Mark Effron Exits WPIX; Who’s Next as News Director?

PIX11_LogoThe winds of change are blowing through WPIX. News director Mark Effron was scheduled to leave the station October 31. But insiders say he officially exited Friday. We’re told Effron was primarily a figurehead since management made the decision to let him go, something Tuned In first told you last month.

The plan on paper was to have the new news director in place for a few weeks before Effron left. With his early, albeit, not surprising departure, station brass are forced to expedite their search.

We’re told two big name television programmers were approached to succeed Effron. But they balked. Kenny Plotnik, the longtime Channel 7 news director, ultimately ended his courtship by taking a VP role at New England Cable News in September.

More recently, Dianne Doctor‘s name surfaced as a possible replacement. Doctor is VP of the mythological newsroom at Fox’s WWOR. Insiders tell Tuned In that she also declined the offer.

Speaking of Fox, Emad Asghar is the WNYW assistant news director with ties to PIX. He was another person that was interviewed for the opening, and he was another individual who said no.

While the station has received dozens of resumes, it appears to be a two-horse race.

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Fond Memories of Veteran Radio Programmer, Kevin Metheny, But Not for Howard Stern

methenyTo millions of Howard Stern fans, Kevin Metheny will forever be ”Pig Vomit,” his character
in the 1997 autobiographical film Private Parts, played by Paul Giamatti. (Stern called him “Pig Virus” in real life.)

While Metheny never worked in New York City after being fired from WNBC, he did build a deep resume as a go-to radio programmer in numerous markets.

Metheny died Friday night of a heart attack while on the job as operations manager at Cumulus’ KGO and KSFO in San Francisco.

Stern this week referred to his former boss as a “Nazi vampire.” Although he was sad to learn of Metheny’s death and that he leaves behind two daughters, Stern is not sure he “ever fully recovered” from the way Metheny ran WNBC.

Stern was hired as afternoon personality in 1982. Private Parts documents Stern’s journey to becoming New York’s top rated DJ.

In 2012, marking the 30th anniversary of Stern’s arrival, Metheny told me that the movie and book were not gospel.

“I think [there's] a fair and appropriate amount of artists’ liberties taken with factual elasticity in order to make a more interesting project,” Metheny said.

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Looking for a ‘Fresh’ Start; Jim Douglas Out at WWFS

Jim-DouglasVeteran morning personality Jim Douglas is on the radio sidelines after his exit from WWFS/Fresh 102.7 this week. Douglas had been teamed with Kim Berk for nearly 20 years, including the last five at the CBS-owned FM.

“I wish my partner, Kim, well,” Douglas tells Tuned In. “She’s an amazing talent so whomever they put in that chair, she’ll make them better than they thought they could be.”

But for now, sources indicate Berk will fly solo on the morning show.

Douglas and Berk, a.k.a. “Jim and Kim” started waking up Long Island listeners in the mid-1990s at KJOY/WKJY (now branded K 98.3). The native New Yorker was born in Bellerose, Queens, and grew up on Long Island.

WWFS is housed on Hudson Street with the entire stable of CBS New York radio stations.

“I got to know lots of the people at WINS AND WCBS AM. I’ll miss watching the amazing work they do,” Douglas adds.

No word on Douglas’ next venture, but “I['ve] got lots of golfing to get in!”

Death of WCBS Reporter John Slattery Shocks Colleagues

johnslattery1He was a consumate pro, who was one of the great New York TV street reporters. John Slattery passed away suddenly early Thursday. Tuned In has learned that the veteran WCBS-TV reporter died of an apparent heart attack in his sleep. A spokesperson could not confirm his cause of death. He was 63. His death comes just hours after filing a story for the station.

His death stunned colleagues and competitors alike.

“We are saddened by the unexpected passing of our friend and colleague John Slattery… He was great at reporting the news and was someone we counted on to cover big stories for us, both here in New York and around the world,” Peter Dunn, WCBS President and GM, said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with John’s wife, Suzie, and their children and grandchildren.”

During a legendary 35-year run in New York City, Slattery intersected with some of the most famous anchors the market ever saw. After a stint at Philly’s WCAU, Slattery reached the big time when Eyewitness News came calling in 1979. He spent five years with WABC, where Roger Grimsby and Bill Beutel still ruled the roost. The station also added Ernie Anastos and Tom Snyder while Slattery was pounding the pavement. While there, he was part of Channel 7′s John Lennon assassination coverage. In 1981, Slattery made history as the first reporter to conduct a post-Watergate interview with former president Richard Nixon.

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Breaking: WCBS Veteran Repoter John Slattery Dead of Heart Attack

johnslattery1He was there for the biggest stories during a career than spanned more than 30 years in New York. John Slattery died of an apparent heart attack overnight, Tuned In has confirmed. He was believed to be 63 or 64.  Slattery was a fixture at WCBS, joining Channel 2 in October 1984. The general assignment correspondent covered everything from Superstorm Sandy to the Miracle on the Hudson, and of course, the 9/11 attacks.

Prior to that, Slattery spent five years on the street at WABC-TV during the Roger Grimsby/Bill Beutel era.

Slattery was a four-time local Emmy Award winner.

More details to follow.

