WFMJ to Lose its Co-Anchor
March 29, 2007 7:29 a.m.
By Andrea Wood
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio Any competitive edge that WFMJ may have hoped to sharpen after WKBN's popular news anchor, Sarah Eisler signs off Friday could just as likely dull once WFMJ's Autumn Ziemba leaves her station's anchor desk.
Ziemba resigned from WFMJ last week. Her contract to co-anchor Channel 21's 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts expires in mid-April.
Like Eisler, who resigned from Channel 27 six weeks ago so she could become a full-time mother to her two small children, Ziemba says she made "a life decision not a career decision."
Ziemba and her husband, Mark McKenzie, a copy writer at advertising agency in downtown Cleveland, work opposite shifts, she says, and each spend "long hours" commuting from their home in Streetsboro.
"I want to put my marriage first. I never want to get to the point where my career is my life," she says.
Ziemba, who was married in October 2005, has not secured another job but is "putting out feelers" to Cleveland television stations, she says.
Eisler will continue to have a limited on-air role with WKBN, "working on special projects," says the station's general manager, David Coy. A send-off story explaining her new role is expected to be broadcast Friday during Channel 27's First News at Six.
Also leaving WKBN's anchor desk is Robb Schmidt, who will join Youngstown State University's athletics department. His last day on the air is next Friday.
WKBN is temporarily shifting its morning co-anchor, Dave Sess, to Schmidt's position and it's 11 p.m. co-anchor, Whitney Ward, to Eisler's position. A talent search is under way to permanently fill the anchor slots, says Gary Coursen, news director.
Mona Alexander, news director of WFMJ, did not answer requests for comment on Ziemba's departure.
WFMJ advertised its opening for a news anchor in Sunday's Vindicator and Tribune Chronicle. The position is also advertised on the station's Web site, as is an opening for a news reporter.
The on-air exodus comes as WKBN and WYTV await the consolidation of certain operations in a "virtual duopoly" to be created by NVT Television LLC of Atlanta, the new owner of Channel 27 and its Fox affiliate, WYFX, and the soon-to-be new owner of Channel 33, Parkin Broadcasting LLC of Los Angeles. The consolidation likely would include merging news operations while retaining separate identities on each station's newscasts.
Such a transition could present promotional opportunities for WFMJ, which heavily promotes its local ownership although not by name The Vindicator. The station has a history of hiring talented female broadcasters who move on to bigger markets, most memorably Tracey Butler, a meteorologist who began her career in Wheeling, W. Va., and has been with WLS in Chicago since 1994.
The 28-year-old Ziemba came to WFMJ three years ago from the Fox station in Toledo, replacing Laura Steele who moved to a TV station in Buffalo. Steele has since left that station, WGRZ, reportedly to work in public relations.
Ziemba and her co-anchor, Bob Black, preside over the market's top-ranked newscasts, and the station's dominance was again demonstrated in the February ratings period. At 6 p.m. WFMJ enjoyed a 31% audience share compared to WKBN's 19% share and WYTV's 10% share. At 11 p.m. WFMJ's audience share was 29% compared to WKBN's 19% and WYTV's 10%.
Last year Ziemba was named runner-up in the Ohio Associated Press contest for "best anchor" in mid-sized markets. She also took a first-place award from the AP for "best broadcast writing."
"Unless some incredible opportunity comes up, I've agreed to stay [with WFMJ] through the May ratings book," Ziemba says. "They've been nothing but good to me. I can't emphasize enough the wonderful experience I've had here."
Copyright 2007 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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