Book Review: Leading Local Television

Hank Price, well-traveled station general manager, has published Leading Local Television (Beaver's Pond Press, $19.95), his book on the ins and outs of managing a TV station. Price breaks down every aspect of local television, including news and sales, of course, along with network relations, syndication, crisis management and community service.

He describes local TV as “the last form of mass media.”

“If you want to sell cars, create consumer traffic, or get elected to a national office, you pretty much have to advertise on television,” Price writes.

Price retired as WVTM Birmingham president/general manager at the end of 2018. Jordan Wertlieb, president of parent Hearst Television, called him “the quintessential broadcaster” who “represents everything we aspire for a Hearst president and general manager to be.”

Joining Hearst Television in 2000, Price also ran WXII in Winston-Salem/Greensboro. Before coming to Hearst, he ran WBBM Chicago and KARE Minneapolis.

Price notes how television must work harder to connect with younger consumers to retain its relevance. “Ratings and viewer age are the writing on the wall,” said Price. “We either have to find ways to attract younger viewers to a linear experience, or we must change platforms to reflect current viewer preferences.”

Technology is “merely a way to disseminate content,” he said, while the content is the true power of media.

Leading Local Television feels like required reading for any station general manager, or anyone hoping to be one. But Price’s management lessons, offered up in plain-spoken yet lively prose, are of value to anyone who oversees others in the workplace.

Price does an effective job of detailing the stress of working in local television. Like a professional baseball player and his batting average, the ratings show who’s winning and losing every darn day. He offers a compelling look at how and why so much local news looks almost identical to that on a rival station.

The eminently readable book also examines “Boomers and Turnarounds”, or the first-place and last-place stations in a market. “The single most important thing to do when leading a turnaround is to ignore your competitors,” he writes. “Constantly execute your plan without regard to what anyone else does. My position has always been that our station is setting a new market standard, not measuring ourselves by what others do.”

Price is now director of leadership development at the School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi. From 2000 to 2015, he was Senior Fellow/Television at Northwestern’s Media Management Center.

Price writes that there are too many players in the local news game. The ones that seek to survive would be wise to read his book. 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.