Station Layoffs Continue Apace

Back in the spring, I was starting to hear rumblings that perhaps this recession was lifting a little. Now, I think that was just desperately wishful thinking. Here in summer’s dog days, I think everyone realizes that we’re going to have to wait for 2009 to finally come to a close before we’ll be able to think about emerging from this difficult economy.

That goes double for station groups, who continue to layoff and furlough employees at such a ferocious pace I wonder how there’s anyone left working at a TV station. That dynamic is especially bad for TV station groups that own newspapers.

Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Gannett will lay off between 1,000 and 2,000 people out of its 41,500-person work force. Those layoffs will come from the company’s 80 daily newspapers, and not from its flagship paper, USA Today. The Journal also didn’t mention any layoffs at Gannett-owned TV stations. This news comes on the heels of last year’s layoffs, when the company cut 10% of its workforce, and this year’s forced unpaid furloughs in the first and second quarters.

Gannett certainly isn’t the only media company to still be in cost-cutting mode.

Freedom Broadcasting today said it would cut 5% of its workforce. Like Gannett, in March the company required employees to take a week of unpaid leave.

Individual stations also are still actively releasing news talent, cutting news casts and laying off workers.

Yesterday, NBC Universal-owned WTVJ Miami cut three anchors to cut costs. It also laid off five other employees and put its weekend morning newscast on “indefinite hiatus.”

On Monday, LIN-owned WIVB Buffalo, the market’s top news stations, let go weekend meteorologist Mary Beth Wrobel and reporter Rob Macko.

And over the weekend, word leaked that two anchors – Bob Calloway and Volanda Calloway — would be leaving Capitol’s flagship, WRAL Raleigh. Capitol plans to cut costs by 15% over the next few months.

Next time I hear that the sun is coming out again for TV stations, I’m going to check the employee rosters before I get my hopes up.

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.