Monday, December 15, 2008

Tim White's Farewell, And Our Take

As promised, here's our transcript of now-former WKYC/3 anchor Tim White's farewell message, which aired on the 11 PM newscast on his last day at the Gannett NBC affiliate in Cleveland.

And also as promised, we'll have some of our own comments...after the transcript:


ROMONA: Well, throughout the day, we've been saying goodbye to Tim White, my co-anchor and friend. It was his last day here at Channel 3. Now, Tim did have some final thoughts he wanted to share with all of you, and he left it for us on tape. It's a classy move from a classy guy. Tim, you will be missed...from all of us, good luck, and be well.

TIM: You know, it's not easy to know how to say goodbye to people and a place that you've loved for going on 10 years. So, I've decided to answer some questions that I've had from viewers, and to save TV time, I won't repeat the question. But here are the answers.

Yes, Romona and I really do get along that well, off-camera, too.

No, I don't wear a hair piece. It's all mine.

I don't think it's all Romeo's fault, and I do believe the Browns are gonna win the Super three years.

Yes, I do believe that Cleveland has already turned the corner...we're just too close to see how far we've come. Just ask someone who's...recently moved here...they'll tell ya.

It is true I don't often call it "Northeast Ohio". Everything north of Columbus and east of Cleveland.

They should have hung onto Jim Thome.

Yeah, I do worry that the news business is becoming more "business" than "news".

Yes, these really are hard times. In some ways, the years ahead will probably be more like the 1950's. And you know, that's not at all a bad thing.

Nope, I don't think it's bad luck. All Cleveland needs to soar is confidence and leadership.

Speaking of soaring, yes, LeBron is a force of nature. But the most remarkable thing about his talent and fame is how well he's handled it.

I disagree. The Plain Dealer may be smaller, but it's a darn good newspaper, and I wouldn't start the day without it.

And yes, Romona is the best dressed woman I know. And, she's nice, too.

No, I've never worked with a better sports guy than Jimmy Donovan. I don't think there is one.

And I agree. Betsy's made the transition to being a great mom as gracefully as she made the transition to being the main weather person.

I appreciate that, but if you like our newscast, the real people to thank are the reporters, and the producers, and the camera folk, and the directors and the editors, who work hard every day to make every newscast something we're proud of. Romona and I are just the tips of the iceberg.

Yep, folks around here do care a lot about veterans. The rest of the country should learn from us.

"What's it's been like?", you ask. Being here every night with you has been more than a job, it's been a blessing. Sure, it's been hard for me to have my family scattered all over the country, and all over the world. But you have made me feel like part of yours, and I will always be grateful for that.

It's not easy to move on, but it is time. I'll let you know what comes next. There's a lot of work to do.

And from the bottom of my heart, thank you. And for now, goodbye.


Tim White became a part of the fabric of Cleveland TV news after replacing another name in 1999 long known to Clevelanders - Judd Hambrick, one of two brothers who spent a lot of time on local TV news.

We missed his entrance here. By the time we'd caught up with Tim, he'd already established himself alongside Romona Robinson, and "Channel 3 News" was more competitive than ever. Before the mid-1990's affiliation switch in Cleveland, WKYC was always a distant third, behind dominant WJW/8 (then a CBS affiliate) and scrappy second-place competitor WEWS/5.

Some of that new competitiveness was certainly Channel 8 losing the news-friendly CBS affiliation for then-upstart FOX...though that network is now one of the "Big Four", and is currently more successful than WKYC's NBC...a network which recently had to throw the TV equivalent of a "Hail Mary" pass to shore up its 10 PM time slot by moving Jay Leno into primetime.

But the Tim-and-Romona team, and the rest of "Channel 3 News" alongside them, found its stride...and greater viewer numbers...along the way.

Despite all this, it's not all about how popular Tim White is - and he certainly is.

It's about the changing face of TV news. It's about TV stations owned by big companies losing a lot of money in the down economy, and not making a move to retain a key player...particularly, as in the case of Channel 3, where the remaining co-anchor is also a key player.

But even as the station makes some effort to shape a new anchor team with an eye to the future - Eric Mansfield and Carole Sullivan debut at 7 PM tonight - there's no mistaking one fact.

The TV business has changed, and the earthquake is now being felt at all levels.

People over 40 took it for granted. If you wanted the news on TV, you sat down in front of the set when the news people were ready to deliver it to you.

