Farewell Week Begins For Alabama 13’s Pollone

Chris Pollone prepares to sign off WVTM-Alabama’s 13 on Dec. 23. This week he’s running a series of retrospectives on what he’s enjoyed in his 11 years at the Central Alabama NBC affiliate.

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Looks like we have the rare opportunity in the Birmingham (Ala.)  television market  to see a “classy” way for a local TV news anchor to exit his position.

In the local television news business, anchors and reporters change stations more often than some of us change shoes.

Usually, there will be a brief farewell on the person’s last on-air appearance and then the person disappears.  And sometimes, management will stipulate “no on-air goodbyes.”

Alabama’s 13 has decided to allow Chris Pollone, an 11-year veteran at the Media General-owned NBC affiliate, to do a series of farewell-oriented reports during the 10 p.m. newscast this week.

Pollone announced today that he’s leaving the area after getting married in a couple of weeks.  He and his new wife will be living in New York City.

I caught the first of his farewell stories tonight.  It focused on the sports stories he’s enjoyed covering over his decade plus one at the Birmingham station.  Tomorrow night’s installment is supposed to be about Pollone’s favorite foods.

Is this news?  Not really.  But, it’s Christmas week and there’s not a lot going on.    So why not?

Pollone’s Legacy?

Since we’re talking about Pollone’s departure, it’s worth asking, what will be Chris Pollone’s legacy in Birmingham TV?

During his 11 years, WVTM has been through at least one ownership change and numerous anchor shake-ups.  Only a few years ago, it was NBC 13.  Now it’s known as “Alabama’ 13.”

When I first met Pollone, it was over e-mail as I queried him about stories he produced in his 10 p.m. newscast.    He was always kind in engaging me, in spite of my pesky questions.

I think AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT is a must for broadcasters.  Pollone has shown how to do that well and built an audience around his content.

Even his competitors interact with him on Twitter. I’m curious after he leaves WVTM, what will happen to his Twitter handle?  @ChrisAla13.  Will he have to start over building back up to the more than 2,000 followers he has now?

Pollone’s also mastered how to do News and SPORTS well.  Few in the business can do that very well, especially in the Birmingham market.

On a personal note as a journalism professor now, I have appreciated what he’s done to take up time with our students who are coming along behind him.

In one case, at least one of my University of Alabama students attributes her exposure to the broadcast news business based on Pollone’s encouragement and mentoring.

These are some of the things I think Pollone will be remembered for as he departs the nation’s 39th largest television market.

Where Should Pollone Land Next?

In his on-air an announcement tonight, Pollone made it clear that he is not sure where he will land next?   But, he alluded to the fact that he hopes to stay in this career track.

Might he make the jump from Market Number 39 to the Number-1 TV market?   In this day in time, stations in top-ten markets are hiring what are known in the business as “one-man bands”   Pollone is well-acquainted with this way of reporting.

Maybe he ends up on one of local network owned-and-operated stations as a digital journalist or all-platform journalists.

Marriage is on his mind right now.  But, after the wedding cake is gone and excitement of making this life change has worn off, Pollone should end up on the air somewhere soon.

The New York local stations (or their network operations) could probably learn a lot from this versatile, cross-platform reporter who loves Syracuse University.   Maybe he’ll end up like Bill FItzgerald, who left WVTM several years ago for a stint at MSNBC and now is the main anchor in my hometown of Richmond, Va. at my former TV station, WTVR-TV, the CBS affiliate.

Hey, Bristol, Connecticut is a mere two-hour drive from “The Big Apple.  It would be a heck of a commute.  But, ESPN would not be a bad place for Pollone to land.

We’ve grown to love watching him here in Birmingham and will miss seeing him on the air.

Best wishes Chris!

My Parents Dropped The Newspaper

One of the biggest reasons I became a journalist was because of my early exposure to the world of news and information via the daily newspaper.

As a child, I grew up in a house where we received by the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch (the morning newspaper) and The Richmond News Leader (the afternoon newspaper).

Tonight my father broke the BIG news to me– he had decided to discontinue receiving the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

He asked if I would show him how to efficiently get his news on the Internet.

What made him make that decision?

The subscription cost just continued to rise even though the paper itself was shrinking.

Why should a customer pay MORE for less news?

I think the whole idea of printed newspaper going away wasn’t real to me — until this MAJOR shift in news consumption took place.

When I return home to Virginia later this year, there won’t be a copy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch on my front porch.

My dad plans to get the community weekly, which specializes in covering Richmond’s black community.

I worked briefly as a stringer for The Richmond Free Press. But, this weekly has always been free.

Dad says even the Free Press is smaller than it used to be.

I’m having a hard time processing this latest news about newspapers.

Right now I’m in Alabama and I still get 3 or 4 papers each day.

But I can’t say that’s the case with many of my neighbors.

Since my dad won’t immediately be reading the content of the Times-Dispatch online, the reality is the staff there has lost a longtime reader.

That’s what is most troubling.

Is the cost of newsprint that much higher that newspapers have to charged subscribers more for a smaller newspaper that has less news?

That’s a question I would like to put the management at the Times-Dispatch and its parent company, Media General.