Fates & Fortunes Weekly Round-Up: August 31, 2009

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Considering that Labor Day is just around the corner, Washington is on break and employment in the dumps, you’d think that not much would be happening in the media job market, but there’s plenty of news to report this week.

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Programming Prospects

Stars Road Entertainment, headed by Spiderman EPs Sam Raimi and Joshua Donen, has inked a two-year, first-look deal with Sony Pictures TV, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The production company also has tapped Robert Zotnowski, formerly CBS’ senior vice president of drama, to spearhead the company’s TV efforts. Zotnowski and Christina Davis have been running CBS’ drama department since 2004. Stars Road will develop in all genres except horror, which will continue to be handled by Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures. Raimi, Donen and Robert Tapert produced the syndicated action hours Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Legend of the Seeker, which airs now on TV stations. On primetime, Raimi’s Ghost House has produced CBS’ American Gothic, CW’s 13: Fear is Real, ABC’s Spy Game and Starz upcoming Spartacus, co-produced with Stars Road.

Maria Grasso and Nina Wass have exited OWN: the Oprah Winfrey Network, according to a spokeswoman for the yet-to-launch lifestyle network which is jointly owned by Discovery Communications and Oprah Winfrey. The changes follow the appointment of Jamila Hunter, who was named head of programming for the Burbank-based company in June and came from NBC. Grasso and Wass were both hired by Robin Schwartz, who departed abruptly in April 2009. Schwartz’s role as president of the channel became redundant after Oprah hired former MTV president Christina Norman.

NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, a five-time Pro-Bowler for the Dallas Cowboys, is the NFL Network’s latest addition. Irvin joins NFL GameDay starting September 13. Irvin had been an analyst for ESPN from 2003-2007, and was also the host of his own Spike TV show 4th and Long earlier this year. He has also served as a guest analyst on NFL Network’s Pro Football Hall of Fame coverage. NFL Network also announced that Stacey Dales, an analyst and reporter for ESPN and ABC, will be joining the network as co-host of NFL GameDay Morning. That show will be expanding to four hours this season, airing from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Sunday.

Executive producer Allison Silverman is leaving The Colbert Report after four years. The recently wed  Silverman has been with the show since its launch on October 17, 2005, first as co-head writer and co-executive producer before being promoted to executive producer in 2007. Prior to Colbert, Silverman was a writer for Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and before that, for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. She also has written for numerous publications including The New York Times Magazine.

HBO last week promoted Casey Bloys to senior vice president of comedy series and hired ABC’s Jocelyn Diaz as head of drama development and production. Bloys most recently developed Hung and the upcoming Bored to Death as well as the channel’s Flight of the Conchords and Eastbound & Down. At ABC, Diaz worked on such shows as Lost, Ugly Betty, Pushing Daisies, NYPD Blue, The Practice and The Drew Carey Show.

Denise O’Donoghue has been hired to run NBC Universal’s production activities outside the U.S.  O’Donoghue formerly was the co-founder and former CEO of Hat Trick, famed for hit comedies including Father Ted and news satire Have I Got News for You.  She takes over as prexy of international television productions at NBC U Intl. on Sept. 14. She succeeds Angela Bromstad, who is now president of primetime entertainment at NBC and Universal Media Studios, and she will be based in London, reporting to NBC U Intl. topper Peter Smith.

Journalism Jumps

Jenna Bush Hager, 27, has been hired as a correspondent on NBC’s Today, contributing stories about once a month, according to Executive Producer Jim Bell. Bush Hager, the daughter of former President George W. Bush, works as a teacher and reading coordinator in Baltimore, where she lives with her husband, Henry. Bush Hager has written two books, including Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope, about an HIV-infected single mother. It was a highly successful appearance on the Today show promoting that book that gave Bell the idea to hire Bush Hager, he told the Associated Press’ David Bauder.

CBS Radio correspondent Cami McCormick is in stable condition as of Monday, Aug. 31, after sustaining injuries in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan on Friday, Aug. 20. The vehicle in which McCormick was traveling was hit by an improvised explosive device, killing a soldier.