You turned on the TV at 6, or 11, or noon, or later, in the morning, and there it was. If something happened at 2:30 PM, it wouldn't be on TV unless it was deemed important enough to break into a soap opera.

Considering today's technology, that concept now seems quaint. If you want to buy a loaf of bread, do you have to show up at 6 PM and wait for the store to be ready to hand it to you?

Of course not.

As today's "news consumers" need to know, they go to the Internet. They go to places like WKYC's very own extensive And that's if they're even still looking for the news output of a traditional TV news operation, or a newspaper.

And since media outlets can't yet make nearly enough money off the Internet as they do selling commercials on TV (or newspaper ads and subscriptions), that means less money to, well, pay people to gather and deliver the news.

And bringing this back to Tim White - that means less inclination to pay high-profile anchors high-profile salaries...and to maintain large newsrooms full of people no matter what they get paid.

We should note here: We don't have any information on why Tim White and Gannett/WKYC were not able to reach a new deal...only the public statements about the changing news business.

But it's no secret that news operations are actively looking to pay less to run their newsrooms, be it by reducing anchor salaries, or the number of anchors, or the number of reporters, editors, and other support staff. This is not about whatever Tim White hoped to get out of Gannett in a new contract.

With the economy cratering, and ad revenue falling through the floor, that just throws gasoline on this already burning fire.

But even without that "extra gas", the fire is still burning, and the changing nature of how people even "consume" news "product" would still send the train in this direction.

Our best wishes to Tim White, for his future, and to all the folks at 13th and Lakeside, South Marginal, 30th and Euclid and Reserve Square, both on-air and off. It'll be a difficult road ahead for all of you...but you already knew that...


andrew727 said...

Like the rest of the economy, broadcasting is not immune to down turns. Perhaps what makes it different from the Great Depression of the late 1920’s to the early 1930’s is there are more outlets for news than traditional sources, as has been mentioned on this OMW piece centered on the goodbye of Tim White. An anchor person(s) is the face of a station, it is what people recognize as local. But the truth of the matter is talent is a bought commodity. Its worth is the ratings it brings in. Frankly, again as mentioned, is the world has changed. The internet has played a large part of that, at least as far as news dissemination is concerned. It has become a great equalizer for all the voices heard. With the pie already small (as witnessed by the declining number of pages of the weekday PD), ad dollars are even harder to come by. And as talent goes, so does the industry. Ramona Robertson, Ted Henry, Bill Martin are among a dying breed as mega-celebrities. Television news is going through a transition, stuck in the glut as it seems. If anybody has been to a website like ’Justin’ or other so-called ’life sites’ where ordinary men and women are stars of the internet (some talented, and others only talented in their own minds), it becomes evident some of the magic is gone. And with it, some of the ’smarts’ as well. I’ve seen even some large media sites where words were spelled wrong, or sentence structure is in error. As stations cut back on their quality people, who were more expensive than their media companies could afford, that sense of ’special’ will fade from it. In a sense, it is a little frightening, but it’s a world in which news is streaming continuous beyond the necessary mindset of 6PM and 11PM. That really does not exist anymore. It is doubtful it will ever come back. When NBC and its primetime programming are mentioned, I think of General Electric and its corporate philosophy - if it does not make a profit, dump it. If it stops making a profit, dump it. I really think GE is already in the quiet process of ’shopping the network’ as it looks for a buyer. It seems as though they are no longer putting money into the product. And to be very honest, I don’t think they have a full understanding of the entertainment and news business. Some companies like Tribune are surprisingly on the fence. Even CBS has openly been trying to sell their radio stations in the medium markets. WJW TV 8 was spun off along with other former FOX o & o’s so it could qualify for ownership of stations in larger and more profitable markets. Tim White is just one more of the victims of news operation meltdowns.

- Andrew, MALL727net -

Chris Johnston. said...

What a classy and neat way to say goodbye.

Over the air media is in a great transition. For the better? Who knows. Especially since we don't know where that transition is taking us.

Let's hope the good and classy people manage to come out on top.

fanofgrendel said...

When I came to this area in 1972, it was from a section of Indiana with a low budget television presence. Of course my first night in town gave the opportunity to catch the local news broadcasts. The initial impression was that of quality: the news anchors to me were much like I was used to on network television. And on all the channels, no less! I have seen the beginning of the end of much, and I'm afraid this might be another. Sad.

Johnny Jag said...

Tim White---thanks for your time--you have been one of the classiest acts and both my wife and I will miss your presence on television......