Jim Rogers Betting Big On News On KSNV

The owner of the Intermountain West group thinks he has a duty to the viewers in his home town of Las Vegas to provide high-quality local news, and a lot of it. He's replacing syndicated programming with news on his NBC affiliate as the shows' contracts expire and by 2016 should have filled just about all the slots with it before primetime starts.

If all goes as planned, KSNV Las Vegas by 2016 will be as close to a non-stop news station as a network affiliate can be.

Jim Rogers, whose Intermountain West Communications Co. has owned the NBC affiliate since 1979, says he wants to do away with syndicated programming altogether, and replace it all with news.

He already is well on his way to doing that. In the last year or so, Rogers dumped both Judge Judy and Inside Edition, filling their spots with local news.

Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune will move to KLAS, Landmark’s CBS affiliate, in September, as Rogers won’t be renewing his contract with CBS Television Distribution when they expires. Dr. Phil will bite the dust next fall, which will leave five full hours of news from 3 to 8 p.m. each weekday. NBC Nightly News at 5:30 p.m. will be the only program not produced by KSNV during that time.

Rachael Ray, which airs at 11 a.m., and The Doctors at 2 p.m. will face the same fate in 2016.

Once that’s done, only Days of Our Lives, which airs at 1 p.m., will stand between Rogers and his goal of airing only news and public affairs — local programs complemented by the network’s Today and Nightly News — from 4:30 a.m. until NBC’s primetime lineup starts at 8 p.m. And if the soap opera “would cease to be in business,” he’d be happy to replace that with news, too.


“I didn’t go into broadcasting to be in someone else’s business,” Rogers says. “The only thing we as broadcasters can do better than cable is local news. So that’s where I have to go.”

In many ways, Rogers’ plan is like a pumped-up version of the strategy being executed by a growing number of stations around the country: replace high-priced syndicated shows with local news, which is generally less expensive.

At last check, the top news producers in the country, all Fox-owned or affiliated stations, aired about 60 hours of local news each week, with the average number of hours for all stations rising every year.

An extraordinarily affable and enormously successful lawyer and businessman (a big booster of higher education, Rogers donated $137 million to his alma mater, the University of Arizona law school), Rogers says his news-heavy strategy is motivated as much, if not more, by his goal to put on air “every viewpoint there is.”

“A lot of people think I’m out of my mind giving up Wheel and Jeopardy and putting in news. It’s a big gamble,” says Rogers, 74, who in addition to having careers in law, banking and broadcasting, spent five years overseeing Nevada’s public colleges and universities as the state’s System of Higher Education chancellor.

“I want something I can be proud of and, if it’s got to cost me some money,” that’s OK, he says.

“I’m also very politically oriented and because I own my stations with no partners, I can pretty much do what I want to,” he says.

An ardent First Amendment advocate, and “a bit of a crusader,” Rogers already has, in addition to local newscasts, two station-produced public affairs (and politically charged) programs in his lineup, part of wanting to “get into the substance business more and more.”

Rogers brings a very egalitarian perspective to the business of broadcasting.

A liberal who calls his political leanings “a viewpoint, not the viewpoint,” Rogers says he is committed to airing “both sides, and, if someone wants, a third and fourth side.”

Plans include expanding KSNV’s managerial and news staff to include a greater number of minorities, and possibly dedicating an entire show to Las Vegas’ Hispanic community.  Rogers says that population is not being duly served by broadcasters in the country’s 40th-largest market.

“If you’ve got a Caucasian leader in a news department, everything gets filtered through the white perspective,” he says.

KSNV has, and will continue to, add news crews each time more news is added to the lineup, part of Rogers larger goal of upping the caliber of the station’s news along with the amount of it.  Intermountain President Ralph Toddre said he expects to hire about eight new staffers when news replaces Jeopardy and Wheel.

Although KSNV news does not go heavy on investigative stories, Rogers says, “We are going to put substance in our reporting.” He already has met with NBC News executives to explore ways in which the station’s and the network’s news departments can work more actively, and more closely, together.

Rogers also plans to continue waging a war against “the culture of the 30-second sound bite.” Not only does that sort of half-baked reporting make bad television, but it also furthers a society of people with ill-informed opinions, he says.

“That’s been a very, very bad thing that broadcasters have done, and we are not going to do that anymore,” Rogers says.  Not only will KSNV newscasts feature stories that are relevant to viewers, they also will include fresh content as the days unfold.

“You can’t run the same story 13 times a day saying there was an accident on the corner of Fifth and Seventh,” he says.

Rogers says he believes Las Vegas is the prime place for such an experiment, given the size and ever-changing face of the market, as well as the many serious challenges facing its residents.

