Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Former Staffer Alleges a String of Poor Decisions Made By Fox 5 Management

By Jerry Barmash on February 12, 2013 3:58 PM

The changes at WNYW/Channel 5 since last July could fill a book. While it has become a revolving door in the evening, one constant has been the “other anchor.”

Steve Lacy and Dari Alexander
That would be Dari Alexander, who keeps sitting on set at 5 and 10 p.m., no matter if it’s with Ernie Anastos, Greg Kelly, or Steve Lacy. Readers of FishbowlNY have been leaving comments since the summertime anchor debacle about her ability.

For example, last week, Alexander was caught inadvertently calling “sitting shiva” for Mayor Ed Koch as “shitting” shiva.

That led to these remarks on the posting:

Dari seems like a nice person, but speaking strictly on her work, she is easily the worst anchor in NYC. Completely [miscast].

Sad to say, she is horrible!

The sentiment about Alexander extends well beyond a handful disgruntled viewers.

A former colleague who worked with Alexander tells FishbowlNY that her work ethic was non-existent.

“I’ve never worked with anybody who does less preparation before she gets on the air.” [She] seems to not really care where the show is going next or what’s really happening. [Alexander] just seems to be absolutely unaffected and oblivious to the consequences of that,” the former colleague says. “It was so strange. I had never worked with anybody like that.”

Alexander, 43, began at Fox 5 as the 6 p.m.co-anchor with Rick Folbaum. When Rosanna Scotto moved to mornings in 2008, Alexander was tabbed as the station’s lead female anchor on the 5p.m. and 10 p.m. opposite market icon Anastos.

One reason for her ascension, the former WNYW staffer contends, is her strong family ties with Fox.

“There’s an alliance there with her family and Roger Ailes. She is in his camp. She’s a personal project there.”

We reached out to WNYW. A spokesperson would not comment for the record.

Another person familiar with the management structure at Fox tells FishbowlNY that Ailes has a rotation of favorite talent, much like a recycling of baseball skippers.

“In his mind, Fox 5 is, for lack of a better term, a convenient dumping ground for people who can’t really cut it at the [Fox] News Channel, but he still wants to employ them for some other reason—some political alliance or some allegiance to somebody.”

There has been a laundry list of talent shuttled from FNC to Fox local. Kelly and Alexander worked for Ailes’ network. More recently, there was one-for-one “trade” sending Heather Nauert to the cable channel and Juliet Huddy to WNYW’s Good Day Early Call.

“Juliet Huddy — trust me — will that girl ever be unemployed in Roger Ailes world?” The source says, “Absolutely not!”

Other on-air personnel at Fox 5, the source says, is “some sort of stop gap measure or some sort of loose handed gamble that may or may not work.”

Greg Kelly and Rosanna Scotto
Kelly would definitely fall into the latter. His seven months, as FishbowlNY reported, at the top of WNYW anchor desk, was filled with internal squabbles with executives. He was sharply criticized for not bringing enough of a serious-minded newscast to prime time. Ultimately, our FishbowlNY readers stared into their crystal balls and called it correctly — Kelly was bounced from nights back to Good Day New York where Scotto was waiting with open arms last month.
But the source with ties to the situation says “absolutely, without question,” the only reason Kelly survived is because of dear old dad, the NYPD police commissioner, Ray Kelly.

“There are political and personal alliances and allegiances that go right to the top, and the people who are in that camp live by a completely different set of rules. They are held to a completely different standard,” the source says. “They are given much more of a safety net than anybody who comes through that place who might be a GM pick or a news director pick. 
Poor Steve Lacy, he’s just a good, solid news guy who is at risk of being sacrificed for the sake of someone more aligned with the powers. In that way, he was probably a station news director [Dianne Doctor] or GM [Lew Leone] pick.”
Kelly can also thank one other person for his morning resurrection — Dave Price.
“I think Greg was saved by Dave Price—[in] another interesting twist of fate,” the source close to the situation says. “Because I really think if Dave Price had been a total, huge success and had Greg continued to perform as he had on the 10, then it would have been a different story.”

Then the spin doctors at Fox would have found a new position for Kelly, the source intimates.
“Who knows what the hell they would have come up with; something to maybe give the impression that they were giving him a high profile job, but just not on the anchor desk.”

Dave Price and Rosanna Scotto
When the dominoes started falling last July, it was portrayed by WNYW that Price was some sort of savior for Good Day, which of course, never lost in the ratings to rival WPIX. And it was Leone, the source says, who was instrumental in Price’s return to WNYW.

“Given Lew’s affection for Dave, and Dave’s perceived talents and abilities for having been a national weather personality and host, [he] sort of thought, ‘We can really make this show number one now and then we can deal with Greg.’

“That had to be [Leone’s] decision. Did they give him that kind of latitude? I’m sure [Fox execs] Dennis Swanson and Jack Abernathy, like I would have thought on paper, it would have totally worked. Did they not try the guy out and put him on the set with Rosanna [for] a run-through?” the source adds.

All the while, Kelly was trying for his new look in the nighttime slot, solo at 6 p.m.and with Alexander at 10 p.m., the former newscast that had been home to Anastos.

“I can’t believe that [Kelly] thought he was the answer to replace Ernie when there was no lead-up or fanfare — nothing,” the source says.

The insider ponders what questions top executives failed to address before making the seismic TV shift.

“‘What’s the plan here for Ernie to retire? How do we artfully handle that so it doesn’t appear like we’re demoting a legend? Do we begin to put Greg in the nighttime slot when Ernie’s on vacation to get viewers used to seeing him in that format?’ [Did] any strategy go into making these decisions?” the source asks rhetorically.

Dari Alexander and Ernie Anastos
The source doesn’t expect Fox to turn the hands of time back for Anastos to recapture his 10 p.m. slot.

“I think they’re hoping that they can [win] with a good looking, standard, solid news anchor, [who has] just enough personality for a weather and sports toss, they can get back on track and that the [prime time] lead-ins will save their ass. They have that on their side.”

Kelly has apparently achieved good chemistry with Scotto in his five years on Good Day, minus the seven-month “furlough.” The source, though, points to his morning behavior that included “weird, angry outbursts.”

“Somebody who’s really that way, being good almost isn’t good enough. You have to be bad enough and almost in a satirical way. You need to become a trend on The Soup.”

The source is referring the E! clip show that gave Greg Kelly unfortunate national exposure.
“It’s the strangest phenomenon but the temper tantrums, throwing a phone, [and] yelling at staff members. [Kelly] seemed to be above reproach.”

Back to Kelly’s brief on-air partner, unlike those anchors with a bona fide bond, another former colleague recalls the sink or swim mentality of working with Alexander.

“You can defer to them and you know you’re not going to be hung out to dry. If you slip up and don’t know where you’re going at the moment, they’ll pick up the ball and help you out. That was not her at all. You really feel like you’re carrying her along.”

At some point, family connections aside, does Alexander ever become too much of a liability even for Ailes?

“I don’t know where the line is. I don’t know what their tolerance level is when it comes to performance,” the source says. “You wonder how closely they watch it and unless there’s attention brought to it by outside sources, and there’s some measurable impact, they just allow it to go on.

“For some reason [Alexander] just continues to get reinforcement that she’s a star,” the source contends. “It’s just un-freakin-believable.”

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