Tennessee radio station to cut jobs, local news

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Radio station WUTC in Chattanooga, Tenn., is laying off news staffers and cutting back on local programming as its licensee looks to reduce costs.

Beginning Jan. 1, the station will move to an automated news format during the day and cut some local news programming. It will stop airing local newscasts and feature reports, but “the goal is to bring those back as soon as possible,” said Shawn Ryan, a spokesperson for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the station’s licensee.

The university has nearly halved its contribution to WUTC’s budget since fiscal year 2015, from $368,782 to $205,009 last fiscal year. It expects to cut another $11,000 in support this year, according to Ryan.

WUTC is cutting the positions of a host, an operations manager and a news director, according to Ryan. It hopes to hire one staffer to handle all of those responsibilities.

The station now airs music and news during the day. Under the new schedule, it will air news during the day and music at night.

WUTC attracted national attention last year when UTC fired station reporter Jacqui Helbert after state legislators complained that she didn’t identify herself as a reporter during a meeting with a group of high-school students. The complaints stoked fears among university leaders that lawmakers would end funding for the school.

Helbert later sued the university and reached a $50,000 settlement agreement.

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