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Cuts, Overhaul Coming to WRC

Leading WRC Washington is set to make some deep staff cuts, reports the Washington Post. The layoffs at the NBC O&O will mostly involve writers, editors and technicians as the station shifts to the controversial “content center” model.

Writes Paul Farhi:

WRC, under budget-cutting orders from its parent company, NBC Universal, is reshaping its news-gathering operations in a way that blends several jobs into one and erases the distinctions among some job categories for the first time.

In its new operation, dubbed a “content center,” writers will edit news footage for the first time, and editors will also write news copy. Under the new system, some 30 or so “content producers” will produce news that appears on all of the station’s “platforms” — its TV broadcasts and Web site, or via mobile devices and other venues, such as stadium scoreboards and TVs at gas-station pumps.

Writing and editing were formerly separate jobs, but WRC’s new contract with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists permits the station to merge them. AFTRA is the union that represents WRC’s writers and producers.

WRC President and General Manager Michael Jack acknowledged that the reorganization would lead to some reduction in the station’s newsroom, but declined to offer specifics. He disputed comments by several employees who said the newsroom would shrink by about 30 percent once a complicated series of layoffs, buyouts, early retirements and reassignments is completed over the next few months.

Jack said he didn’t expect viewers to notice any difference, but longtime anchor Joe Krebs has his doubts.

“The bottom line is, fewer people are going to be doing more work for less money. I’m concerned for the quality of what we produce. When you have people doing more things for more platforms, and you have greater time constraints and workloads, the question is: How do you do as good a job as you did in the past? That remains to be seen.”

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.