First came hundreds of layoffs.  Then came the ousting of the executives who orchestrated the firings to balance the books after  years of their own poor performance.

David Westin was out at ABC News, replaced by Ben Sherwood.

Sean McManus was out at CBS News but not before he finally canned the entire morning show anchor team he had so stubbornly stuck with: Harry Smith, Maggie Rodriguez and weatherman Dave Price whose idea of a great seasonal  live shot was to go to a cranberry farm and re-create the Ocean Spray Cranberry juice commercial (one of the show’s sponsors), reach down into the thigh-high bog of wet cranberries, and pull out — a bottle of Ocean Spray Cranberry juice.

McManus was replaced by the crackling insider/outsider team of Jeff Fager and David Rhodes who quickly booted CBS VP of talent,  Barbara Fedida (who in full disclosure is a personal friend I adore),  and EVP Paul Friedman, who acknowledged in his good-bye memo his nickname: “Darth Vader.”

In one of the greatest of  ironies, he also noted the “cruelty of Page Six” and their misplaced sources at CBS.(Well, perhaps one greater irony was the unfortunately misspelling in the subject line  (see below) of  the memo  which recounted his more than 40 years in network news, with references to “golden years,” ” high standards” and “quality now under assault.”

When I began reading it, unaware of his firing, I wondered, “Who’s Chang?”

—– Original Message —–

From: Friedman, Paul -(CND)
To: @CND News
Sent: Fri Feb 18 12:06:56 2011
Subject: Chang

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I came here five years ago to help Sean make a great but wounded news division stronger.  Now he’s going back to Sports fulltime, and I’m leaving.  It’s been great.   Simply put, the new guys need to have their own team, and I wish them all the best …

Over at ABC,  senior executive producer Jim Murphy announced he’s leaving Good Morning America to run Anderson Cooper’s new syndie show. Nightline EP James Goldston will replace him and Jeanmarie Condon will take over Nightline.

Change ( or “Chang”) is really good medicine for these two networks. And this round, coming on top of lay-offs, budget cuts and bureau closures, hopefully will have some impact on the poisonous cultures at ABC and CBS which have been allowed to ferment.

Which brings us to the latest rumor mill.

Now, everyone seems to be talking about the fates of Paul Friedman’s son, David, who was installed as executive producer of The Early Show.  (Ha! try to complain about your boss to his Dad!)  And rumors have reached Defcon 5 that Katie Couric’s e.p., Rick Kaplan, is without McManus to shield him.

Will Kaplan  be out this week?  Could they really can him after the most recent ratings report showed  CBS creeping up on ABC’s demos again, 210,000 viewers apart.

Broadcast Evening News Weekly Average Ratings (week of February 14, 2011)
NBC:   9.03 million total viewers; 2.1/8 and 2.62 million A25-54
ABC:   7.97 million total viewers; 1.7/7 and 2.13 million A25-54
CBS:   6.10 million total viewers; 1.5/6 and 1.92 million A25-54
Source: Nielsen, NTI


The TV news business, by both nature and occupational hazard, is full of gossip, some true, some not.   So I find it curious that this particular industry website, which has shown at least “reckless disregard” in reporting about yours truly in the past,  would ignore the rampant rumors now at CBS, and go to great lengths to meticulously deconstruct a NY Post item to defend Phil Griffin. (They once offered me an opportunity to respond to a few, but not all of the errors in an item they happily regurgitated  from the NY Post.)

It’s always a good policy to be fair and accurate and Phil Griffin seems worth defending.  But the managing editor of the website should still someday disclose that he used to work at MSNBC where Rick Kaplan and Phil Griffin were his bosses.  It does make one wonder not so much about the story that follows, but the instructional editorial at the end: “Will Griffin be at MSNBC forever? Probably not, but there is no reason to believe an un-bylined gossip report that can’t even get its basic facts right.”

TV NEWSER, you’re killin’ me.


The NY Post’s Phil Griffin Story-Line By Line

By Alex Weprin on February 23, 2011 4:15 PM



New York Post‘s Page Six ran a very brief itemabout MSNBC’s Phil Griffin. It would be a juicy item, were it not so unbelievably wrong.

Let’s look at it line by line:

Buzz that MSNBC President Phil Griffin will soon be out at the Peacock Network is so strong that he’s even had to deny it to close friends, sources say.

It is true that Griffin has been denying the rumor to friends and acquaintances, but if you had a major newspaper writing about you, your friends would be asking you about it too.

Griffin used to report to ex-NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker, but since his departure, some say NBC President Steve Capus may show Griffin the door and take control of the cable news unit.

Here is where the item goes off the rails:

As long as he has been president of MSNBC, Griffin has never reported to Jeff Zucker.  He has always reported to Steve Capus. Capus already oversees MSNBC, so the notion that he “wants to take control of the cable news unit” is ridiculous. He already has control of it.

Griffin did report to Zucker when they both worked at NBC’s “Today,” but that was over 15 years ago.

“Capus wants the place to himself,” an industry insider said.

He already has it under his control, and NBCU’s corporate structure is such that each cable network has its own President.

“It’s a domino effect — Jeff Zucker . . . Keith Olbermann . . . next, Phil Griffin.”

Zucker was pushed out because Comcast wanted its own man, Steve Burke, in charge. Olbermann was eyeing an exit for a long time, and was not shoved out the door by Comcast. What has Phil Griffin done to deserve being pushed out? MSNBC’s ratings and revenues are up since he took over.

An MSNBC rep insisted, “The rumor you heard is totally false. There’s no truth to it.”

There you go.

Will Griffin be at MSNBC forever? Probably not, but there is no reason to believe an un-bylined gossip report that can’t even get its basic facts right.

  • this is embarassing. does tv newser have a building pass at nbc?