LocalNewser standupkid's dispatches from the frontlines of local news


Say It Ain't So! A Little Less Alliteration from Ansin's Anxious Anchors?

It was one of the most memorable lines in the 1987 film "Broadcast News," when the alliteratively-named network newser Aaron Altman mocked his new nightly news nemesis and his penchant for peppy prose:  "A lot of alliteration from anxious anchors placed in powerful posts!"

Well, anybody who's watched either of Ed Ansin's "7 News" stations, WSVN/Miami or the layoff-laden WHDH/Boston, knows alliteration's just the way they roll, with every routine rainstorm loudly labeled "wicked weather!"

It's just the formula.  Or is it?  In Boston, a remarkable reduction in ratings recently, resulting in the removal of Randy Price as main anchor, has those in powerful posts pondering pulling the plug on all the alliteration in the station's snappy scripts:  "Alliteration was used no less than seven times during Monday’s 11 p.m. news., and fewer times the following night - although the 'cash and crash' graphic used to describe the Medford bank robbery was cringe-worthy," wrote the Herald's Jessica Heslam.

The focus on fewer flashy lines in the station's newscasts may have something to do with the sharp criticism coming from recently-released main anchor Randy Price, who called the incessant alliteration "mind-numbing" in a recent radio interview.  Price said sometimes producers would stretch so far to find a clever graphic, it would no longer serve the story, such as "Plane Plunge."  As Price told WRKO radio, "I would have to turn around and say, ‘What does that graphic mean?'"

WSVN/Miami:  Flashy Graphics, A Lot of Alliteration

WSVN/Miami: Flashy Graphics, A Lot of Alliteration

Boston's always been a bit more highbrow than Miami, where "Triple Trouble in the Tropics" and hurricanes "Packing a Powerful Punch" is still standard fare.  Would station owner Ed Ansin really respond to ridicule by issuing an alliteration reduction order, ditching the distinctive 7 style just like he cut ties to Randy Price?  Well, that would be a Major Milestone.

Sorry.  I'm done now.


Doesn't Matter Who You Are, How Long You've Been There, What You've Done: Peabody Award Winner Shown the Door in St. Louis

LATEST LAYOFFS:  KMOV/St. Louis reporter John Mills would seem to be the kind of guy a station likes having around:  hard-working, good in the field and as a fill-in anchor;  and a journalist with credentials:  A Peabody, and Edward R. Murrow Award, and, just last fall, the local "Riverfront Times" named Mills "Best Reporter."  He seems the the kind of guy you build a strong bench by keeping in the dugout.  Oh.  Except, these days local TV station are playing baseball with one marquee name, maybe, and a smattering of little leaguers willing to play pro ball for very little money, and agree to clean up the stands after the game.

Mills lost his job this week.  After thirteen years at KMOV, he was laid off, and his award-winning bio got the traditional trip into the local news memory hole.  Mills, though, had a few thing to say, via his personal website, and amazingly, the guy took the high road (just like Andrea McCarren, and Randy Price, and Carolyn Gusoff, and Jay DeDapper...) "if any St. Louis companies or organizations are interested in a loyal and dedicated employee, I would very much appreciate their consideration," he wrote.  "I'm not bitter.  In TV, this was an incredible run."

Too bad companies like KMOV (and WJLA, and WHDH, and WNBC...) aren't willing, able, or interested any longer in "loyal and dedicated" guys like John Mills.


And Now, Back to WHDH, Where Another Anchor Gets the Boot

WHDH's Rudat

WHDH's Rudat

It's been a rough month at WHDH/Boston.  First, longtime and much-loved main anchor Randy Price was unceremoniously shown the door a week ago;  this morning we learn (again, from the Boston Globe, not from the station itself) that weekend anchor Brandon Rudat is gone.  He got the news yesterday, according to the Globe's boston.com:  "I was told . . . that I am very skilled and that I am very talented but I am not right for the station," said Rudat, 29, who started at Channel 7 in early 2007. His contract with the station expires April 22, which will be his last day. Rudat also anchors weekends on sister station CW-56. "Good things will come out of this," he predicted, wrote the Globe's Mark Shanahan.

