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End Of 11 a.m. Newscast Among Cutbacks At WFLA, Tribune

As the result of dwindling advertising revenues, WFLA, Channel 8, plans to discontinue its 11 a.m. newscast at the end of May. The announcement to end "News Channel 8 Midday" and other changes involving WFLA and The Tampa Tribune were made to the newsroom staff this morning by WFLA News Director Don North and Managing Editor for Online Loren Omoto. They follow the layoff Monday of sports anchor Dave Reynolds and 52 others in Florida news operations owned by WFLA parent company Media General, including The Tampa Tribune. Tribune changes announced included:
• Production of the Tribune's lifestyle publications, Skirt and Flair, will cease. • The Saturday newspaper will be formatted like the Monday through Friday paper. That means the News section will be one section now, and the stand-alone Business and Views sections will cease. Business news will appear on the back of Sports as it does during the week. • The format of the television magazine will be slimmed down but will still include all the listings and some editorial. • BayLife magazine on Sunday will be eliminated. Content will be moved to the Getaway section. • News bureaus are closing, although the sections they produce won't change. Staff members will work out of one of two satellite offices or the main office in downtown Tampa. The Brandon and Plant City offices will be sold to generate cash, said Janet Coats, vice president of news for the Florida Communications Group. The other offices are leased, she said, and not renewing those leases will save money. News Channel 8 will also discontinue a 10 p.m. newscast it produces for WTTA, Channel 38, on April 30. North said the cutbacks at WFLA are the result of the continuing decline of advertising that is affecting television stations throughout the country. "Advertisers just aren't buying the 11 a.m. newscast," he says, adding that no decision has been made on what will replace the newscast. "Midday" anchors Bill Ratliff and Gayle Guyardo will continue on the News Channel 8 morning newscasts and contribute to online coverage. Reynolds, 45, who had been with News Channel 8 for nearly six years, was the only on-air person laid off Monday. He said the layoff came as a complete surprise. "I had just signed a one year contract a few weeks ago," Reynolds said Monday evening. "I know it was not based on job performance because we have just come off an amazing year of sports coverage from the Rays making the World Series to having a Super Bowl here," he says. "And we did it with a two-man sports anchor team." Reynolds departure leaves Dan Lucas as the sole on-air sports reporter. North said WFLA plans to incorporate more of the Tribune's sports reporters. WFLA and the Tribune already share newsgathering resources. Reynolds said WFLA has cut back on sports reporting and is dropping the "Sunday Sports Extra" show. Reynolds said he wants to stay in the Tampa area if possible. "When I came here, I fell in love with the area, and I really wanted this to be the last stop," he says. "I had worked at five different places." Reynolds grew up just outside Chicago in Park Forest, Ill., and graduated from Iowa State University, where he was a standout on the tennis team. He worked at TV stations in Mississippi, Indiana and Kentucky before joining News Channel 8. "I already have some prospects, and I hope to find work soon," he said. "I realize that I was not the only person laid off and these are difficult times for the news media. I'm just focusing on providing for my family." Reynolds and his wife, Holly, have a 4-year-old son.

Reporter Shannon Behnken contributed to this report. Reporter Walt Belcher can be reached at (813) 259-7654.

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