After almost seven years as vice president and general manager, Larry Blackerby is out at WRTV-TV Channel 6.
Blackerby was fired Monday and replaced by Jeff Block, a special projects consultant for WRTV owner E.W. Scripps Co.
A representative from Cincinnati-based Scripps flew in Monday to notify the WRTV staff of the replacement in a brief meeting, a source told IBJ.
“Jeff won’t be the permanent GM. He’s coming in on an interim basis,” said Carolyn Pione Micheli, vice president of communications and investor relations for Scripps. “We will be starting a nationwide search right away for a permanent replacement.”
Though Micheli said she wasn't sure when the permanent replacement would be hired, she said having a person in place by Jan. 1 “would be nice.”
Micheli declined to say why Blackerby was fired, but one current employee and one former staffer from WRTV said the move was due to continued low ratings, especially for the station’s local television newscasts.
WRTV has been at or near the bottom of the local TV news ratings for more than five years. In some time slots, local TV news leaders WXIN-TV Channel 59 and WTHR-TV Channel 13 have more than three times the audience as WRTV.
WTTV-TV Channel 4, which became Indianapolis’ CBS affiliate and launched its local newscasts in 2015, also passed WRTV in several local news time slots. WISH-TV Channel 8, which has no major affiliation, also regularly beats WRTV in the city’s hyper-competitive TV news race.
“Larry is a great guy and was a great leader for many years,” Micheli said. “We wish him the best.”
Micheli said there are no other staff changes planned at WRTV at this time.
Before moving to special projects consulting, Block was the long-time general manager for Scripps’ San Diego ABC affiliate, KGTV. For several months this year, he served as interim general manager of Scripps’ Las Vegas affiliate, KTNV.
When asked what Scripps will be looking for in a new permanent GM, Micheli said: “Being a TV GM is a complicated job. You have to have someone who can think about digital and the full audience we’re serving.”
Under Blackerby, WRTV has tried several things to boost ratrings, including launching an edgier 4 p.m. news program called "The Now" in 2015, but the show was dropped in June as part of an afternoon lineup change.
Blackerby replaced the retiring Don Lundy, who had been general manager with WRTV for nine years, on Jan. 3, 2011.
Blackerby spent about 30 years working in Houston and in markets in California, Florida, Michigan and North Carolina before arriving in Indianapolis. He was hired by former WRTV owner McGraw Hill, which sold the station to E.W. Scripps in late 2011.