A successful investigative reporter at WNBC and WCBS for more than a decade, Scott Weinberger is happy to avoid the day to day grind of the TV news world. Since 2009, Weinberger has been executive producer of Investigative Discovery’s (ID) On the Case with Paula Zahn.
The show, now in its eighth season, will air its milestone 100th episode later this summer.
Weinberger, who was chief investigative reporter, was laid off from Channel 2 in 2007 by the same management team that oversees the station today.
“The station was required to pay me for the balance of my contract,” Weinberger tells Tuned In. “So ultimately I got to sit on the beach for a couple of months.”
With a regular dose of crime beat exclusives, Weinberger, a former cop in Florida, was in his comfort zone. Despite only logging two years at WCBS, Weinberger and his full-time investigative unit were shuttered.
“The landscape changed at the station, and the focus of trying to pull viewers from 7 [WABC] and 4 [WNBC],” Weinberger tells Tuned In. “They were targeting a specific type of viewer, a more female skew and less emphasis on investigations and more emphasis on beauty tips.”
He says it was all about drawing the most women to the 11 p.m. broadcast.
“A decision was made that what I do and the cost of it wasn’t paying the benefits of the kind of the viewers that they were trying to attract,” Weinberger says.
Those who watched Channel 2 in the mid 2000s would have seen Weinberger’s exclusive (his first story for the station) with the Staten Island Ferry captain who crashed into the pier.
Other high profile interviews followed, including jailhouse interviews with Darryl Littlejohn, a day before being indicted in the Imette St. Guillen case and David Berkowitz on the 30th anniversary of his Son of Sam rampage.
Even before leaving WCBS, and having no knowledge of what was ahead, Weinberger began to test the waters for his TV future as a production company.
“I had already been formulating in my mind that things were changing,” Weinberger says. “I kind of felt like what we were doing was falling out of favor a bit.”
The plan was to create an outlet for long-form journalism with a slant on investigative reporting.
As he began to do research, Weinberger realized that a Discovery cable network, which debuted in 1996, and called itself Discovery Times since 2003, had just been rebranded as ID. The channel would feature crime drama and documentary-related programming. Initially, they aired old versions of Dateline NBC with Stone Phillips.
The episodes were five or six years old and Weinberger says the channel needed to get an updated look. He pitched the idea of having a brand for the cable network with its own properties, instead of acquiring second-run programs.
“Paula (middle) is fantastic. She’s just a hard working, intense, well-diverse journalist,” Weinberger says.
As executive producer, Weinberger (far right) still has an active role getting each episode to air, which he says is a three-month concept. Weinberger admits that due to other projects his workload has dropped off from the first two seasons.
Weinberger, who will “never close the door” about a return to local TV news, is locked in to his production company commitments. He spent 10 years building his investigative reporting cache at WNBC. Recently, he made his first visit to 30 Rock since leaving in 2005.
“The day-to-day, moment-to-moment stuff I don’t miss,” Weinberger says. “I don’t miss being a TV reporter. I just miss that sort of connection to the local community like I had when I was on the air.”
But it’s another former employer that Weinberger says, somewhat jokingly, that he owes them a lot.
“Thanks to CBS, they funded the start-up of my company.”