Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Turmoil Persists at WPIX; Managers Have ‘No Clue’

Despite the ray of hope of Scott Stanford set to become a full-time news anchor with Tamsen Fadal, WPIX is still the home of eggshells and awkwardness.

Since that mega announcement, Tuned In has learned that reporter Hilary Whittier was fired yesterday. But news director Mark Effron was forced to do a temporary about face. The station realized that she couldn’t be axed without alerting the unions, two in fact. Instead, she’ll report to the newsroom for the next 30 days, likely without being seen on the air.
“She’s a nice person, but too green for the streets of New York,” one source contends.

Whittier, as a multimedia journalist, is a rare commodity. She shoots her own pieces, except when doing a story live. We’re told that Whittier, with PIX since 2011, was to be fired because they don’t like her work or her personality.

There was another behind-the-scenes maneuver today. Morning news executive producer Howard Dorsey resigned. His departure had been rumored for several weeks as, sources say, this was not Dorsey’s decision. He started at Channel 11 in 2010. Senior executive producer Sharon von Zweiten is expected to fill the gap on an interim basis.

Effron has also decided to make WPIX the alternate news station for New York City. We’re told he discussed the issue last week, placing a moratorium on the use of stories outside of the five boroughs. An insider says the concentration of coverage will be Brooklyn and Queens, “as that’s where the meters are.”

Effron addressed staffers by saying that he doesn’t care about New Jersey, Long Island, Westchester and the Hudson Valley. “They’re not New Yorkers.”

“We just looked at each other. Unbelievable,” the insider says.

Case in point, yesterday’s power outage in Elmont, Long Island caused by man driving a bucket truck recklessly. Managing editor Amy Waldman flipped out that the station wasn’t on the scene. 

Confusion rained down on the Tribune O&O. One staffer was overheard asking Waldman, “I thought we don’t cover Long Island?”

Although Effron appears to be the orchestrator all changes at PIX, sources say, Tribune brass are carefully watching every move he makes.

“Mark can not make a decision unless he gets clearance from the 10th floor,”  the insider says. “Mark can’t do anything unless he asks permission. I’m surprised he doesn’t ask permission to go to the bathroom.”

In yet another reversal from the Bill Carey-era at PIX, Effron recently removed Lionel from the PIX Morning News, where he was host of sorts from 4 to 6 a.m. He’ll do commentary and other segments during the 5 and 10 p.m. broadcasts. He’ll also starting to do pieces out in the field.
We’re hearing that WPIX, while never a ratings winner, is suffering in the year-to-year figures since  Fadal assumed the evening role late last year and Effron was hired in April. 

Furthermore, the morning show has been dramatically sliding since Sukanya Krishnan went on maternity leave. This week, it was confirmed that Fox Chicago anchor Kori Chambers, a story that Tuned In told you first,  has been named co-anchor opposite Krishnan. Frances Rivera leaves the station tomorrow.

Separately, this might not be an example of poor decision making, but of negligence, WPIX recently got caught without having its vehicles being properly insured. There was an incident in Hoboken, which resulted in police impounding the truck before a live morning show segment last week. It was discovered the registration had been suspended because of an insurance problem.

Thereafter, WPIX checked the other vehicles, and Tuned In has learned, the majority were in error without the proper paperwork required. In the few hours until the matter was rectified, Channel 11 newsroom opted to act like the Keystone Kops.

“Amy tried to convince people to take a cab to go to a story,” an insider says. “You’ve got to be kidding me, right?”

Effron promoted Waldman from executive producer of special projects in June.

“These three people have no clue what is going on,” an insider admits.

“In 2 1/2 years, I had no idea what [Amy] ever did,”  the insider says. “If these three people remain in place, you would never have any DMA [designated market area]. There would be [no ratings] all day long. It’s just so bad.”

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Tuned In

Examining the World of New York's Local TV and Radio Scene

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