Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Uncle Fred" Leaving the Airways...For Now

Fred Cantu On “Pause”

Fred Cantu is gone from KEYE TV (CBS) after December 30, 2010, but he’s not retiring.
“I’m leaving KEYE because they couldn't offer me the right position to do what I do best which is anchor,” Cantu told me. “I want to stay in the game. I have no plans to retire... EVER.”

Cantu joined the KEYE staff in August, 2002, after a pretty successful six-year run on KVUE-TV (ABC)’s morning show. Most recently, Cantu was co-anchor of the KEYE/Telemundo local news broadcast, working in the evenings. Before that he anchored the morning news on KEYE. He was moved to the evening news for a while before Ron Oliveira rejoined Judy Maggio behind the desk, and Cantu moved back to mornings.

In that position, Cantu endeared himself to many who began to refer to him as “Uncle Fred”. “Fred is just the perfect morning show anchor...friendly, upbeat, funny and professional,” says Judy Maggio in her KEYE blog. “With Fred, what you see is what you get. He never puts on an air, he never loses his temper, he works hard and quietly, and then [he] produces an amazing story or anchors a great newscast.”

The Austin Chronicle’s readers’ poll named Cantu “Best Anchor” four times during his run at KEYE. In October, 2009 KEYE eliminated it’s locally produced morning newscast choosing to use “The JB and Sandy Show” from Mix 94 radio with KEYE local weather cut-ins.

After bouncing from newscast to newscast over his eight year tenure, Cantu believes it’s time for a change.

“I know this pause is scaring my wife of 34 years. But she and I know this is the ‘for better or for worse’ that we talked about in our marriage vows. We went through this eight years ago and came out ahead. I'm sure the same will happen again,” Cantu said.

Change is a constant in broadcast journalism, and Cantu knows it. His broadcasting career began in Brownsville. “I started in radio while still in high school in the early 1970s, a time my daughter refers to as ‘when dinosaurs ruled the earth.’"

He reinvented himself in the 1980s here in Austin. While continuing to do radio news at KNOW AM, KVET AM, and KLBJ AM, he completed his BA in Broadcast Journalism at The University of Texas in 1990.

I first worked with him when he was an older-than-average and very savvy “intern” at KVUE TV in the late 1980s. After finishing his degree, he made the jump to TV news as weekend anchor at KTBC TV when it was still affiliated with CBS.

At the current CBS station, KEYE, he developed a continuing segment called “Gadget Guy”. Cantu totally gets technology. He also gets how technology is changing TV news.

“People used to gather at the end of the day to catch up on the news. Thanks to the Internet, that doesn't happen anymore. But local TV news can be the go-to source at the end of the day for insight into what's happening locally,” Cantu told me.

What will he miss about TV news? It’s too soon to tell. “I'm not really gone. My career is just on pause.”

© Jim McNabb, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Does the Media Take a Holiday?

No, Not Really

In the “golden days” of traditional media the holidays were special. One KXAN TV (NBC) holiday party was very special for me. It was the first date for me and the lady who exactly one year later became my wife.

That holiday party was at the elite Green Pastures restaurant in South Austin. It was icy cold that winter night. It was the sort of “norther” that would burn your face with the chill, but it was warm and special inside the fine old mansion. There was food, beverages, music, and dancing. There was a special room for those who wished to indulge in what were said to be excellent cigars. They all smell the same to me. And, there was murmuring.

That night, there was a certain buzz. I wasn’t aware that everyone was talking about my date for the evening. I was managing editor at KXAN then. For several years past, I had attended the holiday parties alone, but that year was different. I had a date.

Media holiday parties in past years were formal in many ways. We dressed up, and there were speeches and awards. In what might have been the glory days of the golden days of TV in Austin when I was at KVUE TV (ABC), KVET/KASE radio, and KTBC TV, AM and FM going back to the 1970s, holiday celebrations were grand. At KTBC when Lyndon Johnson was still among us we were invited out to the LBJ Ranch for the party.

Some eschewed the parties, but I always considered them a fringe benefit for working at that particular Austin medium.

That was then. This is now. Gone are the formal, glittering events with ice sculptures and dancing. Although media stocks advanced somewhat recently, the formal parties disappeared several years ago.

The Austin Post ( media party this past week at a South Austin bar was somewhat of a throwback. No, it wasn’t formal. There was laughter, food, snacks, drink, a photographer, and, well, joy, at this party. Editor Karie Meltzer explained that Austin Post could do this for its unpaid writers because of the site’s low budget. Austin Post is a not-for-profit, citizen contribution “news” site.

There may have been fun and even joy at other media in town too, but it wasn’t the same as it was in the past.

