Saturday, April 14, 2012

New Faces

Austin TV Turnover

[For a while this post was deleted from Austin Culture Map, apparently because I made a correction (I referred to Leslie Rhode as Leslie Cook, her name when we worked together years ago.) It is back on Culture Map:]

While KXAN TV (NBC) is winning in the ratings, the newsroom staff is getting smaller and smaller.

It’s beginning to show on the air.

Friday, evening (April 6, 2012) Sports anchor Brian Sanders co-anchored the news with Leslie Rhode and returned to handle the sports. Saturday, (April 7, 2012) found “hard news” reporter Chris Sadeghi anchoring sports. Why? Sanders was anchoring the weekend morning news. Associated Press Broadcaster’s “Best Reporter” award Josh Hinkle anchored Sunday (April 8, 2012) instead of David Scott. Sadeghi came in as a reporter. He usually works weekdays.

It may have been a holiday schedule, but staffing options are fewer and fewer.

For months, weekend meteorologist Natalie Stoll has been working the morning broadcast after the station let go 16-year KXAN morning fixture Shawn Rutherford. I’m told that she’s dying to return to her previous shift.

Further, where are the reporters, the heart of the newsroom, providing the day-to-day content? Go on the staff page of and see that there are several faces missing.

Newsroom morale began to slip with the sudden disappearance of weekend morning anchor and gifted reporter Catenya McHenry. True, McHenry was making personal plans, but she wasn’t planning to leave so soon.

Then, Rutherford was shown the door. The mood of the room dipped again.

Reagan Hacklemann and Dustin Blanchard are no longer on the personnel page. Recently, high-profile reporter Doug Shupe went on vacation and never came back after accepting reportedly accepting a public relations position. A little over a week ago, Jarrod Wise submitted his resignation. He’s still on the site, but will be leaving “the business,” sources say.

Reporter Jacqueline Ingles is the latest pending departure. She handed in her resignation Friday, April 13.

The sports department is down one since Leila Rahimi landed a new job with Fox Sports in San Diego. Word is that Brian Sanders wants to move from sports to news. He’s made a bid to be the weekend morning show, and it was Sanders reporting from the recent rash of tornados in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Others on and off-the-air are said to be looking.

True, the station still has some strong staff members, including political reporter Hinkle. Sadeghi is solid as are anchors Shannon Wolfson and David Scott. Erin Cargile continues growing having started as the Hill Country reporter, an apparent opening now as Jacqueline Ingles is needed in town. Of course, veteran Jim Swift can cover any story if needed; he’s not just for features.

The KXAN web site lists only two newsroom positions, but depending on how and whether management chooses to fill the holes, there may be as many as eight. Also, there may have been some hires, but the station seldom comments on personnel matters.

Until now, the personnel shortage has been covered up well by resourceful producers and photographers behind the scenes, but when shifts are covered by staff not normally seen, it becomes obvious that something is going on in the newsroom.

In all fairness there are many new people reporting at all of the Austin stations.

KVUE TV (ABC ) lists three news openings on its site with five or six rather recent new reporters on the air. KEYE TV (CBS) just hired staff for its new morning show, and they’re looking for a couple more, plus a weekend meteorologist. Fred Cantu is now listed as a reporter. He and Lisa Leigh Kelly are the most recognizable names on the staff. KTBC TV (Fox) is looking for three or four news staffers too. Noelle Newton made a move KTBC from KVUE earlier this year. Except for a few anchors, there seems to be constant turnover at YNN (formerly News 8).

It wasn’t very long ago that Austin, the 47th ranked market was what I called a “destination market”, a place where broadcast journalists came and stayed for years. Austin, you know, is a magnet. Now, it seems the stations are just stepping stones.

© Jim McNabb, 2012


Anonymous said...

As someone who works at KXAN, I can say that this article is only about 50% accurate and a pathetic piece of "journalism."

Check your sources Jim. You might find that they have some axes to grind.

Anonymous said...

And BTW... Brian Sanders did not anchor with Leslie Cook. He anchored with Leslie Rhode. Leslie Cook has not worked at KXAN in years, but it seems appropriate given the amount of truth in this blog.

NewsMcNabb said...

Anonymous ...

Thank you for correcting me regarding Leslie. I worked with her when she was Leslie Cook on the air, and it was a flashback/slip of a key stroke. Mr. Sanders did co-anchor with her, however before doing sports.

