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Lou Pickney's Online Commentary

Quite a Start

January 26, 2003

The first month of 2003 has proven to be one wild ride after another. Tumultuous, to be sure. But definitely an adventure.

First, let's address things at WTSP Channel 10. For the past year, I've been tormented by a supervisor who has made life extraordinarily difficult. She's referred to in some circles as the "Executive Meddler". That's putting it mildly. The news director inexplicably loves her; in his eyes she can do no wrong. Never mind the hour-long personal phone calls to Portland, Oregon in the middle of breaking news, or her condescending, insulting, vitriolic manner of handling those whom she supervises. It's been horribly frustrating for me. I consider myself a hard worker and a good worker, but I've faced nothing but disincentive and discouraging circumstances. Luckily, that's almost over.

I've been under contract, which has left me caught in a trap. With no outs, I was obligated to stay and make the best of a horrible situation. I saw in mid-2002 how the EM would attack and belittle and insult the 6 a.m. producer, Brian Kargus. Brian is an excellent worker and a dedicated employee, and just this week Bay News 9 hired him to produce over there. Poor Brian tried his best to make things work, but the EM wouldn't let that happen. It was out of control.

I saw the same level of rage and anger and fault-finding being turned up against me as the summer became fall in 2002. Finally, in November I couldn't take it anymore. I filed a complaint with human resources.

That capped the anger and the negativity, but it just brought on a passive-aggressive attack by the EM. She started doing her best to find alleged "fact errors" in my scripts. It was a total sham. She's so transparent that it wasn't difficult to see what was going on. In my opinion she was working harder to find fault with my scripts than she was to actually do her job. It was sickening to me.

On Wednesday of this past week, my news director, the Executive Meddler and I sat down. I brought up all of the issues that I've mentioned here. It's not like I'm using this forum to cowardly bash; I told the news director about all of this insanity with the EM with her sitting right there. We're well beyond the point of sugar-coating or spin control.

If the so-called problems that they've found are the best they can come up with against me, then that's pathetic. Look, it's obvious that my ND came in with the mindset of a total turnover in the producer ranks. In some cases that was a good move. But in others, it was a terrible mistake. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

Consider this -- from November 2001 to November 2002, ratings for the 5-6 a.m. show were up 30%. Meanwhile, the 6-7 a.m. numbers remained flat. Yet I'm the one they seem intent on running out on a rail. If they want a total producer turnover, then so be it. But don't smear my name and the quality of my work as a faux excuse for achieving that goal.

But I'm not angry or bitter about it in the slightest. I'm getting out of TV, at least for the time being, for a much more lucrative opportunity. One that won't require me to leave Tampa. Expect to hear plenty about it in the weeks and months ahead.

My friend James is leaving this week to go into active duty for the U.S. Coast Guard. I've got some friends in the military, and it worries me that they might be involved in some dangerous situations. I credit James and Josiah and Todd and Veronica for having the courage to risk their lives to defend our country.

The Super Bowl is today. If Tampa Bay wins, then I can only imagine how this city is going to react. It'd be mayhem...

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