Emily Barr, the longtime president and general manager of WLS Chicago, has left the ABC-owned group to take over Post-Newsweek. She starts in July, learning from current Post- Newsweek president/CEO Alan Frank, who will retire at year-end.
Frank, who turns 68 next month, is an iconic figure in American broadcasting. He was B&C’s Broadcaster of the Year in 2005, will be inducted into the magazine’s Hall of Fame later this year and was awarded the prestigious Golden Mike by the Broadcasters Foundation of America in 2011.
“Alan Frank has been a key contributor to the company for more than 30 years and a brilliant head of Post-Newsweek Stations,” said Donald E. Graham, chairman and CEO of parent Washington Post Co.
Frank is a figure of towering influence when it comes to broadcasting issues in Washington. Gordon Smith, president and CEO of NAB, called him “one of broadcasting’s great ambassadors.”
Frank would not elaborate on what life after Post-Newsweek holds. “I have a lot of thoughts about things I’d like to do going forward, but really won’t start getting into it until I’ve handed things over to Emily,” Frank said via email. “I will stay in Detroit. We have many friends and do love living there.”
Barr has run WLS, a monster in DMA No. 3, since 1997. She also created Live Well Network, a 24/7 national digital network.
“She’s been an outstanding manager in one of the greatest companies in the industry, and a force for innovation everywhere she’s been,” said Graham.
Barr, 54, signed off from ABC late last week. She will remain in Chicago. While Barr says it’s way too early to discuss her strategy for Post-Newsweek, she will travel the country, visiting the group’s six markets and getting a feel for how the stations operate. The stations are WDIV Detroit, WJXT Jacksonville, WPLG Miami, KPRC Houston, WKMG Orlando and KSAT San Antonio.
As a newcomer to the Post- Newsweek group, Barr will also work to develop trust with her new charges. “These are real strong television stations that know how to serve their local communities— I’ll learn from them what they do,” Barr says. “It’s a strong group of general managers running some strong stations. I look forward to learning from them.”
The ABC-owned television stations have become a prime pipeline for station group chiefs, with Rebecca Campbell (ABC), Valari Staab (NBC) and now Barr elevated to group president roles in recent years. Barr has been sought after as a group leader for years.
She admits to some bittersweet feelings about departing ABC. “I am really, really honored to have been here as long as I have been,” Barr says. “I can’t say enough good about this company. It’s a great place to work and a great place to learn.”
Barr knows she is following a tough act in Frank. “I look forward to stepping in and working with Alan,” she says, “and filling part of those big shoes.”
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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.