Saturday, April 4, 2009

Anchor “Retires” with Platinum Parachute

N.B. For years Pesky Gadabout wrote critical and humorous letters about TV news, almost exclusively to a website that served its practitioners, ShopTalk. Some 75 of those letter essays were gathered in the book “A Few Marbles Left,” (Bonus Books, 2001) which is available from used booksellers through The Pesky Gadabout Blog, on the other hand, has mostly been dedicated to all kinds of humor and satire. This piece, while an essay, is not satire, and despite Pesky’s best efforts, actually contains real news.

Pesky Gadabout has it from a hitherto reliable but as yet unconfirmed source that “retiring” NBC anchor Paul Moyer will not be suffering financially for the foreseeable future, and will be paid the remainder of his lucrative contract. Moyer, who has worked in the LA Market for an extraordinary 37 consecutive years, had been the market’s top paid anchor for some time now. Ratings at KNBC, along with owner NBC, have slipped lately, however. The local KNBC news has been largely mired in third place.

In articles about Moyer’s leaving, the LA Times reported neither the station nor Moyer would confirm the nature of his retirement—voluntary or don’t let the door hit you in the rear.

News reports indicated Moyer had been earning $3 million a year at KNBC. Dumping that salary would undoubtedly allow the station to put those financial resources elsewhere, one would be led to believe. Not so fast there, bottom line breath. Moyer will receive his guaranteed salary for the remainder of his contract—which has four years remaining—according to the source.

While it may appear this $12 million payoff went for helping lead his station’s news from first to third and hence reeks of AIG-like bonuses, such is not the case. In TV news world it means a big “Huzzah” for Paul. Few former members of that once-esteemed profession have been able to take their employers to the hoop as well as Moyer has, if the source is accurate.

Pesky has long held that the big money on-air people in TV have received over the years seems inordinately high for the work required, But the real reason for their high pay is the job insecurity, and the fact you can be canned because your boss screwed up or just doesn’t like the cut of your jib. That is anecdotal evidence Pesky learned the hard way.

So TV people should earn as much as your agent could get you, while you could. (In today’s economy, that is no longer necessarily so….) When you are let go, most of us get our AFTRA guaranteed farewell check and an armed escort to the door. Often a new job means uprooting the family and leaving town. So it Moyer has indeed relieved NBC of some of the wealth it had earmarked to squander elsewhere, good on him.

Pesky worked with Moyer more than twenty years ago, and when he himself was dismissed from his gig and told Paul the news, the latter’s reaction was “I can’t believe it! If that’s true, I’m marching right into the news director’s office and quitting, too!”

It was the kindest thing he could have said, even if we both knew it was a “show business” lie, i.e. a statement not to be taken at face value. But amazingly enough, several years later, Moyer did exactly that. He then signed on at another station with a nice bump in salary and prestige.

I like Moyer, even though I’ve only seen him once since that day. He was one of those anchors who didn’t lord it over the rest of the troops when I knew him, a decent and good guy to hang with. He brought what integrity and dignity he could to a business that has become sorely lacking in the industry. He fronted investigations, did interviews, and lent an air of authority to the anchor desk where ever he worked.

Like his long time rival, the late Jerry Dunphy, Moyer became one of the most recognizable faces of the city he called home. Like another well-known face of LA, the late Hal Fishman, he became a pilot—another reason to like the guy. And it should be noted; unlike those two contemporaries he did not die on the job. Both Dunphy and Fishman were still anchoring when their hearts gave out.

No date has been announced for Moyer’s final farewell at channel 4. But if you take a gander at his face—even in Hi def--you’ll realize he’s much too young to retire for good. For whatever he ends up doing, Pesky wishes him the best of luck.

Copyright 2009
John H. Corcoran, Jr.

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