KCOY lays off 13 people

January 5, 2012

Jim Byrne


UPDATE: KCOY laid off meteorologist Jim Byrne and 12 others on Wednesday.

KCOY parent company Cowles California Media Company is consolidating in order to cut costs, inside sources said. Many news staffers will be replaced with its Salinas news team which will cover both Salinas and the Central Coast. The media  group has eliminated local sports. The morning news will be live from Santa Maria and the evening news will be anchored in Salinas.

Here is who was let go:

1. Jim Byrne
2. Kevin Roose, weekend sports
3. Crystal Guerrero, producer
4. Tom Murphy, director for more than 26 years
5. Mike Curto, director for more than 20 years
6. Tom Jones, assignment editor and web producer
7. Jerry Hartzell, photographer
8. Carl Gescheider, photographer
9. Dena Peneranda, office staffer
10. Aaron Meloncon, photographer
11. Kenneth Johnson, commercial production
12. Jordan Montgomery, promotions

Arturo Santiago is going to be a reporter.

Former KCOY news director John Zuchelli put out the following statement on behalf of his family:

“KCOY was founded in 1964 by my father Ed Zuchelli and several other residents of the Santa Maria Valley. They built the TV station to serve the community of Santa Maria. I hope that will continue to happen. The entire Zuchelli family is praying for the people who have lost their jobs.”

Dozens of Facebook posts report that Central Coast News managers gave the ax to sportscasters, producers, photographers and the “weather guy.” In the posts, former employees ask about future jobs and locals note their dismay.

“These people who were let go are many who have been long-term employees who are very talented,” Anna Scott said in a Facebook post. “The sad part is they stayed in this market because they love living here. Now to get a good job, they’ll have to leave. So sorry to hear this.”

KCOY management staff did not return requests for comment. Numerous calls to Cowles California Media Company were met with a busy signal.

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I worked with Tom Murphy and Mike Curto for 15 years; they had a combined 50 years of service to KCOY…two of the finest people to ever be associated with…

Dave F

This is not a good sign. KCOY did a story on the effects of slant oil drilling in the Sespe-Frasier Condor Sanctuary within the Los Padres National Forest. Years after the California division of the U.S. Forestry Service granted permits for oil development, and the permitee claimed the process was safe for the environment, Tony Cippola not only took the news tip, but drove out with a television camera crew and videoed the contamination around one of the well sites, and put it on the evening news. That was brave of him to bring the issue to the public’s attention in an area where large corporations can weild alot of influence on what stories get published and which ones get covered up.

I knew Zuke’s son was the news director, but I didn’t know Zuke actually started the television station. I learned more from sitting in Zuke’s office and listening to his stories than I ever did from my Cal Poly journalism classes (with the exception of Randall Murray’s class.)

Cowles Publishing has been one of the last newspaper organizations to fight in court for the right to access public records. Their cases have set precedents in First Amendment Law and make great reading. So, if they had to lay off so many people, that can only mean that they are hurting financially. And they are one of the last of the great news organizations who have put everything on the line in order to get at the truth.

Local TV, like local radio, is a dinosaur. The stations don’t attract enough viewers to make the ad spots profitable. TV stations don’t exist ‘for the public good’ – they exist to make a profit, and that means selling ads based on number of viewers. The FCC mandated the local news and public service requirements as repayment for the stations using the public airwaves for commercial purposes.

We watch news 24×7 on multiple channels, we see news feeds on our ‘smart’ phones, we get bombarded by news on the web, so local TV news as a business is too expensive to continue long term. There’s too much outside competition for viewers.

It won’t be long before the major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) drop their nightly news broadcasts altogether. Their news content isn’t generated by their newsrooms anyway – its bought from news services like Reuters and AP for rebroadcast. Besides, on the web, you have a one ad to one story ratio, and you can’t get that kind of ad saturation on TV – nobody would watch. More value to advertisers lies in web-based content, plus the number of viewers watching the ads can be accurately tracked online – not so with TV.

I’m sure the folks that were let go are very talented and creative individuals, and I wish them all the best in finding new opportunities. But this is radio 2.0 – its the same thing that happened to local radio stations nation wide over the past decade. We’re just seeing the start of the decline.

ds_gray, why do you separate “profits” from “the public good,” as if they were mutually exclusive?

Jim Burne will definitely be a significant loss. Katie and Arturo never did much for me. Ever since Evelyn Taft left, it’s been all downhill. I could watch her pitch news all day!

If I were Dave Hovde, I’d quit while I was ahead…. Go after the job Jim!