Posts Tagged ‘Kurt Schmitz’

A View on How Newspapers and TV Differ on “Bean Counter Cannibalism”

March 30, 2011


My friend of many years, John Cornett, who worked in the newspaper business for a long time and ended up as publisher of two papers before he retired, put his interesting comment about yesterday’s post on Kurt  Schmitz’s departure from WTVM on Facebook. In case you don’t read Facebook, I’m posting it here because it gives an interesting perspective on the differences between TV and newspapers. We really don’t know why Kurt no longer works at WTVM. He says the station said he quit, but he denies that. Station management won’t discuss it publically. That leads to speculation, of which there is a lot on Facebook. John’s is based on his many years of newspaper administration.

  Sounds very much like bean counter cannibalism to me. The television world, as opposed to newspapers, and even radio, is vastly different in that regard. In the visual world, age-maybe a few wrinkles, a little too much paunch, maybe a younger, more twinkly personality(male or female), even ethnic considerations and certainly ratings-come into play. The written world knows none of those boundaries. It’s all based on the quality of the writing and the breadth and depth of knowledge, which is usually associated with education, age and on-the-ground, hard-knock experience. In the visual world, sometimes “Hi, I’m Suzie (or Freddie or Jose)-here’s the weather picture tonight” is all it takes to displace good people that don’t meet ratings(bean counter) standards. 

John Cornett


 I’m sure I’m telling Noah about the flood here, Richard. You’ve experienced, dealt with, and overcome those kinds of mercenary standards to reach prominence, even dominance, with a station that recognized the merits of experience, news savvy and trust-importantly TRUST- which only comes with age, experience and depth of knowledge-over the latest fresh out of J school show horse qualities. 

I suppose, John,  I should point out that I also had very good ratings over the years, and they climbed steadily when I worked at WTVM.  It was interesting that even though I was 55 years old – Kurt is 55 –  when I switched from WRBL to WTVM in 1986,  that the young demographics that advertisers love stayed high, and if I remember correctly, even got better.  A lot of people were surprised when the Ledger-Enquirer took a poll of teenagers on their favorite local TV news anchor and it turned out to be me.  I had one lady write me to request an autographed picture for her two-year-old granddaughter, saying the little girl would tell everyone in the room to be quiet when I came on the screen. Incredible, but true.  

Kurt Says He Was Asked to Leave WTVM

March 29, 2011

When WTVM Chief Meteorologist Kurt Schmitz and I were messaging each other on Facebook, I asked him how things were going at 9.   He explained that he was told to leave WTVM. I told him that nothing surprises me in the world of TV, because, in my opinion, it’s cannibalistic. 

The first time I heard that term used in connection with a work environment was when it was used by the late Jim Woodruff, Jr., who was part owner, president, and general manager of WRBL Radio and TV.  When I told him in 1968 I had accepted a job at WAGA-TV in Atlanta and would be leaving WRBL, he said that I would find it more cannibalistic in Atlanta.  I was flattered that he made an effort to get me to stay at WRBL, but I had already accepted the job so I left, being careful not to burn any bridges with Jim.  I had a good relationship with him, and indeed it turned out that it was a good thing I didn’t burn that bridge, because I came back about five years later as the Vice President of News as well as the evening news anchor.

He was right about Atlanta being more cannibalistic, but I already knew that because I had worked at WSB Radio for four years.  That’s not to say there weren’t really fine people there.  There were, and I had good friends, but I did quickly learn who were the back stabbers and dealt with them accordingly. However, I also found it true to a lesser degree at all the TV stations I worked for.  It just seemed a little more intense in the Atlanta broadcast arena.  The stakes are a lot higher in the really big markets. Of course, the phenomenon isn’t limited to the TV business.  When people are competing for power, status, and recognition, as well as money, it is well known they can play roughly.

That’s not to say anyone is playing roughly in this case, because I really don’t know the details of what is going on with the situation with Kurt, because he is being careful about what he says on advice from counsel, he told me via email. He did tell me this much:

“I reported for work on Friday at my regular time, and after a short meeting I was then asked to leave the station. And after a weekend of uncertainty I found out finally today that my job with the company had been terminated.  I was stunned as this came out of nowhere.”

