Scott Libin let go as WCCO-TV News Director [updated]

It’s effective immediately. Former number two Mike Caputa will take over as acting news director.

New station G.M. Brien Kennedy made the change. Caputa is the only member of WCCO news triumvirate who remains: New-media director John Daenzer resigned Friday to take a job as TPT-TV’s Vice President of Interactive.

Kennedy was hired in June from Florida to replace longtime General Manager Susan Adams Loyd. It was the first time in years, WCCO’s big boss had no local experience. Since new G.M.s often bring in new news directors, that had many speculating Libin’s future was drawing short.

Still, in recent months, he introduced a popular reboot of the 6 p.m. newscast and others thought the new guy’s ax might pass the news director by.

WCCO has long been the area’s number-two newscast on the ad-driven 25-to-54-year-old demographic, behind KARE, though that can vary depending on newscast. One knock against the station is that its 10 p.m. newscast doesn’t build on CBS-TV’s market-leading prime-time numbers. KARE has two decades of brand equity, but despite the market-leading popularity of Julie Nelson and Belinda Jensen, that station may be vulnerable due to cost-cutting.

Kennedy is considered a fully corporate guy. Among other things, WCCO is merging its TV and radio websites soon, which may not improve TV’s current offering but provides a less expensive, corporate-standardized alternative. Kennedy would not comment for this story, but it’s possible more combos and cost-cuts coming and that requires a new manager’s full buy-in.

Libin was a bit of a non-traditional hire. Although he was the news boss at KSTP-TV from 1998 to 2003, he did two stints at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a journalism think tank. He worked for Poynter when WCCO and Loyd named him news director in November 2007.

Here’s the staff memo:

Team,

I have decided to make a change in our newsroom leadership effective immediately. During this transition Mike Caputa will be acting News Director and will work closely with the leadership team here at the station while overseeing the day to day operation of the newsroom.

I will begin the search for our News Director right away.

I want to thank Scott for all his work during his time here and I know all of you will join me in wishing him well in his future endeavors.

If you have any questions or concerns during this transition please feel free to drop me a note or come by the office anytime.

Sincerely,
Brien

Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Tim McNeill on 10/11/2010 - 04:13 pm.

    This change has been coming for a long time. The news ratings have been flat for a number of years. The stories covered are light and dull. The look of the newscasts graphics, sets, and general apperance are poor. Changing the GM and now the news director are just signs that CBS needed to make a change because, with Shelby leaving, Frank V. taking over, ‘CCO is in trouble. Frank is just not the person to take the helm over there. He is weak and not major market material in my opinion. KARE got rid of him when he thought he needed to be paid like Paul Majors. If WCCO wants to get back into the news game, they need to up the game on many fronts. Getting rid of broadcast directors was a dumb mistake. ‘CCO’s news is full of nothing but technical errors, spelling and other “no excuse” errors. I hope in the fall when Shelby retires, ‘CCO finds the way with the right people and stop giving us crap. It becomes harder and harder to watch ‘CCO news for anything. I feel like I am watching the K-Mart of local newscasts each time I spill from CBS prime-time to the 10 pm show. With the money saved by putting Don on ice, I would hope that when a chopper needs to get up and cover something, when a major story breaks the right teams are sent out, and the whole thing gets packaged so it looks like the news is competing in the 20th century!! Here is to the hope that ‘CCO can gain some relevance in this market again. I long for the days when this station was owned by local people who thought “outside” the box!!

  2. Submitted by John O'Sullivan on 10/11/2010 - 07:29 pm.

    I don’t watch enough (read: any) WCCO live broadcasts anymore, but their production values are hardly cheap. They’ve got some great looking sets, beautiful graphics and crisp lighting. Production-wise, WCCO is doing some interesting things, unlike the competition which tends to sway toward the generic. Tim can you or anyone else expand on how you think the production looks “poor?”

