When you lose an established news anchor, what’s the best route to filling the slot?

That’s a question that’s facing the incoming news director down on the river in Memphis.

I’ve never had to make such a decision and I’m sure it’s going to be a tough one.

Pam McKelvy’s departure after ten years on the evening news at 3 started the speculation on who would take her place. Earlier this year, Markova Reed who anchors the morning show pinch-hit for PMACK while she was on maternity leave. Nightsider Jennifer Van Vrancken, who left after the November book, also did duty on the desk.

The problem stems from the fact that GMs and NDs along with consultants will tell you that mornings are where the growth is. At least that’s what they used to tell me. With 3 and WMC 5 locked in a close race for first place in the mornings, do you pull MRE off the morning for the evening, disrupting an established show and perhaps losing momentum there while trying to get things clicking on the night side? Or do you keep her on the morning show to keep strength there and hire someone from outside to step in, to minimize the disruption. If you do that, you run the risk of alienating the morning anchor who, unless she can be dissuaded, will feel she’s a victim of her own success on the mornings and now has nowhere else to go. It’s a hard sell since the hours are bad for the early mornings, but the night side isn’t so great if you want to have nightlife.

I’d be curious as to what news directors think about this situation and what they’ve had to do or would do in a situation like this. It’s merely speculation of course since the incoming ND and the present GM have the ultimate say.

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31 Comments on “When you lose an established news anchor, what’s the best route to filling the slot?”

  1. bishop Says:

    Will you be featured in the anniversary special tonight? What is your next move now since your year is up!

  2. Joe Larkins Says:

    Actually, Jerry Tate told me I made the 50th anniversary highlight reel even though I think I was considered persona non grata since I dared to leave the fold. I’m told my brief
    appearance will be when the special looks at the outdoor show which is referred to by some as “the redneck roundup” and the “huntin’ and killin’show” . You will see a dark-haired, much thinner me introducing the first episode of the outdoor show when it started back in January 1995.
    Actually I guess I’m kind of surprised that I made that showing since the management (GM, and ND) pretty much stopped talking to me or acknowledging my presence during my last month or so there.
    I plan to TIVO the show. I know producer/videographer Mike Suriani and Jerry Tate put a lot of time into this and both do top notch work so it will be enjoyable to watch.
    Those familiar with the company’s history may notice one former GM and broadcast group leader declined to participate in this effort. His reason, which I won’t go into, was interesting to say the least.
    As for my next move, I’m still working on that. I promise I’ll keep you posted.

  3. Spook86 Says:

    Here’s a novel idea…if Richard Ransom truly is Jerry Tate’s replacement, let him go solo at 5, 6 and 10 pm. I know the consultants dictate a male/female anchor team, but it sounds like Channel 3’s only viable female candidate is Markova Reed, and she may be more valuable on the morning shift. Let Ransom establish himself as the early evening anchor, then find a woman who works well with him.

    If Markova Reed stays on the morning shift, it’s obvious that Pam McKelvey’s replacement will come from outside the station, and the incoming ND is probably thinking about potential hires–even before he arrives on Channel 3 drive. No pressure, of course, but his future at Channel 3 depends (in large part) on his first major hire as ND.

    Interestingly, I don’t think he’ll bring a female anchor from his former shop in Norfolk (WVEC). The station’s best female anchors, Regina Mobley and Sandra Parker, have been in the market for years, and apparently don’t want to leave the Hampton Roads area. WVEC’s weekend anchors (Sula Kim, Ramona Parks and Vanessa Coria) are capable, but they’re not quite ready for a weeknight anchor slot.

    I’m sure Channel 3 won’t have any trouble attracting candidates for the anchor slot. The FedEX guy will probably get a hernia delivering all those audition tapes to 803 Channel 3 drive.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    I think April would be a great replacement for PMACK

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I wonder if De Anna Sheffield likes it at WTSP?…….mmmmmmm.