Rogers is clearly devoted to serving the city, which had just 21,000 residents when he moved there as a teenager in 1953. KSNV runs a promo boasting that the station is owned and operated by Las Vegas High School grads.

“We have a vested interest in every sense of the word,” he says.

Rogers says he has been toying with the all-news concept for a long time and has now set the goal of bringing it to fruition in the next two to four years, citing his age as the reason for setting a timeline. “I don’t even buy green bananas anymore,” he says.

It’s a model, however, that Rogers says won’t work for everyone. Of the 11 stations Rogers owns in Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming, KSNV is the only one slated to take news to such an extreme.

Intermountain’s other stations — located in cities including Reno, Nev. (DMA 108), Csaper-Riverton, Wyo. (DMA 197) and Helena, Mont. (DMA 206) — are in markets that don’t have enough going on to support such a venture, Rogers says. He could see the format working only in the country’s 50largest markets.

Expanding news is also particularly important in those larger markets because of the long and erratic hours working people spend on the job, he says. “We have such a great number of people on the highways after work that the majority of my friends have never seen the 6 o’clock news,” he says.

Rogers also is well aware that his ability to test the concept is a luxury that many station managers — limited by everything from ownership and station group strategy to finances — simply don’t have.

“It’s a model for my market, and mostly because it’s my town,” Rogers says. “I am really excited about this.”

Read other Air Check columns here. You can send suggestions for future Air Checks to Diana Marszalek at [email protected].

Comments (7)

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Joe Jaime says:

January 22, 2013 at 12:25 pm

I really think he is taking his station in the right direction…. wish you all the best Jim!

Brian Walshe says:

January 22, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Go, KSNV! This is the kind of broadcaster needed at the head of more station groups!

I’ll make a point of trying to watch later this month when in town for the NAB Exhibitor’s Advisory Committee and also during NAB setup and show weeks.

I particularly like the comment: ‘Rogers also plans to continue waging a war against “the culture of the 30-second sound bite.” Not only does that sort of half-baked reporting make bad television, but it also furthers a society of people with ill-informed opinions, he says.’

Now if we could only address the sort of ill formed opinions that grow from un-checked material posted willy nilly on the internet!

John McElfresh says:

January 22, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Just make sure you news folks keep you work areas clean, or you WILL hear from good ole Jim.

Don Richards says:

January 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Great plan…and he won’t be alone! He may be the first but definitely will not be the last.

Dan Billings says:

