Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More or Less

Doing More with Less

Startling. Startling is only one adjective that can be applied to the vast wasteland which is our news media nowadays. Former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Newton Minow in 1961 referred to television as a “vast wasteland” in a different context. It was harsh and possibly overstated then. In today’s economic climate, it is still harsh, but not overstated.

Look at what is happening in our local media, broadcast and print. All are being forced to do more with less.

Just this morning, I counseled a former colleague to hang on to a job, because good jobs are few. Another former colleague is leaving, rolling the dice, with the hope that one of two jobs will open up. In many ways, I did the much same thing when I left a perfectly good job at KEYE TV here in Austin in May, 2008, cocksure that a teaching position would mine within a few months. Didn’t happen. Cautious universities are doing more with less too.

TV people know about ParkerVision. ParkerVision sells live television production automation systems. Using ParkerVision, broadcasters cut personnel and operational costs out of news production with its robotic cameras. A studio used to need a live person behind every camera, plus a floor manager and somebody else running the teleprompter. With ParkerVision, the production department needs half of that crew or less. If, however, it is not programmed properly by the show producer and technical director, wrong or no video may show up on the air or it takes the wrong camera at the wrong time.

KXAN TV has used ParkerVision for years now, and it still shoots them in the foot at least once a week. It can make the production look sloppy. Even so, other local stations are looking at using it. Why? It’s doing more with less.

In all fairness, LIN TV stations must do more with less. LIN (TVL) stock is dragging the bottom at the lowest share price ever, trading at less than $2 a share, down from its high of around $26 only five years ago. There is no quick infusion of cash coming. So, they must do more with less.

General Motors (GM) and Chrysler Corporation are talking merger and asking the federal government for a hand-out. “As General Motors goes, so goes the nation” says the old saw. Things are not going so well right now. GM stock is below $3 a share, down from more than $32 per share last November. Cerberus Capital Management owns a majority of Chrysler along with Four Points Media. KEYE TV is part of Four Points Media. Since Cerberus is a private equity limited partnership, no financial information is available. But, KEYE has been forced into two highly visible personnel cuts. Doing more with less.

Belo Corporation (BLC) owns KVUE TV along with other TV stations and newspapers, notably the Dallas Morning News. “Faced with a weakening economy and a softening advertising market, Dallas-based broadcast company Belo Corp. said Wednesday [November 5, 2008] it would freeze hiring, cut staff in some markets and reduce other costs,” a Dallas Morning News story reported just last week. Belo stock is trading below $2 a share, falling from close to $30 per share about five years ago. These days, they’re doing more with less.

Of course, it’s old news that Cox Newspapers is trying to find a buyer for the Austin American-Statesman several of its other newspapers. It is startling (I’ve used that word before) that the American-Statesman has fewer reporters and photographers on duty during an average weekend than at least two of Austin Television newsrooms. As newspaper photographers respond to stories with several different cameras, including video, and a note pad, they’re doing more with less.

The Internet is becoming a vital and vigorous news medium in its own right as all of the local media channel stories, pictures and video online. Sure, new media is searchable, interactive, fun, and vast, but it also free. Shoot, this blog is free. It is doing more with less.

I’ll write a happy post next time.

Jim McNabb
© 2008

1 comment:

Irv said...

Hi Jim,

I enjoyed reading your blog today. I, too, read ShopTalk and worked in TV News and the Web for many, many years. Thought you might enjoy some of the entries in my blog from last July, touching on some similar topics. That was when the layoffs were gathering momentum in the biz.
Thanks for your blog... check this out, please: