Louisville news viewers lost two pillars of the local media on Friday, December 21, 2018. WHAS-11’s Rachel Platt, above, had long planned for her smooth departure.
WAVE-3’s Scott Reynolds had no chance to make his own plan. He was informed in October that his contract would not be renewed at year’s end. It’s a money squeeze induced by the merger of WAVE owner Raycom and Gray Television. This blending of Gray’s 93 stations and Raycom’s 63 stations would only happen if Raycom reduced the payroll at certain outlets.
Raycom operators had hoped to keep the RIFs (reduction in force) quiet but former WAVE news anchor Cheryl Case broke the Reynolds story on Facebook in a December 19 post.
Affable Scott Reynolds, a 61-year-old sitting at the top of the payroll chart when the company is trying to tighten its operating costs, becomes the bullseye. WAVE told Reynolds that his position was being eliminated by RIF. That strategy makes an age discrimination lawsuit nearly pointless. Age was no factor, they’ll say. It was simply a body count issue.
Reynolds was crying on the phone one day before his departure, unable to piece together his farewell message for viewers. His first draft was edited by WAVE management, purging a veiled reference to the fact that the company was forcing his ouster. Raycom hoped to make it sound as though Reynolds was leaving by his own choice.
Platt’s 29 years of solid journalism and community service were celebrated with multiple parties, on air celebrations, and loving support from WHAS-11 management.
Rachel loved her co-hosting role with the WHAS Crusade for Children, generating stories about children with physical and mental challenges to heighten awareness to their needs.
Reynolds earned the same respect over 22+ years of great field reporting, anchoring, and community service. He was given a WAVE-3 newsroom celebration that was seemingly cut short after a few co-workers spoke of their love and concern for Reynolds.
Raycom execs have sidestepped inquiries about merger metrics or why many anchors were being released. In a business that demands transparency from newsmakers, media companies rarely offer answers to questions arising from their own business practices.
The merger received its official FCC blessing a few days ago.
Here are the official statements of the WAVE-3 general manager and news director:
OLD NEWS = TODAY’S NEWS
In 2009, WAVE-3 management essentially forced the departure of Jackie Hays, a Louisville favorite, by downsizing her salary. That move provided short-term help in accounting but the station’s prestige and ratings glory soon slid away.
The entire terrestrial broadcasting business is under pressure from a new universe of digital news competition. Nonetheless, local news and analysis of community issues gives hometown media its raison d’être.
It’s yet to be seen if Gray/Raycom’s current dismissal of popular news talent in at least 7 other markets will hinder ratings or local impact. We shall see.
Platt is celebrating the holidays with her husband, sons, and other family and begins her new job as director of community engagement for Frazier History Museum on January 14.
Reynolds does not know where he will eventually work but he is hoping to stay in broadcasting. He has a nine month non-competition clause that evaporates next September.
As for his immediate future, Reynolds texted that he will “focus on the kiddos with all my heart and the birth of our Savior.”