Regarding the rest of the information in the story. I have solid sources--multiple sources. None are grinding axes.

One additional pending loss is that Jackie Ingles who gave notice Friday, April 13th. She's headed for a new job in Florida.

Anonymous, you failed to tell me what 50% was false. That's "pathetic."

I want to add that I sought comment from KXAN management, but got no reply.

I stand by the story.


Anonymous said...

I am not going to get into it all, but two things that stuck out.

#1 The mention of poor morale in the newsroom is not true. Seeing co-workers leave is never easy, but it is a part of any business. The crew at KXAN has rebounded and won the last two ratings periods. If you are trying to draw a parallel between people leaving and newsroom morale, you are barking up the wrong tree.

#2 I laughed out loud when you said Mrs. Stoll is dying to return to her original position. Let me just say you are terribly misinformed, yet it didn't keep you from writing it down and publishing it.

And you are a journalism professor, huh?

NewsMcNabb said...

Well, I have more than four sources.

I also talk about departures and changes at other stations in the story. So yes, it is now more than ever part of the business in Austin. The last sentence indicates that.

The departures aren't the issue. It's the way the early departures were handled by management.

You say you work at KXAN. I'd almost wager that you're not in the newsroom. If you are, I'm glad you're happy.

I stand by the story and everything in it.

Jim McNabb

Anonymous said...

"The departures aren't the issue. It's the way the early departures were handled by management."

So you admit that you didn't get management's comment, but decided to write about the matters hearing only one side of the story from your close "sources."

Essentially, what you are saying is this is a TMZ-esque gossip blog.

Sounds to me like somebody is trying to stick up for his friends and stretching the truth to do it.

Anonymous said...

Just say you don't like KXAN management because they got rid of some of your friends and be done with it.

NewsMcNabb said...

"Anonymous", sorry. You don't get it.

I stand by the story.

And, I'm done with it. Bye.

Anonymous said...

No, I get it crystal clear.

Just one look at your recent entries to you gossip blog indicate you have something against KXAN based on your heavy criticism of them cutting your friends loose, but only a passing mention about the recent victories for the station.

Your opinion should be taken with a grain of salt.

Anonymous said...

Oh.. and by the way, Jim. Doug Shupe accepted a PR position in Dallas. Not in Austin as you reported in the story that you have time and time over said you will stand by as being factual.

Great piece of journalism. So comforting to know that you are teaching the journalists of the future.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, if you are looking for a good blog on the TV news landscape in Austin, Bill Church has an excellent blog at the link above.

He talks about some of the real issues in the market and he isn't some old wash-up with a personal agenda and a bad case of old-timer's syndrome.

NewsMcNabb said...

I don't know Mr. Church. His blog is clean-looking. His content is based mostly on news releases. I've also written posts on about half of the subjects listed on his site. The more information--the better. I'm glad he's writing.

As for you Mr. "Anonymous", one has to rely on one's sources, and you were the second person to mention that Mr. Shupe is now in Dallas. Since I don't know you, I've simply eliminated the location, because the location is irrelevant.

Mr. "Anonymous", you want to pick at portions of the post without addressing the real issues.

This is the last response to your personal attacks on me.

Jim McNabb

Anonymous said...

So your sources told you Austin. You printed Austin. It was really Dallas. You admit you don't know (despite having written about it) so you delete it and deem it irrelevant.

You have now made two adjustments to this story based on my replies. A story you are so confident in standing by.

Brilliant journalism on display right here, folks.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is clearly clueless about the KXAN newsroom morale.

Anonymous said...

Station victories don't matter if the workers are unhappy. 'Clueless' is the right word.

Anonymous said...

Oh really? Unhappy?

The same workers who took it upon themselves, without management, and held a "Desk Appreciation Day" and gave gifts to all desk employees a few weeks ago?

The same workers who brought gifts and were treated to a large lunch spread to send off a visiting journalist from Pakistan last week?

The same workers who have a company softball team that plays in a rec league every week?

The same workers who held a mock funeral for the newsroom pet carrot?

Seems to me the last poster is one of McNabb's "sources" who is so unhappy with their situation but lacks the drive and motivation to do anything about it. I guess it is easier to run your mouth to a gossip blogger to make yourself feel better about your inability to make a change in your life.

Are there unhappy people in the newsroom? There are in EVERY newsroom. But the workers at KXAN are not treated poorly.

NewsMcNabb said...

