WTVH 5 lays off news staff; merges with WSTM 3

From his heavenly cloud, Ron Curtis surely shakes his head in shame.

His once proud news operation at WTVH-CBS 5 was devastated Monday March 2, when its owner merged the CBS affiliate with WSTM-NBC 3 and its sister station WSTQ-CW 6. More than three dozen WTVH news and production staffers were laid off.

The casualities at channel 5 included familiar faces such as anchors Keith Kobland and Donna Adamo, sports director Kevin Maher, weekend anchor Chuck Plumpton and chief meteorologist Tom Hauf. Those who are laid off are receiving three-months' severance pay.

The cutbacks were caused by WTVH's longtime low ratings and slow ad sales. For many years, WSYR-ABC 9 newscasts have topped local ratings, with WSTM second and WTVH a distant third.

No noon news

For the first time in decades, WTVH failed to telecast its weekday noon news on March 2, airing a paid infomercial for women's cosmetics instead.

At 5 p.m. WSTM anchors Matt Mulcahy and Jackie Robinson opened WTVH's evening news with an interview with Chris Geiger, president and chief executive officer of WSTM. Major changes will not be implemented overnight, Geiger said, but he predicted that news will be aired at different time slots in the future.

Each station will have its own managing editor, Geiger said. Sometimes, one reporter and one camera person will cover a story for all three stations. Other times, they may send teams from each station. Weather and sports will be provided to all three stations by the same team. All of the operations will eventually move to WSTM's facility at 1030 James St.

Since Barrington also operates the Weather Plus station, broadcasts in high definition and has online presence on cnycentral.com, "We'll be multi-platformed," said Geiger, who will oversee all operations.

Mulcahy agreed. "It's a big conglomerate," he said. Coincidentally Mulcahy had worked for WTVH from 1997 to 2005.

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