“There’s no crying in baseball,” Tom Hanks told us in “A League of Their Own.”
It’s a sentiment that applies increasingly to the TV news business. Barbara West certainly shed no tears on the air when she said goodbye today after 24 years at WFTV-Channel 9.
Readers ask me why she left. West hasn’t commented. News director Bob Jordan simply said West and the station “had reached the decision mutually” on her departure.
Here are a few points to remember:
1. Lots of people in local news have lost their jobs in recent years as stations have shed staffers, especially high-priced anchor talent. WFTV reduced West’s role when it took her off the 5:30 p.m. news in September — sending a message that her time there was almost over. she was anchoring only the noon newscast. these days, cash-strapped media companies don’t have the luxury of extending the contract of an anchor who has just one show.
2. West is 62 in a business that’s obsessed with attracting younger viewers. Younger workers are cheaper. perhaps you know that routine in your own business. And West’s longevity probably didn’t mean a lot to newer viewers in this market.
3. Stations do lots of research on their anchors and how viewers respond to them. Many high-profile anchors have lost their jobs recently because they are no longer seen as ratings magnets. I have no idea what the research on West showed. But I’d presume there was fallout from her famous interview with Joe Biden two years ago. sure, she pleased many viewers, but she irked many others. Is it wise to have a local news anchor who has a polarizing effect?
4. WFTV is going a different route with its health news. The station will not replace West, and there will be no designated health reporter, news director Bob Jordan said. Instead, WFTV will farm out its health reporting to another company, Ivanhoe Broadcast News in Winter Park.
The news business is, above all, a business. Stations may talk about their “families.” But how many families do you know that hand out pink slips?
Barbara West had a good, long run at WFTV, and she helped many people in this community with her health reports. That’s a legacy to be proud of — even if it no longer fits the bottom line.