Stolz leaves WBAL for NY TV: General manager who took Channel 11 to the top in local news will now work for the station's owners.

November 11, 1998|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Phil Stolz, the general manager who took WBAL (Channel 11) from third to first in local news since his arrival in 1991, is leaving the station to become a senior vice president for Hearst-Argyle in New York City, owners of WBAL.

Stolz, 50, will be replaced as president and general manager by Bill Fine, a former general sales manager at WBAL now heading up sales at Hearst-Argyle's WCVB-TV in Boston. The change is effective Nov. 30.

"I had the pleasure of working with some really dedicated people at WBAL the last eight years who all wanted to win, and that's what we did. The thing we're most pleased about is winning with our newscasts," Stolz said yesterday.

"Phil had a great run at WBAL," said Emerson Coleman, vice president and director of broadcast operations. "The station has really grown under his leadership."

Under Stolz, WBAL was the first Baltimore station to add weekend morning newscasts in 1992. Three years later, he acquired the rights to "Oprah" at a time when some analysts thought Oprah Winfrey's talk show was in decline.

But it wasn't, and the lead-in quickly helped WBAL take the lead in early weeknight news. Stolz also strengthened public affairs broadcasting at WBAL with such shows as "The Bottom Line," with host Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP. The show recently celebrated its 200th broadcast.

In 1995, as part of a three-way affiliate switch in Baltimore, WBAL became the NBC affiliate at a time when NBC's prime-time schedule was No. 1. That partnership helped WBAL become a contender in late news, battling WJZ for the top spot.

In July, WBAL was No. 1 at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. -- a high point in Stolz's tenure.

In his new post, Stolz will oversee nine Hearst-Argyle stations, including WBAL. The station group is growing rapidly and is awaiting shareholder and government approval of its acquisition of nine more stations from Pulitzer Publishing and one from Kelly Broadcasting.

If the acquisition is approved, Hearst-Argyle will have 27 television stations in 20 states, reaching 17.5 percent of American homes. That makes it the second largest independent station group in the country, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The departure of Stolz, coupled with WJZ vice president and general manager Marcellus Alexander leaving Dec. 1 for Philadelphia, means Baltimore television will be losing two of its most aggressive and successful senior executives. Alexander and Stolz, in their stations' battle for first place, have largely set the tone and style of Baltimore television in recent years.

Pub Date: 11/11/98

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