Monday, June 15, 2009

Metro Heads North, Well, Sort Of

Last year, Westwood One announced that it was shuttering about 50 of Metro Networks nationwide offices and bureaus, including its Cleveland office.

The idea, according to the company, was to better utilize technology to gather information about area traffic (as well as sports and news)...and the result, we were told, is that markets like Cleveland would still receive reports - just from people based in Detroit. The same scenario would play out in the other 12 remaining market "hubs".

Metro/Detroit's Howard Bouton amplified that noise all by himself in a recent AllAccess item, where he was all but begging qualified applicants to join him at the company's suburban Detroit outpost (Southfield, MI) to feed reports to Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and other markets under his purview.

Well, OMW can confirm that Metro's Cleveland market office has officially closed, as of Friday night, and no more reports will come from the first floor of the office tower on Granger Road in Independence, visible as you head up or down I-77 north of I-480.

But...

Many of the Metro-based voices you hear and see on Cleveland area stations aren't going away Monday, and almost none of them are making the move to Detroit.

Huh?

OMW hears that at least four Metro/Cleveland regulars are staying in-town, and are being "embedded" at various affiliate stations while still working for Metro.

To wit:

* Long-time Metro/Cleveland director of operations Terry Groden remains a Clevelander, and will be "embedded" starting Monday at the Salem cluster in Independence, just a short drive from his former office. We hear Groden will be tasked with doing news and traffic for Salem talk WHK/1420 and CCM sister WFHM/95.5 "The Fish".

* Veteran traffic reporter Linda Dawson is also staying in town. She'll be "embedded" at CBS Radio's operations in the Halle Building, doing reports for CBS' WDOK/102.1, WQAL/104.1 and WNCX/98.5.

* The rumblings we heard that morning sports anchor Jeff Thomas would be heading for the Galleria, and continuing his reports for Good Karma sports WKNR/850 "ESPN 850" are correct, except that Jeff will continue under Metro's employ in his new "embedded" situation.

We hear afternoon sports updates on WKNR will be taken by a "player to be named later", as it were...who will also be embedded at the Galleria. It doesn't sound like former afternoon sports anchor Daryl Ruiter will keep "filling in" during his old slot, which he gave up back when he left Metro originally for a full-time in-house job at WKNR. Good Karma certainly gives him enough work to do already.

* Rick Abell will continue to do traffic working for Metro, and working at Reserve Square for Raycom CBS/MyNetwork TV affiliate WOIO/19-WUAB/43's "19 Action News". This arrangement has been in place for some time, and won't change Monday. Abell physically moved from the now-closed Metro offices/studios to Reserve Square a few months ago.

OMW hears that "many feeds" will indeed be done out of the Detroit hub, but that's a pretty big list above.

One of the biggest Metro clients not on this "embedded" list is the Cleveland Radio One cluster, and we're guessing they'll welcome their own Detroit-based voices - particularly since some of the Cleveland anchors won't be available to the cluster (WZAK/93.1, WENZ/107.9, WJMO/1300 and WERE/1490) since they'll be attached to another client full-time.

We also hear that two producers, including afternoon producer/traffic voice/fill-in Jim Dubenetsky (sp?), are heading for Detroit to help compile information from Cleveland for anchors in both cities.

The various traffic cameras around town, two-way audio from ground spotters on area roads, and other resources in Cleveland will be hauled up electronically to Detroit, where the hub can do such things as move the cameras and talk back to the local spotters.

We're hearing that one consequence of the move may be significantly more accurate traffic information. Our sources connected to the situation are touting a new cell-phone "pulse" based traffic measuring system that will provide the equivalent of "several thousand" on-the-ground traffic sensors from anonymous cell phone data from the roads.

Metro parent Westwood One signed an exclusive deal with the company, AirSage, in July 2008.

It'll also help Metro measure traffic on roads off the highway system.

And that new data will help out some Metro/Cleveland staffers as they move to their new "embedded" locations.

Considering the tone of Mr. Bouton's AllAccess ad, we're wondering - did Metro/Detroit just not get enough qualified applicants willing to cover multiple Ohio markets from Detroit?

Did some of the long-standing local Metro affiliates lobby for their familiar Metro-based voices?

That, we don't know.

Maybe Metro saw enough savings by shutting down the physical office, or by letting go the people they have already released at Metro/Cleveland.

We're in speculation territory here...at least with the last part of this item..

1 comment:

David said...

Jim D. still serving WERE 1490.

-WERE prod guy