Andrew Vrees: Serving ‘Something Different’

B&C's 2011 Local TV Executives of the Year

Calling WCVB Boston news director
Andrew Vrees a “jack of all trades” would
be an understatement. In his first job—in Fairbanks,
Alaska—Vrees reported, anchored, shot,
edited, directed and produced. Vrees credits the
experience as a big reason for his success. “It
[gave] me a better understanding of the many
roles people play in a news operation,” he says.

Bill Fine, WCVB general manager, describes
Vrees as “collaborative by nature,” but is quick to
point out he “has the leadership skill set to guide
our coverage in the right direction.”

With the New Hampshire primary right
around the corner, Vrees plans to set up shop at
Hearst’s WMUR in Manchester. “We’ll have significant coverage of probably one of the biggest
Senate races in the country,” he says.

“Everyone is going to report the latest
crime, storm, scandal,” adds Vrees, 43. “What
we try to do is offer our audience something
different.” This year, Vrees sent reporter Sean
Kelly to Afghanistan as part
of the station’s Assignment:
series. Kelly spent
time with the Massachusetts
National Guard 1st Battalion
181st Infantry Regiment.

Vrees also moved up the
start time of Eyeopener, the
station’s morning newscast,
to 4:30 a.m. in September.

It’s this commitment to
content that makes WCVB
the go-to for locals. In a poll
conducted by station parent
Hearst, WCVB was the station
most often cited by respondents
when asked “While tracking Hurricane
Irene, where were you getting key or critical
information about the storm or weather?” and
“Which local television station did you watch
most often for Hurricane Irene coverage?”

It should therefore come as no surprise that
WCVB has owned the competition the past two
years; it finished No. 1 in both total viewers
and the key 25-54 demo during the November
sweeps in nearly every news
hour. (WHDH was first at
noon in the demo; WBZ
was first at 7:30 p.m. in
total viewers.)

“We raise the bar high
here; we broke a lot of
news this year,” says
Vrees. “My goal next
year is to break even
more stories.”

Fine has complete
confidence in that. He
says the “ultimate compliment
any manager
can pay an employee
is if they would hire them again if given the
chance. In Andrew’s case, my answer would be
an unqualified ‘Absolutely.’”