Viewers of NBC affiliate WLEX-18 will be seeing less of their favorite news anchors and reporters over the next couple of months.
Employees at the station are taking an unpaid week off, as required by its parent company Cordillera Communications.
"It's the economic downturn like everyone else," General Manager Pat Dalbey explained. "Furloughs are probably the least painful way to create employee savings. We certainly did not want to downsize the company or go into a layoff situation or anything like that."
Some personnel, such as on-air talent, have contracts that could prevent the furlough, but Dalbey said almost everyone — if not all — has been willing to take the week off to help reduce expenses.
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The station has an opening for a reporter, but Dalbey said he's delaying that hiring until the furlough period is over. The spot opened up earlier this year when Amanda Hara left to take a job in Nashville.
Furloughs are also going on at Cumulus radio stations in Lexington, where employees have to take an unpaid week off before the end of June.
The furloughs do not affect on-air talent who are under contracts, but they have been asked to volunteer to take them, too, said market manager Hal Hofman.
The cost-saving move follows layoffs at the stations over the past year and is expected to "stem the tide" and prevent further cuts, Hofman said.
Cumulus operates stations including 92.9 The Bear and WVLK 590 in Lexington.
Listeners to those stations have also experienced another change recently, though they probably didn't notice it.
Brad Munson, who provides traffic updates for the stations in Lexington, recently stopped working for Cumulus but continued to provide those services by joining a subcontractor, Lexington Traffic Network.
"It was all part of a restructuring and reshuffling," Hofman said. "Brad was on our list to not have a job once all the dust settled, and we kind of found this way to keep a great guy doing traffic."
Behind Cutler's apology
WLEX sports anchor Alan Cutler recently received a number of complaints for running after University of Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie as the fired coach entered his offices on his last day.
Cutler chased the coach, asking him to comment on his future but received no response.
The footage led to a few hundred e-mails to WLEX and even a few to rival station WKYT from some who unknowingly thought Cutler worked for the CBS affiliate.
Cutler offered an on-air apology and said to the Herald-Leader that after he saw the footage, "I thought honestly I needed to do something."
"When I saw the video, I had a change of heart," he said, adding he later saw Gillispie at Keeneland's spring meet and apologized in person, too.
ABC affiliate WTVQ-36 recently rebranded itself as ABC 36.
General Manager Chris Aldridge said the station wanted to leverage its ABC affiliation because "ABC is certainly a strong network with some of television's most-watched shows."
The company continues to use the WTVQ call letters as part of its MyNetworkTV digital channel that it refers to as MyTVQ2.
Its Web site will also continue to be www.wtvq.com, though www.myabc36.com also works.
Aldridge said the company sought the domain www.abc36.com, but that has been registered by a Michigan station. It's not being used by the station, though.
WKYT, WTVQ sharing
WKYT and WTVQ recently began pooling resources overnight. The stations take turns providing an overnight cameraman to handle breaking news like fires or auto accidents and then share the footage.
"It's a trend in TV markets all across the country," said WKYT News Director Robert Thomas.
When they're not providing the overnight coverage, the stations will have an extra staffer on during the day for more in-depth reporting.
WLEX News Director Bruce Carter said his station continues to have its own overnight cameraman.
Sit in a news meeting
WKYT recently began inviting viewers to chat with its staffers during their morning news meetings.
In a chatroom-type setting accessible around 9:30 a.m. on www.wkyt.com, viewers can pose questions to the staff and learn what will be on the news later that day.
Thomas said the staffers also ask for ideas and acknowledge them live on the air if the story airs.
"In today's world, viewers are excellent contributors to what you put on the air," he said. "Some of our best pictures and our first pictures from the (recent Madison County) tornado came from viewers."
The station has also begun engaging in chats with viewers during its morning news.
Thomas said he doesn't worry about the station's competitors logging on.
"Our competitors are very smart, and I don't think they need to attend our morning meeting to figure out what's going on today," he said.