Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Day Nick Smith Got Screwed by KGO-TV and News Director, Tracey Watkowski

Image result for Nick Smith KGO   NICK SMITH used to be a GSA Reporter for KGO --a good reporter that asked good questions, was always ready to give it all, on time,  and by all accounts was a good soldier.

Still is.

Until one day out of the blue.

Smith is still in the biz (not in local news) enjoying life in the fast lane, metaphorically speaking.

*The Following Story was based on research provided through  through multiple sources near the 900 Front studios at KGO.

Nick Smith had been at KGO since 2006, hired by KGO/ABC bigwig, Valari Staab -- to join 'View From The Bay' with Spencer Christian and Janelle Wang (then with KGO)

When the show ended, News Director, Kevin Keeshan, kept Smith under his original contract and brought him to the newsroom as a GA (General Assignment) Reporter. 

Well, once Smith's contract expired, he started freelancing. Not fulltime but Smith felt good about the future. Hard work and respect amongst peers would pay off. He thought.

Smith did a few projects on the side -- none of which took off, but continued freelancing. 

Smith continued to be a freelance reporter after Staab and Keeshan left. When GM Bill Burton was hired, Smith had a conversation with him about a new contract and "working full-time." 

Burton told him that that wouldn't be a problem, but he would "wait until he hired a new News Director." 

Tracey Watkowski, the new ND, arrives and she made it clear, "I have a different vision for ABC7." She told Smith that she had asked around the newsroom and learned that Nick was "well liked and dependable." Tracey told Nick he should "touch bases" with her in a few months to see where we stand. 

Smith said OK.

Well, the rest as they say, is history. 

Watkowski always kept Smith on the schedule for 40-plus hours a week. 
He worked evenings. 
He worked mornings. 
He worked days. 
He worked whatever shift was asked of him and NEVER called in sick or created "issues". 
Nick Smith worked well with every producer (even the mean ones) and worked well with every photographer 

In 2014 a senior photographer, Randy Davis,  said to him: "Nick, I don't get it. Why haven't they made you full-time with a contract and benefits?" Smith told him, "Tracey says, it's not the right time for the station." 

Randy looked at Nick and asked a very simple question. "Nick, if you're good enough to work everyday and every shift for three years without a contract, why aren't you 'right' for full-time and benefits doing the same work?" 

Smith felt the same way so he scheduled a meeting with Watkowski and asked her that very question.

"Tracey," he said, "if I'm good enough to freelance full-time, why haven't I been given the opportunity of a contract?" 

This, mind you, after people who started well after Smith were given hours and full-time status:

Matt Keller - full time
Leyla Gullen - full time
Cornell Bernard - freelance
Sergio Quintana - freelance
Katie Marzulo - full time

Watkowski sat at her desk-- looked Smith straight in the eyes, never blinking and said:

"I don't have to. You're a good worker. I like you and I know that you enjoy San Francisco and being here. As long as you want the opportunity to freelance, you have it here. There is not and there will not be a plan to hire you full-time."

#415 Media Exclusive


  1. Hey Rich,

    It sounds like he was really getting the short end of the stick for quite awhile. Was it because he was black?

    I'm just saying...

    1. No. I got the same treatment, as have friends of mine, and we're not black.

      I find, for reasons I cannot comprehend, that the really good reliable people are kept on permanent free-lance or "day hire" status forever, and the stations hire either people who've won awards for other stations for the prestige, whether or not the reporting was actually good, or kooks. TV management seems to have an actual aversion to the hard-working, low-maintenance reporter/anchor. I think it's a matter of immature, slightly neurotic people being drawn to immature, slightly neurotic people.

    2. So it is much the same as any other line of business. Management is more content to hire somewhat mediocre personnel who do not represent a "threat". By keeping staff as freelance they are more disposable. At one time I worked for a public agency where the manager hired everyone under temporary (like 6 month or 1 year) appointments. If the manager liked the person he found a way to convert them to permanent status. If they weren't a favorite they just went away when their appointment expired. Cowardly, but effective (at least for him).

  2. There is nothing new in this. the news director was right.There is no tenure in broadcasting for anyone, including news directors. This is part of why working in the medium at all is so appealing. You are not supposed to feel "secure". Whether or not it's the best decision is a completely different question.

  3. Only viewed as cheap labor - what a bitch!

    1. So you are new to the broadcast biz? If this had been a male news director, this would never have happened? Are you utterly clueless that news directors (both bitches and pricks)generally have even shorter tenures than on-air people? Why would that be? They are put on budget and ratings constraints by their bosses. If they can produce an acceptable, successful product without spending more money, they keep their jobs longer. I'm sure this fellow is a hard-working and utterly capable reporter.Rich lists his accomplishments, including working all shifts reliably. This is what is expected of any reporter, not something extraordinary. It's the job. His news director tells him he's got as much work as he wants, that she understands he doesn't want to go anywhere else. This is not evil. It doesn't imply that she hates him or that she's bitch. It's just the way it works. Isn't ABC7 on top of the ratings heap? Sometimes, the most satisfying careers in television news are those of the stalwart, reliable, on-call reporter who works through several changes in management and talent, there long after someone whose job he or she wanted is but a distant memory.

  4. This story of KGO Jerking Mr. Smith around is utterly "Pathetic."

  5. The current ND should be the one let go, not just the station has nothing new, just a copy-cat refreshing start. The dumbest start was to rehire the current morning team and keep putting their ads over and over and over all over the news cast and station commercial slot. I found those ads lame and copy-cat of KTVU when earlier Gasia has a similar ad not too showing off baking a cake and having her outside jogs and then, KGO 7 over and over and over ads introducing one anchor as "recently married" and another "she can dance" totally nothing related their news and about their anchors performance on their news-cast.

  6. Nick isn't the best reporter but definitely good enough to have been hired full time. This business sucks

  7. Same can be said all around Silicon Valley, which uses contractors instead of hiring full-time employees.

  8. Thousand of out of work reporters 1000 time more qualified would die for a chance to just freelance.
    Everybody knows this.

    So he got lucky, lucky, lucky.

    And everyone know there are NO promises of stable full-time employment.

    Same routine at every other union BA station.

    Blame the union also...they DO have some say in the matter no matter what others may believe.

    If the union says "no" then he won't get goes to others who have also been "paying dues in da biz."

  9. It's like any other business/corporation/profession - the bottom line is all that matters these days, regardless of the skill/talent the employee has.