When you run a station in a market full of Buckeyes, it helps to be one yourself. While WBNS Columbus has long been a ratings giant in the No. 34 DMA (see Market Eye: Bucking the Trend), President/General Manager Tom Griesdorn—Ohio State Class of 1972—extended the gap between the CBS affiliate and its competition in 2009. WBNS launched a weather channel on its digital tier over the summer, debuted a WBNS iPhone app earlier this month, and grabbed every local news race in November by a comfortable margin, doubling the nearest competitor in late news.
Griesdorn couldn't be happier running a winning station in his adopted home market. “It is a hoot,” he says. “Going to school in Columbus and having the opportunity to watch my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes, what's not to like?”
An Ohio native, Griesdorn came to Columbus by way of Detroit, which included an eight-year run as general manager at WXYZ. He then went on to Cleveland, where he ran WOIO and WUAB. It was there that he was approached a decade ago by Dispatch Broadcast Group chief Michael Fiorile about running WBNS.
Fiorile says he picked the right person. “Tom is a terrific leader and a compassionate manager,” he says. “He hires good people, and he's always interested in localism, with a never-ending eye on profitability for the station.”
Dispatch also owns the Ohio News Network (ONN) cable channel, and when Griesdorn arrived on April Fools' Day 1999, he found a virtual wall between ONN and WBNS. “I saw a bit of a fractured building,” he says, “with WBNS and ONN going their separate ways with separate agendas.”
His first mission was to bring them together, and hire the right team to help him do it. A decade later, having the two news outfits working in lockstep while focusing on local Columbus stories has been essential to WBNS' dominance. “It was initially a bit of a challenge, but now that we are much more converged, we have lifted both properties,” Griesdorn says. “It is very gratifying to see them work together so well to the advancement of everyone.”
Griesdorn credits WBNS' ratings and revenue growth to his well-entrenched anchor crew, including Jerry Revish and Andrea Cambern. The station is also a community leader, with initiatives such as the 10TV Food Parade and 10TV Family Fund. “Being a leader in news allows us to lead in other areas,” he says.
Even in a market that's home to more than 2.3 million people, community is key for Griesdorn, and a big reason why he has been a driving force at “Central Ohio's News Leader.” As he puts it: “Once you get to Columbus, the city reaches out and puts its arms around you, and the station invites you to stay.”