This story appeared on the back page of the “Your Life” section of the Grand Rapids Press. One would think that the announcement of this “news partnership” between two area broadcasters would appear in the regional or business section of the Press, not right above the movie listings. The article reads much like a Media Release, with the announcement of the partnership up front, followed by bullet points for the “viewers and listeners,” and then comments from representatives from both stations.
Phil Tower, former WOOD radio staffer and now program consultant had some interesting things to say in the story. First, he says “it’s a good way to just further enhance each of our respective brands as places to find local news.” So, it’s about branding,not doing better local news. If the stations are “sharing” news resources an expected outcome is using fewer journalists since they will no doubt be streamlining news stories between themsleves. Tower then responds to the issue of whether or not this decision to collaborate has anything to do with recent job cuts at WOOD radio. “Whether it’s radio or television, everybody’s dealing with tightened budgets; that’s a reality of corporate America that’s been around for decades,” Tower said. Unfortunately for readers of the Press there are no other perspectives to question such a comment, but recent broadcast history can certainly tell us something about this move between the two broadcasters.
There is an excellant report done by Cornell University on the downsizing impact of Clear Channel’s radio ownership since the 1996 TeleCom Act was passed. Clear Channel is also on the verge of being bought out, so this could be a move in preparation to possible downsizing under the new owner. WOOD TV is also no stranger to downsizing of their staff. A few years ago the Battle Creek affiliate, WOTV, which had a full staff in Battle Creek was downsized so that what viewers got in Battle Creek is what viewers get in West Michigan. For the Grand Rapids Press to not seek out an independent voice on this issue does a disservice to the community. One could certainly ask the question, “does the partnership between WOOD TV 8 and the GR Press have any bearing on how the Press reports on the business affairs of WOOD radio?”
Two longtime West Michigan news organizations are reuniting after 36 years in an effort to provide news, weather and other coverage.
WOOD-TV (Channel 8) and Clear Channel’s Newsradio WOOD-AM (1300) are sharing resources, effective immediately, in a full-content partnership involving news, weather, sports and traffic.
Representatives of both stations said viewers and listeners will notice:
WOOD-TV reporters giving daily news updates on WOOD-AM.
WOOD-TV being incorporated onto woodradio.com, providing daily news feeds of top headlines as well as Storm Team 8 Doppler radar.
TV8 meteorologists providing expanded weather forecasts for WOOD-AM and all seven local Clear Channel stations.
Kevin Richards reporting real-time traffic conditions on both stations.
“All of our stations will be taking on whatever elements they want to use from WOOD-TV. And WOOD-TV will have access to our news-gathering sources and traffic sources,” said Tim Feagan, vice president and West Michigan marketing manager for Clear Channel.
“From my standpoint, having been in this marketplace before, (I) could never understand why WOOD-TV8 and WOOD radio, especially, didn’t have a full-content partnership. Certainly, we both have resources that the other could use to our advantage … and certainly do not see ourselves necessarily in a competitive battle.”
Grandwood Broadcasting owned the two organizations for 22 years. LIN TV now owns WOOD-TV, WOTV (Channel 4) and WXSP (Channel 15).
Diane Kniowski, president and general manager of WOOD, WOTV and WXSP, said she sees the partnership as a return to roots.
“What (the partnership) provides for us is our information and our message gets out to the public through their distribution,” Kniowski said. “And then what they give us in addition to more ears and listeners and a distribution point for our brand of news is they also give us a partnership for covering stories.”
A change in management helped facilitate the partnership, which had been in discussion for many years, Feagan and Kniowski said.
“The initial reason is Clear Channel has a new chief (Tim Feagan),” Kniowski said. “That’s the new element that opened that door. He’s the one that came to us and said, ‘Let’s do this.’
“I mean, we’ve always had a partnership, (but) it’s never been this expanded.”
Both outlets have been combining for decades due to a shared office or close proximity, said Phil Tower, WOOD-AM’s programming and operating consultant and new general manager of the Atlanta-based Allen Hunt Show.
“What it says about the two entities today, I think they realize that it’s a good way to just further enhance each of our respective brands as places to find local news,” Tower said.
Recent staff reductions at WOOD radio had nothing to do with the partnership, he said.
“Whether it’s radio or television, everybody’s dealing with tightened budgets; that’s a reality of corporate America that’s been around for decades,” Tower said.
Making new appearances — after laying dormant in closets at WOOD radio — is Woody the Woodpecker.
The mascot will frequent parades, but Kniowski said she is unsure if the image will return to letterheads, packaging or other promotions.
“The woodpecker is going to be making appearances everywhere with us to kind of bring the reminiscence of the brand back.”