'Shared' News Director Goes Solo - Broadcasting & Cable

'Shared' News Director Goes Solo

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The Scranton–Wilkes-Barre, Pa., market's unique arrangement, in which a single news director oversaw news at two competing network affiliates, is over.

Al Zobel, who for more than three years has been news director for both Nexstar's NBC affiliate WBRE-TV and Mission Broadcasting's CBS affiliate WYOU(TV), will end his oversight of WYOU.

The Scranton–Wilkes-Barre combo was the first of several arrangements between Nexstar-owned stations and others owned by Mission Broadcasting, which gives Nexstar some economies of scale while avoiding FCC restrictions on duopoly.

With Zobel stepping aside at WYOU, Frank Andrews, who has been the station's top dedicated news executive and an anchor there, becomes news director. It is the smaller of the two news operations. Andrews is a former news director and lead anchor for market leader WNEP-TV. Paul Stueber, also a former WNEP-TV news director, remains managing editor for WBRE-TV.

Zobel says he and Andrews will continue to work together closely in splitting the newsroom's still-combined resources.

Only weeks ago at the Radio-Television News Directors Association annual conference in Las Vegas, Zobel was telling a somewhat skeptical audience during a forum on news combos that a single news director could, in fact, run two competing affiliates sharing resources under the same roof.

Zobel acknowledges that there were difficulties. "I worked hard to make staff at both stations know that I was news director for both and that I could be fair to both sides. I'm proud of what we've done with WYOU." Even though the CBS affiliate remains in third place in the market behind WNEP-TV and WBRE-TV, Zobel says, "It used to be the Rodney Dangerfield of news stations, but now it's a player."

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