Layoffs at WABI-TV
Deep-sixed at Channel 5: WABI-TV, Channel 5 in Bangor, has laid off seven people, including three in the newsroom. According to Mike Young, vice president and general manager of the station, the cuts represent 10 percent of the station’s staff and the same percentage of the news staff.
Among those receiving pink slips on March 31 and April 1 was Craig Colson, co-anchor of the 6 p.m. newscast and a fixture on the local TV scene for more than two decades. Susan Farley, the station’s Ellsworth bureau chief was also let go, as was a news photographer. Young said the other cuts were in operations, production, engineering and administration. Young attributed the staff reductions to the poor economy and faltering advertising sales.
“I don’t ever recall having layoffs for economic reasons in 26 years at WABI,” he said. “This economy is the worst we’ve seen in decades.”
Young said he didn’t expect further cutbacks at the station.
New numbers for WLOB: Portland talk station WLOB (1310 AM) is back on the FM band. Effective April 1, the station’s programming, including its local morning show featuring Ray Richardson and Ted Talbot, is being simulcast over WGEI (95.5 FM) in Topsham, making it available over a much larger portion of southern and western Maine than could be reached by the weak AM signal. Both stations are owned by Atlantic Coast Radio.
WLOB had previously been heard on FM at 96.3, but last September, Atlantic Coast announced it was converting that frequency to local sports, while reprogramming another two of its stations, WGEI and WPEI in Portland (95.9 FM) to the Boston-based WEEI sports network. According to Atlantic Coast local sales manager Morgan Grumbach, the signals from the two WEEI stations covered much of the same area, so the company decided to use one of them to give its talk format a new FM outlet.
Sanitizing history: On April 1, the Portland Press Herald ran a story by staff writer David Hench on the decision by Portland West, a social service agency, to change its name to Learning Works. The story gives a number of reasons for the switch and a brief history of the organization, but misses – or ignores – some significant events that could have had some bearing on the name-change decision.
Portland West, which began life in 1967 as the Portland West Neighborhood Planning Council, operates a variety of educational and housing programs, but for many years was best known for its political activism on behalf of low-income people. In the 1980s and ‘90s, it turned itself into a powerful Democratic political machine, but it’s overbearing tactics in dealing with critics and its questionable methods in dealing with finances eventually lead to the ouster of executive director Jim Oliver and his supporters.
It’s not clear from Hench’s story whether the unpleasant odor from those episodes still clung to the agency and influenced the name change. But executive director Ethan Strimling is a former state senator and unsuccessful congressional candidate with strong partisan connections, so it might have been informative if the reporter had asked some questions about the more unseemly aspects of Portland West’s past and printed the answers. That way it wouldn’t appear the paper was either covering up or ignorant.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.