KCOY Underground asking viewers to boycott
January 31, 2012
By KAREN VELIE
The KCOY Underground is asking viewers to boycott KCOY News in February as part of an attempt to force the station back to local broadcasting and make a change in ownership.
In early January, KCOY laid off meteorologist Jim Byrne and 12 others. Many news staffers were replaced with the company’s Salinas news team, which now covers both Salinas and the Central Coast.
The Cowles California Media Company eliminated local sports. And while the morning news is still live from Santa Maria, the evening news is anchored in Salinas.
“To let KION (the company’s Salinas station ) know how much we don’t like the new format, boycott KCOY in February to hurt their ratings,” KCOY Underground tweeted on Jan. 17. “Spread the word.”
The Cowles family, which owns the stations, has been criticized for using their media empire to promote the Cowles family’s commercial real estate projects, while striving to extract as much revenue from their companies as possible.
The group has questioned why, at a time the KCOY team had recently brought the station to the top of the market, Cowles media group laid off 13 people.
In December, Paul Dughi, president of Cowles California Media, sent an email to employees and Besty Cowles, chairman of Cowles California Media and Cowles Company, saying there would be profound changes in the industry, and those unwilling to make changes could be left behind.
In announcing the staffing changes in January, Dughi told the staffs of KCOY, KION and KCBA a drop in revenue was responsible for the elimination of the positions.
Dughi did not say that the station was losing money, but that expenses were up and revenues were down. He pointed to higher costs for the NFL, March Madness and prime time programming.
KCOY was at the top of the market at the time of the layoffs, the Underground said. The Underground questioned why Cowles California Media would change staff members responsible for the recent rise in the market.
Dughi contends that the changes expand reporting by freeing up former anchors to report.
“To sum it up, the rumors that we are getting out of the local news business are flat wrong,” Dughi said in a Jan. 4 email to all personnel. “We are, however, reinventing the way we do it. This is a bold step to define the future and give our stations the best chance for success.”
In Spokane, Wash., the Cowles family dominates the media, owning the Spokeman-Review, the area’s lone newspaper, and the Spokane television station. Reporters who have worked for the Cowles family have lamented for years that the family rewrites articles before they go to print in order to promote their other business endeavors.
For years, The Spokane-Review reported on the construction of a parking garage that was being added to a local mall.
Stories about the parking garage construction project were primarily positive in the mid- and late 90s, but in 2006 a wall collapsed killing a woman. An investigation showed that the concrete had not been properly inspected and was of poor quality. The alleged illicit inspection process was not included in Cowles’ news stories.
The Washington News Council, an independent, nonprofit organization whose members share a common belief that fair, accurate and balanced news media are vital to democracy, performed an independent analysis of the Spokane-Review’s role in the parking garage development project.
The analysis report detailed how family members would instruct editors to rewrite articles to favor the family’s construction plans. It noted the “paper’s longstanding ‘no surprises’ policy, permitting Stacey Cowles, and sometimes Betsy Cowles, to review and direct the editing of stories that involved the family and its enterprises.” Stacey Cowles is Betsy Cowles’ brother and the publisher of the Spokane-Review.
The KCOY Underground is pushing the boycott to take away the Cowles’ ownership of the station.