By now you have likely heard about the upcoming WKMG Newsroom Summit — the station’s mandatory all-day meeting on Saturday, April 17, to discuss “what makes bad TV news,” and who are the “battery chargers” and “battery drainers” at Local 6.
One person who emailed me about the meeting had this to say about the plan: “In a stunning move to further demoralize a ratings challenged and overworked staff, the news director at WKMG has decided that rather than evaluate employees himself, he’s asking newsroom employees to do it for him! That’s right, he’s ordering everyone in the newsroom to submit a list of the three employees they hate the most, and put their selections in a ballot box in his office. The newsroom secretary will check off the names of employees to make sure they comply with the order. Also, in what WKMG staffers are calling a newsroom “concentration camp” (the station is locking employees in a studio), employees will be expected to openly criticize the company’s product in front of station management. Pitting co-workers against each other with a popularity poll!”
But it’s not just folks at WKMG who are taking notice of this unusual newsroom retreat. The “memo” sent by news director Steve Hyvonen has gained national attention on some Web sites. Among them:
Maybe I’ve been drinking too much corporate Kool-Aid recently, but here are a few thoughts. Does the memo sound ominous? Sure, it could be taken that way. Is it meant to be ominous? I doubt it.
Face it, WKMG ratings have fallen dramatically. It’s Web traffic is dropping too. The station needs to do something, right? This daylong meeting to talk about the future of TV news and the culture of Local 6 might be a step in the right direction. All journalists (me included) are notoriously skeptical about anything involving team building or culture-changing. Most journalists are creatures of habit — they don’t like change. But change is what WKMG needs. Local 6 is already close to dead last — what does it have to lose by trying something different?
Sure, there’s a chance the “newsroom summit” could be nothing but B.S., but it could also be the thing that changes Local 6 from als0-ran into a contender again. Stay tuned. I’m sure we’ll hear about what happens.