The mystery of Vickie Burns at WPIX is about to be revealed. Tuned In has learned exclusively that the former WNBC news director will officially be put on payroll at Channel 11. All indications are she’ll be named a consultant alongside news director Mark Effron. As we reported, it’s a role that the veteran news executive has held since earlier this summer.
There is also a possibility that Burns could assume a newly created station manager position.
As late as yesterday, there was additional buzz that Burns would take over for Steve Charlier on the corporate level at Tribune. That rumor was squelched by this morning. Therefore, Burns, known for her demanding personality, will in based in New York.
For several weeks, as we’ve reported, Burns has become a presence in the PIX newsroom. We’re told she’s had a hand in the station’s anchor audition process.
Burns’ last TV job was as KNBC news director in 2012.
“Whatever role Burns will play it’s obvious her job is to monitor PIX11. In the past four months,
Effron and company have made some mistakes to further alienate viewers,” the insider says, referring, in part, to a format change and failed anchor pairings. “November will be critical. Not only for managers but anchors. Burns has a rolodex of New York City anchors and reporters to look towards.”
Tuned In got the silent treatment attempting to reach WPIX and Tribune for confirmation.
Beyond the on-camera talent needs, PIX is facing a challenge behind the scenes. A slew of staffers (10), mostly producers, have exited Channel 11 since Effron’s arrival in April.
At issue are Effron’s decision to promote Amy Waldman to managing editor and to hire Sharon van Zwieten as senior executive producer. Both have drawn criticism from the newsroom.
One insider didn’t mince words about those personnel changes.
“When it comes to Amy and Sharon managing a New York City newsroom, it’s a case of the blind leading the blind.”
Zwieten does have cable news and local news producing experience, however, this is her first time in the New York market.
“People are complaining about the incompetency of the three and the bad morale in the newsroom,” another source chimes in.
Waldman, with PIX since 2007, has been a morning show executive producer, and prior to her June promotion, she was executive producer of special projects.
The ratings quagmire at PIX has been well-documented in all dayparts. Channel 11 faces an uphill battle for viewers at 10 p.m. with the lowly CW lineup. On Monday, the summer schedule was weak at WNYW as well. For example, Channel 5 had a .8 from adults 25 to 54, but Fox 5 News at 10 recovered to a 1.5. Down the dial, it was a downright ugly lead-in for PIX– a .1 in primetime. The Tamsen Fadal-led newscast at 10 p.m. managed just a .6.
Now that the station is in the middle of mass exodus, it is getting hard to find viable and willing workers at WPIX. It got so bad, Waldman took to Facebook in her new role to seek a new crop of employees.
Because the station is so short staffed that it is scrambling to fill on-air slots. In the final moments of Wednesday’s PIX Morning News, veteran Channel 11 producer Ojinika Obiekwe moved to the other side of the camera for an interview with Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudakis.
While lack of experience is a major thorn for those who remain at PIX, work ethic is apparently another weighty dilemma.
“It’s hard to respect a boss when you see them asleep during work hours,” the source says, referring to van Zwieten.
But sources say managerial issues go deeper than Effron’s hiring choices. Fingers point at the man who hired him.
“The group is a direct ongoing problem with [GM] Eric Meyrowitz. One questionable move after the other.”
For now, Effron and his underlings are still figuring out who will be the male anchor to join Fadal, or perhaps have two new anchors at 5 and 10 p.m. Earlier this week, Tuned In told you first that morning co-anchor Frances Rivera was bought out of her contract, and will leave by the end of August.