Van Ness Square

July 13, 2006

The new home for what remains of Channel One’s programming staff.


Jim Metrock:

It’s a long and brutal ride to the bottom for our friends at Channel One News.

This week, I paid a visit to their new studio in Washington DC. I was underwhelmed, but not surprised.

As a cost-cutting measure Channel One News has hired a company called TeamPeople to produce their show. Camera people, editors, and other jobs will now be manned by TeamPeople employees. By sacking their production employees, Channel One News eliminates a lot of expenses. Health insurance costs go down dramatically when you outsource your production capability.

When I walked up to Van Ness Square shopping center (a couple of restaurants, an office supply store and as you see a futon store), I saw no indication that Channel One was in this building. I didn’t see any sign for TeamPeople either. This shopping area is located on a lower-rent area of Connecticut Avenue. (North of the Zoo, if you know the layout of DC.) Walking into the small lobby I ask for Channel One. The man at the reception desk had never heard of it. I then ask for "TeamPeople" and I find my way ultimately to the second floor.

I get out of the elevator and see a lot of empty offices and some construction going on in some. When I arrive at TeamPeople’s office I ask to speak to someone from Channel One. I ask if Judy Harris, C1’s CEO is there. She was in New York City.

I am told that Kristy Schantz, C1’s news executive producer, is in but was on a conference call. I was happy to wait. I wanted to know if Channel One was changing their content. Quite frankly, I think our work is done with this company. They are a shell of what they used to be and they have evidently lost a tremendous amount of their audience. There were indications that Ms. Harris wanted to change the direction of the firm when she was hired last spring.

I thought this was a good time to go to the source and ask a few questions. Are you going to stop using anchors to push products on the show? Will you discontinue the merging of advertising with news content? Will you be covering more real news stories and stop the "news stories" about high school athletes who have won awards from Gatorade (Channel One’s most loyal advertiser)?

I was thinking about what to ask Kristy when a TeamPeople employee comes from the direction of Ms. Schantz’s office. I get up to talk and he stands right in front of me – a little too close for comfort. He says there is a right way to do things and a wrong way. (Guess which way I did it?) I can’t see Ms. Schantz, I am told. I need to contact Judy Harris.

This "protector- of-fragile-Channel One-employees" was Ernie Crowe a VP at TeamPeople.

I knew what had happened. The receptionist had gotten up and had taken my card back to Ms. Schantz’s office when she saw that the conference call had ended. Ms. Schantz saw my name and called Ms. Harris. (What should I do?) Mr. Harris more than likely says, "Don’t you talk to him. Get, eh, get Ernie,yeah, get Ernie to go out there and tell him to leave." The receptionist was gone for a relatively long time. I knew they were trying to figure out what to do.

So Ernie and I are almost face-to-face. I tell Ernie that all I want to do is find out if Channel One News is changing their show and if those changes are significant my little organization may end our coverage of C1. Ernie probably didn’t appreciate what I was saying and the import it could have to Channel One’s struggling future. He said you have to go through New York. So I left, walked outside, and I took his advice.

At the entrance to the Van Ness Metro stop, I place a call to Judy Harris. There was no receptionist answering and I am given the choice of entering an extension number or going to the directory. At the directory I must have made a mistake. I thought I typed in "HARR" (first four letters of "Harris") but got the outgoing message of someone who identified himself as Channel One’s internal auditor. He said he won’t be at this number after August something. He gave a new number for people to call and said he would not be checking this Channel One voice mail anymore so please don’t leave a message here. Whoa. More than I wanted to know.

I call again and a lady answers and I ask for Judy Harris. I identify myself. She talks to some somebody near her desk. I can almost hear the other person. "Why are you calling?" ( I go through the motions even though I know where this will end.)

"I wanted to see if Channel One News is changing anything with their show. If they are, then we might end our coverage of the show. That’s what I wanted to ask Ms. Harris."
The receptionist again barely covers her phone and is talking to someone else.

I am told she is unavailable. I ask if I can leave a voice message for Ms. Harris. I am told there is no voice mail. (Funny, I had just been told by the soon to be-gone internal auditor’s OGM that there is voice mail. Maybe everyone has voice mail except the CEO.) I restate my message and give my phone number. I ask for Ms. Harris or someone to contact me if there are any changes coming. I tell her that if I don’t hear anything from Ms. Harris, then I will assume the program is the same.

I did not hear back from Judy Harris.

We therefore will continue telling the truth about this company and its classroom TV show.