Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Controversy Swirls Around WPIX Executive Producer After Threatening Email to Staff

Tuned In

Pix 11 logo

The media have grabbed hold of the Governor Christie “Bridgegate” coverage, which took off after an incriminating email from of his aides. But one media outlet is facing its own internal turmoil due to an email. 

WPIX morning executive producer Zev Shalev is facing harsh criticism from his underlings and higher ups.

WPIX morning executive producer Zev Shalev
Zev Shalev
Shalev, who joined Channel 11 in September, wrote an email last week to his morning group. In the email, which was obtained by Tuned In, Shalev sought story ideas from staffers for the February sweeps period. However, Shalev made it clear that everyone must participate or face consequences at their next review.
Needless to say, employees were upset. We’re hearing that many who received the email found the tone harassing and threatening. Here’s the entire message that Shalev sent:
Last year, I asked for sweeps submissions and got a total of 4!  As I mentioned, content submissions and pitches will be a big part of performance management this year (so it will impact your salary increases).Can I please have fully-formed week-long pitches or special events from EVERYONE who works on the content for the show (writers/producers/reporters/anchors) by the end of Friday.  Please submit at least 3. They need to be high quality, well thought out sweeps and stunts. Absolutely no exceptions. It will be too late when we are assessing your performance in the near future.

While news director Mark Effron was unavailable for comment, spokesperson Jessica Bellucci tells Tuned In, “An email was sent to the news staff regarding the station’s performance management process; however this process is not applicable to all who were on the email distribution list. When this was discovered, an apology was immediately issued.”

The immediacy came only after Shalev, a former CBS Early Show executive producer, was taken to task by the human resources department, a well-placed source confirms. A day later, PIX personnel found an “about-face” note in their inbox:
Yesterday, I sent out an email asking for February sweep ideas.  Thank you very much for your great submissions. There are some exciting ideas there. It has come to my attention that the performance management process and pay increases are not relevant to everyone on this list.  While pitching is an important part of the editorial team’s day to day responsibilities, the performance management process isn’t relevant to everyone, so I apologize if it was taken the wrong way by anyone who is part of a collective bargaining agreement and/or has individual contracts.
We’re told that several staffers contacted their respective unions saying they were being threatened. The on-air talent is covered by the Screen Actor's Guild American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAGAFTRA), while producers and writers are part of the Newspaper Guild.

Tuned In made several attempts to reach SAGAFTRA for a comment.

But, a number of others were willing to provide insight into the email flap.

“Effron allows his managers to escape responsibility for on-air mistakes, poor ratings, and mistreatment of employees,” one WPIX insider says. “Yet he never misses a chance to blame producers and talent.”

That talent and those producers have watched as the morning broadcast with Shalev at the helm has tanked. For example, on Tuesday the household rating was so low it registered hash marks. In the main demographic– adults 25-54– all a.m. dayparts were also literally off the charts— in a bad way.

Tuned In investigated whether Shalev’s style is standard operating procedure at other newsrooms in New York. We got a resounding no from a pair of industry insiders.

“I’ve never heard of a news boss threatening money on a special project. They really don’t have the authority. The GM pays you and he’s rarely a part of the day to day contracts.” The person adds, “If a news director hates your work enough to threaten to dock your pay, they’d just as soon can you.”
Another experienced “outsider” concurs.

“I find that a bit unnerving, leaving money at the subjective discretion of a supervisor who could be a different person than the boss who negotiated the contract. In general, threatening a contractual raise – or not giving it – is a station breach… I would certainly not like working for a place that would do that,” the source says.

An additional WPIX source says Shalev’s email represents a “harassment of the masses,” and points out that despite the apology, the damage is done.

“This problem will not go away until Zev goes away.”

This entry was posted in TV and tagged , , , , , , on by .

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Jersey Journal’s Guild-represented Employees Demand Fair Contract

Jersey Journal Employees Demand Fair Contract & Salary Increase

The writers, editors, reporters, videographers, and photo journalists represented by the N.Y. Newspaper Guild that produce the Journal’s content haven’t had a raise in 5 years
Secaucus, New Jersey- Employees of the Jersey Journal, owned by billionaire Donald Newhouse, protested Monday outside of the paper’s new office building during its grand opening in Secaucus and demanded executives negotiate a fair contract that will raise wages and provide reasonable benefits. The Journal has been in a contract dispute with its employees and their union, the Newspaper Guild of New York, CWA Local 31003, since January 2013.

Guild members protest outside the new The Jersey Journal headquarters
N.Y. Newspaper Guild President, Bill O'Meara; Local Guild Rep, Bob Daraio protest outside Jersey Journal offices

The writers, editors, reporters, videographers, and photo journalists that produce The Jersey Journal’s content haven’t had a raise in 5 years and executives are refusing to bargain over reasonable wage increases. Over the same period, the news stand price of the paper has increased 100% and the paper’s headquarters was sold for $2.8 million.

 "Readers of the Jersey Journal pay more for the paper now than they did five years ago, and its owners just made $2.8 million selling its longtime headquarters in Journal Square," said Terrence T. McDonald, Local Newspaper Guild Unit Chair at The Jersey Journal. "Yet our members, who continue to be asked to take on more responsibilities, have gone nearly five years without an increase in pay. This is unacceptable. Without us, there would be no paper, only white space."

A union member told Capital reporter, Joe Pompeo, that starting salaries in the roughly two-dozen-person newsroom have been lower than $50,000 a year since at least 2008 and that reporters and photographers are increasingly expected to do more with less.

"All we're looking for is for our management to sit down with us and negotiate," Jersey Journal reporter Terrence T. McDonald told Capital.

The unrest at the Journal adds to a larger climate of anxiety at Advance's Jersey publishing stable, which includes 10 other newspapers and the web portal www.nj.com.

Advance's crown jewel in the Garden State, The Star-Ledger, was brought to the brink of closure last fall as its trade unions battled over concessions with publisher Richard Vezza.

Throughout the chain, journalists are on edge over a recent announcement that Advance is looking at ways to consolidate its Jersey titles. Fears abound of massive downsizing such as that which has occurred at other Advance newspapers over the past few years, most notably The Times-Picayune of New Orleans.

The Jersey Journal is a six-day tabloid that has fallen far from its glory years as a well-respected broadsheet. These days it focuses mostly on pithy bursts of crime and municipal news. But it remains the major news source for an area that is booming with development and small-business growth as New Yorkers migrate west in search of more affordable housing.

According to the Alliance for Audited Media, average weekday circulation for the six months that ended Sept. 30 was down to a little over 14,000 from 16,500 during the same period in 2012.

The paper recently vacated a historic building that gave Jersey City's Journal Square neighborhood its name. A big fat cigar-smoking pig was inflated outside the new offices in nearby Secaucus ahead of this afternoon's union action.
Instead of negotiating in good faith, the Journal has refused to entertain any proposal that increases their operating costs and refuses to open their books to show financial need. The employees at the Journal are asking for a raise in order to support their families.
*Photos Courtesy of the Newspaper Guild*