Photo: WCBS-TV

‘Hey Kemosabe’ Brings Front-Row Seat for Musicradio WABC Era

KemosabeIt was a magical time in New York radio. Musicradio 77 WABC was the center of the universe for any Top 40 fan. But 77 was also the hottest spot on the dial for the country’s most acclaimed jocks.

Chris Ingram has placed us in the middle of that frenetic era. His new book, Hey Kemosabe! The Days (and Nights) of a Radio Idyll (Dog Ear Publishing) gives readers an equally fast-paced look at some key moments. (And I’m not just saying that because of my gig as 77 WABC street reporter!)

Yes, Ingram has some familiarity on the subject. His dad (who recently turned 80) is Dan Ingram. He is so revered for his radio work, specifically the more than two decades as afternoon DJ at WABC. Ingram is usually on the short list of greatest Top 40 jocks of all-time, and regarded by many as the best.

The junior Ingram does point out in the foreword that the book is “not a biography, nor is it a history book.”

But if you were expecting “the names have been changed to protect the innocent,” think again. They’re all here: Ingram, Cousin Brucie, Ron Lundy, Chuck Leonard, and Rick Sklar.

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WNBC Moves Forward at 5 p.m. with Split Newscast

WNBC140908172527Without any publicity or fanfare, WNBC quietly unveiled its revamped 5 p.m newscast without Tom Llamas.

Channel 4 opted to break the traditional one-hour broadcast into two separate 30-minute shows. Chuck Scarborough and Sibila Vargas anchor the first half. We’re told the “anchor” leg features a rotating male presence of either David Ushery or Rob Schmitt, alongside Shiba Russell.

At first blush we notice the previously demoted Russell is getting the short end of the stick again. She has the noon duties but loses a pivotal half hour of face time.

Of course, Chuck and Sibila are already the station workhorses as the lead team at 6 and 11 p.m.

It’s uncertain if this is a stopgap measure. In addition, Tuned In learned the station did not let the staff know about the changes.

“Newsroom insiders are concerned these changes will be confusing to viewers,” a source admits.

At 5 p.m. viewers have multiple options for local news. WCBS and WABC, usually performing better than WNBC, are joined by WPIX and WNYW.

Several years ago, Channel 2 tried a split 5 p.m. news that featured a lighter news slant at the bottom of the hour. There’s no word on what the direction for WNBC’s version will be.

Llamas departed for ABC News last month.

Breaking: Tom Llamas Exiting WNBC

LlamasHe’s a multiple Emmy Award winner. He’s covered the biggest stories since joining WNBC in 2009. Tom Llamas is leaving 30 Rock. Insiders say his last day is Friday.

Tuned In has learned that news director Susan Sullivan told staffers in an email today.

Llamas went from general assignment reporting to anchoring to more comprehensive investigative pieces.

No word on Llamas’ next move.

Among the breaking news he covered for Channel 4 and NBC News viewers were the Boston Marathon bombing and the earthquake in Haiti.

In June of 2013, Llamas was taken off the noon anchoring slot to concentrate on the I-Team reports. He has maintained the 5 p.m. broadcast with Shiba Russell.

Also last year, Llamas snatched the Best Anchor prize at the New York Emmys.

Remembering a Legendary Voice, Don Pardo Dies at 96

PardoHis deep voice was a throwback to the era of old time radio staff announcers. Don Pardo didn’t start his career welcoming viewers week after week to Saturday Night Live. It just seems that way. Pardo began a lifetime gig with the Peacock Network in 1944. Seventy years later he was still at the mic for SNL.

Pardo died Monday at age 96.

As Pardo joined the roster on radio, NBC and General David Sarnoff were experimenting with television. His voice would become even more popular on the burgeoning medium.

Pardo’s personality made him a go-to-guy among the NBC stable of voices for game show duty. He was announcer on the original Price Is Right and Jeopardy!. But as the latter ended its 11-year run in 1975, Pardo got another boost as SNL started later that year.

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Mark Effron Officially to ‘Step Down’ at WPIX in October

PIX11_LogoThere was confusion surrounding the story reported exclusively here last week that Mark Effron was fired as WPIX news director.

Despite the station saying he would return this week following the death of his father and mourning period to the position he’s held since April 2013, GM Rich Graziano confirmed in an email to the staff, and obtained by Tuned In, Effron “has decided to step down.”

He will remain in place until October 31.

“Mark has been instrumental in charting our course through a period of transition as we began repositioning the station with a greater emphasis on news,” Graziano writes.

Given what Tuned In reported last week, it would appear that Tribune’s plan was to fire Effron when he returned from sitting shiva.

However, that backfired.

Not only did some staffers likely find out (including this reporter) before Effron, the firing was handled in a classless way while he was grieving.

So Channel 11 may have planned his exit for this week, but instead of risking the public relations nightmare, it would appear that is why he is being eased out.

In Effron’s note to employees, short-term plans were mentioned.

“When Larry Wert talked to me early last year about joining WPIX as VP/News Director, I made clear my intention to view it as a two-year mission.”

But, even extending through October, Effron only logs 18 months on the job.

Effron says he’ll explore teaching and consulting, which will allow him more time to spend with his family.

“I’ll be here for a while, helping Rich, steering the ship, and paving the way,” Effron writes.

There is no mention of who will replace Effron.