The Evangelists: David Barrett

Apr 23, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Title: President and CEO, Hearst-Argyle Television.
TV stations owned and/or managed: 27, which cover 17.5 percent of the country. (Hearst-Argyle owns 24 stations.)
Hometown: Chicago.
Education: Loyola University.
First job: Salesman at the former WGLD-FM, Chicago, a progressive rock station.
Background: After his first radio job in Chicago, Mr. Barrett moved to Montreal in the early 1970s and at 24 became general manager at rock-formatted radio station CHOM-FM, Montreal.
“I was enough of a free spirit; I thought that city was very attractive,” Mr. Barrett said. “I had never lived anywhere other than Chicago, and I thought I wanted to experience that.”
Mr. Barrett spent four years turning CHOM into a successful radio station-an experience that prepared him for television.
“Radio, historically, was a much more competitive business than TV,” he said. “Radio stations had to have a very, very sharp customer focus [because that was] the day when radio was further down the food chain to attract advertising revenues. So one had to be very focused on a customer and how to approach sales. Those same disciplines apply in television today. We want to have our salespeople be very customer-focused [and] work with our customer to find solutions for them, and it calls upon us to be more creative than television has historically been.”
Mr. Barrett joined Hearst in 1984 as general manager of its Baltimore radio stations and later became vice president of the Hearst radio group, in charge of stations in Pittsburgh and Milwaukee in addition to being general manager at WIYY-FM and WBAL-AM, Baltimore.
He got his feet wet in television in 1989 as general manager of WBAL-TV, Baltimore, while he continued to oversee the radio properties. “Successful television stations run themselves in a very aggressive, entrepreneurial way. They focus on leadership and local news and on aggressive local sales operations. That applied both to the radio work I did in Baltimore and to the television work I did in Baltimore.”
Key to local stations’ future: “News is the cornerstone of what we do. It defines us in the local marketplace. What’s important for us is [that] we attract and hold good people who share our vision that local news leadership is what we are all about. We have to convert that local news leadership to advertising opportunity and sales growth.”