The past several months have represented a time of transition among the executive ranks at Channel 7, and surprisingly enough, none of the principals involved has reason to be unhappy. In July, station manager Darrell Brown (a 2005 Westword profile subject) vacated the big desk at the station in favor of an even larger one -- president of McGraw-Hill Broadcasting, Channel 7's parent company. Taking his place was Byron Grandy, previously the outlet's news director -- a position being manned starting today by Jeff Harris, who served as executive producer of special projects at the outlet from 2000 to 2004 before moving on to a similar position at KPIX-TV in San Francisco for the past four years.
Grandy is understandably pleased with the way the dominoes have fallen.
He acknowledges that it's rare for a staffer from a news background to wind up as a station manager; such gigs typically go to business siders. So why does Grandy believe he became an exception to this rule?
"I think ultimately what you're seeing is the company placing a real value on someone who is producing content, and who also knows the business operation -- not just the sales side of it," he says. "Moving forward, content will be just as important as creating a business operation that's as efficient as possible -- because the station goes well beyond the main channel. It includes a fully functioning and operating news website that touches a whole new audience that may not even watch you on television, content for digital channels and eventually content to mobile. It's not just about running a TV station."
As for why he chose Harris to follow in his footsteps, Grandy notes that "he's a journalist by trade, and that's what I was looking for to run the newsroom -- someone who's made a career and a reputation based on content creation. Before he ran the investigative unit for us, he did the same thing at a station in Cleveland [WEWS-TV] -- and after leaving us, he went to KPIX and built some very strong franchises, which is another important key for me. We have a strong Call 7 investigative franchise that needs to move forward and evolve, and he knows that business well. And he also understands the importance of building content that allows you to separate yourself from others. That was critical for me." He identifies Harris' familiarity with the local market, not to mention Channel 7 and McGraw-Hill, as a bonus.
Channel 7 doesn't have a daily newspaper partner of the sort that regularly boosts competitors such as channels 4 and 9 -- a longtime irritant for 7News staffers like John Ferrugia, as noted in this Message column from March. That'll make Harris' job even tougher. But at least he's the beneficiary of an impressive promotion -- just as Grandy and Brown were. -- Michael Roberts