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Ch. 4's interim news director has a lot on his plate

By Alan Pergament

This is what I'm thinking about a busy news week:

Channel 4's interim news director, Peter Jacobus, sure has several staff hiring issues on his plate however long he stays here.

That's because the former Channel 4 news director, Joe Schlaerth, had a reputation for being very slow to fill open positions. That was true throughout his 10-year tenure as news director. However, it is possible he wasn't allowed to hire anyone in recent months because he was about to be let go.

I would have liked to ask Channel 4 General Manager Rene LaSpina about that, but she still hasn't  answered my telephone call from Wednesday after Schlaerth was removed.

In any event, here are some of the immediate things that probably are on Jacobus' plate:

Replace former anchor Diana Fairbanks, whose 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts have been filled by Don Postles and Jacquie Walker since Fairbanks worked her last newscast more than a month ago.

Replace meteorologist Brian Shaw, who got a job in Louisville quickly after being led out the door after being fired in early June.

Replace sports producer Jay Harris, who left in March to produce John Murphy's radio show on WGR. That means Steve Vesey and Lauren Brill are Channel 4's only sports staffers at a busy time with the Buffalo Bills in training camp. 

Hire a third sports reporter, which has been on Channel 4's agenda for months. It is unclear if the new sports reporter actually will fill Harris' position.

Replace several important people who worked behind the scenes and have left.

Jacobus has a fan in former Channel 2 General Manager Steve Cohen, who currently is the news director at KUSI-TV in San Diego.

After Wednesday's blog listed some of Jacobus' credentials that I was able to gather from a google search (Channel 4 didn't put out a release), Cohen sent me an email.

"Your description of Pete Jacobus does him some disservice. He is one of the longest standing, most respected news directors in the profession. He is a superior newsman, who has covered most of the major stories of the last four decades. He ran KGO-TV (in San Francisco) in its heyday, and virtually mentored, hired, and led a generation of news executives from New York to Los Angeles.

"We have been colleagues from the time he ran KGO and I was at WXYZ in Detroit. Buffalo will find his leadership and community-based news gathering a refreshing change for viewers of WIVB."

Cohen concluded his email by saying something nice about my coverage of his "crazy profession."

Crazy indeed. In Buffalo, we have a TV channel that covers news that refuses to be interviewed when it makes news.  

I also received an email from WBBZ-TV's John DiSciullo, director of promotion and production, that noted my column last Sunday about all the digital channels available free over-the-air failed to mention the extra channels WBBZ carries. I was aware of it, but primarily dealt with the new sub-channels being offered.

"At WBBZ-TV we offer the following," wrote DiSciullo:

WBBZ    67.2:   THIS TV – the 24/7 movie channel offered by MGM. THIS TV was on our main channel before MeTV launched.

WBBZ    67.3       MeTV-  available 24/7 without our local program insertion.

WBBZ    67.4        DAYSTAR – Religious programming 24/7

Program Note: If you missed the June compilation episode of Visit Buffalo Niagara's web-based series "Buffalo For Real TV" with Nelson Starr as host, be advised it is being repeated  on two Sinclair Broadcast stations this weekend. It airs at 4:30 p.m. Saturday on WNYO and at 4 p.m. Sunday on WUTV. It also was written by Starr. John Paget is the director.

Edward J. Healy, vice president of marketing for Visit Buffalo, Niagara, reports there is a possibility that it will produce another half-hour special to air this fall.

Finally, inquiring minds want to know what happened to Williamsville East graduate Justin Rhodes during Judgment Week on "America's Got Talent"? The singer didn't make it to the round of 48.

TV, social network reflections highlight Wilson coverage

By Alan Pergament

ST. MARTIN - Traditionally when I go away big news happens.

I can not imagine any bigger than the news I got via text from my older son as I sat on a beach in the Caribbean: "Ralph Wilson died." I headed to the Internet on my phone and saw that the Buffalo Bills confirmed it.

It was time to reflect on Wilson's well-lived 95 years and all the things that have changed in pro football and in life over that time.

The text I received on my iPhone was one small example. I am also writing this on an iPad. I immediately wished I could see the local television coverage of Wilson's legacy and life in what will be one of the biggest stories of the year in WNY. And then I remembered I could because all the local TV stations stream their newscasts and I have WiFi at my hotel.

I was able to watch Channel 4 anchor Don Postles tell viewers that the news was not unexpected because of Wilson's age but it was still a bit of a shock.

A short time later, Channel 4 was carrying a live news conference in which former Bill Steve Tasker told a wonderful, moving story about how Wilson welcomed him to the team and wished him well before his second game. Tasker thought it was a nice gesture and didn't realize he was talking to the owner.

