The wait is over for a new GM at Tribune’s flagship. Rich Graziano succeeded Eric Meyrowitz today as WPIX’s next President/GM. Graziano takes over the position immediately and will report to Tribune’s President of Broadcast Media, Larry Wert. Since 2009, Graziano has been in charge of Tribune’s Hartford properties, including publisher and CEO of the Hartford Courant. He was also VP/GM at WTIC and WCCT. Just nine days ago, Tuned In broke the news that Meyrowitz was out at Channel 11 after three years on the job.
“Rich is a skilled and innovative leader who has achieved great success in managing large-scale media operations and delivering results for viewers, advertisers and the community,” Wert says. “We’ve made a number of changes at WPIX, both on-the-air and in the management ranks—the station is gaining momentum. Rich is the perfect addition to lead the new team we’ve assembled.”
Graziano has more than 20 years of media experience, including a stop at WLVI in Boston.
“WPIX is an iconic brand. The station has a distinct history and a wonderful legacy in New York,” Graziano says. “I see tremendous opportunity to lead WPIX to excellence, through hard work, innovation, and by creating value for our viewers and advertising partners.”
WPIX VP and GM Eric Meyrowitz has been fired. Sources confirm to Tuned In that Meyrowitz’s last day at Channel 11 was Thursday. There had been rumblings that Meyrowitz would not have his contract renewed. A WPIX spokesperson refused to comment.
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.”
It’s only taken two weeks for oft-criticized Chasing New Jersey to clip Channel 11 at 10 p.m. Despite the lack of a local news presence in the Garden State, the TMZ-esque politically focused 30-minute show has caught on with enough viewers, even though it also has caught the ire of the FCC.
On Friday, the key demographic of adults 25 to 54 gave PIX a deeper bruise as WWOR tied the Tribune O&O at 10 p.m. The two broadcasts each registered a .4. Prior to the evening newscast being dismantled in Secaucus, Fox-owned WWOR registered a .1, while PIX notched a .5.
The dismal ratings apparently prompted Tribune to make a move. Multiple sources tell Tuned In that one-time WNBC news director Vickie Burns is now part of PIX. While her role with WPIX is not clear, we’ve learned that she’s been seen in the Channel 11 newsroom during anchor auditions. The station and Tribune would not confirm Burns has joined the station or the company.
“It’s evident by the ratings, the anchors on the desk aren’t getting it done,” an insider says. “It’s also evident that [Mark] Effron and [Eric] Meyrowitz may no longer have the final say in the newsroom.”
Actually, she’s keeping busy at home since having her first child earlier this year via gestational carrier. But that shift from professional to family life with newborn and husband, YES’ Michael Kay, took Jodi Applegate off WPIX as the anchor at 5 and 10 p.m. late last year.
However, Applegate was trying for an 11th-hour negotiation that would keep her on PIX in some capacity. As we’ve reported, station management, led by GM Eric Meyrowitz, the last man standing from the previous regime, insisted on Applegate working full-time. In the end, a deal couldn’t be reached, and the ratings have been nothing short of awful in the intervening months with Tamsen Fadal as anchor.
For example, this Tuesday, WPIX washed away its .5 Maury lead-in with just a .1 at 5 p.m. among adults 25 to 54. The 10 p.m. broadcast improved to .7 in that key demographic, but WNYW was nearly three times better.
Several station insiders have been vocal to Tuned In about letting Applegate walk.
“Jodi had the credibility and authority to command a newscast,” one source says. “Her network and local market experience gave PIX11 the edge it needed to compete. Viewers knew who she was. She was an established anchor.”
The process is underway at WPIX. Executives are in search for that perfect on-air tandem to combine with Tamsen Fadal on evening newscasts.
As we reported earlier this month, news director Mark Effron told staffers that he wants to find a co-anchor for Fadal at 5 and 10 p.m.
Tuned In has learned exclusively that WPIX has auditioned several would-be candidates, male and female, for the position. Also of note, it was a second try for the female anchors, who also were brought in to succeed Jodi Applegate.
One of the most bizarre candidates is actor/comedian Brian Unger (top). Insiders say the charter correspondent on The Daily Show from 1996 to 1999 auditioned for the anchor role on the real newscast earlier this month.
One source cracks, “You have a station tanking and this is the best they can come up with?”
Unger, who has appeared in several TV shows and movies, does have some minor news experience. He was a fill-in host for Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC.
Two stations are sponsoring health expos later this year.
WNBC/Channel 4 is first up. The station joins forces with the New York Giants for the inaugural Health and Fitness expo. It is free to the public, June 22 and June 23 at Metlife Stadium.
The family-geared expo will walk the field where the Giants and Jets call home.
Pavilions will include a community health screening area that will provide comprehensive health assessments designed to educate guests about a variety of health risks. Wellness pavilions will spotlight the most effective measures for disease prevention. Among the activities, attendees can take free screenings for cholesterol, diabetes, and hearing. There will also be tests for prostate cancer, blood pressure, and BMI (body mass index).
WNBC sports anchor Bruce Beck will be on hand throughout that June weekend, along with other Channel 4 anchors and reporters, plus some of the top Giants players will meet fans and sign autographs.
“Our expo is designed to serve the community at large and its many health-related issues,” said Michael Jack, WNBC president and GM. “The expo will be a fun, family day that is absolutely free to the public and guaranteed to have something for everyone.”
If that doesn’t make you healthy enough, WPIX can further scratch that itch.