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Plan to cut Randall's hours at Ch. 7 takes the cake

By Alan Pergament

Happy anniversary, Mike. Now after you cut the cake, let's talk about cutting your hours.

That apparently was the message recently given to Channel 7's Mike Randall.

Some observant readers have noticed that Channel 7's Aaron Mentkowski is now being referred to as the station’s "chief meteorologist" and Randall, the former chief, is being called the station's "senior meteorologist."

What does that mean?

According to sources, it means that Randall's role is about to be diminished after a month in which he is celebrating his 30th year at the ABC affiliate.

His work anniversary is Aug. 29, a few days before sources say his hours will be cut by about 20 percent under terms of his new multi-year contract. The same sources speculate that most likely will mean a commensurate pay cut.

Sources add that the plan to reduce Randall's hours isn't his idea.

Channel 7 General Manager Mike Nurse this morning confirmed that Randall's hours are being reduced but painted a more positive picture about why it is happening than sources have told me.

Nurse said the reductions in hours in the new deal "gives Mike more time for his other endeavors."

One assumes Nurse is referring to Randall's theater work as Mark Twain.

"It is a very grinding schedule," added Nurse of Randall's early morning shift on the relaunched "Good Morning." "This also gives him more time do stories. We worked this out together. He loved the concept."

Nurse declined to say whether Randall took a pay cut.

"We worked out a deal that worked well for both sides," said Nurse.

The general manager confirmed the plan is to have Randall work the new morning program every day but only do the noon newscasts two days a week. The weather on the three other weekday noon newscasts will be done by Autumn Lewandowski, who also works weekends. The station also recently hired a fill-in meteorologist, Lancaster native McLaughlin. 

"This fits better," said Nurse. "It lets Autumn focus on weather."

Randall, who is 59, declined comment early this morning.

It is unclear what concessions the station may have made to get Randall to accept the deal, but he did get a multi-year contract. He also had little leverage in negotiations because of his age.

Before being named “senior meteorologist,” Randall actually was the youngest chief meteorologist in town. Channel 4's Don Paul and Channel 2's Kevin O’Connell are both older than Randall.

The reduced hours Randall will be working would seem to indicate he is unlikely to be working full-time at Channel 7 into his mid-60s as his competitors are doing. 

The plan certainly is a boost to Mentkowski, who has been doing Channel 7's weekday evening forecasts for years without the title of chief meteorologist.

"He is much better with computer systems," said Nurse in explaining one reason for Mentkowski's promotion to chief meteorologist.

All that promotion during the Bills game Sunday for Channel 7's new morning program featuring new co-anchors Cole Heath and Tiffany Lundberg didn't help its opening day ratings.

Ch. 7 was a weak third at 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Monday and had a lower rating at 6 a.m. than it did a week earlier when overall morning viewership was slightly higher.

At 6 a.m. Monday, Channel 2 was No. 1 with a 4.4 rating, with Channel 4 second at 3.1 and Channel 7 third with a 1.5. A week earlier, Channel 2 won with a 4.2, with Channel 4 second with a 3.2 and Channel 7 third with a 1.9

On Day 2 Tuesday, Channel 2 led at 5 a.m. with a 3.5 rating to Channel 4's 2.8 and Channel 7's 1.1 At 6 a.m., Channel 2 won with a 5.3 to Channel 4's 5.1 and Channel 7's 1.9.

Monday and Tuesday's ratings illustrate how difficult it is going to be for Channel 7 to become competitive in the mornings.

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