B+C Station Awards: Rocky Daboval Builds Lasting Legacy in Baton Rouge

Rocky Daboval of WBRZ Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Rocky Daboval (Image credit: WBRZ)

Rocky Daboval is GM of the year for markets 51-plus, but this is more of a Lifetime Achievement award for the legendary executive. He is retiring in early 2023 after more than 40 years with WBRZ in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, DMA No. 94. 

It all started for the New Orleans native in 1979 in the sales department. “I learned a lot of things that I attribute to my success as a GM, and even a person,” Daboval said. 

Top of the list: forging relationships and making sure everyone is happy. Whether he’s negotiating retransmission deals or communicating with his employees, Daboval is all about fairness. “That’s what I live by in any arrangement,” Daboval said. 

He was promoted to general manager 18 years ago. Months after he settled into his new office, Hurricane Katrina happened. 

“I believe that for four weeks we housed over 40 people at WBRZ while we went 24/7 through Katrina and the rebuilding,” he recalled. “That probably was the most difficult, challenging time.” 

For Katrina and other major storms, Daboval led by example, sleeping at the station in solidarity with his staffers. “I figured my news people were there, I should be there,” he said. 

WBRZ’s live coverage of Katrina is one of the proudest times of his career. 

Owned by the Manship family, the ABC station has expanded news, and launched a 24-hour streaming service, WBRZ Plus. Daboval has spent this year restructuring engineering and in-house production and designing a roving production suite to shoot on location. 

Counting down his final days, Daboval fondly recalls how young talent has used the Baton Rouge station as a stepping stone, such as reporter Reggie Chatman moving on to WXIA Atlanta. “Many people who have worked for me have gone on to pursue their dreams and reach their dreams,” he said. “That’s really gratifying.”

Trey Schmaltz will take over as WBRZ GM early next year. “I’m ecstatic that I get to learn from him over the next few months as we transition our executive leadership,” Schmaltz said. 

Daboval will stay in Baton Rouge. “I’ve had many opportunities to go places, but my goal has never been looking for a higher position or prestige,” he said. “WBRZ provided me with the opportunity that I could help people, hire people, watch people grow and try new and different things.” ▪️

Jerry Barmash

Along with his freelance work for B+C Multichannel News, Jerry has been writing about the media for more than a decade. His articles have been featured in the New York Daily NewsWatercoolerHQ and Barrett News Media. Jerry spent many years on the other side of broadcasting with various on-air gigs in New York and nationally. He is a full-time editor for Patch.com.