According to the paper, HDH GM Chris Wayland wouldn't comment on Rudat's release, though Rudat, like Price before him, had been vocal inside the 7 Newsplex about the station's flashy, sensational WSVN/Miami approach in more sober, less flashy New England.  Dissent, according to the Globe, did not do good things for job security:  "We should be able to debate what the story should be," Rudat said. "If you debate, you suddenly become a target. . . . It's really hard." 

Tense Times in the 'Plex
Tense Times in the 'Plex

The HDH departures have local Boston newsbloggers going into overdrive, with much speculation about what's motivating the exodus:  money, or being unacceptably vocal.  The comments at bostontvnews make for interesting reading.


Laid Off by WJLA/DC, Andrea McCarren Finds Her Faith "Renewed"

Andrea McCarren

Andrea McCarren

At this point, every one of us in this business knows someone--likely, a few people--who've lost their jobs since this time last year.  They are smart, they are dedicated, they are the people we liked working alongside, gossiping with, bitching about the business with, and now--they are gone.  From tape room operators in the smallest markets to anchors at the top of the game, there's an all-star team sidelined by an economic situation that's threatening to change local news forever.

Some get to say goodbye, but most, like WHDH's Randy Price, get to write quick farewell emails to co-workersin the newsroom computer, but have to rely on the local newspaper to relay their gratitude to viewers. As local news stations, we cover the closing of every factory and mill, and never miss a chance to use the down-arrow gfx when job loss numbers are released, but folks who still get news, weather and (for now) sports from local stations rarely get any explanation of the latest layoff at the station itself.  

Longtime WJLA/DC reporter Andrea McCarren wrote in the Washington Post recently, "It's hard to say whether getting pink-slipped in the public eye is better or worse. When you work in local television news, strangers treat you like family. We on-camera reporters are their friends, their confidants. After all, we're in their living rooms and kitchens, in some cases every day."

Andrea McCarren and Co-Workers at WJLA

"In a sense, these people are my "family," too. Over the years, they've shared my life's high points -- getting married, having kids, even being promoted -- and they've been there for the low ones, sending condolence cards after my father's sudden death and, now, the loss of my job."

McCarren never got to say goodbye to her tv "family" on tv, but those viewers who felt they knew her have been letting her know they care--in the form of more than 400 emails and letters, some, she told me, "were heartbreaking; others were filled with optimism. Hundreds came from other experienced, hard-working people like me who loved their jobs and were also laid off.  Many came from people who had been through the ordeal of being abruptly terminated and bounced back, landing in a place where they were happier than ever!"

So while I've been accused of being a web-based harbinger of doom for relaying the layoffs day in and day out, I wanted to share Andrea McCarren's words as well;  that while the loss is painful and huge, the support, the friendship and love is too.  "This whole experience has renewed my faith in humanity: the kindness of strangers, and the compassion of Americans to lend a hand in troubled times. It's also revealed just how many talented and dedicated people are out of work right now. We're all in this together," McCarren told me.

McCarren says she's still figuring out what her next step will be.  The economy's down, but her spirits are certainly up, and she says she'll immerse herself in volunteer work as a way to pay it forward, and to "keep everything in perspective."


On WHDH/Boston's Website, Anchor Vet Vanishes Overnight: It's Like Randy Price Never Happened

It must've been a long weekend for the Newsplex trolls at WHDH/Boston, what with so much history to erase, you know?  Word leaked out Friday in a breaking news post on boston.com that the longtime main anchor at Channel 7, who'd anchored the news Wednesday night, had met with station owner Ed Ansin Thursday and "mutually agreed" to leave, effective immediately.  “While I certainly was a little stunned, I understood it very well,” Price told the Boston Herald. “When you own the station you have the right to do things the way you want to do them and I respect that.” Since then, Ansin's publicly described Price as a "friend" who's "retired," while Price has firmly stated he may take some time off, but he's definitely not done.

