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Johnston’s Departure Changes Morning Battleground


The news Friday that co-anchor Jodi Johnston will be leaving Channel 2’s top-rated “Daybreak” after the November sweeps throws into question what impact it will have on the local morning news wars.

Morning show anchors try to give the appearance of family and audiences are the slowest to look around for a new family to watch. It often takes an anchor change for people to start sampling.

Normally, that would mean Channel 4 or even Channel 7 would have a chance to capitalize on the pending departure of Johnston for a big public relations job at First Niagara.

Jodi Johnston: Looking for a New Normal

But things aren’t exactly normal at Channel 4 in the mornings, either. Victoria Hong left “Wake Up” after the July sweeps and co-anchor Joe Arena is expected to find out shortly if Channel 4 will allow him to leave for a job in Pittsburgh as expected.

That leaves Channel 7 with the stability award in the morning with Patrick Taney and Ginger Geoffery. However, the station’s morning show is so far back in third place that it is doubtful that its competitors’ changes will have much of an impact.

While Johnston has her detractors who read this blog, the No. 1 ratings for “Daybreak” illustrate how popular she is with most WNYers. 

That’s why Johnston’s departure is good news for Channel 4, which a few years ago lost its morning lead and now isn’t the only local station dealing with anchor changes.

Of course, Channel 2 has made much better decisions on hiring talent in recent months and years so there’s no reason to believe it won’t make a smart morning move to replace Johnston.

One of my more astute blog readers suggested that 10 p.m. anchor Melissa Holmes as a possible replacement for Johnston. Holmes worked in the mornings at Channel 4 before she bolted for Channel 2.  It is unclear if she would want the “Daybreak” job and its demanding hours or if she’d be willing to work the split shift that Johnston worked at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

But she would certainly be a strong candidate to compete against anyone from outside in Channel 2’s talent search. She also would have a similar young-old  dynamic as Johnston has with “Daybreak” co-anchor John Beard as long as he wants to stay around.

Heaven knows the hours can be killers.

I caught up with Johnston Saturday morning before she left her Amherst home (The News still thinks she lives in Hamburg) to play a tennis match in Delaware Park and asked her why she thinks so many people are leaving TV news.

“I think the industry is changing a lot,” said Johnston. “We’re working very hard and we have to be on (the air) when everyone is at home watching. No matter who you are we have unusual hours. It requires a sacrifice. Over a long time it is hard on families. That is why we go to quote the other side.”

The long list of anchors, reporters and producers “going to the other side” (public relations) in the last several years and looking for a normal life include Hong, former Channel 7 reporter Helen Tederous, former Channel 7 anchor Jean Hill, former Channel 2 and Empire Sports anchor Mike DeGeorge and former Channel 4 reporter Lorey Schultz.

Johnston, who is married and has an 8-year-old son Max, said she began thinking about leaving TV after her son began swimming competitively and playing baseball in the spring.

“I was missing out on a lot,” said Johnston.

Channel 2 tried to keep her but she said management was “wonderful” and understood her quest for a normal life. To those wondering why she just didn’t stay and only co-anchor the 5 p.m. news, Johnston said that wouldn’t have worked for the station or for her.

”The best place for me was the morning,” said Johnston.

She gets a fancy title at First Niagara, which began talking to her a few months ago.

Though I wrote Friday she would be the face of the bank, I didn’t mean that literally.

She said doing commercials “is not part of the plan right now for me. My job is to tell the story of First Niagara to the community” through press releases and public relations content delivered to the community.

I give it about six months before she starts doing bank commercials and even longer before we find out if her departure will help Channel 2’s competitors.


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18 responses to "Johnston’s Departure Changes Morning Battleground"

  1. Doug says:

    Id like to see her doing bank commercials. Shes still pretty hot.

  2. Tina says:

    It sounds to me like she just wanted out. I am sure she could have kept the 5pm newscast since most anchors don’t work two shifts a day anyway. I always thought it was odd that she did it for so long.

    As far as Channel 4 goes I think they are missing out on a good thing if they don’t replace Joe with Emily. From what I was able to see she did a really good job when she filled in during the morning and noon newscasts and I even think she is better than her husband at the news desk.

