WFLA weatherman leaves as owner Media General outlines plan for cutting 750 jobs
Words of Michaels' departure comes as Richmond Va.-based Media General released a report today noting that a series of job reductions which began in early 2007 will have eliminated 750 jobs from the company by the third quarter of 2008.
About 250 of those jobs were eliminated in 2007, with 500 job reductions remaining this year, according to a company spokesman. The bulk of those job reductions are expected to fall in Florida, where Media General has already offered buyout packages to half its 1,326 employees, including people who work at WFLA, TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune Spanish-language CENTRO, Hernando Today, Sunbelt Newspapers and a host of other smaller daily and weekly newspapers.
Michaels, 37, who is 9 months into a new, three-year contract, said his deal's non-compete provisions have been lifted, allowing him to pursue work at other area stations. The station had exercised a provision allowing them to end his contract early.
He came to WFLA in April 2000 from WINK-TV in Ft. Myers, getting a rocky start when he broke away from a U.S. Open broadcast to report on a waterspout just as golf great Tiger Woods was finishing a record, 15- stroke victory in June 2000. Later, in 2002, it was announced he was leaving WFLA, but Michaels wound up staying six more years.
"They told me this was 100-percent budget-related," said Michaels, who found out two weeks ago WFLA was letting him go. "They're cutting the budget and I'm the victim of it, I guess."
Florida continues to be a problem child for Media General, which cited weakness in classified advertising in Tampa as much of the cause for a $9.6-million drop in April revenue from last year, ($78.7-million in April 2008, compared to $88.3-million in April 2007). According to the report, publishing division revenues in Florida dropped 27 percent in April 2008 compared to April 2007; excluding Florida, the publishing revenue drop was just 14.3 percent.
Other observations: the company expects the job cuts to save $40-million in 2009.
* 745 jobs will be reduced from the publishing division, 45 in broadcasting and 20 across other departments, though the company won't say yet how many of those jobs will be in Florida. They expect to add 60 jobs in their Interactive Media Division. The 750 jobs would be about a 10 percent drop from the company peak of 6,900 jobs in early 2007.
* In publishing, classified advertising revenue fell 29 percent, mostly due to shortfalls in Tampa and Richmond, Va., where Media General owns the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retail advertising declined $1.2-million, mostly due to lower spending in Tampa. In the company's three metro markets -- Tampa, Richmond and Winston-Salem, N.C. -- revenue from employment, real estate and automotive ads all declined about 40 percent.