Two major personnel shifts already have taken place at WNWO-TV, Channel 24, beginning with the hiring of Ben Tucker as the station's acting president and general manager in January, and, nearly two months later, the promotion of Amulya Raghuveer, from Internet managing editor to news director.
Now those behind-the-scenes moves have led to some big changes on camera as well, starting with the firings of morning meteorologist Michael Schlesinger and veteran reporter Lou Hebert. Both dismissals happened earlier this month and within a week of each other. And, said Tucker, there is more to come, as the NBC affiliate, long an afterthought in local ratings, attempts to crawl back into living-room relevance among area viewers.
"Think of it as metaphor. I've got a bus with only so many seats. I have to help through the process of laying out a strategy of things we're going to be doing on this journey and I only want people on this bus if I think they belong on it," he said.
"Lou and Mike are both very fine men. I wish them both success going forward. It's a shame that sometimes quality people just don't fit into your plan."
Tucker, who owns a consulting business, Tucker Media and Management, has a history of inheriting messes at troubled affiliates and turning the stations around, not unlike his predecessor Jon Skorburg, who was fired by WNWO owners Barrington Broadcasting in the fall after more than two years as the station's vice president and general manager.
" I have had No. 1 and No. 2 and No. 4 stations in markets," Tucker said. "I have not seen one with the history of ownership and management changes as Channel 24 has had, but I have seen similar stations with similar backgrounds."
He said WNWO will have a business plan and strategy for its long-term success laid out this summer.
"We will focus on establishing a strategy and the tactics that support the operating strategy and just consistency," Tucker said. "When I say consistency, it doesn't mean there will not be changes. What it really means is ... adapting in an ever-changing environment."
He dismissed the notion that the personnel cuts are a cost-saving measure for Barrington Broadcasting. Schlesinger's replacement, Jon James, began work Friday, and Channel 24 will hire a reporter to take over for Hebert as well.
"There will be somebody else who picks up a lot of the functions that Lou [was] performing," Tucker said. "It's not like we're going to be less one person."
One personnel change that Tucker had nothing to do with is the departure of Laura Rice, who anchored the station's 6 and 11 p.m. weekday newscasts. Rice, who has worked at WNWO for nearly two years, is engaged and wants to return to her home state of Texas. She is interviewing with affiliates in Austin, he said.
"She's done a great job and we wish her only the best in Texas with her new life and marriage," Tucker said. "We hate to lose her."