Monday, January 17, 2011

An Ugly PIX-ture

By JOSH KOSMAN, The New York Post
(with comments from Broadcast Union News added in italics)

Ax and Work Climate Sap Morale at WPIX

Aggressive cost-cutting moves at WPIX-TV -- together with continued allegations of a harsh and unfriendly work environment -- are taking their toll on morale at the Tribune-owned station, The Post has learned.

The latest move under News Director Bill Carey's watch that unsettled staff came in the last several days, when the station shuttered the sports department, eliminated the sports director position and reassigned Lolita Lopez, the sports director, sources tell The Post.

With the move, WPIX becomes the first Big Apple TV station not to have a sports department, sources said.

It is unclear if the station plans to fold sports into the news coverage and have news anchors report the scores or if it plans to outsource sports coverage.

In additional cuts, the station's human resources, research, and community affairs departments have been eliminated.

(PIX doesn't consider humans resources, they are expenses to be reduced as much as possible; buys their world and national news from CNN, AP, and Reuters, and cut their investigative news unit, so no research department is needed; and clearly isn't any more interested in the local community than they are in their non-executive employees, so why should any of these cuts be a suprise? -BD)

Four present WPIX employees told The Post that besides the cost-cutting, they felt they were working in a deteriorating work environment. One of them said, "There's no line that can't be crossed."

At the same time, Channel 11 -- broadcast home of the New York Mets -- wants to change union rules to do away with a dedicated camera person during on-location news shoots and force WPIX reporters to do it alone, a union source added.

(PIX also wants to eliminate seniority, paid meals, and a host of hard won work rules designed to keep their workers safe, and generally eliminate union jurisdiction altogether. This is a company who has not given their freelance broadcast engineers a raise in 12 years, and provides no benefits to their freelance employees. -BD)

If successful, WPIX would be the first major New York station, besides non-union NY1, to do so, sources said.

( PIX has already eliminated most of their ENG crews by merging much of their news gathering operation with those at CBS, NBC, and FOX5 in a shared services agreement known as a Local News Service (LNS) where each station provides crews and equipment in a pool administered by a single shared assignment editor. In case you wonder why all the NYC TV stations show the identical news stories.-BD)

Channel 11 is no stranger to such allegations of turmoil. Last June, Karen Scott, the former news director at WPIX, reportedly hit the station with a $4.5 million lawsuit claiming such news legends as Kaity Tong and Sal Marchiano suffered from age discrimination.

(Four IBEW represented broadcast engineers and two IATSE represented stagehands, all over age 40, were laid off in violation of their collective bargaining agreements as well. - BD)

Later in the summer, more employees were let go or demoted after participating in a report on WPIX's alleged difficult work environment.

Then-WPIX General Manager Betty Ellen Berlamino, who was investigating such charges, delivered her report to the head office of the bankrupt Tribune company in Chicago, according to a source. As part of her report, she spoke extensively to Jim Watkins, then the weeknight news anchor, who confirmed that fellow reporters had confided in him about their experiences.

"He [Watkins] was questioned and was honest [about the work climate]," said a source with direct knowledge of the situation.

Berlamino was soon let go, and Watkins demoted, sources said.

WPIX's former HR director, Jean Maye, told one individual who participated in the report that the person's employment at the company would not be threatened.

(She lied, what a suprise. On a happy note, Velma Jean Maye got laid off too. The rats at Tribune have no loyalty to each other either. -BD)

Also, this past fall, Emmy Award-winning reporter Peter Thorne tried to resign but wasn't freed from his contract after he saw a particular story air on the WPIX 10 p.m. newscast -- the same story Thorne pitched to Carey that morning, and that Carey rejected, sources said.

Carey, a former general manager at WFTS/Channel 28 in Tampa Bay, was hired in November 2009 with a mandate for change -- and to press for higher ratings. He demoted Tong and Watkins.

On the ratings front, he did appear to score a hit with the 10 o'clock news. Last October, Carey named Jodi Applegate as sole anchor and, over the past seven months, WPIX's ratings in that slot have risen to 1.1 from about 0.8.

(At a recent PIX "All Hands Meeting" the company announced double digit profits at Tribune and WPIX and, despite being in bankruptcy, the executives have awarded themelves over $ 40 million dollars in bonuses, while freezing salaries and cutting benefits for the non-executive employees who've been told to be thankful they still have jobs at all. - BD)
WPIX spokeswoman Jessica Bellucci declined to comment.


Jake 3 wrote: " How sad that ratings went up since they dummied down the news so much and use now stupid visual cues for everything, no context, no real info, running old stories all weekend. Then they add that horrible, screaching Lionel and some other right winger. Cue laughably fake banter. Just Awful."

Archie wrote: "Since the demotion of Kaity Tong I stopped watching PIX after a while. The people who are there seem unhappy as if they may be next . The smiles and jokes seemed so forced and unnatural.There are so many other choices for news I felt I didn’t need to go through whatever PIX is going through right now with them. I think they may have forgotten that viewers have a remote control that does change the stations."

Beebbop wrote: "Carey, a former general manager at WFTS/Channel 28 in Tampa Bay, was hired in November 2009 with a mandate for change -- and to press for higher ratings. That explains everything...Florida is a right to work state which actually means the right to fire,mistreat,abuse and demote workers with NO reprecussions or legal recourse...workers are treated exceptionally poorly down here (yes Im down in tampa) Its obvious Carey brought the mentalitly of treating workers like garbage from the right to work state......disgraceful! he should be fired!"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice sight. I was thinking about applying for the HR Manager job posted on Tribune careers. Think I'll pass. Wonder if the job opening is correct since your article indicates they laid off the HR Manager.