News Director Tries to ​Bring Buffalo Station Back from the Dead


WKBW (Buffalo) News Director Polly Van Doren has monumental task before her. 

It's kind of like being handed the steering wheel of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg.

Doren is the relatively new News Director of WKBW, a station that used to be one of the most dominate in the country.

But that was over a decade ago.

KBW went from First to Worst in the matter of just a couple of ratings books back in the early 2000's and it continues to live in the ratings basement ever since.

Back in the 70's and 80's, WKBW had the anchor team of Irv Weinstein , Rick Azar and Tom Jolls. The team was a ratings powerhouse and no station in the market could touch them.

But, unfortunately for WKBW, Irv, Rick and Tom have long since retired and took their powerhouse ratings with them to warmer climates. 

A picture of the three was displayed in the station's lobby for years. That was until the new News Boss came into the station. 

Van Doren ordered the picture moved to the second floor, near where employees snack. She plans to replace it with a picture with one of the current anchor team.

“It is an iconic picture,” Van Doren told the Buffalo News.. “But in my mind as a newcomer and someone who was brought in to effect change and invigorate the product, I felt that it was important to relocate that photograph so it is not the thing that everybody walks by … You can’t function in life if you dwell on the fact that your best days are behind you.”

Unfortunately, trying to bring back WKBW's ratings is going to take a lot more work than moving a picture.

The station has the smallest staff in the market. Van Doren tries not to dwell on that. “You look at how you can maximize what you have and you don’t dwell on the negative,” she said. “If all we did all day was sit around and say we have X number of people fewer than station Y and Z, what good would that be? You have to be optimistic about what you do have.”

But not having the personnel of Y (WGRZ) and Z (WIVB) does require adjustments.

“You have to be creative and there are stories that you choose not to cover because they don’t matter as much to you as other stories,” she said. “You cover stories that … the competition might overlook because they are so busy covering the so-called obligatory news of the day.”

Van Doren gets high marks for talking a good game. But the reality is until she is given the resources the station will remain in the ratings cellar. Van Doren is also hampered by having one of the worst GM's in the country as her boss.

WKBW GM Bill Ransom doesn't have a clue as to how to run a news department and in an era where stations are cheap, Ransom takes cheapness to a whole new level.

Ransom has been in charge of the station for years. It was under his command that the station went from first to worst in the ratings. How he still has a job, is one of the greatest mysteries in TV.

Almost all of the News Directors that worked on Ransom have quit the station and moved on because of him.

It is likely that if Ransom doesn't leave, Van Doren will do the same before long. You can only take so much frustration before enough is enough.

But, for now, she's trying to bring the station's news ratings back from the dead. “The (Staff) have such fond memories of WKBW in its heyday that they want us to return to our rightful place,” she says.

She realizes that might take 15 years. “It might,” said Van Doren. “Absolutely, it might. But I don’t anticipate it will take near that to make a dent.”

We'll bet she'll be long gone from the station before any of that ever happens.

H/T Buffalo News