As is standard in sudden departures like these, station management goes quiet, desks are cleared out, pictures removed from walls, promos are re-edited, and websites are scrubbed.  Suddenly, the main, mustachioed face of Boston's big, bold, splashy station, shrugs at the mention of the name "Randy Price."  Come again?  Enter Price's name in the search box of WHDH's website tonight, and it will return precisely zero hits.  "Did not match any documents," the site told me, suggesting that I re-check the spelling or try different key words.  I wonder how long it takes to remove every reference to a man who's been the dominant face of the station for 12 years?  

Unlike the heralded and highly promoted (genuine) retirement of another Boston legend, Natalie Jacobson, Price will get no on-air farewell, and viewers who look to the WHDH website for an explanation of Price's he-must-not-be-named disappearance will get no explanation.  As I've written before, this type of pretend-he-never-worked-here posture has the cold, clinical feel of altering the history books in the old Soviet Union, updating them to remove references to suddenly out of favor figures.  Don't viewers deserve a little better? 

To do the "what?  who?" routine only makes all the "news team family" stuff seem so transparent and fake. Like the item WHDH put on its website in 2007--and still searchable in cache form on Google--describing Price's noteworthy marriage to his partner, Mark Steffan, on Boston's Statehouse steps:  "We want to congratulate an important part of our team.  Randy Price got married today."

When that "important part" of the team was let go, the station--like so many others--left it to the newspapers to explain.  On 7, it's like he never happened.


Latest Layoffs: WCVB/Boston Cuts Jim Morelli

Reporter Jim Morelli, who's been at WCVB/Boston for five years, was told Friday he'll be out of work effective April 7, according to "The Scoop" on bostontvnews:  "Jim tells me, “For me, far greater than the loss of income, will be the lost opportunity to spend my working hours with the many friends I’ve made at Channel 5. That is what will stand out for me when I look back on these five years: the wonderful friendships.”

Morelli's an experienced reporter and anchor, who's pulled gigs in Atlanta and at CNN.  He's also a published author, and before becoming a journalist worked as a pharmacist and poison control specialist.

Morelli's departure comes as Boston local newsers are still reacting to the sudden departure of WHDH main anchor Randy Price, who apparently anchored his last newscast in 7's Newsplex on Wednesday, had a meeting with station owner Ed Ansin on Thursday, and was out of the building Friday.


BREAKING NEWS: Randy Price Out at WHDH/Boston: "I'm Hardly Retiring."

Randy Price, main anchor at WHDH/Boston, and a local news legend in Boston and beyond, has told friends and co-workers that he's left Channel 7 after reaching a "mutual agreement" with HDH owner Ed Ansin, according to a breaking news post this afternoon on the Boston Globe's website, Boston.com.

According to the Globe:  "Price, who had a contract with WHDH until 2012, said he had a meeting Thursday with Ansin, who owns WHDH and sister station WLVI-TV (Channel 56), about his future at WHDH. 'He's a guy I have been loyal to and dedicated to for a dozen years. When he says to me we need to move in different directions, I respect that,' said Price, who helped WHDH dominate the 11 p.m. news in ratings in the last decade. In the past year, the station has slipped to third place at 11 in total viewers and key demographics. WBZ-TV Channel 4 has been leading at 11 p.m. in both."

Price told the Globe he's leaving HDH, but not done with his career, "I'm hardly retiring," he told the paper's Johnny Diaz from Kittery, Maine, where Price lives with his partner, Mark Steffen.  The couple were married on the Massachusetts Statehouse steps in 2007.  As Diaz reports, "Price was also popular for his work off-camera. He has been an advocate for animal rights and gay issues and has emceed and headlined local events such as the annual Men's Event fund-raiser for Fenway Community Health Center."

The Globe also quotes another Boston legend, Natalie Jacobson, the longtime WCVB anchor who retired in 2007:  "I don't know what the future holds for people like us,'' said Jacobson.  "It's a tough hole for everybody. Money is short and news is 24/7. People who run these operations aren't making the money they made before."

Inside the HDH Newsplex, reaction among co-workers to Price's unceremonious departure was described as stunned and distraught.