New changes at Ch. 28: Anchor Maciborski leaves Friday, politics show Flashpoint severely reduced
Since taking over as general manager at WFTS-Ch. 28 in May 2008, he has already presided over a host of jarring changes at Tampa’s ABC affiliate: most recently, the departure last week of investigative reporter Matthew Schwartz, the departure next Friday of 5:30 p.m. anchor Walt Maciborski and the slimming down of anchor Brendan McLaughlin’s half-hour public affairs show Flashpoint next month to a five-minute interview segment.
Before that, WFTS had seen news director Chris Jadick leave for a public relations job and longtime meteorologists Linda Gialanella and Wayne Shattuck moved to less-visible positions. But Pegram says this isn’t a new manager cutting corners to save money; it’s about boosting ratings while redeploying resources.
As evidence, the general manager points to the new weekend morning shows WFTS will debut next month, adding five hours of newscast time. Maciborski’s anchor position, Pegram said, will shift to the weekend, where the new show will offer news, traffic and weather reports delivered by a full complement of anchors -- some of whom may work as "one-man bands," filming and reporting from remote sites by themselves.
“We need to improve our position in the ratings,” said Pegram, who declined to reveal many details about the new shows -- including a debut date -- for competitive reasons. “So there are changes that have been made and that will be made.”
For his part, Maciborski calls himself “a casualty of the economy, timing and ambition,” let go at a time when TV stations are slimming the number of anchors in early evening and a window opened up in his contract. Hopeful of finding a job closer to his family in California, the 41-year-old anchor had been considering pursuing jobs in bigger markets, anyway, he said.
Schwartz, 55, was less philosophical, saying that Pegram “never granted me a sit-down meeting until just before Thanksgiving, when I was told my contract was terminated.” The reporter, whose stories included the first interview with the family of wrestler Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea after his son was involved in a high-speed car wreck, said he originally thought they were meeting to discuss the general manager’s news philosophy.
Pegram countered that the station plans to hire “the best investigative reporter in America” to succeed Schwartz, disputing his former employee’s account while insisting WFTS wasn’t backing down on its commitment to in-depth TV reporting. He also resisted another notion: that, because Jadick, Schwartz and Maciborski were hired by his predecessor, the new manager was cleaning house to bring in his own people.
McLaughlin’s Flashpoint will morph into a five-minute segment aired at the end of the new Sunday news show, likely scheduled as a bridge to ABC’s politics show This Week. And though the change means losing his half-hour program, McLaughlin agreed with the move, saying Flashpoint had taken too much effort to produce each week, especially with the extra work created by Maciborski’s departure.
“I actually went in and asked if there was a way to sunset the show, and Rich came up with this idea,” McLaughlin said. “I thought it was brilliant.”
At a time when so many news outlets are cutting staff, Pegram insists that WFTS is trying to marshal its resources to better compete for viewers, even as some industry observers wonder how long the area can support five TV outlets with fully staffed news departments.
“If there are going to be fewer news voices in this market, (WFTS owner E.W. Scripps Co.) intends to be here,” the general manager said. “This mission is not to stay the course. The mission is to do better.”