Veteran KNBC Los Angeles VP/News Director Bob Long will retire effective Sept. 25. He departs for the Bosphorus on October 1 to teach journalism ethics at Bahçeşehir University in Turkey. Long came to KNBC in 2003 after running news at WRC Washington, another NBC O&O. Prior to that, he was managing editor at KNBC. He racked up a trove of Peabodys, Emmys and Edward R. Murrow Awards during his career, and added two more to the shelf on Saturday, Aug. 29, at the Los Angeles Area Emmys.

Tribune-owned Los Angeles outlet KTLA has hired former KABC anchor Micah Ohlman and The Insider correspondent Victoria Recano to serve as its new marquee anchor team. Ohlman and Recano will take over KTLA’s signature 10 p.m. “Prime News” and its newer 6:30 p.m. newscast starting sometime in September. The duo replace KTLA’s most recent anchor duo of Emmett Miller and Leila Feinstein. Miller had already been reassigned back to KTLA’s early morning newscasts, while KTLA hasn’t yet commented on Feinstein’s future with the station.

John Beard, formerly an anchor at Fox-owned KTTV Los Angeles (who made an occasional cameo on Fox’s beloved but cancelled Arrested Development), will anchor the 5 - 7 p.m. and 11 a.m. newscasts at WGRZ Buffalo, Beard wrote on his own blog.

Lindsay Murphy has been named weekend sports anchor and reporter for Fox-owned WTTG Washington, D.C., said Duffy Dyer, the station’s vice president and general manager on Thursday, Aug. 27.  Effective immediately, Murphy will anchor the station’s sports reports on Fridays and Saturdays, and serve as a sports reporter during the week for various newscasts. Most recently, Murphy was the sports anchor and reporter for two-and-a-half years at WVIR Charlottesville, Virginia.  Prior to this she served for two years as sports producer for NBC’s WRC Washington, D.C.  Earlier in her career she interned for WRC’s The George Michael Sports Machine and also was a sports intern at WHSV in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Ron Krisulevicz was laid off as news director at Nexstar’s NBC affiliate WBRE Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Weds., Aug. 26. Krisulevicz had been with the station since June 2006, and had come to the station from another Nexstar outlet, WHAG Hagerstown, Md.

Jason Guy will join Hearst-owned NBC affiliate WESH Orlando as weekday morning anchor beginning Sept. 28. Guy comes to WESH from Young’s ABC affiliate WRIC Richmond, Va., where he has been a part of that station’s morning team for over two years. Guy has been a broadcaster since he began hosting a weekly teen program on the Fox affiliate in Mobile, Alabama, when he was 18. In 2002, Guy was a top-three finalist on CBS’ Big Brother. He’s also worked in casting for NBC’s The Biggest Loser, the CW’s Beauty and the Geek and CBS’ The Amazing Race. He returned to broadcast television in 2006 with his move to WRIC.

Rob Koch, meteorologist at Hubbard’s ABC affiliate KSTP Minneapolis, finished his last day with the station on Sunday, Aug. 30. Koch had been with the station for eight and a half years, having arrived from CBS-owned WCCO Tampa Bay.

Anchor Julia Yarbough resigned from NBC-owned WTVJ and will go off the air in October.

Station Switches

Wendy McMahon, creative services director at CBS’ WBZ/WSBK Boston, is moving west to be vice president of creative services and programming at KABC Los Angeles. McMahon starts in early September. She began her career as promotions manager at WTOC Savannah, and has also worked at WJXT Jacksonville, KXAN/KNVA Austin and WCCO Minneapolis.

Michele Godard has been named general manager of Hoak Media’s KALB Alexandria, La., beginning Sept. 4, 2009. In her 17 years in broadcasting, Godard has worked as an account executive and in the news department as a producer, main anchor, reporter and most recently as news director.

Clay Koenig, general sales manager of Young’s CBS affiliate in WLNS Lansing, Mich., will become the general sales manager at Block Communications’ NBC affiliate WAND Decatur/Springfield/Champaign, Ill.  Prior to joining Young, Koenig was local sales manager at Young’s ABC affiliate WATE Knoxville, Tenn.

Corporate Changes

Lauren Kapp was named vice president of NBC News communications Monday, Aug. 24. Kapp replaces Allison Gollust, who in July was promoted to executive vice president of NBC Universal Corporate Communications. (Gollust, in terms, replaces Cory Shields, who was named executive vice president of global policy strategies and alliances in June.) Kapp had been mentioned as one of the top contenders for the job since Gollust’s promotion.

