WYTV's Trabert Says He's Out;<BR>Merger Takes Jobs of 40 Workers
Dec. 1, 2007 9:18 a.m.
News Analysis By Andrea Wood
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- The general manager of WYTV told employees at a staff meeting Friday that he, too, is leaving the station, effective Dec. 14.
Dave Trabert announced his presumed resignation as he commiserated with workers who learned their jobs are being eliminated effective Dec. 7, the last day WYTV will operate as a stand-alone TV station.
"It's time to go home to my wife in Wichita," he said.
Trabert's family remained in Wichita, where he was general manager of KAKE, before he became general manager of WYTV four years ago. His unenviable task during the last 10 months was maintaining morale at WYTV and controlling the rumor mill -- as the station's 70 employees awaited the consolidation of operations with WKBN/WYFX. Throughout the turbulence, Trabert assured his staff that he had signed a two-year contract in December and would continue to dictate the WYTV's direction, specifically its news branding that focused on inefficiencies in local government and the high cost of bloated public payrolls.
In the end, the bloated payroll structure at WYTV salaries well above what people are paid in comparable positions at WKBN/WYFX and No. 1 rated WFMJ was an irony that contributed to about 40 of WYTV's 70 employees losing their jobs.
Hardest hit are union employees who shoot news videos, man the studio cameras and control rooms, make sure advertising spots are scheduled and broadcast in rotation, and keep the station on the air. In the newsroom, 20 of 28 employees were offered jobs at WKBN/WYFX but not anchors Gina Marinelli and Vince Bevacqua.
In the control room, only a handful of engineers were offered jobs at WKBN, some part-time.
The owner of WYTV, Parkin Holdings of Los Angeles, states in regulatory agency documents that the owner of WKBN/WYFX, New Vision Television LLC of Los Angeles, will be paid $750,000 annually to execute a shared services agreement. That fee, however, was described as an estimate and does not appear to include the cost of providing local news programming.
WYTV's newscasts will retain their current look and separate identity. Newsgathering, however, will be shared with WKBN/WYFX, which will result in greater efficiencies, reduced costs and potentially combined resources and energized determination to slay the market's news giant, WFMJ.
But that won't be the message that WFMJ will send its viewers as it trumpets Channel 21, post-consolidation, as dedicated to the Mahoning Valley, the only locally owned independent source of television news. The competitive pushback is beginning -- in subtle ways -- with news stories about the consolidation reported by WFMJ and The Vindicator, whose owners own WFMJ. Exhibit one: The Vindicator first reported on its front page the pending layoff notices at WYTV (one day after www.business-journal.com, the newspaper showcased a feature on page one of its local section heralding WFMJ's participation a holiday food drive.
Marinelli is said to be campaigning for a job at WFMJ, which still has an open seat on its news anchor desk, and WFMJ is said to be waiting to see if other castoffs might be added to its payroll.
WYTV employees offered jobs at WKBN have until Dec. 4 to accept. Then, on Dec. 7, WKBN employees will learn if they are being retained. Job losses are expected to result at that station as well, and also in the newsroom.
Some of the WYTV employees being retained by WKBN/WYFX say they are "excited" about the merger and the long-term growth opportunities it may bring. Others are approaching the consolidation with trepidation, especially over the notion that some reporters will be expected to shoot and edit video tasks they have never performed.
Training on WKBN's systems has begun, and video boot camps will be held Dec. 8 and 9 when WYTV's weekend newscasts will be replaced with syndicated programming to enable the final relocation of staff and equipment.
Editor's Note: Multiple sources for this story spoke only on the condition they would not be identified.
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