While KXAN-TV (NBC) is winning in the ratings, their newsroom staff is getting smaller and smaller and it’s beginning to show on the air.
Last Friday, evening (April 6) Sports anchor Brian Sanders co-anchored the news with Leslie Rhode and returned to handle the sports. Saturday, (April 7) found “hard news” reporter Chris Sadeghi anchoring sports. Why? Sanders was anchoring the morning news. The winner of the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters “Best Reporter” award, Josh Hinkle, anchored Sunday (April 8) instead of David Scott. Sadeghi came in as a reporter. He usually works weekdays.
It may have been a holiday schedule, but staffing options are fewer and fewer.
For months, weekend meteorologist Natalie Stoll has been working the morning broadcast after the station let go 16-year KXAN morning fixture Shawn Rutherford. I’m told that she’s dying to return to her previous shift.
Further, where are the reporters, the heart of the newsroom, providing the day-to-day content? Go on the staff page of www.kxan.com and you see that there are several faces missing.
Newsroom morale began to slip with the sudden disappearance of weekend morning anchor and gifted reporter Catenya McHenry. True, McHenry was making personal plans, but she wasn’t planning to leave so soon.
Then, Rutherford was shown the door. The mood of the room dipped again.
Reagan Hacklemann and Dustin Blanchard are no longer on the personnel page. Recently, high-profile reporter Doug Shupe went on vacation and never came back after reportedly accepting a public relations position. A little over a week ago, Jarrod Wise submitted his resignation. He’s still on the site, but will be leaving “the business,” sources say.
Reporter Jacqueline Ingles is the latest pending departure. She turned in her resignation Friday, April 13th.
The sports department is down one since Leila Rahimi landed a new job with Fox Sports in San Diego. Word is that Brian Sanders wants to move from sports to news. He’s made a bid to be the weekend morning show anchor, and it was Sanders reporting from the recent rash of tornados in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Others on and off-the-air are said to be looking.
True, the station still has some strong staff members, including political reporter Hinkle. Sadeghi is solid as are anchors Shannon Wolfson and David Scott. Erin Cargile continues growing having started as the Hill Country reporter, an apparent opening now as Jacqueline Ingles is leaving. Of course, veteran Jim Swift can cover any story if needed; he’s not just for features.
The KXAN web site lists only two newsroom positions, but depending on how and whether management chooses to fill the holes, there may be as many as eight. Also, there may have been some hires, but the station seldom comments on personnel matters. As for new faces, Amanda Dugan, last year's CW Star, has taken over morning traffic duties, and Omar Lewis recently joined the reporting staff.
Until now, the personnel shortage has been covered up well by resourceful producers and photographers behind the scenes, but when shifts are covered by staff not normally seen, it becomes obvious that something is going on in the newsroom.
In all fairness there are many new people reporting at all of the Austin stations.
KVUE-TV (ABC ) lists three news openings on its site with five or six rather recent new reporters on the air. One of them, Andrew Horansky who has been with the Belo station since 2010, is moving to another Belo station, KHOU in Houston, to be closer to his fiance. His last day is April 23.
KEYE-TV (CBS) just hired staff for its new morning show, and they’re looking for a couple more, plus a weekend meteorologist. Fred Cantu is now listed as a reporter. He and Lisa Leigh Kelly are the most recognizable names on the staff. KTBC-TV (Fox) is looking for three or four news staffers too. Noelle Newton made a move to KTBC from KVUE earlier this year. Except for a few anchors, there seems to be constant turnover at YNN (formerly News 8).
It wasn’t very long ago that Austin, the 47th ranked market was what I called a “destination market”, a place where broadcast journalists came and stayed for years. Austin, you know, is a magnet. Now, it seems the stations are just stepping stones.
© Jim McNabb, 2012