Kelly Bumann was named SVP, consumer marketing at Englewood, Colo.-based Starz Entertainment. Bumann previously was vice president of brand strategy and marketing communications at Starz, joining the company in 2003. Prior to that, Bumann managed her own consulting business, Tiny Rocket, Inc., and was vice president of sales and marketing for MediaOne Road Runner, which is now Comcast. She began her career in advertising at Ogilvy & Mather/West in San Francisco. Bumann graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a BS in marketing, and got her MBA at the University of San Francisco.

Linda Johns was promoted to executive vice president of human resources for the Fox Entertainment Group, up from EVP of human resources for 20th Century Fox.

Michelle Parker was named senior vice president of business and legal affairs at Starz Entertainment, up from vice president.

Associations

Former NAB President David Rehr has been named a senior advisor to Washington-based association consultant Leading Authorities, which provides speakers such as journalists and former members of Congress for events. The outfit also organizes member fly-ins for advocacy groups including associations, Chambers of Commerce and non-profits. In addition to overseeing NAB, which includes one of the world’s largest conventions and annual Washington member fly-ins, Rehr is a former head of the National Beer Wholesalers. Rehr exited NAB last May. His successor has yet to be named.

The FCC’s veteran senior attorney and manager Rick Chessen has been named senior vice president of law and regulatory policy at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA). Chessen will join NCTA September 8.  He reports to NCTA President & CEO Kyle McSlarrow and succeeds Dan Brenner, who recently joined the law firm of Hogan & Hartson as Partner. Chessen arrived at the FCC in 1994 as a senior attorney in the Cable Services Bureau, and he occupied many important positions at the agency.  Chessen also has worked in private enterprise and practiced law at several law firms.  His law degree is from Harvard Law School, and his undergraduate degree is from the University of Wisconsin.

Madelyn Bonnot Griffin, vice president of operations for National Communications, has been appointed to the National Association of Broadcasters’ television board of directors, said Paul Karpowicz, TV board chairman and president of Meredith Television. Bonnot Griffin oversees three stations in Lake Charles, LA and Beaumont, TX: KVHP, KUIL and a CW affiliate.  Prior to working at National, Bonnot Griffin was general manager of Cox Cable/Cable Rep in New Orleans. She later served as senior vice president of operations for Qwest Broadcasting and Quincy Jones Broadcasting Company before becoming vice president of television operations for Emmis Communications.

Ted Hearn, vice president of communications for the American Cable Association and formerly Multichannel News’ Washington news editor, has joined the board of the Association of Cable Communicators. ACC was founded in 1985 as the Cable Television Public Affairs Association and represents cable public affairs and communications executives.

Awards

Katie Couric, anchor of the CBS Evening News, is the 2009 recipient of the Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in Media. She will accept the award at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion on Oct. 8.

The Library of American Broadcasting has created the Philip Eberly Memorial Oral History Fund in honor of the former Susquehanna Communications station executive, educator author, and freelance writer who died Aug. 2. Eberly worked for the library in the early 1990’s collecting “hundreds” of oral histories for its archives at the University of Maryland in College Park. Eberly held various sales and management posts with Susquehanna, including at WSBA York, Pa.. He also was a corporate vice president. He freelanced for the New York Times, Washington Post, and B&C.

Obituaries

Adam Goldstein, aka DJ AM, 28, was found dead Friday, Aug. 28, in New York City, apparently of a drug overdose, according to Variety. Goldstein had narrowly escaped death just a year ago when he was in a plane crash in South Carolina. Only Goldstein and Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker survived; four others died. Goldstein was the star of an MTV reality series, Gone Too Far, that was set to premiere on Oct. 5. Variety reports that MTV will make a decision on whether to air the show later this week.

Longtime Knoxville broadcaster and award-winning journalist Sam Brown died Tuesday, Aug. 25, of natural causes at the age of 59. Brown was an investigative reporter and anchor at Young’s ABC affiliate WATE Knoxville. A native of Clarksville, Tenn., Brown held a degree in political science from the University of Kentucky and a master’s in journalism from Columbia University.

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