The good news is Chris Kane is expected to stay in Augusta.
The bad news is he won’t be coming into your homes via Channel 6 much longer.
The popular WJBF News Channel 6 morning anchor is turning in his microphone, and his Freddy the Weatherman coffee mug, for a future that remains unspecified, but local.
I would love to be able to tell you that either Chris or one of his colleagues gave me that previously unreleased scoop, but for some odd reason the WJBF folks are not talking to me quite like they used to. I was actually sent a link to Channel 6’s parent company’s (Media General) corporate website advertising a morning news anchor position as “open.” When I saw the “non-gender specific posting, it was my natural assumption that Mary Morrison was the one turning in her keys. Nope, it was Chris.
I did manage to track him down and we exchanged brief correspondence about his exit. Chris says he has no definite plans right now, but he is looking forward to keeping hours that do not start with a 2:30 a.m. wake up call.
A few weeks ago I listed Chris Kane as one of my favorites at WJBF, and it was not just idle praise. I have seen him grow from a young sports reporter and anchor to an accomplished news anchorman and journalist. It was one of his lifelong dreams to get into “network sports” production, and he was able to do that for several years with the Golf Channel.
While making amazing contacts and seeing the world, he also discovered what a terrible schedule the behind-the-scenes folks have (and it is that way for ESPN and Fox Sports Channel as well), and the fact that the demands of the profession leave those worker bees with virtually no social life outside of the studio.
He came back to Augusta in an effort to have a “real life” and, early hours aside, he has managed to do just that. But now he says it is time to move on.
While word of Kane’s pending departure was made public Monday, it has absolutely nothing to do with the huge, but not unexpected, layoff of 26 former employees (ironic, I know) of the “old” WAGT news and production team.
Attached you see reporter Kasey Greenhalgh’s poignant farewell letter that went out to many of her friends and contacts Tuesday after getting the word that they were being let go. The local Media General bosses at Channel 6 apparently did everything they could to keep as many of them around as possible (not really sure who are the few that they kept for use on WJBF), but for some strange reason, with as much affection and love as the Augusta-based management has declared and shown, they have not been given the green light by corporate management to release the on-air broadcasters from the non-compete clauses in their contracts.
The battle over control of WAGT-NBC 26 has been well documented in these pages, with the Georgia Supreme Court making the final call on the issue a few weeks ago. The title was turned over to Gray Television, and the station is now theirs lock, stock and barrel.
As a matter of professional courtesy and practice, the owners of Grey (WRDW Channel 12’s parent company) and Raycom (owners of WFXG Fox 54) do not negotiate or even meet with employees who are under active contracts with in-market competition. There is no doubt one or both stations would have made room for a few of those employees if given the opportunity, particularly weeks or months ago, but Media General refuses to budge. At least publicly.
MG stands to make a ton of dough with an eventual settlement of their broken lease-management contract with 26’s former owners. Schurz Communications clearly did not deliver on at least the four years remaining of their 10-year agreement to allow MG to operate and manage Channel 26. There was significant investment made in infrastructure, not to mention the expense of the afore-listed news team, that was simply sold right out from underneath MG. Since the corporate bosses are apparently refusing to allow those on-air employees to get new work in our market, here’s to hoping they will share with those displaced workers a fair portion of what I will wager will be a significant lump sum paid to Media General for the broken contract. I won’t hold my breath for that, but it would be nice.
Even though I have made my living in it for over 30 years, the broadcasting business can be as cruel and cold as any in corporate America. In the end, the on-air people who are promoted and sold as family members and neighbors can be used as public relations pawns and forced to leave the markets they have called home so that their familiar faces and voices cannot be used to compete against their former station.