In Defense of WOOD TV 8 and the Handling of Suzanne Geha’s Departure

The recent departure of longtime local TV anchor Suzanne Geha from WOOD TV 8 has generated a storm of backlash from the West Michigan audience that watched her for the last 30 years.

The reason the public is upset is that they’re justified: the station deliberately marketed its anchors as personalities and made community involvement a component of their jobs when they were away from the set. They invited the public in to see the positive aspects, and then when an uncomfortable/unpopular development happened – they shut the people out.  Or at least, they tried.

The public has flooded social media with commentary, speculation and condemnation.  I’m pretty confident the full story will come out somehow, no matter how hard the decision-makers try to obscure it with nondisclosure agreements and other old-school tools for enforcing opaqueness.

That sort of detached, clueless decision-making smacks more of a large corporate conglomerate than a local business.

The real problem is that WOOD TV, like so many media entities, is owned by a parent company: LIN Media, a publicly-traded company based in Rhode Island.  I doubt the decision to end the relationship with Suzanne Geha was made at the local level.  It was probably part of budget cuts made by some suits with MBAs in a corner office in Providence who over-value quarterly earnings reports and under-value public relations.

The story of news entities being bought up by conglomerates and subsequently starved of funding to increase profitability is a very common one in the past few decades, so I feel bad that the station’s been hammered so badly in the public sphere.

That concentration of media ownership is also a key factor in the problems traditional media have had in being able to innovate and evolve in response to the social media revolution that has eroded audiences.  Rather than investing the massive profits of the 1980s in development for the long-term future, the corporate ownership of most news entities (including print, radio and TV) pocketed the money and are now in the process of wringing the last remaining drops of revenue out of those acquisitions.

Unfortunately we may have to wait until investors lose interest in news media enterprises before they’re able to return to people who actually value news gathering and begin the difficult process of innovation.  It may be too late, though; and the next stage of evolution for the news may be usurped by the social media-driven ventures that exist outside the traditional model.

One thing is for sure regardless of which path is taken – the road will be a rocky one.

12 thoughts on “In Defense of WOOD TV 8 and the Handling of Suzanne Geha’s Departure

  1. Mark Pyk says:

    So why wouldn’t WOODTV issue a press release or a statement which frankly addresses the issue. I think that would placate the masses. The way WoodTV just did everything, quietly, and surreptitiously probably was the main reason people were angry. Initially, I was thinking scandal… like something went down with Geha and WOODTV, that caused the unexpected dismissal. Your version is most likely correct, but not as much fun to speculate on.


    1. Derek DeVries says:

      An excellent question. They created this crisis through their poor handling of the dismissal. Any reasonable person could understand if they made a financial decision not to meet someone’s salary demands and go a different route. That’s why I think that this was a sloppy decision made higher up by people who don’t have to sweat out a public revolt “on the ground” here in West Michigan. They know eventually the discussion will go away.

      In addition – this is a great example of why organizations shouldn’t allow the legal department to handle public relations. They likely advised the silent treatment out of some misplaced worry over the remote chance of a lawsuit (that would almost certainly be tossed out). “Playing it safe” is frequently not “playing it safe.”


  2. Mike Fisher says:

    Yes,The money saving firing was probably from higher up at LIN. The way it was handled at Wood is the sticking point with me. Wood TV shot themselves in the foot. For a sales company to make such a large stratigic blunder in the way they handled it, will show up in thier bottom line and the person that dropped the ball will be in the unemployment line…


    1. Derek DeVries says:

      Shortly after the news became public, WOOD TV did send out a press release that was reported on by the Grand Rapids Press:

      Unfortunately the situation remains one that was poorly handled by WOOD (or LIN Broadcasting); despite relying on their anchors to be public faces that represented the brand through social media and face-to-face engagement at personal appearances – they used none of those channels to communicate anything about her leaving the station. That’s an especially egregious omission for a news outlet.


  3. Fran Pleune says:

    I thought Suzanne Geha did a great job as anchor and was sorry she had to leave. Saw a picture of her on TV 13 a couple days ago when they talked about female anchors and she looked really terrific!


  4. Elizabeth Burress says:

    Ms. Suzanne Geha was so much of a part of my life for thirty years, I grew up with watching her in our home daily. I had the pleasure of meeting and greeting her twice in person. I informed her that my mother had watched her daily since we were kids before she passed away. Ms Geha was a BIG part of News Center 8 and she was a BIG part of our lives. One day without any notice at all Ms Geha was no longer on the air and we never knew why. I could only pray that she was still in good health. I still watch News Center 8 because it’s still the best news for Grand Rapids, but with Ms. Geha it was like now you see me, now you don’t!!!! It hurt because there was no end. I do understand if it was beyound her control, but they should have respected Ms. Geha and the public enough to let us know something because for years Ms. Geha WAS News Center 8.


  5. joel says: I’m going to take the unpopular route and note that Geha’s constant “everything is a big deal and nothing is fair!” reporting had the effect of the boy who cried wolf in that I couldn’t take her seriously because she could not report anything as mild, everything she said had to use her “extreme” tone. The woman has no “mild” or “medium,” everything was extreme and excessive. Perhaps the way in which we found out she was gone was shady (no surprise there) but there are certainly plenty of over-dramatic personalities to fill the local media’s post-Geha void. The rumor that I heard was that Geha asked WOOD for a raise and they said “no.” So Geha said “You can’t do the news without me!” to which WOOD responded “see ya.” (and this is a paraphrase, of course)


  6. Chris Craft says:

    So here it is 2017 and it still bugs me. Like there was no resolution the public could be let in on. I didn’t realize channel 17 even had news until they fired Geha. Tonight Michele Deselms retired in a natural way that left the public happy for her. I’m left to guess Geha’s demise. I assume she was a television victim of age. Or that there was a scandal involving drinking or sex. Could you please enlighten me?


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