Monday, April 7, 2008

It's Three Posts in One! TV, L.A. and Icahn

Back on duty after a week on the West Coast. Seems like a good time to share a few random thoughts on what's going on.

--TV layoffs. It's no surprise that local TV stations are trimming payroll even if it means dumping some well-known personalities. Name one Big Media outlet these days that's standing pat. Still, I hate seeing a major talent, like Channel 2 anchor and medical reporter MaryAnn Childers, being shown the door.
Like many viewers, I know Childers primarily through her gracious and professional appearances for Channel 2 news and, prior to joining that station, as an anchor at Channel 7.
She's also a good interviewer, someone who puts the viewer first (increasingly a rarity in TV news). I once had the pleasure of being an on-set guest during a live Channel 2 early-morning newscast, where we talked about airlines and the economy. It may have been 6:15 A.M. but Childers was raring to go, getting down to business with some good, tough and direct questions.
And in an era where local anchors whiz through town, Childers has roots in the community, often acting as emcee or host at numerous charity functions and meetings.
In the coming months, we're likely see more big name TV personalities pushed out. A recent article I wrote for Chicago magazine, entitled Changing Channels, tells why local stations are under such pressure to maintain profit margins, which are still hefty but eroding. Like their print brethren, local stations are getting smacked silly by a flurry of changes. Stations must cope with emerging technology, souped-up digital video recorders and the real-time demands of the Internet.
In the article, Bill Kurtis--the quintessential Chicago anchorman and a pretty good business executive--rightly predicted some high-priced talent will be on the streets.
Yes, I realize the firing of TV talent pales in comparison to the massive job reductions we're experiencing at major employers like Sears and Motorola.
Still, when well-known personalities abruptly leave, they take a little of the community with them.

--We love LA. Spent a week in Los Angeles with the family. Good time was had by all. We were able to score tickets to the Dodgers home opener (something I've never been able to do with Chicago baseball teams) and also got to see the Los Angeles Lakers, led by former Bulls coach Phil Jackson--who's looking more grey and even more unhappy than he did while coaching those championship Bulls teams.
I suspect Michael Jordan had a more soothing effect than Kobe Bryant.
Movie stars? Nope, didn't see any.
LA is a car lover's paradise. Rolls Royce, Bentley, Porsche and Mercedes nameplates seem to be everywhere. You've never seen so many expensive wheels this side of Saudi Arabia.
In fairness, I should note that LA was also chock-full of hybrid cars, especially what seems to be a growing Toyota Prius fleet. There's so many hybrids, in fact, that the government is thinking of taking away some special perks that owners of those cars currently enjoy, such as special lane access on highways and better parking spots.
As a hybrid car owner, I only hope the Chicago-area takes its time before following LA's lead on that one. It's nice to feel special, eh?

--Motorola bored. So that feisty financier Carl Icahn is getting his way at Motorola Inc. and will gain a couple of board seats. Good luck, Carl.
Let's see how well Icahn does turning around the ailing electronics and cell phone giant
Many have gone before him, only to fail.

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