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Hurricane Hatched a Local TV Leader

Boehne’s mentoring pays off for Lawlor -- and Scripps 9/12/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

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Richard Boehne, Scripps president and CEO,
says the transformation of Brian Lawlor from
promising young broadcasting executive to
full-fledged local TV leader occurred when
WPTV West Palm Beach was besieged by Hurricane
Frances seven years ago this month.
Part of the station’s roof was ripped off, and
electrical fires blazed in the building. But
Lawlor’s steady hand—keeping the WPTV
troops focused and the station on the air, while
addressing the needs of the community—
showed Boehne that the GM was destined
for a larger role in the Scripps group.

“For Brian, it was a real taste of how important
a station can be to the community,”
says Boehne. “It was a point of incredible
need for people, and it ignited him. It opened
Brian’s eyes as to what a great place a TV
station could be, beyond the sales and business

Lawlor, the son (and grandson) of New
York City police officers, had actually been
on Boehne’s radar screen
ever since he took part in
a Scripps leadership program
Boehne ran in the
mid-‘90s. “I thought, this is
going to be a very talented
manager,” recalls Boehne. “I
should keep an eye on him.”

Lawlor took over the
10-station group at the
beginning of 2009, after a
year-long stint as sales vice
president for the stations,
and quickly established
himself as a well-respected
corporate officer at the
133-year-old journalism
giant. Boehne says Lawlor
pushed hard for comprehensive
training for newsroom staff, giving
everyone the skills required to produce
timely and impactful content. It wasn’t a
cheap request, and it
hit the group at an inopportune
time—to say the
least—for all local television
outfits. But Boehne
signed off on it, and he
says the retraining has
been key to the ratings
momentum of the Scripps
stations, including WEWS
Cleveland and WXYZ Detroit,
in recent years.

“He was right,” says
Boehne, “and it paid off.”

Boehne adds that such
big-picture thinking has
become a cornerstone of
his station group chief’s
management style. “Brian
is patient, and he’s not afraid to do multi-year
planning,” says Boehne. “That’s in terribly
short supply in our business.”