Andrew Vrees: Serving ‘Something Different’
A commitment to content fuels Boston’s local news behemoth
By Tim Baysinger -- Broadcasting & Cable, 12/19/2011 12:01:00 AMB&C's 2011 Local TV Executives of the Year
Calling WCVB Boston news director Andrew Vrees a “jack of all trades” would be an understatement. In his first job—in Fairbanks, Alaska—Vrees reported, anchored, shot, edited, directed and produced. Vrees credits the experience as a big reason for his success. “It [gave] me a better understanding of the many roles people play in a news operation,” he says.
Bill Fine, WCVB general manager, describes Vrees as “collaborative by nature,” but is quick to point out he “has the leadership skill set to guide our coverage in the right direction.”
With the New Hampshire primary right around the corner, Vrees plans to set up shop at Hearst’s WMUR in Manchester. “We’ll have significant coverage of probably one of the biggest Senate races in the country,” he says.
“Everyone is going to report the latest crime, storm, scandal,” adds Vrees, 43. “What we try to do is offer our audience something different.” This year, Vrees sent reporter Sean Kelly to Afghanistan as part of the station’s Assignment: Afghanistan series. Kelly spent time with the Massachusetts National Guard 1st Battalion 181st Infantry Regiment.
Vrees also moved up the start time of Eyeopener, the station’s morning newscast, to 4:30 a.m. in September.
It’s this commitment to content that makes WCVB the go-to for locals. In a poll conducted by station parent Hearst, WCVB was the station most often cited by respondents when asked “While tracking Hurricane Irene, where were you getting key or critical information about the storm or weather?” and “Which local television station did you watch most often for Hurricane Irene coverage?”
It should therefore come as no surprise that WCVB has owned the competition the past two years; it finished No. 1 in both total viewers and the key 25-54 demo during the November sweeps in nearly every news hour. (WHDH was first at noon in the demo; WBZ was first at 7:30 p.m. in total viewers.)
“We raise the bar high here; we broke a lot of news this year,” says Vrees. “My goal next year is to break even more stories.”
Fine has complete confidence in that. He says the “ultimate compliment any manager can pay an employee is if they would hire them again if given the chance. In Andrew’s case, my answer would be an unqualified ‘Absolutely.’”
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