Why are they leaving, "Anonymous"? Yes, there are unhappy people in every newsroom.
I'm thinking that if you are in the newsroom (A question you never answered) you are not happy either. You're hanging on until you can leave under your own terms. Good luck with that, "Anonymous", whoever you are.

Anonymous said...

Some were offered better opportunities elsewhere. Others moved to new cities. Some had done their time and were ready for the next step. Some were let go for not performing and others probably were tired of covering news. There are many reasons why people have left, but to paint it with such a broad brush and say KXAN is the problem is a huge leap to conclusion.

And yes, I do work in the newsroom. No, I am not unhappy. People are always laughing and cracking jokes. The banter between producers, reporters, photons and the desk is always cordial and rarely takes a confrontational tone. KXAN hired a new asst. ND last year that is young and brings a good quality to the employee-manager relationship. Seldom a day goes by when there aren't cookies, cake, or something free to eat in the newsroom. KXAN is unquestionably at the forefront in the market when it comes to technology. All reporters have iPhones, laptops, and wireless cards and some are outfitted with iPads. Meanwhile other stations are shooting on beta tapes. The general manager pays for the stations rec league sign up fee. He paid for parties after each of the last two ratings periods. Most reporters (not just anchors) still have clothing allowances which are rare these days.

The newsroom has been sad to see co-workers leave but they have been through this before. In fact, check your archive and you will find a blog you wrote about a bunch of new faces on KXAN. It happens in waves. People come and go. But the KXAN newsroom is not a bad place to work for anyone who has a desire to work in news.

Anonymous said...

Awwww.... First off, Mr. McNabb, I thought you said you weren't going to reply anymore? In fact, you've said it TWICE in this comment section and, as true to your character, those statements turned out to be false.

Now secondly, that was a different Anonymous who posted above.

But I am glad they brought up the subject of technology. See, being the old-timer you are, your "sources" at KXAN are likely up there in age as well. KXAN is asking them to do things they've never done before. Things like FTP, tweeting, facebooking,web copy, and still photos. That is why they are giving their field crews smart phones and laptops. That's because journalism has evolved that way. Now go ahead and give us the "good ol' days" speech about how when you worked, you didn't have to do any of that stuff. I'm guessing your "sources" who are so miserable at KXAN are having a hard time adapting as well.

Paul Weyland said...

Annoy Moose lacks civility. Easier to do when you hide behind a mask.

Paul Weyland

Paul Weyland said...

Annoy Mouse comes across as a much younger and wiser man. Made me remember this Richard Pryor quote.

"You don't get old being no fool. A lot of young wise men, they deader than a m***********, ain't they?" -Richard Pryor as 'Mudbone' ...

Anonymous said...

Jim, I think you hit the nail right on the head and that obviously upset a member of the management team.
The mass exodus started way before this current situation. Michelle Valle, Robert Garcia, Jenny Hoff, Carla Castano, Mary Lee, Matt Flener and Shannon Powell all left around the same time. They were not happy with management. One of those reporters even filed a complaint against the station.
But perhaps it was a good thing they all left. They are in better situations. Michelle just started reporting/anchoring at KNBC. Mary is weather/reporting in Houston, Carla is reporting in Portland, Matt is reporting/anchoring in Denver and Shannon is reporting in Dallas.
Low morale is enough to push good people to the next level.

Anonymous said...

Someone once told me "only an idiot would want to be a manager at KXAN!"

I replied "If you mean not having a degree and running a newsroom, using only what you've gathered from consultants (washed up news directors and angry ex-anchors), and removing people who are not afraid to stand their ground? Well then, you would be correct"

Eric L. likes to impress you with stories from books he's read. His degree in Advertising doesn't help him much in management. He does seem to think he can recreate the "cult-like" environment of Apple as he forms his 30 year plan. He may want to worry more about the plan for sweeps.

Michael F. should spend the next few years getting a degree. He may also want to learn how to spell Nepotism. Learning it's meaning would be a good idea. With so many departures, maybe avoiding mistakes like the following.

Michael probably ought to spend some time reading "Mutiny On The Bounty". He might just realize what "boat" he's really in.

Anonymous said...

hear, hear.

Anonymous said...

Kxan is a joke. Management does not care about the people working for them. They make excuses to make themselves feel better about the truly evil people they are.

Anonymous said...

Hey Chris Sadeghi, don't hide behind anonymity. If you really do share the views of "Anonymous" (the argumentative one anyway) why not just say so?