“We have not had Christmas parties for several years,” says Fred Zipp of the Austin American Statesman. “We continue to offer year-end bonuses, though.” Bonuses could be an entirely viable source of joy. Money or party? You choose.

“Instead of having a Christmas party this year, we instead had a summer party,” Says Frank Volpicella, KVUE TV (ABC) news director. “We asked the staff if they would rather have a picnic with their children, or a Christmas party. They choose a picnic, so we had one in mid-September.”

In the 1980s and 1990s we used to have BOTH summer and holiday parties at KVUE and KXAN.

KVUE did have a “diversity lunch” in the newsroom this week. The TV station provided the main course, and the staff brought side dishes. Staff members were recognized for their years of service. Many received “swag”, stuff that builds up during the year—caps, T-shirts, and other things held back for distribution to the staff. This kind of thing is typical of all media.

KEYE-TV used to have formal parties too, says Suzanne Black, news director, but that changed with the times. “Even with the change, we have some pretty phenomenal employee gifts and door prizes for this year, as well as years past,” Black says. “We do still have our [station-wide, catered] holiday lunch – and I’m looking forward to it! The news managers are also holding a holiday lunch for the news staff. We’re cooking for them!”

Nowadays, however, most members of the media celebrate the holidays in their work places with no formal attire, no ice sculptures, and no bands. Then, they go back to work, banging out the news of the day. Some of the staff is stuck at the court house or elsewhere unable to make it, but that’s the way it is. If they have seniority or if they’re lucky, they may have the holiday off to celebrate with family and friends.

Me? I’m glad for the “glory days”. Our anniversary is coming up!

© Jim McNabb, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Job Opening: Newspaper Publisher

Vivio Promoted

The Austin-American Statesman has a opening for a new publisher.
Michael Vivio, publisher of the local newspaper and CEO of Statesman Co. for more than two years, is being promoted by parent company, Cox Media Group. Vivio will be president of Cox Target Media/Valpak effective in early January located in Largo, Florida in the Tampa/Saint Petersburg area.
The next publisher for the paper has not been named.

During his two-plus years in Austin, Vivio greatly expanded the revenue streams flowing from Statesman Co. Maximizing revenue streams is essential to keep a traditional newspaper afloat when the future of newspapers nationwide is in flux.

Notably, Vivio guided the newspaper to through an uncertain time when several Cox newspapers were for sale and sold. Eventually, the American-Statesman was taken off the market, probably because of its profitability and potential.

During his time at the Statesman, the organization launched two successful community newspapers, a website called [more on that in a moment], and recently purchased InFactDaily, an online newsletter offering in-depth coverage of City Hall. This spring the newspaper was named Best Metro Newspaper by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors, and was named Best Metro Online Newspaper by the same organization. It is also the largest printing facility in Central Texas.

“The challenges in this new job will be similar to those facing everyone in the traditional media business,” Vivio told me. “We will need to transition an established and profitable print operation into a digital future. Valpak has considerable brand awareness and momentum in digital coupons and I hope to build upon that to make the business strong long into the future.”

“Michael is an innovative leader with an excellent track record in media sales, marketing and digital business,” said Doug Franklin, Executive Vice President of Cox Media Group. “His people-centric management style will benefit our Valpak franchisees and Cox Target Media (CTM) employees. He also will be a great champion of the mailbox, our business clients and developing a complimentary digital portfolio to grow the Valpak brand and CTM businesses,” said a Cox news release.

“While the thought of leaving The Statesman Co. and Austin saddens me, I am energized by the new challenge ahead,” Vivio said. “Cox Target media/Valpak delivers savings and value to more than 40 million homes per month and is a national leader in the growing online coupon business. I see enormous potential to help build on the momentum established by the current team at Valpak,” Vivio said in a story in the December 6, 2010 Statesman.

“I will start commuting [to and from Florida] after the first of the year. My family will move over the summer,” Vivio told me. “Vivio is married to Beth Vivio, a full-time community volunteer, and has two sons, ages 8 and 12. He serves on the boards of the Salvation Army, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, United Way Capital Area, and the Texas Daily Newspaper Association,” the American-Statesman story said.

As a footnote, also announced in the Monday, December 06, 2010 American-Statesman, is making big changes, hooking up with the network. becomes a “subscription-based website with premium content that is linked to, and part of, the national,” the newspaper says.

The key words here, of course are “subscription-based”. “The new Sports site stands with InFact Daily as a statement to our belief that readers will pay for highly specialized valuable content,” Vivio told me.

Yes, it’s another revenue stream, and it will, indeed, take “premium content” to attract readers. There is lots of more well-known competition for sports news. is a subscription only electronic newswire covering city hall and Austin politics for insiders and others who are willing to pay for full access to its content.

© Jim McNabb, 2010