Aggressive cost-cutting moves at WPIX-TV -- together with continued allegations of a harsh and unfriendly work environment -- are taking their toll on morale at the Tribune-owned station, The Post has learned.
The latest move under News Director Bill Carey's watch that unsettled staff came in the last several days, when the station shuttered the sports department, eliminated the sports director position and reassigned Lolita Lopez, the sports director, sources tell The Post.
With the move, WPIX becomes the first Big Apple TV station not to have a sports department, sources said.
It is unclear if the station plans to fold sports into the news coverage and have news anchors report the scores or if it plans to outsource sports coverage.
In additional cuts, the station's human resources, research and community affairs departments have been eliminated.
Four present WPIX employees told The Post that besides the cost-cutting, they felt they were working in a deteriorating work environment. One of them said, "There's no line that can't be crossed."
At the same time, Channel 11 -- broadcast home of the New York Mets -- wants to change union rules to do away with a dedicated camera person during on-location news shoots and force WPIX reporters to do it alone, a union source added.
If successful, WPIX would be the first major New York station, besides non-union NY1, to do so, sources said.
Channel 11 is no stranger to such allegations of turmoil. Last June, Karen Scott, a former news director at WPIX, reportedly hit the station with a $4.5 million lawsuit claiming such news legends as Kaity Tong and Sal Marchiano suffered from age discrimination.
Later in the summer, employees were let go or demoted after participating in a report on WPIX's alleged difficult work environment.
Then-WPIX General Manager Betty Ellen Berlamino, who was investigating such charges, delivered her report to the head office of the bankrupt Tribune company in Chicago, according to a source. As part of her report, she spoke extensively to Jim Watkins, then the weeknight news anchor, who confirmed that fellow reporters had confided in him about their experiences.
"He [Watkins] was questioned and was honest [about the work climate]," said a source with direct knowledge of the situation.
Berlamino was soon let go, and Watkins demoted, sources said.
WPIX's former HR director, Jean Maye, told one individual who participated in the report that the person's employment at the company would not be threatened.
Also, this past fall, Emmy Award-winning reporter Peter Thorne tried to resign but wasn't freed from his contract after he saw a particular story air on the WPIX 10 p.m. newscast -- the same story Thorne pitched to Carey that morning, and that Carey rejected, sources said.
Carey, a former general manager at WFTS/Channel 28 in Tampa Bay, was hired in November 2009 with a mandate for change -- and to press for higher ratings. He demoted Tong and Watkins.
On the ratings front, he did appear to score a hit with the 10 o'clock news. Last October, Carey named Jodi Applegate as sole anchor and, over the past seven months, WPIX's ratings in that slot have risen to 1.1 from about 0.8.
WPIX spokeswoman Jessica Bellucci declined to comment.
Now many in the corporate media are in favor of this kind of "shake-up" leadership in the school system - the kids that comes in to fire people, demote people, lay people off, bust the union, change the work rules, squeeze more productivity out of employees, and aggressively cut costs.
It's for the kids, you know!
It's ironic how these same union-bashing journalists are not so happy when these same strategies are applied to their own business.
As I noted about the two veteran Voice columnists/UFT bashers, when journalists support union busting in education and other areas of the economy while complaining about the very same in their own business, they are hypocrites.
More importantly, they have taken part in their own oppression.
After all, management can use their own union-bashing words about teachers unions as the rationale to make news outlets union-free as well.
But you gotta pay it down, you know?