  6. Joe Larkins Says:

    De Anna would be a good fit. Cute, bubbly, team player and a smile that would knock your eyes out. I heard she was engaged and may be married at this point. I know when she first moved to Tampa, her star was rising at WTSP. I don’t think 3 appreciated her or acknowledged her contribution to the newsroom. I know I hated to see her go.
    Just keep her away from cats, dogs and peanuts. She’s allergic to all three.

  7. bishop Says:

    Markova is the best female anchor really out there right now! Regardless of how she is to work with, she is great and very attractive! april is alright but not enough to beat Donna Davis who looks like a scare crow with all of the makeup. TV agress with Markova. I am starting to see a better chemistry with Markova and Chris. WHat if Mearl purvis decides to leave 13 and take Pam spot?

  8. Eric C Says:

    What about Joyce Peterson? Of course, that would be the obvious white-white team, something which I guess stations here cannot do in this day and age. I’m just surprised that she hasn’t resurfaced after leaving Union Ave.

    PS I’m not in the news business, so I don’t know all the ins/outs, rules, and unspoken policies. Just a random contribution to the comment section!!

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Joyce now works at Ch. 24 and the idea that black people won’t watch a newscast because two white people are anchoring is racist against black people.

  10. Joe Larkins Says:

    Okay folks. Lets keep everything civil here.
    Thanks in advance.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    To bad Claudia Barr doesn’t work at 3 or any other station… maybe someone can talk her into it.

  12. Eric C Says:

    I wasn’t trying to imply that those of a different race would refuse to watch if both anchors were of an opposite color. But whether it be Joe Birch/Donna Davis, Kris Anderson/Markova Reed, Jerry Tate/Pam McKelvy, Alex Coleman/MaryBeth Conley, or Cameron Brown/Dee? Griffin, there’s no mistaking that stations try to strike a balance when it comes to the racial makeup of a news team. That’s ALL, literally, that I was saying.

    Joe, you have a very candid and enjoyable blog. Keep it up…

  13. Smitty Says:

    It’s true what Eric says. There seems to be an unwritten rule that a tv station may not have two white anchors on the same show. Two black anchors seems to be okay (3’s 4 and 4:30 show is an example). That’s no racist statement, just a glaring truth. It’s the same in other markets where there’s this great equality among blacks and whites in the viewing audience.
    Mark my words: the next female anchor at 3 will not be white, unless they get rid of Ransom and hire a black male anchor.

  14. mike Says:

    I’m guessing Joyce is at 24 for the soon-come morning show. She may be kicking herself right now though.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    joyce kicking off 24’s morning show? when will it debut, i will be eager to watch it since 24 has had a good book the past few sweeps..they are rising in popularity.. why would joyce be kicking herself?

  16. newsboyarizona Says:

    Yay! The WREG anniversary special is now online. Now I can watch it from Arizona!

  17. newsboyarizona Says:

    I wonder if they remembered to mention that chubby little guy who used to do the overnight updates?

  18. Joe Larkins Says:

    I don’t disagree with the statements about the next female anchor at 3 on the night side will be black. The issue of “balance” has been one that NDs have to tippytoe around for some time.
    On the other hand, you will find there are successful all black news anchor teams (Thompson and Coleman) on 3’s 4 and 4:30 shows) and all white news anchor teams (Calhoun and Meroney at WHBQ’s Good Morning Memphis) and two all white news anchor teams who held the top spot in the mornings at various times before they were broken up for various reasons (McClure and Ransom at 5) and (Conley and Larkins at 3).
    The reality of things in Memphis is that sadly, so many things boil down to race. A woman who is a native of Palestine and now owns a business in downtown Memphis, asked me once, why does everything seem to boil down to race when it comes to creating anchor teams in Memphis. I mentioned demographics and she said, why can’t people just be hired to do a job because they are the best for the job and not because the color of their skin. Isn’t that what it’s all about she asked. Then she said, “Oh, I forgot, this is Memphis”.
    I had not heard about the morning show and Joyce Peterson. Can anyone confirm that? I think Claudia Barr is doing much too well to ever consider going back to TV.

