Fifth Estater

GM Blangiardi Coaches Surging Squad to Victory

Former gridiron guru motivates Hawaii News Now crew in Honolulu 4/08/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Rick Blangiardi

Title:

VP/general manager, KGMBKHNL Honolulu

Education:

U. of Hawaii, 1965-1966; B.S., Springfield College, 1969; MEd, U. Hawaii, 1973

Employment Highlights:


Assistant coach, associate head coach, U. of Hawaii football, 1972-77

Account executive, local sales manager, general sales manager, KGMB, 1977-84

VP/GM, KHNL, 1984-89

VP/GM, KING Seattle, 1989-92

VP, CBS Television Network, 1992-93

VP/GM, KPIX San Francisco, 1993-94

Group president, River City Broadcasting, 1994-96

President, Telemundo station group, 1999-2002

Senior VP/GM, KHON-KGMB, 2002-05

Senior VP/GM, KHON Honolulu, 2005-06

President/GM, KGMB, 2006-09

Current title since 2009

Personal:

Born Sept. 15, 1946; sons Matthew, 35, and Ryan, 32; daughter Laura, 27

Rick Blangiardi’s Boston accent, not to mention his passion for
that historic city, becomes more pronounced when discussing
growing up in a “three-decker” house in working-class Cambridge,
and watching baseball legend Ted Williams play at Fenway Park. And while Hawaii is almost literally a world
away, the KGMB-KHNL Honolulu VP/general
manager is every bit as fond of the Aloha State
as he is of the Bay State.

“It was so different than anything I’d ever
seen,” Blangiardi says of his arrival in 1965.
“Palm trees, the pristine water—we used to
swim in the dirty and cold Atlantic. I’ve never
stopped appreciating its beauty and its people.”

They appreciate him, too. A former college
football player and coach, a raconteur and
one of the more outsize personalities in town,
Blangiardi wields considerable influence in
the state. He oversees Hawaii News Now—
Raycom’s virtual triopoly that’s taken over the
market lead in Honolulu—and is poised to
hold onto the trophy long-term. While the
newsgathering and promotional might of three
stations (Raycom has a shared services deal
with KFVE) is a huge advantage, Blangiardi’s
colleagues credit him for getting every last bit
of effort out of his crew.

“He’s probably the best boss I ever had in 30
or more years in the media,” says Mark Platte,
Blangiardi’s news director. “I’ve had 100-plus
meetings with him in my three years here, and
I’ve learned something in every one.”

Blangiardi speaks fondly of his old Italian
“tenements and factories” neighborhood,
when a dollar from Mom covered a subway
ride to the Red Sox game, a bleachers seat and
a hot dog and Coke. “We were the first generation
to become Americans,” he says. “They
gave us American names and sent us to Irish-
Catholic schools.”

Blangiardi had hoped to attend the Naval
Academy to make his father, a Navy veteran,
proud. His football skills were Annapolis material,
but his academic marks were not. After
Rick signed a letter of intent to play at Boston
College, his father, a munitions expert, was offered
a transfer to Pearl Harbor. His mother’s
one demand: Rick come with them.

“My only connection to Hawaii was Ricky
Nelson’s ‘Traveling Man,’” Blangiardi jokes,
warbling the ’61 ditty’s verse about a “pretty
Polynesian baby over the sea.” “In my neighborhood,
people barely went to Florida. Nobody
talked about Hawaii.”

Playing linebacker at the University of Hawaii,
Blangiardi fell hard for the place. After finishing
his studies in Massachusetts when his mother
came back east, he then returned to Hawaii for
his master’s and a coaching position.

Blangiardi served as Hawaii’s defensive coordinator
and associate head coach but, with
a child on the way, the $15,000 annual salary
wasn’t cutting it. A colleague in local television
told him his work ethic could pay off in that field, so Blangiardi jumped to KGMB as an account
executive in 1977, working his way up
to general sales manager in 1984.

Blangiardi’s first general manager job was at
KHNL in 1984, before taking on top spots at
KING Seattle and KPIX San Francisco.

His charges describe him as a gifted communicator
and motivator—skills Blangiardi
honed on the football sidelines. “Rick is a
very good coach and mentor,” says Wayne
Daugherty, Raycom executive VP and COO.
“He inspires people and challenges them.
They know he’s on their side, and they’d run
through walls for him.”

Blangiardi took on a somewhat unlikely role
in 1999 when he became president of the Telemundo
station group. He spoke no Spanish,
but knew TV operations and could relate to
people from different cultures. “They perceived
that I was a culturally fluent guy, based
on the years I lived in Hawaii,” he says.

After three years in that role in Los Angeles,
Blangiardi came back to Honolulu, running
various stations, including KGMB, and taking
over the combined operation in 2009. The
local media watchdogs, not to mention the
competition, weren’t fond of the setup (some
refer to it as “The Cartel”), but it passed muster
with the regulators, and the game was on.

Fox affiliate KHON dominated the Honolulu
market for decades. But the imposing resources
of KGMB-KHNL and KFVE, along with a sales
force crafted in Blangiardi’s image (“He could
sell ice to the Eskimos,” says Platte), pushed
Hawaii News Now—featuring a newsroom of
65 cranking out 40½ hours of news a week—
to the top of the Honolulu heap.

DMA No. 71 is unique: It’s an island and a
statewide television market. Hawaii’s remote
locale creates an extraordinary connection between
residents and local news outfits, which
Blangiardi understands and appreciates after
decades in the region. “There’s an old-fashioned
feeling as broadcasters that what we do still
matters,” he says. “That is an inspiration each
and every day.”

Platte, a veteran newspaper guy with no
television experience when he took over the
TV newsroom, credits Blangiardi for taking a
chance on him—and for selling the unorthodox
move to Raycom brass. Blangiardi isn’t
much of a tech guy, notes Platte, but nonetheless
has Hawaii News Now dominating
on all platforms, including Facebook (almost
103,000 fans, to KHON’s 29,000) and Twitter
(44,000 followers).

The 66-year-old Blangiardi recently signed on
for three more years. The father of three grown
children, he doesn’t play golf and puts all of
his energies into broadcasting and a long list of
community organizations (among many others,
he is president of Aloha Council Boy Scouts and
is a director for the Hawaii Food Bank).

“He knows everybody in town, and they all
seek his advice,” says Platte. “Rick loves this
place, and this place loves him.”

E-mail comments to
mmalone@nbmedia.com and follow him on
Twitter: @BCMikeMalone

Rick Blangiardi

Title:

VP/general manager, KGMBKHNL Honolulu

Education:

U. of Hawaii, 1965-1966; B.S., Springfield College, 1969; MEd, U. Hawaii, 1973

Employment Highlights:


Assistant coach, associate head coach, U. of Hawaii football, 1972-77

Account executive, local sales manager, general sales manager, KGMB, 1977-84

VP/GM, KHNL, 1984-89

VP/GM, KING Seattle, 1989-92

VP, CBS Television Network, 1992-93

VP/GM, KPIX San Francisco, 1993-94

Group president, River City Broadcasting, 1994-96

President, Telemundo station group, 1999-2002

Senior VP/GM, KHON-KGMB, 2002-05

Senior VP/GM, KHON Honolulu, 2005-06

President/GM, KGMB, 2006-09

Current title since 2009

Personal:

Born Sept. 15, 1946; sons Matthew, 35, and Ryan, 32; daughter Laura, 27

 

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