Friday, January 6, 2012

What Are They Thinking?

Shawn Rutherford Gone From KXAN TV

“Shawn Rutherford is a team member of the 2010 Winner for Best Morning Newscast as voted by the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters”—The headline on his KXAN-TV page.

Further, Shawn Rutherford’s team tied for #1 for the 6 a.m. hour during the important November Nielsen sweeps.

Now, Shawn Rutherford is gone from KXAN-TV.

In a newsroom meeting Friday (January 6, 2012), management informed the staff that Rutherford was no longer with the TV station because of “business reasons.”

Business reasons: That could mean a lot of things. Rutherford’s contract was up for renewal at the station in a couple of months. So, “business reasons” could mean that Rutherford and the station could not agree on a new contract, if one was offered.

Business reasons could also be derived from research. KXAN retains Magid Consultants. If Rutherford didn’t score high enough in their research perhaps that is the reason he is gone. In years past Magid research was considered, but since “they ain’t from around here,” decision were not always made on what they said. After all, Rutherford had been on the air in Austin for close to 15 years. Austin is not a cookie-cutter market conforming to research norms.

Business reasons could mean that Rutherford, knowing his contract was ending, was ready to leave.

Shawn joined the KXAN News First Warning Weather Team in November, 1998 as weekend weather, but soon moved up to the morning broadcast.

Rutherford is also an innovator. He created for KXAN the one-of-a-kind, real-time lightning visual called “Live Strike”. Live Strike went away a few years ago because of conflicts with completion technology.

Even so, Rutherford is gone for business reasons.

His departure is the fourth prominent departure from KXAN News/Weather in recent months. Expert investigative reporter Nancy Wilson left of her own volition. Weekend morning anchor Catenya McHenry’s departure was sudden. Management offered to explain why to inquiring staff members one-on-one today. City reporter Reagan Hackleman recently decided to depart after taking time to breathe on vacation.

Now, Rutherford is gone. The morning show is in disarray. Traffic reporter, Debra Wynn, the wife of news director Michael Fabac, is off the air. Co-anchor Chris Willis is now their chief investigative reporter. Willis is an excellent investigative reporter, but is this his choosing? Co-anchor Sally Hernandez is back from maternity leave. She’s the stabilizer for now.

So, the station is down a permanent weekend anchor, weekend meteorologist, city hall reporter, and weekday morning reporter.

Other changes may be in the works. Why? Search me.

The station took back a piece of #1 in the mornings. They are #1 at 5 and 6 p.m. going into the February sweeps. The old saw, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it” comes to mind. Then, I’m reminded that KXAN-TV News has a long tradition of shooting itself in the foot.

I have to wonder if either the bean-counters or the consultants are in control. Whatever is the case, it is a worst-case scenario for KXAN.

Of course, all of these are “personnel matters”, and there could be no comment, but one has to wonder: What are they thinking?

© Jim McNabb, 2012


dougmatt said...

Good analysis, Jim. And, you raised an excellent question, the one about shooting one's foot. I have a few other thoughts on this, but not for cyber-publication.

Doug matthews

The Hypervigilant Observer said...

Don't know if you care to comment about the recent approval of the Sinclair Broadcasting's purchase of KEYE-TV...and Four Points Media for $200mn. a city as liberal as is disturbing to me that an extremely conservative outfit like Sinclair will be shaping public opinion here.
First Sinclair.
To learn more about Sinclair's track record...see:
Sinclair owns and operates 73 stations in 46 markets.

Matt Stevens said...


Check recent activity at LIN's WISH-TV in Indy. Dumping larger salaries there. I'm guessing the stock is still in the tank and it's a company-wide edic to cut back. They are all about the bottom line.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this piece. I'm wondering what is going on down at the station??? Someone please investigate this station manager!!

Anonymous said...

The Hypervigilant Observer seems like a good old fashioned Stalinist.

We shouldn't have a conservative outfit in Austin?

Should we ban them like plastic bags?

What we should put them in jail?

Uh, sir, there are conservatives, as well as many other diverse political views in Austin.

So much for liberal tolerance and diversity huh?

With all the things in the world to be concerned with, Sinclair Broadcasting is not one of them. get a grip.

Anonymous said...

I feel really bad about all of the people at KXAN that have lost their jobs. So many are gone! all of my favorite people are gone

Anonymous said...

Sounds like things have not changed at the station. KXAN has never valued experience. Shawn's departure just shows a continuing trend that has been happening for several years now. There was one dept. that "pushed" all the experienced employees out within weeks of each other. The station wants to put on news using cheaper talent and costs less. Only one result comes from that. "Less Quality".

Anonymous said...

Is it just me wondering this- if Magid (or any consultant) didn't find something "wrong" to fix, they wouldn't have any business. With recent changes at the #1 station, KXAN was in a position to challenge the #1 spot. Shawn Rutherford is a top notch meteorologist, along with the looks and personality to be in a much larger market. Magid and KXAN needs to stop trying to fix what's not broken. Cheaper new talent equals fewer viewers, which equals lower revenue. Take the money that is paid to the consultants and pay to keep the best talent.