KDRV’s Mark Hatfield has come to appreciate the intimacy of the small but competitive Medford market. He lives in Ashland and splits his time between stations in Bend, Eugene and Medford.
// Photo by Jamie Lusch
In addition to generating revenue for the networks, the Medford affiliates have a reputation for developing future major market talent. The current All-Star Alum is Ann Curry, the former KTVL anchor recently named co-host of NBC’s Today Show. But many other fresh young faces got their start in Medford.
Like Melanie Wingo, Katherine Cook, now a top KGW (Portland) reporter, got her start at KDRV. “It was a fantastic training ground,” Cook says.
The major Western broadcast markets are filled with former Medford TV reporters and anchors. “I’ve seen at least 50 anchors go through this town in the six years I’ve been here,” says KSYS’s Brad Fay.
The stations use these ambitious young newscasters, starting at the bottom of the salary range, to their advantage. The constant stream of newcomers into Medford represents an almost unlimited supply of cheap, aggressive labor for the affiliates, and the major market stations are happy to have the old pros in Medford train them.
“We tell them, ‘Give us three years and we’ll be the best agent you ever had,’” says KOBI vice president and general manager Bob Wise. “They have to work their tails off, but then they usually go right into a big market.”
On the hard-news front, the stations compete fiercely for local stories. Although their news teams are essentially the same size, KDRV is the acknowledged news leader. KOBI and KTVL have used technology to try to extend their news coverage; several local media sources say KTVL’s news programming ratings tend to edge out KOBI’s during most of the “sweeps.” But KDRV’s Mark Hatfield says, “If you combined the other two stations [ratings] they still wouldn’t beat us.”
The affiliates place a premium on developing ongoing initiatives like KOBI’s “Southern Oregon Meth Project” and KDRV’s “Building Hope” designed to help families facing foreclosure. These kinds of projects both serve to brand the stations and to underscore their commitment to community involvement. They also have a long tradition of generously supporting the region’s nonprofits, one instance where they appear to work together rather than compete.