Plenty of people were surprised when 9News announced that it wouldn't be renewing the contract of primary news anchor Bob Kendrick -- probably including Kendrick (who hasn't been responding to press inquiries). After all, the station's late newscast has held the top spot in the ratings since 2003. But a closer look at his 9News stint suggests that such a move was inevitable, particularly given the advertising revenue slippage that's currently afflicting media organizations of every description.
When Kendrick arrived at the station, 9News was the audience-share leader thanks in part to the long stewardship of Ed Sardella, who then-station manager Roger Ogden tried to keep on board as long as possible. As noted in an item toward the end of this January 2004 Message column, Ogden asked the eager-to-retire Sardella to stick around through that year's February sweeps period even though Kendrick had already been on the air for many weeks. And while the outlet managed to keep its primary competitor, Channel 4, at bay over the next four years, the size of its lead, and of its viewership as a whole, slowly diminished during that span.
Blame for this state of affairs can't be left at Kendrick's door. After all, fewer people are watching local news nationwide due to assorted lifestyle and media-option changes. But he never developed the sort of local following that associates Adele Arakawa, Kathy Sabine and Drew Soicher continue to earn. He was steady, reliable and dull -- characteristics that aren't exactly in short supply. And clearly, management thinks they can find someone who can deliver these qualities at a lower price.
Television is a cruel business. As Kendrick's being reminded right now, being number one isn't always good enough. -- Michael Roberts
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