Scripps taps five regional VPs to oversee more stations

The E. W. Scripps Company has elevated general managers at five of its television stations to serve as regional vice presidents, a move that will put more TV stations under their direct oversight.

On Wednesday, Dean Littleton, a Scripps executive in charge of local media initiatives, said six general managers were being elevated to regional vice president roles, to include oversight duties at their home stations and several others in nearby markets:

  • Kathleen Choal, the current general manager at KSHB (Channel 41, NBC) in Kansas City, will also oversee Scripps stations in Waco, Corpus Christi, Indianapolis, Tulsa and Omaha.
  • Anita Helt, the current general manager at KNXV (Channel 15, ABC) in Phoenix, will oversee stations in Tucson, Bakersfield, San Luis Obispo, San Diego and Las Vegas.
  • Nick Nicholson, the current general manager at WFTS (Channel 28, ABC) in Tampa, will also oversee stations in Miami, West Palm Beach, Tallahassee, Lafayette and Fort Myers, as well as the regional news network Florida 24.
  • Lyn Plantinga, the current general manager at WTVF (Channel 5, CBS) in Nashville, will also oversee stations in Cleveland, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Lexington.
  • Joe Poss, the general manager at WTMJ (Channel 4, NBC) in Milwaukee, will also oversee stations in Green Bay, Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids.

Additionally, Littleton said Scripps’ regional vice president in Montana, Jon Saunders, will also oversee stations in Boise, Salt Lake City, Denver, Colorado Springs, Baltimore, Richmond and Norfolk in addition to his management of outlets in Montana.

Littleton said each of the new regional vice presidents’ home stations will soon offer a new position, called station manager, which will help oversee the day-to-day operations at each outlet. Department heads at each station will be allowed to apply for the new station manager role, but will also have to continue in their current roles if they are hired, Littleton affirmed.

A source who provided The Desk with a copy of Littleton’s memo said the move will see the elimination of general manager roles at other stations. After publication, a spokesperson for Scripps denied this was the case, saying he was unaware of any layoffs impacting general managers at its TV stations. A general manager at one Scripps TV station also said they were unaware of any impending layoffs.

The full memo is reproduced below:

Scripps employees:

In June, I announced how we are changing our local media organization to place decision-making closer to the operations with a focus on improving our agility and driving financial performance. As part of this, we are creating five new regional vice president/GM roles.

Today I’m pleased to announce the regional vice presidents/GMs and the stations they will support, effective immediately:

  • Kathleen Choal, currently vice president and general manager at KSHB in Kansas City, will oversee Kansas City, Waco, Corpus Christi, Indianapolis, Tulsa and Omaha.
  • Anita Helt, currently vice president and general manager at KNXV in Phoenix, will oversee Phoenix, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Bakersfield, Tucson and Las Vegas.
  • Nick Nicholson, currently vice president and general manager at WFTS in Tampa, will oversee Tampa, West Palm Beach, Miami, Tallahassee, Fort Myers, Florida 24 and Lafayette.
  • Lyn Plantinga, currently vice president and general manager at WTVF in Nashville, will oversee Nashville, Lexington, Cleveland, Buffalo and Cincinnati.
  • Joe Poss, currently vice president and general manager at WTMJ in Milwaukee, will oversee Milwaukee, Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids and Green Bay.

These regional vice presidents/GMs will oversee the station they currently manage as well as their regional group of stations. In the station where they each sit, we will recruit for a station manager role between now and the end of August to help with the station’s day-to-day operations. Current department heads at these stations are eligible to apply for these positions. Successful candidates will take on the station manager responsibilities in addition to their current department head role.

Jon Saunders, vice president of local media operations, who currently oversees the Montana stations, will oversee a larger group of stations. These stations are Missoula, Boise/Twin Falls, Great Falls/Helena, Butte/Bozeman, Billings, Salt Lake City, Denver, Colorado Springs, Baltimore, Richmond and Norfolk.

In Jon’s station group, we will introduce the station manager role in several of our smaller markets where we have open GM positions – Missoula, Butte/Bozeman and Boise/Twin Falls. Again, current department heads will be eligible to apply for these roles, which would be in addition to their department head responsibilities. The station managers in these markets will report to Jon and we will not be filling the GM roles.

In addition to Jon and the regional GMs, Ed Fernandez, vice president of the local media network, also reports to me, as previously announced.

Please join me in congratulating the regional vice presidents/GMs on their new roles. Once the station manager positions are posted, we will share details on WorkLife.

Dean Littleton
Senior Vice President, Local Media

The layoffs come after Scripps issued pink slips to around 300 workers in April, which mainly some local news operations as well as the national streaming news channel Scripps News.

Like other media companies, Scripps has been impacted in a pullback in the advertising space that has seen some marketers reduce their budgets for broadcast and cable TV, and shift ad dollars toward connected TV services.

Scripps operates a handful of free, ad-supported streaming channels, including Scripps News, but the channels have yet to offset losses in other parts of its business.

Earlier this month, Scripps reported an operating loss of $621 million, spurred in large part by weaker advertising revenue and its ongoing investments in sports-related programming. Overall revenue was $582 million for the quarter, down 2 percent on a year-over basis.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story, and an associated headline, reported Scripps was eliminating general manager roles at its local TV stations, and would lay off most current general managers by the end of the month. The information was attributed to a source familiar with the company’s strategy, who also provided The Desk with a copy of an internal memo circulated on Wednesday. After publication, a Scripps spokesperson denied the company was laying off general managers.

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