On Friday night, a roiling crowd of local TV newsmen and -women packed into an Irish bar in midtown to toast their former colleagues who had recently lost their jobs in the layoffs and buyouts that have been sweeping WNBC-4, NBC’s flagship station in New York.
In the days leading up to the party, some staffers jokingly referred to it as a "Wake 4 NY" and a "gathering of the recently departed." Others took to calling it "Severence-Fest 2009."
Sure enough, the past year at WNBC-4 has been one of upheaval, as managers dismantled the traditional newsroom in favor of a so-called digital "content center." Dozens of veteran station employees have lost their jobs along the way.
By the time Friday night rolled around, everyone needed a stiff drink, went the thinking. And in the end, despite the recent gloominess at WNBC-4, Friday night’s party turned into a jovial affair, according to several attendees. The cash bar, located in the basement of Legends 33, was packed by 7:30 p.m., and the party didn’t break up until 3:30 a.m. By Monday morning, photos of the revelry were already making their way onto Facebook.
According to sources, current WNBC anchors Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons attended the party briefly, quietly eating dinner at a side table before returning to the station for the 11 p.m. news. Meteorologist Janice Huff also turned up to say goodbye to her former friends and coworkers.
Here and there, newsmen and -women from other stations, including Channel 7 and NY1, mingled with reporters who had left the station months and years earlier, including the likes of David Diaz and Scott Weinberger. One partygoer estimated the crowd at around 150 persons.
At around 9:30 p.m., the collective tipsy brain trust decided that somebody had to say something to the group as a whole. Eventually, the station’s ex-political reporter Jay DeDapper accepted the assignment. From a stairway landing at the front of the room, he addressed his fellow unemployed and under-employed colleagues.
For the most part, according to sources, Mr. DeDapper kept things positive. He gave shout-outs to former WNBC-4 news director Paula Madison and former station manager Dan Forman, who was there drinking in the crowd. Mr. DeDapper said that they had built something special at WNBC-4. Everyone should feel proud.
When the Media Mob caught up with Mr. DeDapper by phone on Monday afternoon, he confirmed that his comments had been upbeat and celebratory.
"I wouldn’t call it a wake," said Mr. DeDapper. "It was more of a reunion and a goodbye. We put the dot at the end of the sentence. News Channel 4 is over."
"Everything that we did, all the Emmys we won, all the great stories and series we did, that’s done," he added. "There may be great stuff in the future with the new group of people. We’re just not going to be a part of it. We had what we had. Now it’s time to move on."