Coverage of the recent Election Day provided a another challenge for duopoly Manager Stacey Marks-Bronner, who runs WFLD(TV) and WPWR-TV Chicago: How should she provide the information gathered by WFLD to WPWR-TV, which doesn't do news? "Should we run a crawl?" she wondered. "[WPWR-TV] is not a news station. I'd rather my viewers over there didn't leave the station."
Barely 40, Marks-Bronner has more than a decade of experience facing such challenges and successfully running a major-market network O&O. At Fox-owned WFLD, she is the first woman in such a position in DMA No. 3 Chicago and is now in the early stages of running a major-market duopoly, with Fox's acquisition of WPWR-TV.
Like many station executives, Marks-Bronner cut her teeth at Sunbeam's WSVN-TV Miami. Beginning as a college intern, she specialized in program promotion and public affairs, eventually becoming the station's creative services director. She credits her learning the business to Bob Leider, who led the station from network affiliation through independence and eventually back to affiliation with a newer, growing network.
Marks-Bronner subsequently left Miami to run advertising, promotion and press for WBBM-TV Chicago, where she helped shape an ambitious repositioning for the CBS-owned station. Her work caught the attention of two of the Big Three networks, but Marks-Bronner turned down their job opportunities because she wanted to stay in Chicago. Though still in her 20s, she felt ready to run a major-market station, and she landed an opening at WFLD in early 1993.
"We wanted people from different backgrounds," Fox Stations President Mitch Stern recalls. "We were still a very young company, and this was a weak station. We needed to change its image."
Marks-Bronner agreed. "I'd learned a lot in my time at WSVN-TV," she says, and her boss at WBBM-TV, Bill Applegate, gave her the freedom to learn more. "What WFLD needed most was a new image. ... There are image issues, clear identity issues. And the best person to fix that is a promotions person. That's how Mitch [Stern] felt about it. Mitch has made some nontraditional choices."
Her sudden jump, veteran Chicago TV columnist Robert Feder noted at the time, "from a promotion job to general manager may be without precedent in a major market."
Of course, Fox was rebuilding more than just image in Chicago in the early 1990s. "We went from a staff of 140 people to 262," Marks-Bronner says, recalling it as the beginning of a period during which many of the station's staffers have grown up together in an atmosphere combining the drama of a competitive big business with that of a soap opera in a city that appreciates both. A few years later, she took a Fox corporate promotions job in Los Angeles but missed Chicago and missed running a station. So she returned to Chicago and now runs two stations there.
"Most of the people in Miami don't know who Bob Leider is," she notes. "When you're in TV in Chicago, you become the news."