WMAQ-TV tells staff to reinvent itself

WMAQ-TV, Ch. 5 in Chicago, told its staff last week it is reinventing itself and its staff must do the same. News producers, writers and editors at the NBC O&O must reapply for new multifaceted positions that provide content for not just television, but the Internet, mobile devices and other emerging platforms, management said.

The “Chicago Tribune” reported that the new jobs — with titles such as platform manager and content producer — would be posted late last week and will be available to both insiders and outsiders as well. The changeover will be completed in around six months.

The station insisted the changes are not as much about reducing costs, as addressing changes in the media landscape. Although writers and editors are currently covered by a National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians contract with the station, the new positions would be exempt.

Ray W. Taylor, president of NABET Local 41, told the newspaper the union was notified of WMAQ’s plans last week and, with its lawyers, is reviewing the situation in advance of a meeting with membership scheduled for Feb. 4.

On-air anchors and reporters and field crews are not included in the changes. NBC’s New York flagship station WNBC-TV already has turned its newsroom into what it’s calling a “content center.” A handful of other NBC-owned stations, including Los Angeles’s KNBC-TV, will join WMAQ in following WNBC’s lead.

“The big picture is we’re trying to become a newsroom that provides content for a number of different platforms, including the growth areas, which could be web, could be mobile … a lot of different places where our content may play now or may play someday,” Frank Whittaker, WMAQ’s station manager and vice president for news, told the “Tribune.” “That’s how we’re going to grow if our traditional business stays flat or declines or whatever happens in the future.”