Tribune’s CW affiliate in Houston plans to throw out the old and recast its newscasts with a “radically different approach.” So it’s looking for someone, not for a news director, but for an “executive producer and imaginator … who knows that most local TV news sucks and wants to do something about it.”
Do you believe that most local TV news sucks?
Then you might be just the man or woman that Tribune Broadcasting is looking for.
A want ad posted by Tribune last week calls for an “executive producer and imaginator” to lead a “radically different approach to TV News” at KIAH Houston.
The ad certainly takes a radically different approach to hiring a news manager. It says it wants someone “who knows that most local TV news sucks and wants to do something about it.”
“Experience in running a TV newsroom is not necessary and might actually be detrimental as this position requires someone with no traditional TV news baggage, because there’s little tradition involved in this idea,” it continues.
It’s for real, says Roger Bare, general manager of the CW affiliate whose current two hours of daily news usually falls to the bottom of the ratings.
The job is to implement a prototype of a new news format called NewsFix that was produced at WPIX New York under the direction of one-time radio programming guru Lee Abrams, who has been SVP and chief innovation officer at Tribune for the past two years.
“The core concept is to focus more on storytelling by allowing those in the story to tell the story and to place video and audio at the center of all that we do,” says Bare.
“That’s as far as I can go because I have employee contract issues that I have to deal with,” he says.
A story posted on the Houston Chronicle’s chron.com last Friday adds that station employees “were told that the newscast would feature fast-paced stories, added special effects and a minimum of on-camera appearance by reporters or anchors.”
Bare says the job would entail running the newsroom, but the title will not be news director.
The last person to hold that post, KyAnn Lewis, left last May to work for Acme Communication’s Daily Buzz.
KIAH has been struggling in a highly competitive TV news market. It’s up against Belo’s KHOU (CBS), ABC’s KTRK, Post-Newsweek’s KPRC (NBC) and Fox’s KRIV.
KIAH now offers hour newscasts at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays and at 9 p.m. on weekends.
Gary Weitman, Tribune’s SVP of corporate relations, stopped short of saying that the format, if successful in Houston, would be rolled out at other Tribune stations.
The group “is looking at our news product in all of our markets, especially in markets where there isn’t a strong legacy news tradition at our stations,” he says.
Abrams, the mastermind of the project, is best known in radio for having invented Album Rock along with other successful radio formats. Prior to joining Tribune, he helped program XM Satellite Radio.
Abrams could not be reached for comment.
The want ad has a long list of the qualities it’s looking for in the new KIAH “imaginator.” It seeks an individual:
- “With a fiery passion to help re-invent the 80s rooted, focus grouped, yuppie anchors and a news desk, super doppler ultra weather style.”
- “Who can take the blueprint and pilot for a new concept and make it happen with guidance, ideas and interaction.”
- “Who lives and breathes content.”
- “That is in sync with the pulse of the streets, not the PC journalism world.”
- “Has well honed B.S. Radar.”
- “Who understands and embraces new production technology.”
- “Who thinks in stereo and lives in color.”
- “Can survive and prosper in a modern high brilliance standards rock ‘n’ roll culture.”
- “Who gets ‘it.’ “
- “Has excruciatingly high quality, imagination and execution standards.”