By Alan Pergament
Channel 2, which supposedly "holds people accountable," is embarrassing itself in the handling of Ed Kilgore's departure from the station.
To put it simply in a way sports fans can relate, Ed Must Go. Now. Not after the end of the May sweeps. But now.
Kilgore is a likable personality who deserves to go out with dignity rather than become a journalistic joke.
It became clear Saturday that he has to leave Channel 2 immediately after local reporters confirmed that he was the host of a news conference for the HarborCenter project that featured Buffalo Sabres Owner Terry Pegula.
I'm told that sportswriters and reporters were floored Saturday at the sight of Kilgore introducing Pegula and all the dignitaries at the news conference.
The news conference came only three days after Kilgore announced he was leaving the station on May 24 to work for Pegula's East Management company. In Channel 2's announcement of Kilgore's departure, the station noted that "it is important to note" that Kilgore's new job wouldn't involve the Sabres and added that meant he could continue to be objective covering the team.
It was a questionable statement when it was made and the assumption was Kilgore wasn't going to work for Pegula until he left Channel 2. At the very least, the double duty had the appearance of a conflict of interest.
The right thing to do would have been to treat Kilgore the same way the station treated former reporter Pete Gallivan when he announced he was going to work for Gov. Cuomo. The station showed Gallivan the door that day and gave him an on-air goodbye. He understood that journalistically he had to go because any story he could be assigned could involve a governor's policy.
Even if Channel 2 didn't feel compelled to have Kilgore leave immediately, Saturday's performance was a game-changer. Kilgore appears to be already working for Pegula. If Kilgore had stayed in the background for a month before working for Pegula, the issue might not have been front and center. But by hosting Saturday's news conference, Kilgore, and by extension Channel 2, were throwing the conflict in viewers' faces.
Channel 2 really doesn't see the conflict of interest of having Kilgore covering a team owned by his boss? Really? Then its reporters should turn in their Red Coats immediately.
Channel 2 could defend KiIgore by saying he criticized the Sabres last week after his new job was announced, saying it was a bad team with a great owner. But even that statement could be taken as a thank you for getting his new job.
And don’t give me the line "that it is only sports" and there is a different ethical standard. Or that Channel 4 did something similar with John Murphy when he was hired by the Bills. That's hogwash. Sportswriters and sportscasters take their professions seriously. It took decades to kill the old image of sportswriter who could be bought for the price of a beer or a sandwich.
Ethics matter. I remember years ago when Mike DeGeorge, once Kilgore's backup at Channel 2, quit the Empire Sports Network when he didn't like being told to emphasize the Sabres even on games the Bills were making big news. I wonder if DeGeorge, who now is the spokesman for Mayor Brown and the Buffalo Police Department, would support Kilgore on this arrangement.
Kilgore has been at Channel 2 for 40 years, is a Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Famer and deserves to say goodbye to his fans on a newscast as soon as possible.
Channel 2 should immediately give him time to say goodbye and run a package that highlights his accomplishments over the years. It wouldn't be hard to do because the station put together a package in January for Kilgore's 40th anniversary at the station.
It wouldn't be like Kilgore would be missed much if he left immediately. This is a relatively slow time of year for sports. The Sabres are very unlikely to make the playoffs and the Bills don't play a meaningful game for almost five months. I'm sure Adam Benigni, Stu Boyar and Jonah Javad could handle this week's NFL Draft. Even if Kilgore left the station today, Channel 2 still would have one more on-air sports staffer – three - than its two competitors.
It is hard to understand why the station would risk further embarrassment by keeping Kilgore around. It isn't a close call. Ed Must Go. Now.