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The Extreme Makeover of Ch. 4 Is a Bad Dream

Remember when being a TV anchor or reporter used to be considered a dream job?

Those days appear to be long gone in Western New York.

Don Postles: A Survivor

In the last few months, two Channel 4 anchors have decided to leave the station to take what they have called their “dream jobs” outside of TV.

First, Channel 4 Sports Director John Murphy finally confirmed the worst-kept secret in Western New York by saying he would leave the station in late July to take his “dream job” with the Buffalo Bills and do a radio show, some features for the team’s website and some other duties with the National Football League team.

On Monday, Channel 4 morning anchor Victoria Hong confirmed to stilltalkintv that she was joining Murphy out the door to take a “dream job” as director of communications with Delaware North.

Murphy and Hong will be the latest Channel 4 employees to leave TV and not look back.

I’m a pack rat so I know exactly how many anchors and reporters have left the station in the last 3 and a half years.

I’m moving in a few weeks. In the course of emptying out my office of tons of paper, I’ve found a lot of things that most normal people wouldn’t have kept around. More on that in a later blog.

One of the things I found was a sheet dated Jan. 26, 2009 with a list of Channel 4 on-air personalities. The sheet had pictures of 25 men and women back then. Guess how many will be left at the station after Murphy and Hong leave?

I’ll give you one paragraph to guess. In the meantime, I’ll give the variety of reasons that Channel 4 staffers have left. Some like Murphy and Hong left for their dream job. Others left for lifestyles issues like taking care of their children, having regular hours or getting more sleep. Some left because they got jobs in bigger cities. A few didn’t have their contracts renewed. Some left for jobs that paid them more money. Some just got tired of working in an industry where the wages are declining, the work is increasing and the stress is off the charts.

OK. Are you ready for the answer?

Of the 25 people on the sheet, 10 remain at Channel 4, a station that until  few years ago was known for its stability. That means there has been a 60 percent turnover in about three and a half years.

The list of former anchors out the door or about to be out the door include Murphy, Hong and former anchors Lisa Flynn, Mylous Hairston and Michele McClintick.

The list of reporters who have left include Lorey Schultz, Tricia Cruz, Jericka Duncan, Melissa Holmes, Rob Macko and Alysha Palumbo. Two of the four members of the weather team back then – Mary Beth Wrobel and Lindsay Schwarzwaelder — have left. When Murphy leaves, the entire sports department in 2009 will have gone – Murphy, Paul Peck and Robin Adams.

Who is left, you ask?

Most of them are veterans trying to survive in a business that isn’t always kind to even talented and respected people as they get into their 50s and 60s because they generally have higher salaries. Those salaries have declined in recent years, but they still are healthy by Buffalo standards.

The list of 10 Channel 4 survivors include main anchors Don Postles, Jacquie Walker and meteorologist Don Paul, veteran reporters Rich Newberg, Al Vaughters , Luke Moretti and George Richert, veteran weather backup Mike Cejka, health reporter Dr. Peter Ostrow (who presumably is a part-timer) and Joe Arena, who joined Channel 4 a few months before the date of my list and is a relative youngster by comparison to the rest on the list.

Most of the first 10 personalities that are listed on Channel 4’s website today aren’t exactly households names yet in WNY – Steve Vesey, Brittni Smallwood, Emily Guggenmos, Lou Raguse, Diana Fairbanks, Ed Drantch, Bryan Shaw, Rachel Kingston, Anthony Congi and Nalina Shapiro.

Right now, being in TV may be their dream job. It certainly better be their passion because the TV news industry clearly isn’t what it used to be.


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2 responses to "The Extreme Makeover of Ch. 4 Is a Bad Dream"

  1. Lou McNally says:

    Hey there, Alan,

    Glad to see you’re still kicking…

    Just blowing through some boxes in the garage myself… How about checking your listing for 1982?

    Still doing the weather thing… Lou

  2. News guy says:

    I often bash Channel 4, because I think the station’s news product typifies everything that is wrong with local TV news. Focused on ratings and profit, their news management turns to lowest-common-denominator content – crimes, courts, and car wrecks, along with occasional gotcha stories, patently shallow “investigative” stories, and hot-topic “news” stories like bullying. Nothing really new, nothing political, nothing truly substantial, nothing seriously investigative, very little for the greater public good.

    But as a former reporter who’s worked in a number of markets, including Buffalo, it’s by no means just Channel 4. You’re right to say, “the TV news industry clearly isn’t what it used to be.” So many good reporters are simply getting out because it’s not worth it. It’s not worth the stress, low pay, long hours, failing equipment, and newsroom politics, while quality and sometimes ethical standards are sacrificed at the altar of corporate profit. A 30-year veteran news anchor left the last station I worked at because he just wasn’t happy doing it, even though management begged him to stay and offered him anything he wanted. It’s not every station, but many of them – two out of three in Buffalo alone.

    It’s sad, but it’s the state of local TV news these days. I almost can’t stand to watch it any longer. I’m not sure what the solution is, if there is one at all.

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