SYRACUSE — Sadly, the rumors we reported earlier have become true: Syracuse’s first TV station has sent 40+ staffers packing, and the news operations have been “gutted” to a barebones crew. (Updated at 6:25pm)
According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, WTVH — originally known as WHEN when it signed on in 1948 (and later WHEN-TV when Meredith acquired WAGE and renamed it to WHEN) — told staff members this morning that it is joining forces with WSTM-TV (Channel 3). As a result, most WTVH employees were laid off, with only a small “transition team” keeping their jobs.
There’s no word yet on who exactly is on this “transition team” or how long it will last. The paper says “it’s expected there will be a newscast tonight,” but nothing about the long-term plans for WTVH’s news department.
The newspaper lists a number of contributing factors in WTVH’s slide from first-place to dead last in the local TV news battle. The station boasted incredible ratings numbers in the 1980s, but has consistently ranked third behind WSTM and WSYR-TV (Channel 9) for the past several years. Some shows even reportedly posted a zero rating.
Former WTVH morning anchor Keith Kobland is also a DJ at Sunny 102 (WZUN). Former Chief Meteorologist Tom Hauf provides forecasts for Movin 100.3/96.5.
Update 6:25pm: Sampling WTVH’s 6pm newscast tonight, the only “native” WTVH personalities we’ve spotted were anchor Michael Benny and reporter Haley Hinds. Weather was done by WSTM’s Wayne Mahar, and WTVH aired a report by WSTM’s Lisa Spitz.
WTVH’s 6pm newscast also featured a pre-recorded interview shot on WSTM’s set with channel 3 anchors Matt Mulcahy and Jackie Robinson, with Barrington Broadcasting GM Chris Geiger, who will now also be overseeing WTVH. Geiger said the combined stations would offer local newscasts in timeslots where they currently do not exist (we’re guessing 4 and/or 7pm), along with expanded offerings in existing timeslots, though no specific examples were given.
The weather and sports segments appeared to be pre-taped, as evidenced by the lack of “banter” between Benny and the WSTM personalities.
- Press release on WSTM’s website, cnycentral.com
- Press release on WTVH’s website, wtvh.com
- Rod Wood, formerly of WHEN-AM/TV, posts his thoughts at 9wsyr.com
- Report filed today by the Utica Observer-Dispatch
- YouTube: WTVH’s 50th Anniversary in 1998, where the late Ron Curtis closes saying, “but one thing will never change: our commitment to you.”
Notable WTVH Alumni (from Wikipedia):
- Al Roker, weather and feature reporter for NBC‘s The Today Show, was weekend weatherman at the station from 1974-1976, while attending the State University of New York at Oswego.
- Mike Tirico, ESPN and ABC Sports play-by-play announcer; ESPN Monday Night Football play-by-play announcer starting in 2006. Was the sports director at WTVH in the late 1980s.
- David Muir, now of ABC News, anchored at the station in the mid-late 1990s.
- Steve Cyphers, reporter with ESPN, was Sports Director in the late 1980s.
Although CNYRadio.com usually leaves the TV biz to our friends at CNY TV News, we felt this was too big a story to ignore. We sympathize with those at WTVH who lost their jobs today, and we know it’s easier said than done, but we wish you all the best in finding new employment.