Talking points in local TV news
01/07/08 07:28 AM
By ED BARK
Trading spaces. "Hometown girl" Cynthia Izaguirre returns to the city that raised her on the same day Justin Farmer decides to go home home again, too.
Except that Belo8 wasn't planning on his surprise departure from the station's increasingly important early morning Daybreak. The announcement came just a few hours after Farmer and Izaguirre had teamed for the first time on Friday's program. They were supposed to be teammates for years to come.
"This isn't about leaving WFAA," Farmer said in an email sent early Monday morning. "This has been a great ride on many fronts. This is about going home to WSB in Atlanta. I learned to shoot and edit in that place. I was born and raised in Atlanta. My family and I thought long and hard about this decision and make it with conviction. With that said, I am glad to have a number of months left at WFAA. This place is all class and Cynthia and I have a lot of work to do."
Farmer joined Belo8 in 2005, and news director Mike Valentine earlier told unclebarky.com that "we expect he'll be here until July" when his contract runs out.
That can be a tricky proposition, though. Belo8 obviously won't be advertising the fact that Farmer is a lame duck on a program that ran a solid second to Fox4's Good Day in the November "sweeps" ratings. But the word is out via many other venues. Will viewers invest in Farmer and Izaguirre knowing that he's already filed for divorce? Or might they migrate to a more permanent team on one of Belo8's three principal early morning rivals?
Belo8 has an interesting decision to make. It can let Farmer and Izaguirre ride together for six more months and two more sweeps periods (February and May) before he heads to the city that made his father, Don Farmer, famous as both an anchor for WSB and CNN. Or management can replace him on Daybreak well before his contract expires.
Giving Farmer a quick hook is problematic, too. His former mate, Jackie Hyland, left the station after the November sweeps, ostensibly to return home to her family in New York. Hyland also quickly landed a job with WCBS-TV, where she started last week. Pairing the brand new Izaguirre with an even brand newer co-anchor from outside the station might be too much too soon.
There appears to be only one viable in-house candidate. Weekend anchor Brad Hawkins, who joined Belo8 in 2000, would seem to be a very good fit for Daybreak. But does he want the job? And would management see him as more than just an interim replacement?
From this perspective, Hawkins' time has come -- even if it's during those punishing early morning hours. Farmer already represents the past, and it would be unprecedented in this market to keep a lame duck quacking for a full half-year.
Farmer of course is entitled to return home, as was Izaguirre in a mirror-opposite situation. But Belo8 also is entitled to move him to weekends, let him out of his contract early or have him fetch coffee for sports anchor Dale Hansen. We'll see which option prevails.
***Troy Dungan officially signed off as Belo8's full-time weatherman on July 18, 2007. As the station notes on its web site, though, he'll still be on the air from "time to time" and also will assist in the station's annual Santa's Helpers toy drive.
Otherwise he's free to do pretty much as he pleases, and that includes commercials. Still, it's a bit odd, if not disconcerting, to see the weather legend using those credentials as a pitchman for a foundation repair company.
The ads regularly pop up on Belo8's Daybreak, with a still bow-tied Dungan telling viewers, "You know, when you're watching the weather on TV you want somebody you can trust. Ho-ho, that goes double when you're working on the foundation of your house."
Belo8 news director Mike Valentine says he can live with the spots.
"He (Dungan) does still have a limited agreement with us, but it does not preclude commercial work," Valentine says.
The venerable temperature taker finds himself in competition on some mornings with Troy Aikman's pitches on behalf of a competing foundation repair outfit. Both had commercials within Monday morning's Daybreak
***Another new baby is coming at Fox4, where anchor/reporter Krystle Gutierrez is due to have her first child in July. She posted the news on New Year's Eve on the station's web site.
One knuckle-dragging commenter implored her to "make sure to lose the baby fat b/4 coming back to the anchor desk again. As you know, we want hard core news along with eye candy."
As previously posted on unclebarky.com, 9 p.m. news anchor Heather Hays also is expecting a child -- her second -- this summer.
***Also at Fox4, news director Maria Barrs is cracking the whip in an email sent to staffers.
Barrs says in part, "Overall, the message here is that we can all do a much better job than we've been doing. We cannot be complacent. We all have to be much more aggressive, much smarter, much more enterprising and creative than the other guys.
"Frankly, I am tired of people mailing it in. You know who you are, and so do I. It's on all of us to be better. It's on me and the managers to make sure that happens. You can all expect to be challenged more. You can all expect to be held accountable."
It's going to be an interesting February sweeps.