Just a bit more than a year after WALA-TV changed ownership, the station is set to do it again.

The FOX affiliate is part of a merger between Media General and Meredith Corp. that was announced last week. WALA came to be part of Media General after it and Lin Media merged in March of last year. That put WALA and sister station WFNA under the same roof as WKRG-TV, and Media General then decided to sell WALA to Meredith last August.

Insiders tell Lagniappe this new merger likely means either WKRG or WALA will be sold off to another company. Last year WALA was sold for $86 million.

The merger will create Meredith Media General, a company with $3 billion in annual revenues, which becomes the third-largest owner of major network affiliates in the country. The new company will have 88 stations in 54 markets, reaching 30 percent of U.S. television households. Media General’s acquisition of Meredith will cost $2.4 billion.

There is no word yet on how things will shake out locally.

Dunn in at WPMI
Chris Dunn has been named the new chief meteorologist at LOCAL 15 News, it was announced late last week. He takes the place of Derek Beasley, who recently announced he is leaving.

For the past six years Dunn worked at KPHO in Phoenix, but was part of a shakeup there in August when, according to Dunn’s Facebook page, the station acquired another in the market. At KPHO he led a four-person weather team. Before that he was chief meteorologist at stations in Denver, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City. Dunn has also worked along the Gulf Coast and in the Southeast at stations in Fort Myers and Miami, Florida.

“It’s great to be heading back to the Gulf Coast and Local 15,” Dunn said in a news release. “I’ve had the opportunity to live (and forecast weather) in many parts of the country and it is hard to beat the mild climate and the warmth of the people that live here. ”

Dunn is known to many of his viewers as “The Flying Weatherman,” as he holds a private pilot’s certificate with instrument ratings and offers weather flying lessons at theflyingweatherman.com.

“Chris brings a wealth of experience to our market. He has had experience forecasting tropical weather while working in the Miami and Fort Myers markets. He has a strong track record as chief meteorologist in markets such as Philadelphia, Phoenix and Denver,” WPMI News Director Bob Noonan said in a statement.

Dunn is expected to start Sept. 20 and will deliver the forecast weeknights on LOCAL 15 News at 5, 6 and 10 p.m., and on LOCAL 15 News on UTV44 weeknights at 6:30 and 9 p.m.

AMG reporter burned in crash
Alabama Media Group sports writer Natalie Pierre Williams was still in the Trauma and Burn Intensive Care Unit at UAB Hospital as of last report following a fiery car accident in the early morning hours of Sept. 8.

Williams, who turned 26 the day of the accident, was traveling around 2 a.m. when her car jumped a curb and hit a tree. According to reports, her husband, Chasten Williams, pulled her away from the burning car.

Williams reportedly received burns over more than 75 percent of her body. She joined al.com in 2014 as a college football reporter.

P-R sales changes
According to insiders at the Press-Register, there are some rather big departures in the company’s local advertising arena.

Aaron VanHauter, who was listed as director of sales on his LinkedIn profile, is reportedly leaving the company. He has also carried the title of Advertising Hub Director and has been in the Mobile office since March of last year. He worked for Digital First Media before joining al.com, according to his resume.

Vicki Applewhite, the current vice president of marketing and strategy for the whole state is also reported to be leaving Alabama Media Group. She replaced former Press-Register advertising manager Larry Wooley when he retired in 2011.

No word on whether either will be replaced or the reasons for their departures.

Media petitions to unseal Bentley divorce
Several media outlets across the state, with help from the Alabama Press Association, on Monday filed a motion in Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court to unseal Gov. Robert Bentley’s divorce proceedings.

The six newspapers and four TV stations petitioning the court to unseal the documents argue the case should be open to the public, just as more than 99 percent of the state’s divorce cases are. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hamner sealed the Bentley court records from view Aug. 31, three days after Dianne Bentley filed to divorce her husband of 50 years. Since that time various political blogs have pushed the story that the divorce is due to an affair the governor is having with one of his top aides.

Despite there being no definitive evidence of an affair, the story has moved into the mainstream media, fueled in part by Bentley’s refusal to address the speculation or to deny an affair. Given Bentley’s position and accusations — again, without documentation — that public money and property were used to facilitate an affair, the petitioners believe unsealing the filing will provide a “smoking gun” to either prove or disprove whether an affair is why Dianne Bentley is suing for divorce. Of course, regardless of whether affair accusations are in the filing, it’s a pretty good bet that if it is unsealed, whatever dirty laundry the Bentleys have will be thoroughly aired.

At this time, especially in light of information that has come out regarding the way the aide, Rebekah Mason, as well as the governor’s chief of staff are being paid by third parties rather than directly by the state, I’d have to support unsealing the divorce filing. Bentley’s refusal to deal with the scandal has led to reasonable questions about what’s in the file. But I’d also imagine the Bentleys at this point would probably prefer to handle their differences in another way.

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