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Black Monday

Layoffs gut News 14 Carolina

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The rumors had been flying at News 14 Carolina, and many of the employees I'd spoken with in the last few days feared the worst. Monday, it happened.

In an afternoon staff meeting, Time Warner Cable managers told newsroom staff that of the 90 employees, only 26 were still employed, and the rest were let go. Charlotte's local cable news operation, owned by Time Warner Cable, is effectively being gutted, and a skeleton crew of reporters, videographers, weather personnel, and news director Jim Newman, will stay aboard.

News 14 Charlotte will maintain operations as a sort-of bureau to the Raleigh operation. The Charlotte and Raleigh newsrooms will merge into what will probably be a statewide newscast, with only Charlotte-area news and weather slices each newscast.

The firings had been feared ever since ownership partner Belo backed out of their end of the deal a few weeks ago and closed down sister operations in Houston and Austin. Many here wondered what the fallout would be in Charlotte. As for the dozens of people now looking for jobs, feelings range from sadness to anger to resignation.

"It completely sucks, especially since we've had a couple of weeks to hope for the best," one fired staffer told me.

Another was angry not just at the way dozens of employees got pink slips, but that goals had been met: "We did everything we were asked to do, in terms of the newscasts and the budgets, which is why it's really not fair," they said.

"It makes no sense to make Raleigh the hub for this deal when Charlotte's the biggest city in the state with pro sports teams and all that," said another.

It's a far cry from the high expectations for the 24-hour cable news outlet when it began operating out of a revamped facility and state-of-the-art digital newsroom on Morehead Street in June 2002. As far as the newscasts went, they weren't so much competition for the local network affiliate newscasts, but more of an anytime-of-day alternative. The "Weather On The Ones" frequent weathercasts were notable, and ad revenues were growing, though they'd never touched those of network stations.

I think it's a shame for the news employees who thought they were working for a sure thing to find they were not, and it's a sad day that takes another news option from the Charlotte consumer.

Any more questions about why a few media conglomerates should not own all the media outlets?

Stay tuned.

Shannon Reichley is the producer of Lending A Hand: A Habitat Neighborhood, airing August 21 on the D-I-Y cable network. E-mail at Shannon.Reichley@cln.com

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