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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Scott Steele delivers the winter headlines on WTMJ-TV Ch. 4, which is going through a management transition.

WTMJ, Journal Communications in a state of flux


In 2014, we will see changes at a number of the traditional media outlets in our market. In our time inviting in the different anchors, weather forecasters and sports reporters into our home, we like to think of them as extended members of the family.

That is why when an on-air staffing change is made, it is noticed by a great deal of people. When changes happen behind the scenes, it may be noticed in the product, but it is usually much more subtle. Viewers and listeners still may actually notice the change.

Here in the next few weeks, I will be tackling a number of changes at media outlets here in Milwaukee, and there will be a number of opinions on why the changes took place. But I want to warn others that in this industry, change is constant. However, it doesn't happen in Milwaukee that often because people tend to put down roots here.

One of the largest changes in the past couple of weeks has been the reorganization of the Journal Broadcast Group, part of the larger Journal Communications firm that owns the Journal Sentinel newspaper and a number of TV and radio stations across the U.S.

At WTJM-AM 620, WLWK-FM 94.5 The Lake and WTMJ-TV Ch. 4, there were three moves made in the last two weeks, and we haven't seen the end of the evolution going on in the organization.

As Journal Broadcast Group has grown, they basically bought clusters of stations in different areas of the nation as they became available. Now the organization has streamlined the efforts to get rid of the cluster mentality.

"Journal Broadcast Group unveiled several upper-management organizational changes that better reflects the group's focus on its two primary businesses: Television and Radio," The RAMP newletter for those working inside the radio industry reported.

Steve Wexler, the executive vice president of the group and GM of television and radio operations of the group, also served as GM of the local radio stations and WTMJ television in our market.

Now, Wexler will be the executive vice president of radio for Journal Broadcast Group, while Debbie Turner, who was an executive vice president and GM of WTVF-TV in Nashville, will be the executive vice president of Television for Journal Broadcast Group.

It's a big change to the organization, and a change for Wexler who will focus on the group's 35 different radio stations.

"I can look out here and still see where I hitched my bike when I was an intern in radio here," Wexler told me during a conversation last week. "I've been telling people that the intern is now running the company."

For Journal Broadcast Group, the transition makes sense. In our conversation, I shared that I worked for Gannett and Hearst – two of the largest media firms in the game – and said the constant change was inevitable for the industry. Different management models need to be tweaked to allow items to be dealt with market-by-market, but also have the sense of mind to utilize the strength in the size of the group and the population it serves.

Wexler said that this change would better allow him to assist the teams at the different stations and help them get out of the cluster mind-set that has been around for years.

Wexler and Turner will report to Andre Fernandez, the president and CFO of Journal Communications.

"Both Debbie and Steve have deep expertise in their respective fields – Debbie as long-time leader of one of the top CBS-affiliated television stations in the country, and Steve as a respected radio industry veteran who was recently elected to the NAB Board of Directors. Their broad experiences make each of them a natural choice for their respective roles leading our Television and Radio operations," Fernandez said.

In just a few days after Wexler's job move, Journal Broadcast Group announced that Tom Langmyer would serve as the new vice president and GM of WTMJ, WLWK and the company's local radio sports play-by-play business, taking on a number of duties that Wexler did locally. Langmyer, who was with WGN in Chicago and CBS Radio in St. Louis, would also continue on as the group's VP of News-Talk Programming.

"Tom is a trusted leader with a well-known track record of success," Wexler told the RAMP newsletter. "Our radio stations are in excellent hands with Tom at the helm. Tom has already made significant contributions to our company, and I'm thrilled to have a broadcaster of his caliber running our flagship stations."

On Monday, an announcement came out that Bill Berra will be stepping down as the news director at WTMJ-TV Ch. 4 in March.

Now, with the move of Wexler to his role in radio, there hasn't been a public announcement of who would take over the general manager duties at the NBC affiliate in Milwaukee. It is assumed that whoever the GM would be, they would report to Turner in Nashville.

Berra, in his current news director role, WTMJ wasn't the only newsroom he looked over, as he was part of the earlier cluster-style of management. At this time it is still unclear if a new GM would be assigned to Milwaukee to take on the duties that Wexler took on, and unsure if a new news director would be assigned to only Milwaukee to lead the newsroom here.

With the Winter Olympics starting up this week, it is pretty easy to say we will not see any more changes or announcements until the games are over.

Talkbacks

SteveKabelowsky | Feb. 7, 2014 at 8:34 a.m. (report)

The over-the-air digital signal for WTMJ-TV is available. You should be able to watch the Olympics.

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dwhittle | Feb. 6, 2014 at 9:45 p.m. (report)

It sure is frustrating that those of us without TWC can no longer receive WTMJ4 on our digital tv. Sure wish my kids could see the Olympics...perhaps 2 years from now it will be publically available.

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