The 600-pound gorilla in the newsroom where I write right now is that 14 people have been terminated from KPIX due to drastic budget cuts. No, this isn't a twisted April Fools Day prank, since the involuntary cuts happened yesterday. It's a reality; seasoned, veteran reporters who have decades upon decades of Emmy-winning experience have been shown the door because advertising revenues are way down in this election year (when they were projected to be much higher). And it wasn't just on-air individuals who lost their jobs, but those behind the scenes as well. Every single department in the station was subject to cuts.
Word of cuts left the newsroom in near solemn silence, which is a departure from the lively chatter that typically permeates the building. It was (and is) a day of mourning at CBS 5--for those who had to leave, for those whose dear friends are no longer their colleagues and for those who were put in the difficult position of making such hard decisions. Manny Ramos, Bill Schechner, Tony Russomano and John Lobertini are class acts and have brought 60+ years of top-notch journalism to the Bay Area. Their contributions cannot be overlooked. The outrage from SFGate readers is palpable (and suprisingly coherent for newspaper web comments, frankly). Many in the community are feeling a sense of loss today, and not just sadness for good newsmen who lost their jobs, but cynicism about what kind of news they'll get going forward. These journalists have been a foundation of ace television reporting for decades. Their absence will be noticeable for a long time to come.
I can't quite describe how strange it is to be writing about this situation from where I sit. I have only been employed at KPIX since mid-November when I was hired to do a job that didn't exist before. Full-time blogger at a news station is not a common position, in fact, it's pretty rare (though becoming more and more common). Having a newsroom staffer monitor and produce blog(s) as their sole responsibility is not something even I, a blogger since 1999, would have imagined five years ago. Now stations across the country are making new media, social networking and online publishing a priority as advertising dollars are moving from the silver screen to the computer screen. They are hiring up bloggers who are well-versed in internet news and culture to manage those web properties. Some would debate that a position like this is superfluous, and frankly, they'd have a lot of good arguments, no doubt. Other still would say that the landscape of news dissemination is morphing so quickly that to ignore new media innovations like blogging is a death knell. Those people, too, have many valid points.
It is undeniable that, despite current economic trends that do not bode well, the t.v. news and newspaper business is struggling. They are struggling to catch up to the power of the web which has, in many ways, robbed them of many of their most valuable assets. News gets made online and broken online before traditional media types can even react. Not their fault, exactly, the machine is just too huge and cumbersome. Mainstream media organizations simply aren't as nimble as independent online newsmakers. However, what the machine lacks in dexterity, it makes up for in spades with exclusive contacts, years of knowledge and hard-won reputation. It's a morphing industry, no doubt about it. These cuts are an illustration of that inevitable fact.
Here is what other bloggers are saying about the unfortunate KPIX layoffs:
Yesterday was a sad one at KPIX-Channel 5, where the downsizing trend that has had the newspaper industry in its grips came to the local television station...In the case of KPIX, the station is losing plenty of valuable experience. Ramos and Schechner have five Emmys between them and decades of on-air experience. Schechner has been on TV in the Bay Area since 1972.
I recieved a phone call tonight from a friend in the know. He's lucky to still have a job but he's still worried...
From Forbes Field to the Bay and Back:
So much for stations being loyal to long time employees.
Ever notice they never fire the General Manager ?
Or so it seems anyway...
California Majority Report:
Lobertini is a solid reporter, one of the best of putting the inner workings of state government into laymen's terms. He also isn't shy about putting state leaders on the spot with tough questions, as Gov. Schwarzenegger (and Gov. Davis) found out the hard way on several occasions. I'm sure he'll land a spot somewhere, but it's sad to be reporting nearly weekly on the further decline of veteran Sacramento reporters.
And here are some select comments from the active SFGate section in regards to this development:
norcalguy101 wrote:Who watches news on tv anymore. I've cancelled my cable. If I want to watch baseball, basketball, or live video coverage, or read the news....it's all online....plus you get what interests you rather than have to sit their and get stuffed with what a producer thinks I need to know....which based upon the three leading Bay Area news programs is not much...
<WeatherGuy wrote:I don't know any of these fired reporters. I stopped watching the news when the internet came around in the middle 90s and I could find my own information at my leisure. Local news is just depressing anyway
hoecakes wrote:That's a shame. Those fired reporters were really good and credible. I worry that they're going to turn into KRON with idiots like Ysabel Duron (laughs inappropriately and cuts everyone off with her inane driver) and Henry Tannenbaum (complete idiot blowhard). KTVU's new male morning anchor sucks too with his yukking delivery. Man, local news used to be so good, and now?
wakeupalive wrote:You will all be missed. Just another reason not to watch local news anymore. They are putting on people that can barely read and definitely aren't news reporters. PBS or nothing else at this point. Sad.
spidra wrote:I'm sorry to hear about these folks joining the host of others in the Bay Area who were laid off or will be laid off this year. It would be great if the experienced reporters, the ones who are truly journalists, could take advantage of not having to please a corporate boss anymore and produce their own blogs and podcasts. It would be interesting to see what they'd come up with if they no longer had to worry about sponsors and shareholders.
leake wrote:Local news is not news - it's advertising dollars. So what if they move the props around a little, or give the anchors new haircuts every now and then - it's all about the packaging, not the content. Let's face it, from a business perspective KPIX and its local news programming is not and will never be "60 Minutes"... And older TV news reporters are not about to start blogging their way to success anytime soon.
I've invited some staffers here at CBS 5 to contribute their words on what is a great loss this has been to them both personally and professionally. I hope they do so. I watched yesterday as those who have seen one another most mornings for many, many recent years shed tears for those who were affected. Those wrapped in embraces were then called into manager offices to get the same news that had just stricken their friend. It was hard to watch. I can't imagine how hard it was for those sent home after 20 or 30 years. The level of distress was at a fever pitch. Employees talked in tiny puddles, wondering aloud if they'd be next. They wondered to their comrades how this news organization would change in the days and weeks to come. Would there be enough of them to get it all done? Their work is done at break-neck pace as is.
Friends are gone. They aren't coming back. It's been hard around here, and I imagine it won't get easier, at least on an emotional level, for a long while.
Readers, you are welcomed to comment on these unfortunate turn of events in our comment section below. Leave well wishes for those who are gone or express your displeasure. You have the floor.