I had an illuminating sit-down with Hearst TV President/CEO David Barrett last week about the state of the industry, the challenges from Washington (regarding broadcast spectrum) and the networks (regarding retransmisson consent), and what it is that makes Hearst stations leaders in so many markets.
A B&C Hall of Famer, Barrett enjoys one of the better views of New York from his perch just south of Central Park, although it was cloudy the day I visited.
I asked David why Hearst has three corporate level news VPs–a setup that I haven’t seen at any other group, and something that one would expect got a close look amidst the industry’s cost-cutting the last few years. (Hearst expanded it to three after Fred Young retired at the end of 2008.)
I saw two of the three news bosses–Barbara Maushard and Brian Bracco (Candy Altman is the third) at an RTDNA panel in Vegas on product placement in news. Maushard was on the panel and Bracco was in the audience; sitting among mostly college students, he kept the session lively with some tough questions and comments from the crowd.
Barrett said that corporate news setup was hardly a luxury, but in fact a key element of the Hearst business strategy:
Success in local news means success for the company. We determined we weren’t going to outsource to consultants to help us on the news front. We wanted people who were more accountable on a day-to-day basis to our stations only, and we created a structure that has worked. I look at the results that we generate, the leadership of the stations and the performance of the company, and I’m satisfied the structure we have adds value.
A shorter version of our interview appears in the new issue with the upfront presentations on the cover, while the longer one is here.