Sacramento’s KXTV hires Jill Manuel to lead newsroom efforts

Jill Manuel (Photo: Facebook)

Jill Manuel, a Chicago-area media expert with previous television news experience, has been tapped to lead the newsroom at Sacramento’s struggling ABC affiliate.

Manuel assumed the role of director of digital content — a position similar to that of a news director at other stations — following the departure of Samantha Cohen earlier this month.

Manuel joins TEGNA-owned KXTV (Channel 10) from a series of marketing and production gigs in Chicago. Her resume reveals an extensive amount of experience working in television news: From 2005 to 2016, she served as a news director for at least three different midwestern television stations, including WGN-TV (Channel 9) and cable news network Chicagoland Television (CLTV) in Chicago; Scripps-owned ABC affiliate WEWS (Channel 5) in Cleveland and Chicago FOX station WFLD (Channel 32).

Manuel announced she was leaving WFLD after just two years on the job. She served in various marketing and consultant roles until TEGNA offered her the opportunity to return to television news.

KXTV has lagged in the ratings since the late 1990s when parent company TEGNA (then Gannett) acquired it from Belo as part of a swap involving Houston CBS affiliate KVUE-TV. Belo was acquired by Gannett for $1.5 billion in 2013.

Station leaders have struggled to innovate around the station’s lackluster ratings through a series of experiments, including one that saw KXTV spearhead an initiative to launch hyperlocal news websites branded “My Neighborhood” in 2008.

Under Cohen’s leadership, KXTV moved away from its “News10” moniker, rebranding as “ABC10” and reformatting its late-night news broadcast to include numerous pre-produced news packages strung together in a way that resembled similar broadcasts on Internet-only news products like Newsy or Gas Station Television.

As part of the format change, veteran broadcasters Cristina Mendonsa and Dale Schorenack left the station. Numerous other long-time behind-the-scenes employees left the station due to a mixture of in-house and corporate initiatives, according to sources.

The format never caught on: KXTV slipped from third in the ratings to dead last. Cohen left the station earlier this month for a new job at Rocky Mountain Public Stations, a Colorado-based broadcaster that operates several PBS affiliates.

Manuel seemed unfazed by the challenges at this station and even appeared to embrace them: In a Facebook note published June 20, the station’s newest director of digital content said she felt the crew at KXTV was “one of the most innovative newsrooms I have ever worked with.”

“I am thrilled to be back in a newsroom full-time!” she wrote.

Manuel began her first day at KXTV on Monday.