in their pay envelopes - Friday whether they'll still have jobs after December 9th. And workers at New Vision Television CBS/FOX combo WKBN/27-WYFX/17-62 will get similar notices December 7th.

As expected, WYTV's news and on-air operations will be moved to the facilities of WKBN and "FOX 17/62" on December 10th as a part of a "shared services agreement" between the two broadcasting companies. Left behind at WYTV's long-time Shady Run Road facility, says the Business Journal's Andrea Wood, will be roughly 10 sales and management employees.

And though this story has also appeared in on the Youngstown Vindicator's website, Wood reports that WYTV anchor team Vince Bevacqua and Gina Marinelli will be out in the job upheaval. Wood reports that Angee Shaker will be the sole weekday WYTV anchor.

The link here, of course, is that agreement first uncovered in Parkin's FCC filings to buy WYTV, which gives New Vision's WKBN/WYFX the opening to produce newscasts for the ABC affiliate. But Wood also notes that New Vision itself guaranteed the 15-million dollar financing Parkin needed to buy WYTV.

One item we missed - WYTV has cancelled a large chunk of its local programming on sister digital/cable outlet "MyYTV", including the station's 10 PM newscast, and the two hour afternoon public affairs program "For The People", which was simulcast on Cumulus standards WSOM/600 Salem.

The job cuts for union employees come in two steps - those who aren't let go from WYTV with the Friday notice have a few days to decide if they're going to stay or leave. After that, the other shoe drops at WKBN/WYFX, as employees there will learn their own status December 7th.

We hate to say "we told you so", but...we (and others, like Andrea Wood) told you so.

The numbers are just what they are.

It'd have been an absolute fantasy to believe that a lightly capitalized, small company would be able to come in, buy a TV station and keep paying for a third full, separate newsroom staff in a market the size of Youngstown - a market that is literally shrinking by the day, with a very soft economy that only gets softer every year.

We feel for the WKBN/WYFX/WYTV employees. The key here is certainly "saving money", frankly, and we tried to sound that warning as early as possible.

When we talked about this before, and quipped about "life boats", we got some heat for suggesting that talent like WKBN anchor Robb Schmidt had seen the financial handwriting on the wall.

"You don't know", we were told, that Schmidt was leaving solely because he got an excellent opportunity (and that he did) in the Youngstown State University athletics department, a perfect fit for the long-time former sports anchor.

But...we feel we'd be insulting Mr. Schmidt if we didn't think he had any idea what was about to happen at his now-former station.

So, yes, he went for a nice new career opportunity.

But by the time he left WKBN/WYFX, Robb Schmidt surely had to know that much leaner times were ahead at his station. We are happy he made such a soft landing, as it were...and we hope the same for employees of both stations.

But, as expected and long predicted by this corner and others...it's not about making a better newscast for Parkin and New Vision. It's about being more "efficient", and lining up numbers on a spreadsheet that translate to less money going out of the companies' bank accounts.

We understand the economic reality here. As mentioned, the Youngstown media market is a tight place to compete, and there may not be enough money to go around for three separate local news operations.

But...we're still saddened by the news...

3 comments:

NPHSQUAKER said...

Let's Hope they get Mark Koontz...
If don't.. Maybe he can apply at WKYC-3?!??

Travis said...

Don't get too excited about outsmarting the Youngstown contingent regarding the merger, it's kind of like beating a special needs kid on the ACT.

I believed you guys though!

mrradio said...

According the business Journal, Dave Trabert the General Manager of WYTV is leaving the station on December 14th. The article says he resgined. 40 employees of WYTV were laid off on Friday.