There’s a sense of tumult at WGCL now. We can’t condemn the thinking behind it. Although the station’s 11pm news no longer falls into the asterisk category ratings-wise, its daytime newscasts are still a tough sell. WGCL’s news director, Philly-native Steve Schwaid, has built the station into a competitive news organization. But the viewers haven’t picked it up yet. Hence, an unsettling purge.
Weeknight anchor Bill Gaines “retired” abruptly last week. He anchored a 4pm newscast Wednesday — the last day of sweeps — then recorded a tease, and was gone by 6pm. Most folks “retire” with great fanfare. Gaines retired with the hounds at his heels. Though he rarely flexed any real journalistic muscle, he was an easy-to-watch news anchor — and one of the few high-profile people of color on WGCL’s news.
Backup weather anchor Laura Huckabee will depart before the end of June. Unlike weeknight weather anchor / heartthrob Dagmar Midcap, who apparently isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, Huckabee is an actual meteorologist. And Huckabee is smart and — we’ll say it — adorable, at least on TV. During a noon newscast last year, she got the hiccups and some smart-aleck posted it on Youtube. It’s gone semi-viral. Maybe it’ll help Huckabee get a weeknight gig at a station that appreciates her.
Reporter Sarah Parker’s departure may be the most lamentable of the purge thus far. Parker was a pretty good general assignment reporter who got roped into working on WGCL’s “Better Mornings Atlanta” show, from 5-7am. Parker got a lot of leeway on that show to do a lot of screwball stuff, apparently with the blessing of management. But her antics got very little promotion, and she only got to do it for a few months — not enough time to solidify her identity with the show or bolster its ratings as a result.
Parker’s stuff had the potential to transcend the typical, predictable, tiresome local news formula. She showed it expertly on a day last winter when the temperatures dropped into the teens. While her competitors were producing omigod-its-armageddon live shots, Parker produced this absurd bit of whimsy. No, it wasn’t “news,” but neither is a cold snap in mid-winter. We found it quite refreshing.
If that image cost Parker her job — the BMA show is still barely watched — then it’s management’s fault, not Parker’s. If this isn’t her choice, it should be.