  3. Submitted by Tim McNeill on 10/12/2010 - 12:30 am.

    The lighting is poor. Can you see all the reflections in the glass windows? Can you see the torn mesh drape behind the anchors? Can you see where someone used a majic marker to hide chips and missing wood in the two shots (high-deff makes it look worse). The water fountain lights are always burnt out looking out a dark street. They fix it and it works for about a week. I called in and told someone in the newsroom that one of their sets had burnt out bulbs for a week. That night low-and-behold, the lights were fixed because, not one person noticed or cared. They no longer have broadcast directors and when you watch the shows tapes don’t roll, wrong graphics are displayed, spelling errors, etc. How much red does a set have to have? The desks look like custormer service centers in a shopping mall. They have no real way to display news graphics over the shoulders of the talent. The monitors they use to display story graphics are too small, washed out, and it appears too dificult to move into position to be used by both anchors. The sets really have no glitz. The music they chose is bad, etc. I worked at one time for Tom Kirby at KARE when Gannett took over. He said to be number one you had to win the lead story each night. Win at producing great teases and bumbers that hold the viewers, and you package your shows to showcase your technology, people, and the content. WCCO appears to be going for a “newsmagazine” style. The new weather guy is no Paul Douglas with any real earned credibility. When flooding occurs your lucky to see a helicopter shot. The mic flags have different styles half the time. It just appears that someone is not watching the product and staying on-top of things. Many of the reporters over there are top notch. But, if a station can not package a product in such a way that people can say to themselves, “WOW!” Something is wrong. The weather computer graphics lack innovation. The weather radar used now is just a NEXRAD image from the weather service (what happened to their great Doppler)! I always feel when I watch ‘CCO, I am only watching a budget newscast: where management people spend most of the day dealing with how can we do this on the cheap. The news opens do nothing to create interest in the program. You will never see a beauty shot of the set because, they don’t have one. I can only hope that this new management can take some pride in all aspects of a news program: content, graphics, production, technology, and on-air people. The retirement of Don Shelby marks a new era. This new era I feel will make or break this CBS station. ‘CCO has a chance to break the old demographic if and only if, they can start looking at the big picture. I don’t think very many people look to WCCO as a journalistic powerhouse anymore. WCCO has to be fresh, exciting, and bring something that makes them stand out. I am sorry but, Good Question is not the answer. I bet Jason DeRusha could phone his part in most of the time. The same style, the same lame questions, and not a fresh and original approach night after night. Television has a tough sell with viewers these days. I can’t belive in the next five years we will see as many local stations trying to divide a fragmented audience between four major players doing news at the same time. If a local sation can’t be on their game from all angles, people will move on. At least with the internet, I have about the same sources to get information that television has. So, it would be nice to see local stations dig deeper, find important news (the I-Team turned into an industry joke), and get back to consumer reporting. WCCO is as soft as melted butter. (More below)

  4. Submitted by Tim McNeill on 10/12/2010 - 12:34 am.

    (continued)
    They really need an overhaul and with Shelby leaving, ‘CCO does not have much time to do something with Frank that can or could appeal to an audience with which ‘CCO needs badly. People want to like who they watch, like what they watch, and when they tuned in don’t want their chains yanked. Trust is something that local news needs to work on. One way to do this is produce solid, attractive, and innovative information. ‘CCO I fear has none of that at the moment and needs this shake-up to get back on track. The next guy I would axe is the art director. There really is no gell to anything. Some things are red, some things have arrows, some things have lines, some graphics are white, some black, etc. The style over there is a mish-mash. Sometimes you see a 4 posted in everything, other times you see WCCO. There is just not a real identity or, a coming together of many elements. I used to love ‘CCO but, I have to say that myself and others in this business just laugh at some of the crap coming out of that Minneapolis building. The building was designed to be a land mark. Now, you walk by and the building looks as old and unkept as the product put on the air. Very sad!! One last thing, don’t think for a second that Don Shelby leaving does not have a lot to do with economics in the business, fighting with journalistic decisions, management, and the general down-hill roll that the TV news business is in. He worked for a company and in a market that had fended off this much longer than other markets. He did his time. Did some great work. Worked in the business when it was at the peak, and made his money. Now, let the younger bean counters dismantle quickly what was built over time. I am sure Dave Moore would have retired on his own if the business was really as bad as things are now.
    Sorry, this rant of mine is my way of saying, “Let me take a shot at fixing a broken WCCO.”

