Local TV Faces ‘The Great Resignation’

Young talent is fleeing local television, feeling overworked, dramatically underpaid and no longer lured by TV’s once-gleaming promise. Executives need to act now to stop the exodus, says an industry talent recruitment and retention expert.

A very talented, up-and-coming TV station executive producer cried during a recent phone interview I had with her.

She realized, in our call, that she had hit the end of her career trajectory. Those in the industry know the chess moves it typically takes to receive a promotion, and this EP saw her options had foreclosed. She wasn’t willing to relocate away from family and friends for only a moderate — if any — pay increase, all the while signing a long-term contract and a noncompete clause. She was facing less vacation to boot, on top of a strained work/life balance. Over her past three weeks, she worked every shift to cover missing employees to keep a news product on air. She was spent.

Her story was painful for me to hear, and it should be eye-opening for our industry.

Recruiting is the canary in the coal mine for local broadcasting, and that canary is dizzy from the carbon dioxide today. An alarming number of candidates tell me regularly that they are getting out of the business. As they fly away, I wonder whether we are weeding out the bad or losing our best?

I’d posit it’s mostly the latter. The Great Resignation is real, and it’s gaining momentum.

Why? There’s a laundry list of reasons for today’s candidates: pay; feeling underappreciated; acquisition fatigue; the increasing difficulty of a work/life balance; relentlessly needing to cover others’ shifts; a news workflow design that badly needs an upgrade. The list goes on.


Where are these candidates going? They’re shifting into public relations, communications, academia, nonprofits — almost anyplace else where they can use their skills. In those fields, they’re finding more money, remote work possibilities and better benefits. Amid these competitors for talent, local broadcast is slow to react and is quickly becoming uncompetitive. TV’s medium is no longer a draw in and of itself.

Let me zero in on a couple of key problems. One of them is noncompetes and suffocating contracts. These may initially have been implemented on a premise of corporate distrust. They’re now simply counterproductive to positive employee culture, and they are forcing people out of the industry. A new recruit faces a three-year contract and a noncompete that would require a relocation to continue in the industry. They’re not having it.

Another problem: Due to recruiting challenges, station management may be more apt to keep poor-performing employees. They can put someone on a performance improvement plan, manage them out and perhaps have an empty seat for months. Or they keep the problem in the seat and receive at least marginal output. There are serious ramifications on the latter for product and station culture. As a result, underappreciated, productive employees are fleeing.

Meanwhile, the global pandemic is simply accelerating the Great Resignation.

Local television does not often evolve and adapt until it faces no other choice. Will it take just one station to fail to put a newscast on air for just one shift for the warning bell to become a harsh reality? This happened recently with a station conducting “stress management” training.

Many broadcast groups have cut to the quick, conglomerating into mega-group size to effectively build empires. Now it is time to make employees benefit from this scale, rather than find it working at their expense. Employees need market value pay and benefits with the input of station-level professionals, immediately.

The industry’s exodus is real, and local TV group executives need to recognize this. The canaries in the coal mine are alighting for other skies. Once gone, they won’t be back.

Ty Carver is the founder and CEO of Carver Talent.

Comments (10)

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RustbeltAlumnus2 says:

October 7, 2021 at 8:57 am

I’m less surprised that local TV reporters are leaving than I am that they failed to choose a viable career in the first place. Even a cursory glance at Careercast’s list of top 200 jobs shows that journalism is near the bottom of the barrel, among loggers and taxi drivers. You have to have an ill-informed desire for news reporting to believe you could ever catch a plum assignment in such a dark coal mine. It’s like pinning your dreams and hopes on succeeding in the NBA.

Les Vann says:

October 7, 2021 at 9:25 am

I disagree. I stuck my toe in this water 44 years ago and had a four decade career full of rewards and opportunities I never dreamed of having. Ty is right though for the here and now this has to be addressed in the reality 0f 2021 which now includes inflation.

