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White out as WISH-TV GM after talent turnover

Mason King
June 2, 2014
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Jeff White, president and general manager of WISH-TV Channel  8, has parted ways with the station after 9 years at the helm.

White “is no longer with the company,” Courtney Guertin, a spokeswoman for station owner LIN Media, confirmed via email on Monday morning. She did not respond to questions regarding the circumstances of his exit.  

NewsBlues.com, a website covering the TV news industry, cited inside sources at WISH who said White was fired for disappointing newscast ratings and a series of significant talent losses, including the departure of popular meteorologist Angela Buchman in 2012.

The station last month reported an upswing in May sweeps ratings, although longstanding market leader WTHR-TV Channel 13 remains the market's No. 1 news station.

WISH-TV spokesman Scott Hainey referred questions about White to LIN Media. Efforts to reach White were not successful.

White was named station manager at the local CBS-TV affiliate in 2003, and then president and general manager in 2005. He held the same position for local sister station WNDY-TV Channel 23.

White’s tenure at Channel 8 has been marked by recent turnover in high-profile positions. In December 2011, the station fired field reporter Brad Edwards. At the time, White denied Edwards’ claim that the move was due to his salary, but declined to provide another explanation. The next month, WISH chose not to renew the contract of morning anchor Joy Dumandan.

In 2012, News Director Patti McGettigan was let go by the station. Also that year, popular meteorologist Buchman departed the station with no official explanation, although media sources said she had reached a deal with Channel 13.

Buchman debuted on Channel 13 in September 2013, leading to an immediate ratings surge for WTHR.

Longtime WISH anchorwoman Debby Knox retired in November at age 59, after 33 years with the station.

White began his career in media as an account executive for a radio station in Lansing, Mich. He joined WISH as an account executive in 1989. He was promoted to national sales manager in 1994, local sales manager in 1995, and general sales manager in 1998.

He ascended to station manager in 2003 when WISH's Scott Blumenthal was promoted to regional vice president for LIN Media. Blumenthal announced in September that he would retire from LIN Media at the end of 2013 as its executive vice president of television. 

LIN Media, based in Providence, R.I., operates or services 43 TV stations and seven digital channels in 23 U.S. markets.

WISH is a linchpin for operations at several LIN stations. It conducts a number of back-office operations for the company, and its facility on Meridian Street also conducts video switching and other production work for LIN stations in several states.

White’s departure comes at a time of transition for the station. In late March, LIN Media and Media General Inc. announced a $1.6 billion merger.
 

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  • Politics-Overlooked
    It is important to trust what our news anchor's and reporter's tell us is the total truth. That comes with time, like Mike Ahern and Debby Knox to mention two of the best ever at WISH TV. It always helps when you have a reporter that grew up in our own city, although not totally necessary. When Mike Ahern retired, Eric Halverson stepped in and is doing a wonderful job. We already knew him and trusted his delivery. Eric was a good fit. Karen Hensel was the natural fit for the retirement of Debby. She has been with the station for over 12 years, raised in Indianapolis and went to college in Indiana. She was 10:00 anchor , weekend anchor and often did special projects. She worked holidays and appeared to go the extra mile for the station. It was clear she was loyal to the station and to our community. She is still involved in community events. She had a way of giving us the news, like she was telling us a story and not reading it. So Debby retires, not only did Karen not get the head anchor spot, they took her off the air and gave her the title of Chief Investigator of the I-TEAM. Which has been quite good and interesting, our city needed this badly. It is every reporters dream to be an head anchor at some point. Karen Hensel had earned the right to be head anchor and was passed over. Indianapolis is a city that wants to be treated fairly. Just maybe WISH TV is playing politics and overlooking good people.
  • ?
    WTHR has tried to make a name for themselves (until the previous year) by earning Edwin R Murrow awards - they come in two flavors: regional and national. None of the stations (including WTHR who has some overlap between several different social tools, but nothing which provides a one-stop shop; I'm guessing we've seen the limits of Galer & Her crowd) has seemed capable of acquiring that award for online media. FOX59 looks like Windows 8 on acid. WISH and WRTV look inept. It's not that tough a proposition. I've made several trips to the winners (of both scales) over at least 5 years and seen what it takes.
  • 11=9?
    This was in the distributed email: "Jeff White had been at the helm of Channel 8 for 11 years" But in the article, they said 9.
  • Ugh
    Ugh.... wth is Nicole Pence doing on Fox 59???
  • Typical broadcasting management
    It has nothing to do with "talent turnover." It's clearly a house cleaning so that new ownership (it's not REALLY a "merger") can bring in their own GM. LIN didn't give White the budget to keep Buchman or others in order to keep expenses low and become more attractive to acquisition; ratings naturally declined, and he becomes the scapegoat that allows an opening at an auspicious time.
  • Talent Turnover?
    Doubtful since most of these people left over a year ago or two years.

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