Post-vacation catchup: starring David Duitch, Shelly Slater, Lisa Pineiro
07/11/12 11:38 AM
By ED BARK
David Duitch is returning to the Belo mothership and cutting ties with Dallas-based CW33 after four oft-turbulent years as the Tribune-owned station's news director.
The former WFAA8 news director is the new editor of dallasnews.com, where he'll "join" current managing editor Robert Wilonsky, according to a memorandum announcing the hire. He's scheduled to start in late July.
Both WFAA8 and The Dallas Morning News are run by Belo, where synergy still runs strong despite a split in which the newspaper is a subsidiary of A.H. Belo Corporation while the TV station is run by Belo Corp.
Several sources say the key to Duitch's hiring is Dallas Morning News publisher and chief executive officer James M. Moroney III, who formerly worked for WFAA8 and also was president of the Belo Television Group. Moroney and Duitch have remained close friends.
Sources close to the situation also say that Tribune Corp. has a prospective buyer, which might make endangered species of the local newscasts at Tribune-owned stations such as CW33.
Duitch became CW33's news director in July of 2008. In that capacity he led the station on a rollercoaster ride of hires and fires, virtually erasing the news staff he inherited while mandating a heavy mix of sex stories and Facebook tie-ins for the featured 9 p.m. local newscasts. The station even had a designated sex correspondent, Shana Franklin, who since has departed the station.
Ratings for the 9 p.m. newscasts have continued to decline despite multiple re-inventions during Duitch's tenure. His replacement, at least on an interim basis, will be assistant news director Denise Killian, who was hired in March from NBC affiliate KWQC in the Quad Cities.
Duitch, as does Wilonsky, has a strong personality that could either make or break their relationship at dallasnews.com. While at CW33, he both alienated some staffers while winning over others. In the wake of his decision to leave CW33, both sides made their feelings known.
"I am happy for him, but very sad," CW33 reporter Giselle Phelps said on her Facebook page. "I owe David a lot in my career. He believed in my talent and moved me from cold Buffalo to market #5 in Dallas. He also knew I had what it took to make it as a regular reporter and not a one-man band."
Others were less supportive.
"I have been told not to comment on the departure of my former boss from CW33," ex-station staffer Russell Thompson said on his Facebook page. "But I just can't resist! What goes around comes around! You got what you deserved! I hope the folks at the DMN know what they are getting into!"
A current staffer termed Duitch's departure "the happiest announcement I've ever heard here."
Duitch was WFAA8's news director from 2000 to 2005 before serving as the head of Belo Corp.'s Washington bureau from 2005 to 2008. The official Belo announcement of his re-hiring says that Duitch will "lead the teams responsible for breaking news coverage and for daily production of the Web site, and will work closely with the owners of all our digital platforms. One of his primary missions will be to enhance our video offerings."
Belo says that the impending team of Duitch and Wilonsky, who recently left The Dallas Observer to become dallasnews.com's managing editor, "gives us a powerful blend of energy, local awareness and deep technical knowledge."
***Former CBS11 early morning co-anchor Lisa Pineiro, who was dropped by the station in May, is hoping to rebound quickly with KTTV-TV, the Fox-owned station in Los Angeles. She's auditioning on the station's early morning newscasts this week, and you can take a look live if you'd like by going here on Thursday or Friday. Remember, though, there's a two-hour time difference. So the early AM show gets a later start in D-FW.
***WFAA8 anchor Shelly Slater, who became a first-time mom in the summer of 2010, is expecting again.
Slater, in an email response, said her due date is Jan. 4th. "Things happen in 3's around here! Cynthia (Izaguirre), Alex (Conomos), now me."
Izaguirre, the Daybreak co-anchor, is newly returned from maternity leave after having twins. Conomos, the early morning traffic reporter, filled in for Izaguirre while awaiting her own delivery of a third child. She's due very shortly.
WFAA8's maternity merry-go-around has meant a constant shuffling of on-air talent. Slater is due to officially replace Gloria Campos as 6 p.m. co-anchor in September, with Campos still co-helming 10 p.m. newscasts with John McCaa. But Slater's pregnancy could bring Campos back for a return visit just in time for the February "sweeps" ratings period.