When Scott Blumenthal, LIN Media executive VP, was a much younger man, he took a departing sales colleague out for drinks on the coworker’s final day. The man, mired in the same job for 34 years, told Blumenthal he could no longer recommend a local TV career to young aspirants.
“It’s just not the same job it used to be,” the bitter fellow groused.
In Blumenthal’s mind, it was never the same job that it used to be, and would never be the same with each passing year. That’s what made local television fun, and challenging, and interesting for the exec, who retires Dec. 31 after three decades with LIN. “There are terrific opportunities for those who are willing to work for them,” he says.
TV Titans Set Tee Times
As a most tumultuous 2013 winds down, several distinguished local TV executives are retiring, including Raycom executive VP/COO Wayne Daugherty, KCCI Des Moines president/ GM Paul Fredericksen and KLFY Lafayette (La.) VP/GM Mike Barras. WSAZ Charleston-Huntington (W. Va.)’s Don Ray, WTTG Washington’s Duffy Dyer and WKBW Buffalo’s Bill Ransom were among those who retired earlier in the year.
While consolidation of station groups has been the story of 2013, it is the rapid rate of technological change, with stations pressed to be 24/7 multiplatform content outlets, that will continue to be vital in 2014. LiveU packs, mobile media, multicasting and smaller cameras mean lots of opportunity for savvy broadcasters. “With the technology available, broadcasters can do more—more live, more locations than ever before,” says Joe Cook, recently retired GM at WVUE New Orleans.
Competition now comes on all digital devices, while newspapers and radio are no longer the competitive local forces they used to be, retiring GMs say. Amid all the change, some long-venerated values persist. “The company that wants to serve the local community— the community will take care of the station,” says Bob Bunch, retiring GM at KWTX Waco. “If you do the right thing for your community, the revenue will come.”
Look for local media alliances, suggests Cook. Prepare for retirement, says Bunch. Embrace change, say all of them. “If you don’t adapt,” says Blumenthal, “you’ll be left behind.”
Blumenthal, 65, will enjoy his leisure time in Scottsdale, including golf and travel, and will consult for LIN. “I do want to stay busy,” he says. “I just don’t want a job.”
Vincent Sadusky, LIN president and CEO, is thankful to have Blumenthal remain in the loop. “Scott’s decisive leadership and ability to mentor our folks on the ground was a driving force behind our transformation from a traditional broadcaster into an industry-leading multimedia company,” Sadusky says.
Some local TV veterans are finding second careers as license holders of acquired stations that overlap with a group’s existing portfolio. Blumenthal says he won’t rule that out, but has “no specific plans” to be an owner.
Jay Howell succeeds Blumenthal, who has come a long way since he was a $65-per-week cameraman at WTWO Terre Haute. “Not a lot of people can say they had fun at their job,” says Blumenthal. “This industry definitely offers that opportunity.”
BARRAS WRAPS UP HALF-CENTURY-PLUS AT KLFY IN LOUISIANA
One notable local TV legend retiring in the coming days is Mike Barras, who has spent 52 years at his hometown KLFY Lafayette (La.) station. Barras’ first job at the station was sweeping up the studio, before he shifted to cameraman. He was named general manager in 2001. He will serve as senior advisor through next June.
KLFY, a CBS affiliate, is the market leader. Deb McDermott, president/CEO at parent Young Broadcasting, calls Barras “a legendary figure” in DMA No. 122 and beyond. “His distinguished tenure is marked by dedication and commitment to the highest standards of broadcast journalism and management,” says McDermott.
Barras, 74, mentions the pure joy of seeing his first videotape machine, and calls KLFY’s 2010 shift to local HD a highlight. “I’ve seen all kinds of changes, and there’s a lot more to come,” he says. “But it’s time.” —MM