  5. Submitted by Matthew Steele on 10/12/2010 - 09:23 am.

    I’m young and I watch ‘cco. I guess I’m not going to convince Tim, but I usually like what I see. It looks a lot more ‘real’ than KARE or the others. WCCO’s production seems to be more European, and I like that. Also it’s not fake shiny sets and graphics and overdone music like KARE and KSTP.

  6. Submitted by Matthew Steele on 10/12/2010 - 09:26 am.

    The only thing I can’t stand is the “W” in the “WCCO” on the new “six.” The W is rounded and looks horrible, especially when they have a normal “vv”-looking W on their other stuff. It distracts me every time I see that on a mic flag or on a screen.

  7. Submitted by Tim McNeill on 10/12/2010 - 11:57 am.

    Matt:

    You hit one of my points on the head. That goofy rounded W is the W style from the wire. It simply looks goofy and does not fit into a newscast that uses a standard W througout. And, the Wire in my opinion is something too difficult to use to be any good for anything. I like KSTP’s local approach by giving community news and the web is a great place for that. But, the Wire is just a gimmick that makes navigating a real pain. I am sure the Wire has not given WCCO any aid when it comes to good input or information from a public who does not use it or even understand the difficult navigation to participate.

    And, I want to clarify that I am not a fan of over-the-top production. But, ‘CCO does not really have any. What they have is a soft, restrained, simple approach. I just feel that the approach they employ does not have the legs to carry a transition from Shelby to Frank (gasp) who is as bland as American Cheese!! If what Frank brings to the table over there is simply that he is married to the person he sits next to then, ‘CCO is dead in the water. And, if ‘CCO believes force feeding us stories about parenting is going to cut it–start the bilge pumps because, this ship is going down.

  8. Submitted by Marlin Henjum on 10/12/2010 - 04:12 pm.

    It would take nothing short of the resurrection of Dave Moore to bring this old fogey back to ‘CCO at 10pm!

  9. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 10/12/2010 - 07:37 pm.

    When there has been any kind of breaking story in my area (south mpls) even though CCO is the closest operation, I’ve learned I’ll have a better chance of seeing any coverage on it on 9 or 5. I know they consciously chose to go to more long form stories but what is the point of a live broadcast if you don’t do the bread and butter of the day to day.

    I heard Pat Miles and Colleen Needles may join Shelby during his last week. What a difference from a time when you could find confident, capable anchors on every channel. I can probably count them on half a hand now.

  10. Submitted by Tim McNeill on 10/12/2010 - 07:58 pm.

    WCCO and their spot news is another sticking point. The staff numbers are low and any other channel out there will always have the story first. WCCO and spot news don’t belong in the same sentence. If the weather produces damage, the only pictures you get are sent in from viewers. I hope someone at ‘CCO is aware of the real problems over there. Because, there are too many that they may never dig out of the hole they are in these days. And, when television stops putting sales people in charge will be the day that television news goes back into the business of producing the primary revenue source that drives a television station. These sales people are clueless when it comes to running a news operation. ‘CCO lost are real pro years back. Ed Piete. He understood the workings of local television stations and did not just count beans.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/12/2010 - 11:26 pm.

    I think standing around is instead of sitting behind a desk is cutting edge stuff man. Local TV news is a waste of time by and large but I guess I find myself spending more time with KSTP. I’d have to say their production value rivals Tim’s complaints about CCO but actually do news. I’m not impressed with their political coverage, I prefer Pat Kessler, but I can’t watch CCO long enough to see Pat most nights. KARE appears to be a sports broadcast of some kind most nights. KSTP will frequently be the only broadcast that doesn’t lead with a sports story. Sports is not news, it’s trivia and should never lead unless someone dies, or is in the playoffs. The Good Question is a decent idea but more often than not it isn’t a very good question. I must say, KARE does have superior production quality.

  12. Submitted by Nicholas Goodroad on 10/27/2010 - 12:39 pm.

    Can anyone tell me how to reach or follow Scott Libin on any social networks. I saw him on television this morning on a ‘News and Audience Responsibilities’ symposium taped at The University of St. Thomas back in 2009. (TPT digital television)

    I would like to follow any further public discourse on the future of media distribution and consumption. (Twitter, Blog, Website)

    Please let me know if you can help.

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