That’s all he would say, but he added he will have more to say later to stop rumors from flying.

I asked WTVM Vice President and General Manager Lee Brantley about this and he said it is a personnel matter and he cannot comment.


On TV Station Suspensions

January 14, 2009

  If you are looking for drama, look no further than WTVM.  No, not dramatic shows on the air,  but the drama that is going on with established on-air personalities and management.  

 WTVM, as you may know, suspended two of its most popular personalities.   I learned about the suspensions on  Richard Hyatt’s Columbus .   Chuck Leonard, who after almost two months suspension for making what some considered an insensitive racial remark on radio, is now back on the air, and meteorologist Kurt Schmitz,  who just got a five day suspension without pay.  Kurt told me he was suspended  over an interpretation of a contract dispute about his duties.  He didn’t want to say anything else about it, and I can understand that.

All of this reminded me that I had been suspended once in my career, and that I suspended someone myself.  Back in the early 1970’s, I was suspended for a week when working at WIS-TV in Columbia, SC, but because the general manager was not certain I was in the wrong,  it was with pay.  “Why don’t you take a week off and we’ll both think this over?” he said.  “You’ll continue to be paid.”

A lot of people came to my defense, including just about everyone in the newsroom where I was assignment editor.  Though not unionized,  a group of them threatened to strike.  The general manager decided that I could stay, but it was too late. I had used the week off to get another job, and there was no way I would have stayed there after that incident.

The job I got was news director and evening TV news anchor at WRBL Radio and TV.  One of my news personalities,  a man well established in the community,  didn’t show up for a radio newscast he was supposed to do because, as he told me,  he was having a beer at a bar with some buddies.  I wanted to tell him goodbye,  but he had a long association with Jim Woodruff, Jr. , part owner, president and general manager of WRBL Radio and TV.  Woodruff suggested I suspend him for a week without pay.  I said, “He won’t take it. He’ll leave.”  He replied, “Well.”

I was wrong. He didn’t leave, but he was very bitter and tried to undermine my authority, which he did not do, but his actions were a distraction.  So, you can see that I can identify with both sides of the suspension drama.

Few Showed up for a Big International Show

September 22, 2008

  In this world of racial and ethnic strife, one has to support efforts to lessen and even prevent that strife by bringing people of different races and cultures together. That’s why I support One Columbus and that’s why I went down to the Columbus Civic Center to attend the International Festival, which is sponsored by the Mayor’s Commission and Unity and Diversity.

 A lot of different cultures and countries were represented with booths and entertainment groups.

  When I walked in a Japanese contingent was performing a dance. They were giving it their all and I enjoyed it.

Japanese Dancers, Columbus Civic Center

Japanese Dancers, Columbus Civic Center

Japanese Dancers, Columbus Civic Center

Japanese Dancers, Columbus Civic Center

   Afterwards I went over to the Japanese booth and chatted with Kazue Schmitz, who is married to Kurt Schmitz, WTVM weatherman.  She was writing people’s names in Japanese for them to take home as a souvenir.  She was pleased with the idea of diverse people gathering for a festival, but she was disappointed with size of the crowd. She and Mirta Fortin, originally from Guatemala, and now a teacher of Spanish at Columbus High School, who was hosting the Guatemala booth, who agreed with her, said there was just no advance publicity.

Kazue Schmitz, Columbus Civic Center

Kazue Schmitz, Columbus Civic Center

Mita Fortin, Columbus Civic Center

Mita Fortin, Columbus Civic Center

  You can’t expect people to come if they don’t know about it. The person in charge of sending out news releases said she sent them to the newspaper, radio and TV stations, but for some reason they didn’t seem interested. She said some showed to take some pictures at the event. That’s nice, but they could have gotten better crowd shots if they had let people know about it in advance.

Korean Fan Dancers, Columbus Civic Center

Korean Fan Dancers, Columbus Civic Center

    You hate to see people put out a big effort to share their cultural backgrounds with dances and displays and have to play to a lot of empty seats.

   I wouldn’t known about it if One Columbus Executive Director Ken Crooks hadn’t told about it during a speech he made Sunday morning at the Unitarian Fellowship of Columbus. He talked about diversity and unity combining in a community. More on that in a future post. Stay tuned.