Tasker appeared ready to tell another moving story when Channel 4 inexplicably cut to comments made by County Executive Mark Poloncarz. Bad move. A little later, I saw Channel 2 sports anchor Adam Benigni's report on Wilson's death that was aided by file footage from an exceptional special on the owner that at the time seemed preparation for an obituary. Good stuff.

I also headed to Facebook to see a post by Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon that told a sweet story about Wilson joining her for a meal and trying to make her feel comfortable in her role as a reporter back then.

There were several sweet Facebook posts that illustrated how much many Western New Yorkers appreciated Wilson and his kind gestures. But I couldn't help but think that people who aren't Buffalo natives appreciate what Wilson has done for the community more than those who have lived here all their lives.

I am one of them. I came here when I was 21 and 20 years later watched my first Bills Super Bowl not knowing if I would root for the Bills or the team I grew up with -- the New York Giants. (At kickoff, I learned I was a Bills fan.)

Since I am not a Buffalo native, I think I understand how fortunate the area has been to have had Wilson as an owner more than natives.

The world has dramatically changed since Wilson bought the team in 1960. At the time, Buffalo might have been a top 30 TV market or close to it. Now it is outside the top 50.

The community has lost population and Wilson hasn't been able to charge as much for tickets as owners in bigger markets. I have a friend who is a Giants season ticket-holder who pays three times as much as I do for a Bills game and he also has to pay a license fee. I couldn't afford to go to one Giants game a season, even if I could get ahold of a ticket.

The disparity in ticket prices and market sizes is one of the reasons I have supported the Bills in their position against lifting the NFL blackout rule. I think lifting the rule could hurt attendance here and attendance is one of the ways this area can show it belongs in the NFL despite its market size.

Some people have criticized Wilson for a variety of things, including unfairly suggesting he didn't spend enough money on players. There were few such complaints when the Bills made four straight Super Bowls in the 1990s.

The NFL rules have changed and there is no way today a team could afford to keep all the Hall of Famers on the same team. Wilson is a Hall of Famer, too, which would seem to say how big his legacy is in Buffalo.

However, there is some sentiment that his legacy here would be tarnished if the Bills don't stay here forever. To the contrary, Wilson did everything he could to keep the team here in a world changed by TV money, technology and population shifts in the 54 years he's owned the team. If the Bills ever move, it is on WNY, not Ralph Wilson.

Santos could be Ch.4's weather future

By Alan Pergament

Some quick thoughts about a busy local TV news week:

 I am not trying to rush Channel 4’s chief meteorologist Don Paul out the door or into retirement in sunny Florida.

 I have fun at his expense at times, but he is a legend around here.

Besides, he isn't going anywhere. I reported in April that Paul signed a new three-year deal,  with the station’s option every year.

However, Paul isn’t getting any younger -- he admits to being in his mid 60s –- so his station would be wise to look to its weather future.

And Channel 4's hiring of Todd Santos of The Weather Channel this week makes one think that he could eventually be Paul’s replacement as the station’s chief meteorologist.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, we’ll have to see how he performs once he comes on board in about two weeks.

By the way, I got a note from a Western New Yorker who said he was Santos’ college roommate at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

The very flattering note added that Santos is an avid skier and mountain biker who has visited Buffalo regularly for 15 years.

That makes sense since Santos is married to a former WNYer whose family still lives here.

If you’re looking to see Santos perform before he arrives here, I’m told one of his Weather Channel shifts is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Here's an interesting side note involving Teresa Weakley, the Youngstown, Ohio anchor at WKBN who has been offered a job by Channel 4. Her husband, Joe Aulisio, is the assistant sports director and a sports anchor at WKBN. The couple has one child. Channel 4 could use another sports anchor or sports reporter but there is no indication that this would be a package deal.

Aulisio was in the news a few years ago when he suffered a concussion and two broken vertebrae in a collision with four high school players at a football practice that he was covering. 

Here was Ginger Geoffery's big announcement on her final day as anchor of Channel 7's "Eyewitness News This Morning." She is going to be the director of social marketing for The Mac Groups. I'm not familiar with the company but a Google search uncovered that it is based in Williamsville.  

The Buffalo Bills have informed me that they have been told that John Murphy’s radio show on WGR is No.1 in its evening time period among listeners age 25-54. You can read more about Murphy and his show in my Sunday column in The Buffalo News.



About Talkin' TV

Alan Pergament

Alan Pergament

Alan Pergament has continued to blog about television topics since retiring in 2010 as The News' television writer after 28 years on the beat. From local on-air personalities to ratings to the latest on network and cable programming, he keeps you informed.

@StillTalkinTV |