Indy Media Shockers. CBS Moves From Channel 8 to 4. IndyStar Lays Off 15% Staff

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cbs logoANALYSIS. It was one of the most tumultuous days in Indianapolis media history, involving the continued loss of quality journalists at the city’s daily newspaper and an unprecedented shake-up in television viewing habits.  First to the TV news.  The CBS Television Network yanked its affiliation from WISH-TV/Channel 8 and is moving its network programs to WTTV/Channel 4 beginning on New Year’s Day 2015.  In simple terms that means the entertainment programs on CBS (CSI, NCIS, Big Bang Theory, Price is Right, Young and Restless), NFL Football including most Indianapolis Colts games, NCAA Basketball Tourney and Final Four, PGA Golf will be seen on Channel 4; instead of Channel 8 as they have for nearly 60 years.channel 4 logo The stunning switch was part of a deal between CBS and Tribune Broadcasting which owns WTTV and WXIN/Chanel 59.  Tribune agreed to renew their CBS affiliations on five other Tribune TV stations and add Channel 4 in Indianapolis.  In a statement  Ray Hopkins, President, Television Networks Distribution for CBS said, “There’s nothing more valuable to a local station than programming from the #1 television network, and Tribune Broadcasting has been a great partner in reaching this agreement.” tribune broadcastingTribune Broadcasting President Larry Wirt in a statement said, “Through WTTV’s new affiliation, we look forward to significantly enhancing our sports offerings, local news coverage and commitment to the community.” Officials of Channel 8 and their parent company LIN Media have yet made no comment on the stunning news yesterday. In a nutshell this deal is about money – big money. Networks like CBS have been trying to gain a larger share of dollars their affiliates receive in payments from cable companies.  Cable companies pay local stations what’s called “retransmission fees” as payment for carrying their stations on cable. Networks want a larger share of those fees.  And some in the TV industry speculate that CBS used Channel 8 as an example to their other affiliates that the network’s share of those payments must increase. channel 8 logoIn practical terms, Channel 8 is not going out of business. Their local personalities, in the short term will remain. CBS programs will continue to be seen on Channel 8 until the end of the year.  But in January,unless Channel 8 can snare a major network’s programming, the station will have to add movies and syndicated shows to fill the timeslots of CBS network programs and CBS News broadcasts. The CW Network programming currently on Channel 4 will move next year onto Channel 4.2 over-the-air, but not at this point on cable. Some of Channel 4’s current programming commitments may also change. indy star logoThe other major Indy media shocker was another reduction in personnel, of journalists, at the Indianapolis Star.  Just seven weeks before the Star moves into new state of the art headquarters in the old Nordstrom store at Circle Centre Mall, the paper’s owner Gannett announced another 15% reduction in newsroom personnel.  In a story in Tuesday’s Indianapolis Star, Vice-President and Editor Jeff Taylor called the changes “The Newsroom of Future”. In the article Taylor said the newspaper would have “expanded investigative reporting”, “expanded reporting on our quality of life and things we do”, the paper would have “expanded business coverage” and have  “expanded digital offerings and engagement in social media”. gannett logoBut in creating the newsroom of the future, the Indianapolis Star is eliminating personnel.  All of the newspaper’s on site copy editors, twelve in all, would lose their jobs as would five photographers, almost half the photography staff of the newspaper. Another eight managers would lose jobs bringing the total laid off to twenty-five.  The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, the paper’s union, says the Star would be adding six reporters, a video editor, and seven positions in what are called “content producers” which really aren’t folks who go out into communities and halls of government and gather the news. On their Facebook page the Guild commented on the Star’s changes. Indianapolis Newspaper Guild Statement: The Indianapolis Star today announced today its “newsroom of the future.” It involves 15% fewer journalists than the newsroom of the present. The copy desk, those folks who make sure stories are readable, who catch a tremendous amount of mistakes and who generally make everything of higher quality, is being “dissolved.” We’re going to lose 5 of 11 photographers and other support staff. Some good middle managers who guide journalists young and old will be out of a job soon, too. What the paper is telling the public is that there will be 6 more reporters. And there will be. With beats like beverages, party crasher and holidays and observances. No, we are not making this up. Welcome to the future. The Indianapolis Star isn’t the only Gannett newspaper making these “Newsroom of the Future” changes which involves layoffs.  Other Gannett newspapers including Cincinnati and Nashville have announced such changes in the past few days. One reason is the continuing decline in ad revenue for Gannett newspapers and the impending spinoff by Gannett of their newspapers into a separate public company.

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