When it comes to treating employees fairly in these cutthroat economic times, I’m resigned to the Genghis Kahn mindset of big business bosses. Such notions as treating people with respect and honoring years of service to a company seem positively prissy these days to the marauding knights of capitalism. Show a little compassion or human decency? That could be a career blunder when it comes to clawing one’s way to the highly paid corporate top. Ruthless is where it’s at.
Still … I can’t help but be a little surprised (and appalled) at the way Faith Sidlow and Pamela Prado were treated this week by the management of KSEE Channel 24. Both were booted out unceremoniously — Sidlow after 28 years at the station, Prado after nearly 10. They weren’t even given the chance to bid their viewers farewell. One day they were in your living room, and the next day they’d vanished, as if they’d been snatched by aliens. The underlying cause, of course, was cost cutting, as Texas-based Nexstar — which recently purchased both KSEE Channel 24 and KGPE Channel 47 — is doing what American businesses do so well: consolidating staffs and making do with less.
Granted, TV news has always been a rough-and-tumble business. On-air personalities are just that — personalities, and as such they can quickly fall out of favor with station management or fall prey to the latest in-vogue newscast makeover. Reporters and anchors have always known their tenure can be tenuous. (Presumably, they get paid more to make up for the lack of job security.) Add in one owner for two stations, and for many of the fine media folks working locally for the new company, tensions have been high these past few months. The writing has been on the wall.
From the perspective of the minor corporate bureaucrats running the station, the “clean your desk, you’re out of here” approach means a clean break. Why dwell on the past? It’s also standard practice to lay off people in TV and radio without any goodbye to viewers. (I guess management is worried that a disgruntled worker will call for a worker’s revolution on the air?) Sadly, the same thing has happened at some newspapers in the past few years as well. Still, to yank these familiar faces from our screens without any preparation for viewers — or chance to celebrate their years of connection with the community — seems not only heartless, but also a little stupid.
The reason is social media.
Consider: Sidlow’s Facebook page has more than 2,000 “likes.” When she posted her layoff announcement and offered an eloquent farewell, 600 people “liked” that comment alone. Then 268 people added their own comments to the mix, many of which said, essentially: “That’s it. I won’t watch KSEE anymore.” Some examples:
*** Faith just letting you know how much you will be missed we have watched you for years. It was unprofessional for 24 to let you go without a proper send off and you not saying good bye to your viewers, with that said We have terminated KSEE 24 in our household… Best wishes in the future.
*** I am also terribly sad! In fact, I am still upset that NBC took Ann Curry off the Today Show, so I started watching Good Morning America, but I still watched you & Pamela & Matt, etc. Now, I guess it will be Ch.30 & 26 only for my local news.
*** Good luck in your future endeavors ….I hate when you feel out of the loop ….was there an explanation to there viewers as to what’s going on ….they have a right to do what they do even when its so wrong ….but we as loyal viewers deserve an explanation ….goodbye ksee 24.
*** Shame on Ksee 24! Faith, you were such a joy to watch. I loved waking up to your warm and friendly smile. Your smile invites you in and it’s like sitting in the living room with your best friend just chatting about the daily events over coffee. You were my reason for choosing Ksee24. You will be missed VERY much!! Guess I’ll be searching for a new morning news show.
How interested are people in this story? After being posted on Tuesday, the Bee account of the firings is still clocking in today as one of the top read stories on the Bee site.
As I mentioned above, TV news is about personality. Stations want their anchors to feel close to the viewers. Marketing campaigns push the personality thing hard. So stations shouldn’t be surprised if viewers get angry when one of their “friends” gets the boot — and doesn’t even get a chance to say goodbye.
The bosses might say: So what’s the loss of a few Sidlow fans? But we aren’t talking about a program with hundreds of thousands of viewers. It’s hard to get current ratings numbers, but in a 2007 Nielsen report, KSEE had 11,000 viewers for its 6 a.m. weekday newscast. If 1,100 viewers get mad enough to switch stations, that would be 10% of the audience right there. The bosses make the decisions, yes, but the viewers get the final say.
In the long run, giving Sidlow and Prado a proper send-off wouldn’t have changed things for them — they’d still be out of their jobs. Just two more cost-cutting casualties. But it would have been a heck of a lot more dignified.