As we projected, WCCO-TV announced Scott Libin as its new news director to staff this afternoon. Libin, former news director at KSTP-TV, comes back to the Twin Cities from his job as managing editor for on-ine content at the Poynter Institute, the journalistic think tank in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Libin replaces Jeff Kiernan, who left the station in September for WBZ-TV in Boston. That leaves only Libin’s former employer KSTP with a news director slot to fill. (Prevailing belief there is that GM Rob Hubbard will hire from within this time.)
Lambert spoke with Libin from his Poynter office this afternoon and filed the following:
Scott made a point of saying all the right things. Like how, "Even when I was at KSTP I greatly admired the work they were doing at WCCO." (He’s never been accused of not having a smooth, political touch.)
But the current situation has two lines of thinking. One is that the mini-franchises the station has built with unique segments like "Reality Check", "In the Know" and "Good Question" are heading Ch. 4 into an irresistible direction for more a feature-ish style of news product, something the new guy — Libin — would be expected to build upon.
The other is that these same mini-franchises have become a bit of a velvet trap (only one, "Reality Check", has much of a news punch), and that attention to tougher news coverage has slackened as time and resources migrated their way. Point being that the new guy — Libin — would have to do something about that.
So, what is it? Ying or yang?
"I don’t know," was Libin’s response. "And frankly, I think it’d be pretty foolish of me to plant my flag on anything before I’m in the building. But listen, my impression of ‘CCO has always been that they do a very credible, very solid job of covering the news of the day and breaking news, and that while it isn’t exactly rocket science to want to build on what is working, I don’t know that the way you do that, necessarily, is by multiplying the exact same elements."
One upside to WCCO comes as a consequence of Libin’s somewhat professorial personality. As much as he loves to talk the nuts, bolts and theory of journalism, he does actually listen. (And as Don Shelby’s boss he’ll have to learn to listen a lot. … oh settle down, that’s a joke.) As WCCO knows from fairly recent memory, (the crowd that preceded Kiernan), fatal symptoms of bad managers include those who arrive with no curiosity about the staff”s institutional memory, no apparent curiosity in what anyone else thinks might be a good next move and a wholly unearned, "New Sheriff in Town" attitude.
"Yeah," said Libin, "I’m not really one of those characters who comes in and marks his territory as a first order of business. I’ll take some time to talk to people, and see what I can learn." (He says he’s taking a flight up Sunday and plans on schmoozing the troops most of Monday.)
Another facet in Libin’s favor over the 24 others who interviewed for the job might have been the Poynter factor, in the context of the very imminent convergence of the Internet and TV and the transition to all-digital transmission on February 17, 2009. Given the average four to five year life cycle of most news directors, both these epochal events in the history of media will likely occur on his watch at ‘CCO. And down at Poynter, convergence and transition are the kinds of topics they sprinkle on their Froot Loops for breakfast.
Does Libin have any deep thoughts he’d like to share before starting work here, Dec. 3?
"Well," he says, "I wouldn’t bet on any news organization that isn’t dealing with those issues on a daily basis. But overall, after hearing that newspapers are dead, that the book is dead and that TV is dead, I still think there’s plenty of life in the TV beast. I’m looking forward to this."
Libin will be gratified to know that the ‘CCO newsroom broke into applause when his name was announced this afternoon.
Here’s the official WCCO press release:
Scott Libin has been named News Director of WCCO-TV, it was announced today by Susan Adams Loyd, WCCO-TV Vice President and General Manager. Libin, who is currently managing editor of Poynter Online and a faculty member at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., will oversee the station’s day-to-day news operation beginning Dec. 3.
"Scott Libin is a highly regarded news executive," said Loyd. "Colleagues and competitors tip their hat to his leadership abilities and eloquence. He has many qualities that make him the perfect fit for this position, particularly his journalistic integrity, along with strong ties to the Twin Cities. We are thrilled to welcome Scott to the WCCO family."
"I’ve admired WCCO for so many years," said Libin. "It’s a truly exceptional television station recognized and respected by journalists across the country. I’m honored by the opportunity to be a part of it, and I can hardly wait to get started. This would be an extraordinary job for any news director. But beyond that, my wife and I are very excited about getting back to the Twin Cities, to family and friends, and to be a part of a community we really love."
At Poynter, Libin is responsible for daily online coverage and edit content for the country’s No. 1 Web site serving journalists. He also leads seminars for journalists. This was Libin’s second time working for Poynter. From 1995 to 1998, he taught management, producing, reporting and ethics there.
Libin is known locally as he was the News Director for KSTP-TV in St. Paul from 1998 to 2003. He was responsible for producing eight hours of daily news for the market’s first duopoly (KSTP and KSTC) and was leading the charge when KSTP won the NPPA Station of the Year award twice and the regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence, Best Newscast and Spot News Coverage. Prior to that, Libin was Vice President of News at WGHP-TV in Greensboro/High Point/Winston-Salem, N.C. He was managing editor, weekend anchor and senior reporter for this station from 1986 to 1991. Before getting into television, Libin was a Congressional Press Secretary for the US House of Representatives in Washington, DC.
Libin graduated with honors from the University of Richmond, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism. He earned his Master of Arts in journalism and public affairs from American University. His wife, Michelle, grew up in Bloomington and has family across the Twin Cities.
WCCO-TV is part of the CBS Television Station Division, a division of CBS Corporation.