Broadcasters continue layoffs; former staffers become news competitors

The trend of broadcast layoffs and new competition to TV news continues. A Houston TV station is doing away with all its anchors and on-camera reporters in favor of a new format called “NewsFix.” KCET, the major public broadcaster in Los Angeles, laid off 13 workers last week.

In Salt Lake City, a group of former anchors and reporters is teaming up to launch a new Web-based initiative called Salt TV. The journalists used to be competitors at three stations. They are now betting that people will pay to see them without the stations' backing.

The tagline for the Salt Lake City effort is “The Utah journalists you know and trust.” There are 15 former journalists working on the site.

At KCET, the job cuts come from across several departments, and at least one vice president is affected. In June 2009, KCET cut 12 full-time and part-time staffers and announced furloughs and pay cuts. The station also dropped its 45-year-old program guide that month, citing financial reasons.

Meanwhile in Houston, KIAH-TV, the “Houston Chronicle” reported, will launch NewsFix this fall as a pilot program for owner Tribune Broadcasting.

Lee Abrams, the former programmer at XM Satellite Radio and now Tribune’s “innovation officer,” developed the format, which he said will bring the company’s product out of the 1970s and into the 21st century.

One current news employee told the newspaper it would be “news for people who don’t watch news, which sounds a lot like opening a bar for people who don’t drink.”