Les Vann
Retired Journalist and Executive

BVH-2000 says:

October 7, 2021 at 9:57 am

This is all too true: I’ve been doing broadcast engineering for around 50 years, 40 at my current station. Engineering departments are far smaller today than they have ever been, often to the point that stations run unattended for substantial periods of time. At the same time, the scope of responsibilities has expanded to include computer and networking support, each of which is legitimately a separate discipline. Two results: those of us still in the business are skirting with burnout; and stations have trouble hiring new staff because the incredibly broad range of “required” skills in the want ads are nearly impossible for one person to meet. A few decades ago there was a natural progression where operators started with at least basic technical skills, and gradually took on more responsibility for maintenance as they gained experience. That sort of entry model no longer exists, and operators today are largely computer operators hired more for attention to detail than for any sort of technical proficiency. This is why we are losing more skilled engineering than we are developing, and it is becoming an unsustainable spiral.

Ty has it exactly right.

AIMTV says:

October 7, 2021 at 10:11 am

RustbeltAlumnus2 comment reminds me of a famous quote by the late Rush Limbaugh – “I’ve never met anyone who didn’t do anything for the money.” I’m paraphrasing a bit here, but the quote was seemingly put out there by Rush to justify his financially successful but morally questionable career.

I’m not Rush (I’m not wealthy, but importantly, I am still alive). However, I have met hundreds if not thousands of people who do various jobs because of passion, purpose, and mission, NOT money. Money is necessary, but it is not the primary reason MOST people get out of bed every day. And such is the life of many journalists. They are perhaps more under-appreciated (and in some cases under attack) now than at any time in our recent history, primarily because of political and cultural polarization. Worldwide, journalism is one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet, with many giving their livelihood, freedom, and in far too many cases, their very lives in the pursuit of truth-telling. Without journalists, you can kiss goodbye to the precious rights so many claim are under attack, as well as clean water, healthy food, semi-safe schools, etc. We have a crisis of cowardice in the US and elsewhere, empowered by social media and the web’s dark influence. Anyone can say anything at any time, whether it has a grain of truth or not. Or harass and make threats, all under a mask of anonymity. It’s a sad departure from the bravery and fortitude of “the greatest generation.” Ironically, we need journalists to parse through the fire hydrant of mis and dis-information and try to filter out the truth, now more than ever.

It will take more than money, decent hours, and less stressful work conditions to fix this problem, but that would be a start. And at least it is something broadcasters can control (and some ARE doing an exemplary job).

Consolidation has chased off good people from the business for the last 15-20 years, all in the name of efficiency. From upper management, ad sales, marketing, and news, it’s been a sad sight to behold. Our business has degenerate to a survival of the “who can put up with the most work at the least amount of pay.” It’s like a bad, stupid game show.

Yet this is a medium that still has so much power and unrealized potential. But the potential will only be realized by people, keeping good people left and recruiting more. Not by more consolidation and “scale,” which has only lead to, at best, mediocrity and a speeding up of the steady death spiral the industry sees itself currently in. Many good people LOVE broadcasting and do not want to change careers. They want to fight to save it and their jobs. That’s why they’ve put up with so much change and misery. But there’s just so much one can take. The owners’ mission is not to see how bad they can make before they chase them off but to reward and help them be the best they can possibly be so that all may benefit.

Good article. Keep up the excellent work!
George C.

tvn-member-4191375 says:

October 7, 2021 at 11:28 am

A local Account Executive position has evolved to high level B2B sales skill requirement.
It’s not “pitching station projects” anymore…at least not if you want to develop substantial business.
Here is who would be a better fit in the new AE role going forward:
1. B2B Telecom Salespeople [Used to prospecting with many business owners]
2. Hotel Front Line Staffers [Businesspeople “real time” problem solvers]
3. Banking Representatives [Financial prowess and polished presentation style]

Many will have already undergone substantial and high quality level training by large companies and “have the chops” to work with business owners eye-to-eye.

Let’s bring into broadcasting and media sales the people with proper B2B people skills,
after all, we don’t work with animals.

TheVoiceofTruth says:

October 7, 2021 at 1:31 pm

Part of the problem is entitled, “trophy for losing” millennials who want everything NOW and feel they should be paid for effort, not results.

Former Producer says:

October 7, 2021 at 4:23 pm

Wow, are people still blaming millennials for everything that’s wrong with this world? They’re no longer the just-graduated-from-college kids you may think they are. The oldest millennials are about to turn 40 years old.