  3. Rob says:

    Some notes while wondering how Allison Rosati is doing:

    The ratings impact would be a more interesting debate if there wasn’t so much upheaval at Channel 4 and Channel 7’s broadcast was so bland. If WGRZ promotes the “inside family hire” then Melissa Holmes makes the most sense. When popular morning weather guy Chesley McNeil left there was a void but Andy Parker helped soften that blow and the train kept going down the track. Even after a rough start, John Beard came from the outside and has complemented that broadcast well.

    My only issue with Jodi was what I wrote earlier. She is popular for a variety of reasons and in person you’ll be hard pressed to find a nicer woman. Because she is a genuine person, it is only a matter of time before she becomes the television face of FN as any focus group 101 will say she would be a major upgrade over John Koelmel. I’d even take her fake anchor concern voice saying “we’re ready to rock Buffalo!”

  4. Steve says:

    This would be the time for Janet Snyder to make a move out of top 40 radio and into full time TV. Janet is already well known on channel 2 and would make an easy transition. My bet is they make her an offer…will she be smart enough to take it?

    • alanp says:

      Seriously? She has no news experience as far as I know of. Journalism experience still counts for something.

      • Tina says:

        Can you add a “like” button on here? I would have used it right now. Janet Snyder? I can barely stand to listen to her on the radio as it is.

        • Steve says:

          And Tina I can barely stand to listen to you here. What are your credentcials for being so critical? Can I ask what business you are in so I can make stupid comments about it? Before you ask I’ve been in broadcasting/media for over 30 years.

          • alanp says:

            Hey class, calm down.

          • Steve says:

            Sorry…I meant credentials professor!

          • Tina says:

            Really? I have to have “credentials” in order to have an opinion? I don’t care about you or your business. My opinion is my opinion and if you don’t like it…too bad. Get over yourself.

          • Steve says:

            Tina…as soon as you get over yourself I will. I find it funny you say you can hardly stand to listen to her on radio meaning you must still listen to her. With all the other options out there why would you keep listening to such a terrible broadcaster? Really, tell me your business so I can jump on the blogs and spew my opinions on something I know very little about.

      • Steve says:

        They love her at 2…don’t be surprised, you heard it here first. She’s been in broadcasting longer than Jody. What was Jody’s experience? Everyone seems to think her abilities were terrible, Snyder can’t be any worse. Careful Alan…I know you are a friend of the family…

  5. Steve says:

    You are porbably right…the problem is she is approaching her 50′s and is still in “teen” radio…that clock is ticking…pay cut is better than no pay…radio salaries have plummeted lately as well.

  6. Rob says:

    I doubt Janet Snyder would be an anchor person. She makes enough money as a 40-something kiddie DJ (that I’ll bet most of the new hires at Channel 4 listen to)plus as a spokesperson and/or pitchman for products. She’s a feature person, not a news reader. Melissa Holmes would be the best bet, plus if they replace Melissa at 10pm they can finally do away with that moronic “count up” to the top news stories.

  7. P says:

    Personally, I think Janet Snyder is a pretty terrible host too. She often sounds like she has a cough drop in her mouth.

    More annoyingly, she has an over-inflated sense of self worth, as do the other 98.5 morning co-hosts. One morning back when Wallenda was crossing the wire, she started talking to his agent like she was God’s gift to Wallenda.

    “We’re trying to help you, we want to talk to you guys, but you won’t call us back. You’ve got to help us and call us and talk to us, blah blah blah,” acting like Wallenda was making a grave mistake and intentionally sabotaging his efforts because he didn’t talk to mighty 98.5… the, what, 5th rated station in this market? Another time they started bashing WYRK after the Taste of Country debacle… “Stuff like that doesn’t happen at OUR show Kiss the Summer Hello…” It was too much (and I’m not a country fan in the least). I only listen to them for traffic now… and, infuriatingly, they often skip the 8:24am traffic. Not a fan. Can you tell?

    Okay, rabbit trail, sorry. I think 4 would hire her, because they don’t care much about news values. But 2 never would.

  8. Steve says:

    P…you obviously don’t like her or the station. Too late Channel 2 has hired her. She co-hosts a daily 2pm health show and has a regular gig on Saturday mornings. She has been there for years. This would be an easy progression for them. Check those numbers by the way…mornings are much higher than you say depending on the demo you are looking at.

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