Bad day in the life of a classy TV news director

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A new TV station general manager comes to town and the station’s old news director is asked to leave.

And so it goes in the brief life (or lives) of a TV news director.

WCCO-TV, Minneapolis, news director Scott Libin, whom I’ve always considered one of the most thoughtful, classy guys in TV news, was let go yesterday. It happened – he told a newspaper reporter – on the same day he was headed to the dentist for possible root canal surgery. “I’ve had better days,” he told the reporter.

IMG_20231.jpg I wrote to Libin today saying I was so sorry – for the dental problem, that is. I wrote that I’m not sure TV news deserves him any more. He was in this position less than 3 years.

He’s the kind of guy who always had an open mind to my criticisms of TV news in general and even of his own station’s reporting. For example, I wrote him last week after posting about his station’s “poor reporting of mammography recommendations.”

He responded quickly, writing “I reviewed the piece as promised, Gary, and I get what you’re saying.” After I wrote to him today he brought up that incident again: “By the way, I did follow up on that mammogram story and had a good conversation — maybe even a teachable moment or two — with the manager who oversaw it. I think your point was valid. Thanks for the tough love.”

That kind of class will be missed. He’s just lost his job and he’s thanking for me for my criticism of a story a week ago.

Meantime, on the TV news health beat, I recently heard from a local TV news medical reporter at a top-market station that management had criticized a recent back pain story the reporter had done. The news director chastised the reporter for showing only two elderly people in the story, issuing an important reminder that the station and the reporter should strive to show patients who are in the station’s target demographic group – people ages 35- 54.

Gag me.

And that’s not an isolated example. I’ve heard similar stories from TV reporters in other markets.

So, seniors, don’t look to TV health news to learn about the health concerns of your “demographic.” But I wouldn’t advise that anyone else – of any demographic – do so, either.

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Gerri Shaftel Constant

October 12, 2010 at 11:54 am

I once got called on the carpet for using grey haired people in a story about anti-aging hormones. This was more than 10 years ago. Producers of JAMA’s and other VNRs might want to keep this in mind if they want to get increased play of their weekly feeds.