While expressing disappointment about today's departure of Jim Hummel, Stephen Doerr, WLNE-TV's general manager, says improving ratings at Channel 6 demonstrate the soundness of the station's direction under new management.
"I'm sorry to lose him, but I understand," Doerr told me a short time ago. "I respect that. He's a good guy." The GM called his parting meeting over coffee with Hummel this morning "pleasant," adding, "I respect when people make a decision and they stick to it."
Asked about Hummel's statement that he left Channel 6 because, he said, it is sensationalizing and distorting news to boost ratings, Doerr responded, "We never, ever distort news. The No. 1 thing we do here is tell the truth."
Speaking broadly, Doerr says, "Sensationalize -- like tabloid -- people use that when they don't have another word to use." The GM says Hummel was uncomfortable with the "very informal" writing that Channel 6 has come to use in its newscasts, although the approach remains "a work in progress."
Doerr says he couldn't talk in specifics since he didn't have the relevant data at his fingertips, but he said, "We are the fastest growing station in New England for a reason. We look better and sound better, and viewers are responding. We’re doing something right," and trying new things, like a 4 pm newscast. "The ratings have improved. We have a long way to go. We expect the growth to continue."
Doerr praised Chanel 6's 6 and 11 pm anchor team of John Deluca and Allison Alexander. Deluca will handle some of the political reporting formerly done by Hummel, and several people on the staff, he says, are capable of doing investigative reporting.
In Rhode Island, where viewing habits are ingrained, Channel 6 has long faced a challenge in competing with Channels 10 and 12.
Asked about the plan put into place under new ownership, Doerr says, "I would describe it as kind of a popular press approach. We are going to be a very hard-hitting station," with investigations, breaking news, and "breaking weather. We’re not going to just sit back and see how things go." He called 10 and 12 "very traditional" in their approach. "For us to get into that, it doesn't make any sense," Doerr says. "We've got to zig when they zag."
Ultimately, Doerr says, "[In] television, people come and go. That's the nature of the game."