WUSA-TV extends record — for highest turnover!

Gannett’s flagship TV station abruptly appointed yet another news director last week — the latest in a string of six general managers and eight news directors since 1996 at the CBS affiliate, a reader tells me. “I suspect that is the national record,” the reader says.

In a memo on Thursday, General Manager Allan Horlick told staff: “It is with great pleasure that I would like to announce that Lane Michaelsen has joined WUSA-TV as vice president/Information Center. Lane’s journalistic credentials and successful career track record speak for themselves, and I know you will all join me in welcoming Lane to his new position.”

In fact, Michaelsen’s credentials don’t speak for themselves, given his predecessor’s mysterious exit, my reader says: “Big questions surround the overnight departure of Mike Ward last Monday. Ward reportedly quarreled with General Manager Allan Horlick over a restructuring of the newsroom that included the firing of an anchor as well as other changes.”

My reader’s note continues: “Lane has served as a Gannett news director in the past. Credited with improving ratings at both Little Rock and Tampa. Though in both cases cutbacks at other stations as well as new and successful syndicated shows (one that replaced a newscast in Tampa) must be taken into account. Most recently, it was Michaelson who traveled the country instructing newspaper reporters in the art of videography. He is a proponent of ‘one-man-band’ journalism, where one person does it all.

“Since almost every move at WUSA and every manager at WUSA has been continually second-guessed by those in McLean, Va., it makes sense that the second-guessers are now running the place. Michaelson insisted the decision to take the quickly vacated WUSA job was his alone. Most guess it was part of a corporate downsize and that Ward was the odd man out.”

D.C., Tampa, Little Rock staffers: What more do you know? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: recent screenshot of WUSA’s homepage]

5 Responses to “WUSA-TV extends record — for highest turnover!”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    “And newsroom colleagues will join too in a loud hurrah for the two winners of the Corporate Staffer of the Year award, none other than Lane Michaelsen and Harvey Mars of the Broadcast Division. Those two have been outstanding in bringing video training to Gannett newspaper newsroom staffers — to the point that we now have more than 350 news staffers and 31 advertising staffers trained in the U.S., and 117 trained among our colleagues at Newsquest in the United Kingdom.

    In speaking of their work, presenter Sue Clark-Johnson, Newspaper Division president, said: “In no fewer than 15 separate nominations from people in the Newspaper Division, Lane and Harvey were described as committed, tireless, outstanding, engaging, patient, inspiring, incredible, empowering. They crossed division lines and …transformed the way things are done in the Newspaper Division.”

    The Lane and Harvey team has brought great enthusiasm and fantastic teaching to staffers from 69 Gannett U.S. newsrooms and 19 Newsquest daily newspapers. Both winners expressed their pleasure in working with the newspaper staffers. “We love newspaper people,” Harvey said in a video interview prior to accepting the award. Added Lane: “It’s instant gratification (after a week’s training). On Friday, you get to see this finished (video) story that (the newspaper) can post on the Web site.”

    The two also were quick to praise our colleague, News Systems Editor Anne Saul, for all of her work on the training, too. Indeed, Anne’s efforts have been outstanding along with those two Broadcast guys. Cheers again to all.”

    From Phil Currie & NewsWatch, March 2007

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I meant to add a comment to the above quote. I went through the Lane and Harvey show, teaching video skills to a die-hard print person. In a week we went from where is the power button to acceptable (if not great) video shooters and editors.

    Not that a week is any length of time to judge, but Lane seemed a decent guy, willing to help and able to teach folks that didn’t always want to learn.

    (Anne Saul never gets enough credit – so if you’re reading this, THANKS, ANNE!)

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I also did the training with Lane. He was calm and patient despite a crazy one-week schedule. A good teacher.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Lane Michaelsen is moving from the corporate staff in McLean to take over the job of news director at Gannett’s flagship WUSA-TV in Washington, DC.

    You can be sure Lane is at WUSA with a big gun to his head. His opening remarks to the staff remind me of a video of an American hostage forced to make a statement by Al Qaeda. No one in their right mind would want this gig—especially someone from inside the company who knows how tough of a job it will be.

    Lane is a good news guy, a fair but tough manager. Worked his way up through the Gannett ranks from news photographer… to News Director (Little Rock, AR and Tampam FL) to a Gannett corporate position. In Tampa he cleared out a lot of deadwood in the newsroom. At WUSA, he’ll be taking on some real sequoias. For the past couple of years he has spent most of his time traveling around the U.S. and the U.K. teaching Gannett newspaper folks how to shoot video for their websites.

    In all likelihood, Lane was told his position at corporate was being eliminated. He had to take the WUSA news director’s job. If he succeeds where many others have failed, Gannett will erect a statue of him and make his birthday a company holiday. If he fails, he’ll be a small market GM at a Gannett station in about two years.

    It will be interesting. For years, Gannett corporate execs have looked down from their tower in McLean and second guessed every move by WUSA management and with condescending smugness bragged amongst themselves about what they think should be done to “fix” Channel 9. That’s always been rather ironic since one of the key players at Gannett had his own shot as Channel 9’s news director years ago (around the time most things started going real bad).

    Now with Lane reporting to work on Wisconsin Avenue, Gannett is sending one of its best to Broadcast House. If he doesn’t succeed, then from Craig Dubow (who used to run all of GCI’s TV stations) down through all the managers in the Broadcast Department, there is no one else to blame for Channel 9’s problems.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I too have to say that Lane was excellent as a video teacher.

    Unfortunately, the whole video program had a basic flaw. Lance and company came in and taught newspaper people how to shoot television-style features. While that’s interesting, it’s not the sort of thing that draws massive hits on the Web.

    Truth told, raw footage of a breaking news event can draw more online viewers than a fully produced feature, but this was never really discussed. Also, most newsrooms were forced to buy far more advanced equipment than is needed for basic online videos.

    It’s nice to know how to use that equipment to be sure. Might even help someone land his/her next job. But it’s overkill for the sort of things that really do well on the Web.

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