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Sarasota news takes another dive — SNN signs off!

Yesterday I gave a talk at the University of South Florida (more on that later) about blogging and the diminishing content of print and other local media in Sarasota. The class — full of inveterate newspaper readers — loudly lamented the decreasing size of the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the declining offerings of other local newspapers. I’m a newspaper-loving-gal myself, so it’s hard for me to see what’s happening with the disappearing pages in our local print media.

I also am an habitué of our local cable-only newstation SNN 6 (owned by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune Media Group, which is, as we all know, owned by the New York Times) and have been very chagrined, along with a lot of other Sarasotans, at the loss of this sometimes inadvertently funny, mostly timely, so unhip it was hip, community-focused programming.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported earlier today that not only was it ending home delivery of newspapers in Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda in March (ENDING HOME DELIVERY? Are you a daily newspaper for the community or not!?) but that forty-eight employees were laid off this week, including 31 staffers from the Herald-Tribune owned SNN News 6.

SNN News 6 television programming went dark in late January, after a proposed sale of the station from the Herald-Tribune to SNN general manager Linda DesMarais fell through at the last minute.

DesMarais has indicated that she’s still looking for investors to back her bid to acquire SNN6, but then again, she’s been indicating that for quite a while now. Word on the street is that local investors are scared silly by the Nadel scandal du jour and aren’t likely to be opening up their wallets any time soon.

In the H-T article, Diane McFarlin is quoted as saying that the H-T would be open to “revisting the deal” if DesMarais and her husband, Doug Barker, “are able to get everything in place within a couple of weeks.”

The chances of that happening look a bit grim, but who knows? This rollercoaster ride has been going on since November.

According to Bruce Asbury, a popular, man-on-the-street style reporter for SNN 6, who has been with

Bruce Asbury strikes a pose.

Bruce Asbury strikes a pose.

the station for five years, SNN staffers have suffered frustration and anxiety since talks of the sale of SNN 6 first began back in November, from not knowing for sure whether they’d have a job from one week to the next.

“Originally, we were supposed to know [if the deal was going through and if SNN 6 would continue to air] by December 31, 2008” Asbury says. “Then we got a two week extension, and when that expired, another week extension, and then we were told in late January that we were being furloughed for a few days.”

“We were also told that if nothing happens by Monday [February 2], we would be officially terminated.”

And that’s precisely what happened on Tuesday, February 3, according to Asbury, when SNN 6 staffers were asked to gather in a downstairs conference room at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune building in downtown Sarasota. “The New York Times called the meeting yesterday and gave us our severance pay.”

“We received severance packages based on the number of years we were with SNN,” Asbury said. “If you were [an SNN employee] for five years, you actually got 26 weeks of severance pay,” Asbury explained. (EDITOR’S NOTE: PLEASE SEE CLARIFICATION POST.) Employees whose length of employ had been under five years, Asbury said, received “One week for every six months, or two weeks for every year you worked [at SNN].

Asbury says the predominant feeling among the laid off SNN staffers is one of relief. “I can tell you that everybody has breathed a sigh of relief that this is all over. Not that SNN has closed, but that at last resolution from the dark cloud that has hung over us since November 15th has arrived.”

“We can finally look forward, and get on with our lives,” Asbury added.

Asbury thinks viewers will miss having SNN 6 as a local resource for the community. “I think in a lot of ways people didn’t realize how often they would switch us on,” he said, adding, that he’s surprised there hasn’t been much public comment in print about the station going dark.

“I’m surprised that no letters to the editor have appeared [in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune] because I’m sure that many people have sent their condolences or written that they’ll miss SNN 6.”

Asbury says staffers were told on Tuesday that, “If she [DesMarais] does put together a deal over the next couple of weeks, she has promised that she would hire the same employees back under the same salaries.”

If that happens, Asbury says that even though he’s a bit “worn out” from the ups and downs of the last several months, he’d be happy to be back at SNN 6 covering Sarasota and local community streets and providing loyal viewers with all the news that’s fit to watch.

I always enjoyed Asbury’s riotous reporting and if SNN 6 comes back from the dead, I’ll be tuning in to see what happens next.

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Posted on February 4th, 2009Comments RSS Feed
9 Responses to Sarasota news takes another dive — SNN signs off!
  1. […] MC Coolidge is on the story as well, and gets some choice quotes from SNN reporter Bruce Asbury about the situation: […]

    Reply
  2. If this news outlet was of any potential value at all, Comcast would have snapped it up. When this story first appeared in the H/T, over half the posts were people saying they now had one more reason to switch to Verizon FiOS. Soon after the story was pulled down. The sad fact was that while SNN 6 was good in concept, it’s execution was poor and the advertising sales were dismal at best.

    Reply
  3. David — appreciate you reading the post and adding your perspective. Very interesting points. Thanks; MC

    Reply
  4. David Barr,

    I just wanted to set the record straight. The SNN News 6 story and its comments have never been pulled from heraldtribune.com. Here’s a direct link:

    http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20090127/ARTICLE/901270357

    Disclosure: I work for the Herald-Tribune.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Alan Shaw — thanks so much for reading the post and for adding to the dialog and providing the link to the aforementioned news story. Much appreciated. MC

    Reply
  6. At the onset of this story, if you typed “SNN 6” in the H/T website search, the article I referenced could be found. Two days later, older SNN 6 stories were still available under the same search, while the one I’m referencing was gone. True, it may still be there, but it sure wasn’t as easily available.

    Reply
  7. […] hiatus the week before. We linked to local journalist MC Coolidge’s blog, which featured some comments from SNN reporter Bruce Asbury on the end of the station. Coolidge has a new post on the topic, and […]

    Reply
  8. The only reason my wife and I kept Comcast was for SNN and WWSB. Now that we get WWSB on antenna with the digital switch, we have Directv coming out this month to install. This is gonna cream Comcast in Sarasota since SNN was an anchor for them to keep local customers away from FIOS. Sad to see everyone there out of a job. I enjoyed watching them everyday and even though WWSB is local, they never have nearly as many stories about the county as SNN did.

    Reply
  9. Interesting points, Dan K — keep tuned tomorrow and Friday though — I’m hoping for an update on SNN’s resurrection. Thanks for reading the blog and posting a comment. MC

    Reply

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