New WTHR general manager: No budget cuts

WTHR-TV Channel 13’s new General Manager Jim Tellus promises to continue outspending the market’s other local stations when it comes to news gathering and hopes to help the station retain its title as the No. 1 local TV news channel.

With WISH-TV Channel 8 coming up in the ratings, new anchors making their mark at WRTV-TV Channel 6 and a beefed-up news product at WXIN-TV Channel 59, Tellus has his work cut out.

Tellus, who joined WTHR as news director in December 2006, was named yesterday to replace 13-year WTHR veteran Rich Pegram, who left abruptly Nov. 1.

Tellus hopes to hire a replacement news director within eight weeks. A nationwide search has already begun, he added.

Rod Porter, the station program director who had become interim general manger immediately after Pegram’s departure, will return to his former position. It was not clear whether Porter had sought to become the station’s general manager permanently.

Tellus, 45, plans no immediate major changes at WTHR.

“I wasn’t brought to this newsroom to blow it up,” Tellus said. “It will be an evolution, not a revolution.”

Those who know Tellus call him a strong team leader.

“At the end of day, I will be the one making the call,” said Tellus, a New York City native who graduated from Wichita State University. “But not without a tremendous amount of input. I consider my management style to be very inclusive and collaborative.”

Pegram departed the station after year-end budgetary meetings. Some in the local broadcast industry speculated that the station’s parent company, Columbus, Ohio-based Dispatch Broadcasting, mandated budget cuts. Tellus said there will be no broad sweeping budget cuts at WTHR.

“Some folks simply look for opportunities to bash the No. 1 station,” Tellus said. “We’re in very good shape.”

Tellus said there’s no doubt in his mind that WTHR will continue to outspend WISH, WRTV and WXIN by a solid margin.

“We will stick to our roots and make a strong commitment to investigative journalism,” Tellus said.

Tellus came to WTHR from KOMO-TV in Seattle, where he had been news director since November 2001.

During that time he helped grow the newscast in late news to the No. 1 position with 25- to 54-years-olds and other key demographic groups. He also launched a 4 p.m. hour-long newscast and was instrumental in launching KOMO 1000 NEWS, Seattle’s only 24/7 all-news radio station.

He developed a strategic partnership with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper.

Before arriving in Seattle, Tellus was news director at WVEC-TV in Norfolk, Va., and at KSNW-TV in Wichita, Kan.

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