Media Transformation Dominates Annual Gathering

I’m just back from one of the highlights of my year – every year.  This past weekend marked the 24th Annual WJPZ Birthday Banquet, bringing together alumni of Syracuse University’s student radio station WJPZ-FM and other professional communicators, along with current students.  WJPZ has long been the nation’s most listened-to collegiate broadcast outlet and is recognized in the industry as a powerful networking group.

Our alumni are currently working in leadership positions in radio, television, Web, advertising and other related fields, across the country.  Once a year we get together for shop talk, networking and a lot of fun.

This year, though, networking and idea sharing took center stage.  Friday afternoon, I participated in a three-hour seminar at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with a range of professionals who discussed the impact the economy and technology are having on the media business. I was the only PR professional on the panels, which discussed the profound changes we see in media every day.  Saturday night, we heard from non-WJPZers like Elvis Duran (whose morning radio show airs in New York, Philadelphia, Miami and Cleveland) and radio agent David Katz about the changes happening before their eyes.

Little did we all know that within hours of our departure, just a couple of miles away, a change that is likely to attract industry attention from around the country, would take place.  In one of those “I Never Thought I Would See The Day” moments, Syracuse’s CBS affiliate WTVH-TV (owned by long-financially troubled Granite Broadcasting) announced today that it would be outsourcing news to its longtime rival, NBC affiliate WSTM-TV.  This has happened for many years in many markets between a station with an established news organization and one that wanted to air news, but not a start-up venture of its own.  Usually, in those cases it was a “VHF” station feeding a “UHF” station.

This could be the beginning of a trend – one that may help bottom lines but not a community’s information.  The two stations try to spin it as positive.  Take a look at their announcement.  Does anyone really feel good about this?

The 2009 WJPZ Alumni gathering will long be remembered for the Banquet in the middle of the most sweeping changes we had, until then, ever seen.