The past year has seen a number of changes in the Cincinnati market. The changes are happening on air and off. Anchors bounced or changing channels and new News Directors coming in.
The Cincy Enquirer writes, gone are Sheila Gray, Ben Swann, Zach Wells and Brian Giesenschlag.
Hagit Limor, Amy Wagner and Denise Johnson changed channels.
Dennis Janson, Howard Ain and John Popovich changed roles.
Behind the scenes are an unprecedented three new news directors hired at the four TV stations in the last year; two new general managers; and one new owner.
All want to be No. 1.
“We look at this fall as going into one of the most competitive I’ve ever seen, with the amount of new news directors. They’re all going to be gunning for the top,” said Kirk Varner, WKRC-TV (Channel 12) news director.
Varner has a unique perspective. He has the longest tenure among TV news directors in town (just over 2½ years). His newscasts continue to win all ratings under new owners, Sinclair Broadcast Group, which also operates WSTR-TV (Channel 64) and Dayton’s Channels 22 and 45.
“Every other station in the market has made changes to improve what they do,” he said.
The fewest moves have been made by WLWT-TV (Channel 5) – once a revolving door on the anchor desk since Jerry Springer quit 20 years ago. Reporter Alison Montoya switched from days to replace evening reporter Laura Borchers, who moved to Columbus.
“I believe in stability. I believe you’ve got to commit to that,” said Channel 5 news director Mike Neelly (pictured), hired in November from Louisville’s WLKY-TV.
The most changes can be seen at WXIX-TV (Channel 19).
Since late May, Fox 19 viewers have watched the departures of morning anchor Gray (14 years), sports director Giesenschlag (8½ years) and co-anchor Swann (2½ years).
In charge of rebuilding Fox 19 is news director Kevin Roach, a former Associated Press vice president and assistant WCPO-TV (Channel 9) news director who oversaw that station’s I-Team.
One of Roach’s first calls after arriving in February was to Limor – Channel 9’s award-winning I-Team reporter and a University of Cincinnati professor – for his new Fox 19 investigative unit.
“I’m looking forward to doing it again. There are so many untold stories,” said Limor, who has been at Fox 19 since July, but can’t appear on TV until her “noncompete” with Channel 9 expires Nov. 1.
New weekend anchor Amy Wagner (from Channel 5) and evening co-anchor Scott Schneider (hired in April from Youngstown) also are on the investigative team.
“This is about breaking through the clutter, and providing useful information and news in a way this station has never done before,” Roach said.
Channel 12 also amped up its investigative reporting last week with the debut of “Waste Watch,” a Sinclair initiative to expose wasteful government spending. Ain, who semi-retired in July, has cut back to two consumer “Troubleshooter” reports a week.