Chris Mossman: Irene’s Ground Zero Hero

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

Even more than how they help drive
ratings and revenue, station general managers
are measured by how they react to an
emergency. While Hurricane
Irene wasn’t quite the
monster many anticipated,
coastal Greenville-New
Bern-Washington (N.C.)
took the storm hard on the
chin. And Chris Mossman,
WITN vice president and
general manager, shone
brightest during DMA
No. 99’s darkest moment.

“Of all the folks I’ve
met in the industry, Chris
is willing to go the extra
mile,” says Henry Hinton,
North Carolina Association
of Broadcasters (NCAB) board member and
former president. “He’s one of those people
who really cares about the community, and
what kind of coverage he’s providing.”

Mossman, 47, had an exhaustive disaster plan,
and staffers were at the ready when Irene made
landfall Aug. 27. “Preparation
was very intense,” Mossman
says. “It was, Here it comes,
right at us—let’s go get it.”

WITN was live for 63½
straight hours during the
storm. With electricity
down, the station operated
on generator power
for several days and kept
the community informed
through a
live stream, mobile apps
and on Twitter and Facebook—
nearly doubling
its Facebook fans over the
course of the weekend.

Hinton, president of local radio operator
Inner Banks Media, says WITN’s reporting was
so thorough that he simulcast its feed on his four
FM stations. (Inner Banks and WITN have what
Hinton calls an “arm’s-length partnership.”) “They
had the best coverage going,” says Hinton. “We
knew we couldn’t outdo what they were doing.”

Robert Prather, president of WITN parent
Gray Television, saluted the station after the
skies cleared. “This kind of coverage of natural
disasters is what keeps our stations first in the
hearts and minds of our communities,” he said
in a memo. Mossman, also NCAB’s vice president
of television, credits his team, including
news director Stephanie Shoop, and his fellow
local broadcasters, for their dedication.

When it was over, Mossman promptly
spearheaded a telethon, teaming with Inner
Banks and the American Red Cross to raise
$322,000 for those affected by the storm.

He’s no slouch in the ratings/revenue departments
either. NBC’s primetime is a drag, but
WITN nonetheless claimed 35% of the market’s
revenue in the third quarter, according to Miller
Kaplan, which is best in Greenville and up from
31.5% last year. Mossman cites a 52-week promotables
strategy for driving viewers to WITN.
“We take what NBC gives us,” he says, “and play
to our strengths.”

Michael Malone

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.