The problem is the arrogance that remains in TV news. Yes, some news directors and general managers still think, “We’re TV news, people will come to us!” I have a surprise for them and for any news director or general manager reading this post: YOU’RE NO LONGER THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN.

Did the shrinking audience numbers in your Nielsen overnights not tell you? The older demographics you relief on for so long are, frankly, dying. The younger demographics, the people you ignored, are ignoring you and getting their news from their smartphones. Nobody needs to wait for your six o’clock news and your hours-old news stories and your consultant-driven live shots.

Did the shrinking number of job applications not tell you? Today’s job seekers aren’t willing to put up with high-stress low-paying jobs that still require an expensive college degree. How many applications did you get for your latest reporter opening? I remember when hundreds of people applied for those jobs! Resume tapes — yes, tapes — once stacked up outside the news director’s office like a Jenga tower. Today, you’re lucky if you get twenty applicants. By the way, did you get any applications for that producer opening you haven’t filled in six months? You haven’t? Gee, I wonder why.

Did the growing number of people jumping ship not tell you? Before you cry about “OMG MILLENNIALS,” pay attention to the people who are leaving your newsroom. They’re older journalists, with years and years of experience, who no longer want to be ground up for salaries that, on average, are between $30K and $50K a year. They’re the ones who are jumping to the PR jobs at the local hospital or the local police department or the local college, which not only pay better, but offer better hours. Marketing and tech companies are scooping up your younger employees as well, with offers of better pay and better hours. Are you doing anything to retain those employees? Or are you hoping the 2% annual raises and a chance to get catering leftovers from the sales department meeting will still work?

But go ahead, blame the millennials, instead of a business whose very model is now threatened to the point of extinction. Or, you can heed Ty’s warning, and do something about the problem now while you still have time.

tvn-member-3011604 says:

October 7, 2021 at 8:09 pm

Our NBC affiliate has such a high turnover of reporters and anchors that the station has stopped bothering to update its news team web page. I see a couple of negatives; low pay for newly-hired reporters and (as mentioned in the article) a desire to move on to bigger, more lucrative markets or other career opportunities on the part of long-time news people who see little future in their current positions. Stations need to do more to inspire loyalty and enthusiasm into their news staff by offering better salary compensation and more opportunities for advancement. I would also encourage stations to hire more news photographers instead of forcing reporters to be “one-man bands.” They quality of the video will be much better and so will the reporting.

tvn-member-1103977 says:

October 7, 2021 at 11:18 pm

I know of three local personalities leave the field, one News Anchor & two TV Mets that have left their plum jobs. One enjoyed flying his personal plane so much, he left his Chief Met position @ perhaps the most powerful TV station in our state; & started a second career as a Corporate Pilot. The other left because of family responsibilities, taking a job with a local corporation where the hours are more predictable. I don’t know or have privy to their contract details, if their contracts were up for renewal, or if so; negations were becoming difficult. It’s none of my business, so I’m just speculating.

All three were Veterans of our 27 April, 2011 Tornado Super Outbreak in the Deep South, one anchored the weather coverage with perhaps the most recognizable TV Met in the state.

The third left her job to be a stay at home Mom to her young child & to be a wife.

In my College Sports crazed state, those two Mets, along with other local TV Mets; are risking of catching the ire & abuse of fans upset should severe weather coverage interrupt a college game, be it football or basketball. My state not having any Pro teams outside of Minor League baseball or ice hockey, still has the highest sports viewership of any place else.

Over the years, I’ve seen other well known TV personalities take jobs outside the TV field with local corporations or educational institutions.

George_Jetson says:

October 12, 2021 at 2:52 pm

BVH nailed it. The TV biz is very high stress. Thank God I made it to retirement after 50 years. It used to be fun. Not today. Great place for drunks & dope smokers. Bosses are stressed too and take it out on workers. Unions used to level the playing field but not today. Crummy hours! It’s insanity.

Viewers used to get 10 min of commercials per hour. Today it’s more than twice that. If you think they solved the loudness problem think again. Kids don’t watch local news so they don’t need broadcast TV. Don’t invest in TV. They will go the way of newspapers soon. Before long a Zuckerberg will have a LOCAL app that you’ll get far more hyperlocal info. Stations will lose ad $$ and cut, cut, cut. The main source of revenue will be renting tower space to cell carriers.

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