January 24, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Okay, I’m sorry, but someone’s got to do it. Of course, “GMretiredTV” loves the idea. His toes probably curl even today thinking about all those checks he wrote for syndicated programming during his no doubt successful career.. And while I agree with Ted on most of what he says, I disagree with him that this is the direction local news programming should take. It is what it is. Local news. And even the largest markets can’t find enough of it to fill their already 2-3 hour news holes, let alone pushing it to 5-6 hrs as Rogers suggests without repeating that fire down at 5th and Vine over and over again. It’s either that or hire an army of a hundred with equipment to match and blow the news budget to kingdom come, which when I last checked is the wrong direction every GM wants to go. It’s always lean and mean, right, general? Where can I whittle that department down, next? That’s the problem with that hungry beast. It always wants more, and the GM wants to pay less.. As a result it always gets filled with fluff pieces, water-skiing squirrels and heaven forbid, “syndicated” crap in the form of features news shops buy into to fill the time created by all those layoffs that occurred in the last budget go around. And frankly, Ted, truly when was the last time you actually saw a 30 sec news bite make it on the air. They’re closer to eight, ten and at most 15 seconds, which is just enough time to get it taken out of context and manipulated into whatever bias agenda is currently the soup du jour.. Look! I guess what really bothers me is that I find it hard to find a 30 minute or 60 minute local news broadcast in this country that’s doing it right or close to right. Ted touched on it. There was a time, okay so I’m dating myself back into that golden era, when local news could almost tell itself. In fact, I remember an award winning piece of journalism where there was no reporter narrative for the first 60 seconds. It was all done with natural sound and incredible pictures of the event being covered. I remember a government meeting one night, that no one today would even consider covering because it was so b-o-r-i-n-g, where it was covered with a cluster of soundbites from angry citizens expressing their concern over the topic in question and the council president trying to regain control of the meeting but failing in his attempts. Sometimes an emotional story requires more than 30 seconds for a person to finally get his message across to others in his community. And the writing, my Lord, the writing that makes air! The bottom line, isn’t that what our profession is all about? We’re story tellers! Viewers tune us in to find out what’s been going on in their town. And we’re suppose to deliver on that commitment, not some ten second soundbite, or some one minute limit given to tell a story, to increase the all important story count and leave time for some fluff piece from Timbuktu. Don’t get me wrong, I could tell some stories completely in two sentences and that’s all they were worth, just a mention. But it’s how you cover the important stories that gives your station a personality, for covering the news accurately and completely. Sure, its first, fast and factual for all the promo geeks, but first you have to report it accurately and completely. And in a style that makes people want to come back for a second helping, because they enjoy the men and women that present it each night. I’ll take a 30 minute or 60 minute newscast done properly that actually puts me right into that story, than any so-called local news expansion to 3-4-5 hours in length. Hell, there are still news shops in major markets that don’t even change a single word or soundbite in a vo/sot or pkg from one hour to the next, or from the early show to the late show! There is no excuse for that!
I would write my pkg for the main show, break it down to a vo/sot for the next one, and totally rewrite my vo/sot using a different sound cut for the late show. Imagine that. Three versions written by the reporter who covered the story, and not leaving it to a clueless third party. Of course, to do all this and do it right requires someone with experience leading the charge, which unfortunately is the first thing to go when going lean and mean. And it’s because of this mindset and atmosphere in today’s newsrooms and management offices, that I see disaster waiting in the wings. More crap being offered over more hours in the day. Let’s tell it like it is. This is a blatant way to put syndication money back into the profit column, with the time filled with so-called news and public affairs, done with a paper thin budget that only allows for high school grads for the behind the scenes work and green college grads for going through the motions, being led by others with only a year or two of more experience. It’s a sad but true trend going on in our television markets from small to medium and even inching ever upwards into our larger markets. “Bailusout” sounds like someone with first hand experience with ole Jim, and perhaps the original “reporter” who presented us with this story could have given us a look into his existing station properties and their news departments. Does this person have a true love for news coverage or more money in the pocket. If its the latter, than I would much rather have him bring back the afternoon “tea time” movie or bowling for dollars(I actually worked at a station where the two bowling alleys were still in the basement) “Doubtful” is sadly correct in the prediction of how local TV news will go in its path to nonexistence. Why do I feel so despondent? Network news is a sham, and the last of the big daily rags are agenda driven. Do yourself a favor, go to the library and pull out the microfische of the New York Times back in the 1800s and read some of the days’ editions, covering the civil war or the expansion of the west, and everything else under the sun, going on in countries around the world. All that was fit to print, the Gray Lady was in her heyday. Now, put out this past week’s editions and the agenda based bias will leap out at you as well as the fact that there is no other side being presented. And its that paper that is considered must have in every local news shop before the morning editorial meeting to plan out the day’s coverage. What ever happened to the Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi, and its list of rules and ethics. How many out there even know what I’m talking about? And how many have even taken the time to go back and see their original set of rules and ethics to compare with the changes that have taken place over time. Believe me, it all matters.
And now to try to head off one of Ted’s pet peeves of ill formed opinions on other’s opinions, I am not talking from sour grapes. I was never fired in my more than 30 years in the business, even though I would wear that badge with honor. My last 15 years I did not solicit TV stations, they solicited me. I wore the cap of news anchorman and award winning reporter for more than ten years before I went off camera into news management wearing all titles including news director and helped turn around number three stations into number one stations, in my various roles. It was a TIA that forced me into early retirement. There was a time when I was proud of my profession and what it truly stood for … the ever vigilant watchdog looking over my community and big government, protecting the little guy, and helping his attempts at fighting city hall. I worked for the working stiff who worked his butt off all day to keep his family in shelter, clothes on their back and food on the table, just like my dad did.
And just like my dad, who would then sit in his chair, popping the top off a cold one, and tuning into the local news to find out what’s going on locally and nationally and how the government was going to screw him next. He wanted to be informed. And in that, I delivered. And that’s the way it was.

Kelsey Sharkey says:

January 25, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I wish the system had a way to buy a paragraph!

LastCall, you sound like a great TV news guy. I agree with pretty much every thing you said, with only a couple of minor exceptions:

I think in the case of most stations (like the Fox O&Os) that do several hours of news at a time, they don’t consider rewrites important because they don’t expect anyone to watch more than 30-45 minutes at a time. They intend to be there when you want to watch news.

I really wish Mr. Rogers well, and I hope you do, too. While so much of what you say about TV news, as it exists today is true, especially about cutting budgets to the bone and doing it as cheaply as possible, here’s a guy who sees the problem and says he really wants to change the culture and do it right. Maybe you don’t believe him. I choose to believe he has the right intention. Maybe if he’s right and finds a way to make it successful, more stations and groups will follow the model. I really hope so.

Kathy Enders says:

October 31, 2013 at 5:34 am

Hope those ideas they have can bring awareness to everyone, by having their clean mind into a posters or banners to make everyone have ideas on it.]

“work for

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