Local TV Awards: Chad Matthews Keeps WABC on Top in Largest Market
Kept ABC’s New York station humming, and staffers safe, during a challenging news year
Chad Matthews moved into the top job at WABC New York in February, and has made his mark. He knew the station well, starting there in 2000, departing in 2012 and coming back as news director in 2017.
WABC is a beast, and Matthews has inspired his staff to stay in beast mode. He’s pushed the newsroom to deliver standout reporting the competition does not have. He modernized operations and got WABC humming on digital.
In October, WABC’s Eyewitness News picked up 17 New York Emmys, including trophies for Overall Excellence and News Excellence.
Also: Start Spreading the News, and There's Lots of It
“Chad is an exceptional talent who has long distinguished himself for his forward-thinking approach to content creation, modernization and operational excellence,” Debra OConnell, former WABC general manager and now president of networks for Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, said.
Local TV Awards: Celebrating 2021’s Station Standouts
Broadcaster of the Year: Diane Kniowski, Chief Local Media Officer, Univision Communications
Station Group of the Year: E.W. Scripps
GM of the Year, Markets 21-50: Collin Gaston, WBRC Birmingham, Alabama
GM of the Year, Markets 51-Plus: Bruce Cummings, KIII Corpus Christi, Texas
Multiplatform Broadcaster of the Year: NBCUniversal Local
News Director of the Year: Allison McGinley, WKMG Orlando
Local TV Anchor of the Year: Robert Hadlock, KXAN Austin
Meteorologist of the Year: Tom Messner, WPTZ Burlington
WABC has covered the city that never sleeps while its GM hustles to keep ABC7 staffers safe amidst COVID. “These were truly unprecedented times,” said OConnell of the pandemic’s early days, “and he absolutely rose to the challenge in every way.”
Crime stories and fires don’t get a lot of airtime on ABC7 unless they touch on a greater public safety issue. “We had already made the shift to producing more impactful content before the pandemic,” Matthews said. “When we were responsible for providing life and death information as the country’s first epicenter, it solidified our decision to make even more.”
WABC has a data journalism team and a race and culture reporter. Both contributed to the ABC group project Our America, which included a study on racial equity in the major U.S. cities, including New York.
In June, WABC produced an eight-candidate mayoral debate, which shifted from virtual to in person a week before the event. In the fall, reporters did a deep dive on New York Police Department officer disciplinary records dating back a couple of decades, and revealed that the vast majority of complaints don’t lead to disciplinary action. “We always look to add that data piece and put stories in context,” Matthews said.
For the 20th anniversary of September 11, WABC produced the 53-minute documentary Eyewitness to 9/11: Behind the Lens. That can be streamed on Hulu. “It’s great for the people who produce content, to see their amazing work end up on a national streaming service,” Matthews said.
Matthews encourages WABC staffers to take the fight to the competition every day by doing a superior job of serving viewers. “I tell them it’s a fight to stay No. 1,” he said. “They do that every day by covering the right stories, going for exclusive angles, and serving our diverse communities.”
Standout department heads at WABC have made Matthews’s transition to GM mostly seamless, he said. “Because I’m surrounded by incredible leaders, I can’t say that’s a heavy lift,” he said. “I’ve always been fascinated by the opportunity to learn more and continue to gain more experience.”
OConnell said WABC has the right person in charge. “Chad has a true passion and exuberance for creating high-quality, impactful and essential programming,” she said. “Most importantly, he is the ultimate collaborator who understands how to instill, grow and nurture that enthusiasm within his team.” ■
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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.