    And regarding my earlier posting about being nice on this blog, I was concerned we were headed to a point where someone would be calling someone else a racist. I don’t have a problem if you have an opinion about something and want to post it here. But it’s easy to not give your name and make accusations. Please don’t. Thanks again in advance.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    De Anna also claims to be allergic to horses. Or maybe she just didn’t want to go out on a horse story that Margo Estes was really excited about.

  20. Anonymous Says:

    I hear Joyce is only freelancing at 24 so I don’t belive that she’s trapped in a non-compete. As for their morning show they’ve already got somebody else in the works for that.

  21. mike Says:

    I was only supposing. 24’s ND has said he’s got a morning show in the works for down the road. Joyce is great behind the anchor desk: poised, friendly, attractive. It seemed like a match.

    Don’t forget, too, that UPN30 had an all-black news team at 9PM just before the hammer fell over at Clear Channel and they cleared the decks. Ken Houston and Rene Robinson (IIRC).

  22. bishop Says:

    Her name is Michele Robinson! Claudia Barr is doing very well in real estate. I am like Joe, she probably wouldn’t consider coming back!

  23. AMNewsBoy Says:

    At one point, 24/30 also had two 2 black men anchoring the 9pm on 30, IIRC… Robb Harleston and Ken Houston.

    As for 24’s AM show… that speculation has been floating around since ’03 — is there anything to it?

    BTW, Joe, you used to work with a friend of mine (who is now in Chicago)… your blog is very insightful (and fun) to read.

  24. Joe Larkins Says:

    Wow!!!! Insightful AND fun to read. Thanks for the endorsement and keep checking in.

  25. Latilleon Says:

    Originally, WLMT’s newscast was to focus on African-American community issues. The newscast was 30 minutes and didn’t air on the weekends. It was slightly different than the main WPTY newscast at 10. I guess when they realized WLMT got better numbers than 24 they figured they better expand the time on 30, and changed the newscast to have Dee Griffin and Cameron Harper on both broadcasts.

    Joe, do you there is any chance of Channel Three swooping in and getting one of the anchors from another station in town (i.e. Ursula Madden, Kym Clark, Dee Griffin). Of course, they would have to wait for their contract to end, and the non-compete period to end, but didn’t WREG do they when they got Jerry Tate back in the early 90s?

  26. Joe Larkins Says:

    I’m not really sure what direction 3 might go. I know there is some great talent across town and I know 3 would be happy to have them in the “stable” so to speak. After talking with a couple of insiders, I’m thinking that 3 would hate to lose the good foothold they have in the mornings and may go for a new face on the nightside. I think the only person they would ever consider stealing from the competition is Joe Birch and he’s not going anywhere.
    As for the Jerry Tate situation, I don’t think Jerry had a non-compete when he left 13 after initially leaving 3. These days of tight budgets, I don’t think 3 wants to pay out the money or wait. They HAVE to get someone in place so they can start focusing on trying to win first place numbers across the board. I’m told on the streets that’s a goal for this anniversary year. Whether it’s attainable is a different story.

  27. Anonymous Says:

    What NC3 should do is look for a young regional (Jonesboro, Jackson, Paducah, Greenwood/Greenville, or Tupelo news caster that some of the audience has connected and groom her to be the big REPLACEMENT.

    If demos and team matching could be thrown out, I’d go with Dianna Gee, former fm 100 dj and Huntsville anchor/reporter. She has a winning smile.

  28. Anonymous Says:

    Joe, I just discovered your blog today. As part of your – former – competition, it was refreshing to hear your honest opinions. I will continue to read. Did I interpret your comment correctly, that perhaps Markova isn’t well-liked by her co-workers?

  29. Joe Larkins Says:

    Thanks for stopping by the read the blog and for taking time to write.
    As for any former co-workers, I’ll let you contact their current co-workers to see how everyone gets along.

  30. Anonymous Says:

    I’m happy to see Ms.Barr on channel 3. I also thought Pam was great. Has she gone to another network or moved out of town? My best to her.

  31. Greg King Says:

    Where actually did Pam McKelvy go? Did she leave town or is at home enjoying her family? I really miss her and Jerry…they were GREAT!

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