An Anchor at Sinclair owned WNWO is getting out just in the nick of time.
WNWO Anchor Kristi Leigh has been hired to co-anchor the 5, 6, and 11 p.m. newscasts on WTOL.
Her job change happens just weeks before she was likely to lose her job at WNWO.
Last month the Sinclair-owned station announced plans to outsource the bulk of its news staff and production to an affiliate in South Bend.
The Toledo Blade says that Leigh will leave WNWO sometime in mid-February, and begins at WTOL in early March.
She replaces Emilie Voss who left the TV news industry late last month.
Leigh’s move to the CBS affiliate will make the area native and Bowling Green State University graduate perhaps the first broadcast journalist to deliver news on all four local newscasts, including WTVG and WUPW.
WTOL interviewed approximately 60 candidates for the job, some from within the station, some from outside of Ohio, said WTOL's vice president and general manager Brian Lorenzen. It was Leigh's ties to the area that helped make her job application stand out, even late in the hiring process, when she applied in January.
“It's obvious here's somebody that has a great look, has a fantastic voice, good timing, those things that we're looking for,” he said. “We also needed to find somebody that could come in here and know how to say ‘Maumee,' and knows how to say 'Oregon', and who understands the market and would complement that team.”
In the competitive field of broadcast news, most reporters and anchors sign non-compete clauses that prevent them from jumping from one station to another in the same market for a specific period of time, including up to a year.
Given the unusual circumstances for Leigh and her status at Channel 24, Lorenzen said WTOL and its owner Raycom were able to work out an agreement with WNWO and its owner Sinclair.
“All of those issues arose and to Sinclair's credit and WNWO's credit, they were willing to have discussions and work out agreements,” he said. “It wasn't just that they turned a blind eye or looked the other way” regarding the non-compete. “We had some things to work through and did that so it was respectful of legal agreements but also respectful of the human beings involved.”
But don't look for Leigh to be on the air right away.
After joining the station, she will go through a training period of sorts as she learns and grows comfortable with WTOL's system, Lorenzen said.
“WNWO doesn't have the same workload that we have. We also have a new set. We want to make sure that she's comfortable and put her in a position to be comfortable on day one, including a few on-air rehearsals,” he said, adding: “We're anxious to get her ready.”