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Arena Says Leaving Buffalo is “Bittersweet”

I promise this is my last Joe Arena blog. Until the next one.

The Channel 4 morning co-anchor finally returned my calls Wednesday night to confirm what sources inside the station have been telling me for weeks – he is headed to Pittsburgh, a Top 25 market.

The announcement that Arena is leaving for a similar job as morning and noon co-anchor at WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh came Wednesday from the Steeler City.

Channel 4 still hadn’t acknowledged that Arena is leaving. His last day is Friday, when he gets a short goodbye and the station is expected to make the offiicial announcement. He starts at the NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh in less than two weeks.

“It definitely is bittersweet,” said Arena of leaving. “I’ve been here four years, I met my wife here. I’ll always be part of this town. I was hoping I would maybe have had the option to stay. I understand this is a business. It was a tough decision for both me and the station to part ways. We both had reasons to keep me around.”

Joe Arena: Headed to Pittsburgh

One of Arena’s reasons concerned family. He and his wife Mary, a Buffalo native, are expecting their first child in January.

“The move to Pittsburgh will be great for the three of us,” he said. “We’re excited about Pittsburgh.”

One of Channel 4’s reasons to keep Arena perhaps was to stop the feeling that the exodus of talent from the station will never end. Arena is the third morning anchor to leave in about a year. Victoria Hong left for a job with Delaware North over the summer. Melissa Holmes left for Channel 2, where she appears to be one of the leading candidates to replace Jodi Johnston when she leaves “Daybreak” after the November sweeps. Several other staffers have left recently, including sportscasters John Murphy and Paul Peck.  

Arena took the high road to Pittsburgh when asked about working conditions at Channel 4, which recently had consultants come in to try and learn why morale is among the lowest at all LIN TV stations.

“It is definitely a different place than when I got here four years ago,” said Arena diplomatically.  He added that isn’t unique to Channel 4 as the TV industry is changing.

“Let’s hope the station is heading in the right direction,” added Arena. “I have a lot of friends here and wish them luck.”

Arena added he owes News Director Joe Schlaerth and the station a thank you.

“He and the station gave me an opportunity to work here and a chance to get back in the business when I wasn’t doing well,” explained Arena, who arrived  after losing his job in Shreveport, La.

Arena said he recently began looking for a job when he was allowed to as the one-year contract extension he signed a year ago was about to expire. The short extension wasn’t exactly a strong vote of confidence. Other sources inside the station said Arena had extra incentive to look to leave when Schlaerth told him a year ago that he was lucky to have a job.

“I felt to put all my eggs in one basket wouldn’t have been the responsible thing to do,” said Arena, who then hired an agent. “We looked for work just in case and Pittsburgh came calling.”

Did Channel 4 respond?

“They weren’t offering what I was looking for at the end of the day,” said Arena.

He added that he’s been trying to avoid co-workers because “it’s hard to say goodbye.”

“I feel like a kid before he has to leave for summer camp,” said Arena.

The question now is who is going to replace Arena? The most logical candidates internally — at least temporarily — would appear to be Anthony Congi or perhaps Ed Drantch. The station also would be wise to consider teaming the husband-wife duo of Lou Raguse and Emily Guggenmos. After all, morning TV is all about the appearance of family and they qualify. But I wouldn’t count out anything, even the return of a former Channel 4 morning anchor like Ray Collins.

 pergament@msn.com

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13 responses to "Arena Says Leaving Buffalo is “Bittersweet”"

  1. Ray says:

    Maybe Lisa Scott will come back?

  2. Mary says:

    I enjoy both Lou & Emily, not sure if I would like them together, however, I am sure that is something they would both like. I don’t know, seems kind of cheesy ;)

    I caught Melissa Holmes this week b/c I always watch Daybreak and I thought she did a decent job, I think she is logical replacement….we’ll see.

    Thanks Alan!

  3. Eddie says:

    Alan:

    I enjoy your blog very much, with the exception of your occasional (although they seem to be increasing in frequency) digs at the Buffalo News. The News chose to go in a different direction regarding their entertainment reporting, and although you protest it is not the case, you only appear bitter with comments such as “someone will call to wake up the News.” Their decision was your opportunity as you have filled the void they created. I guess I expect a higher degree of professionalism, not petty behavior. Sad to say I have been disappointed.

    • alanp says:

      OK. I get your point. I thought it was funny. I guess I was “completely wrong” and took out the inside joke. I do not know what you are referring to as the increasing number of digs.

    • Tina says:

      So Eddie, do you like this blog or are you disappointed by it? I think one can still be professional and state their opinions at the same time.

      • Eddie says:

        Tina:

        Overall I do enjoy the blog, I, and this is just my humble opinion, do not appreciate what I perceive to be sarcastic comments directed at the News. I believe it is totally appropriate and professional to criticize the News for simply reiterating the local news stations’ press releases, or for their lack of timeliness on reporting of local entertainment issues. Comments such as “someone will wake the News up” in my opinion are not professional, although per Alan I guess I just missed the joke. My bad.

  4. Tina says:

    “I was hoping that maybe I would have had the option to stay”..well I guess that says it all. He may have stayed but it sounds like they were done with him so it’s-bye bye and don’t let the door hit you on the way out Joe….pathetic.

  5. What if– heaven forbid– they go with a one-anchor show?

  6. Tina says:

    What a concept!! I sometimes wonder how much harder it is for the anchors when they are use to having the other one there and suddenly they have to do it alone. They do it on the weekends and it’s fine. I better be quiet or Channel 4 will take this literally.

  7. Jake says:

    As I said before in a previous comment that wasn’t approved by you Alan – Channel 2 would be dumb to Holmes in for Johnston. She is a child and has no presence on the desk. She’s great as a maintenance fill-in person but I’d be shocked if they put her there. Knowing Channel 2 — they are more likely to put Mary Friona on Daybreak (although she too has no presence) then put Melissa Holmes. Holmes is fantastic as a utility person. Reporter, anchor, emcee. But she is no main morning anchor. As for Arena leaving… He’ll do just fine in Pittsburgh.

    • alanp says:

      I didn’t have anything to do with any earlier post that wasn’t posted. As Mitt Romney said to President Obama “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

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