'Double-dipping' of news leaves bad taste at WGAE

Effects of consolidation troubling

The WGA East and Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., are calling on the FCC to conduct public hearings on the effect that combining news operations has on the public.

In a letter Tuesday to FCC chairman Kevin Martin, Weiner said he wants the agency to seek specific comments on how combined news operations affect newsgathering. As companies have bought out newspapers as well as radio and TV stations, they often combine the newsgathering staffs, often airing or publishing reports by the same journalists and videographers on different stations and platforms.

Newsroom consolidation re-mains a key sticking point in the stalled news contract negotiations between the WGAE and CBS.

"Using the same reporters and writers to produce identical news programs for different stations does nothing for competition or viewpoint diversity," Weiner wrote. "Double-dipping stories may help the bottom line, but democratic values — the foundation of our localized system of broadcasting — suffer."

While Weiner and the guild concede that newsroom consolidation is not directly part of the commission's examination of media- ownership issues, they contend it's a side effect that can't be ignored.

"Consolidation harms members' ability to deliver quality journalism to the public," WGAE president Michael Winship said.