Chris Mossman: Irene’s Ground Zero Hero
Steady hand in face of crisis guides N.C.’s NBC powerhouse
By Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 12/19/2011 12:01:00 AMB&C's 2011 Local TV Executives of the Year
Even more than how they help drive ratings and revenue, station general managers are measured by how they react to an emergency. While Hurricane Irene wasn’t quite the monster many anticipated, coastal Greenville-New Bern-Washington (N.C.) took the storm hard on the chin. And Chris Mossman, WITN vice president and general manager, shone brightest during DMA No. 99’s darkest moment.
“Of all the folks I’ve met in the industry, Chris is willing to go the extra mile,” says Henry Hinton, North Carolina Association of Broadcasters (NCAB) board member and former president. “He’s one of those people who really cares about the community, and what kind of coverage he’s providing.”
Mossman, 47, had an exhaustive disaster plan, and staffers were at the ready when Irene made landfall Aug. 27. “Preparation was very intense,” Mossman says. “It was, Here it comes, right at us—let’s go get it.”
WITN was live for 63½ straight hours during the storm. With electricity down, the station operated on generator power for several days and kept the community informed through a WITN.com live stream, mobile apps and on Twitter and Facebook— nearly doubling its Facebook fans over the course of the weekend.
Hinton, president of local radio operator Inner Banks Media, says WITN’s reporting was so thorough that he simulcast its feed on his four FM stations. (Inner Banks and WITN have what Hinton calls an “arm’s-length partnership.”) “They had the best coverage going,” says Hinton. “We knew we couldn’t outdo what they were doing.”
Robert Prather, president of WITN parent Gray Television, saluted the station after the skies cleared. “This kind of coverage of natural disasters is what keeps our stations first in the hearts and minds of our communities,” he said in a memo. Mossman, also NCAB’s vice president of television, credits his team, including news director Stephanie Shoop, and his fellow local broadcasters, for their dedication.
When it was over, Mossman promptly spearheaded a telethon, teaming with Inner Banks and the American Red Cross to raise $322,000 for those affected by the storm.
He’s no slouch in the ratings/revenue departments either. NBC’s primetime is a drag, but WITN nonetheless claimed 35% of the market’s revenue in the third quarter, according to Miller Kaplan, which is best in Greenville and up from 31.5% last year. Mossman cites a 52-week promotables strategy for driving viewers to WITN. “We take what NBC gives us,” he says, “and play to our strengths.”
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