By the time you start reading this, Channel 2 co-anchor Jodi Johnston will have finished the first day of her three-day goodbye tour on “Daybreak.”
That’s right, the NBC affiliate is going to spend some time in the final three mornings of the November sweeps to say goodbye to Johnston before she leaves for a big bank job after 12 years co-anchoring the mornings.
On Saturday and Sunday, Channel 2 also ran a quarter page advertisement in the Buffalo News promoting the three days with the sub-headline “A Look Back and a Look Ahead.”
Channel 2’s classy way of allowing Johnston to say goodbye is impressive. Channel 4 sure didn’t give the numerous recently departed anchors-personalities like Victoria Hong, Lisa Flynn, Paul Peck, John Murphy and others the star treatment. They were lucky to get 90 seconds to say goodbye.
And it isn’t as if Channel 2 needs big audiences for Johnston’s three goodbyes to win the early morning ratings during the November sweeps. Channel 2’s “Daybreak” is destroying Channel 4’s “Wake Up!” this November, partly because Hong and her former co-anchor Joe Arena have left WIVB-TV for better jobs.
Going into the final week of the sweeps, Channel 2 is averaging a 7.5 rating at 6 a.m., up about 35 percent from a year ago. Channel 4 is averaging a 4.6 rating, down about 15 percent from a year ago and now is closer to third place Channel 7 (3.1) than to Channel 2.
The other newscast that Johnston co-anchors at 5 p.m. also has seen big gains this November, which has been a big news month with the presidential election and Hurricane Sandy. It is averaging a 10.6 rating, up about 20 percent from a year ago while Channel 4’s 8.7 is flat from a year ago.
Johnston’s success with co-anchor John Beard in the morning and with co-anchor Scott Levin in the late afternoon may surprise some of my blog readers who have been very critical of her presentation.
Looking back, I wasn’t always a big Johnston fan. My early reviews noted that she was a little stiff as an anchor. She handled the criticism with grace. When Johnston relaxed and the improvement became noticeable, I recalled having a brief telephone conversation with her when she gently reminded me of my initial criticisms.
She still isn’t the most natural TV performer. Her cadence is pretty much the same on every story. But Johnston has the ability to make many viewers feel like she is one of them even if they aren’t as fortunate in the looks department. That became obvious when viewers missed her when she was off the air for months after suffering a foot injury.
Channel 2 also was fortunate that she was willing to work such a punishing morning-late afternoon split shift. It undoubtedly won’t be able to find anyone else to volunteer for that killer schedule.
Melissa Holmes, who worked mornings at Channel 4 before coming to Channel 2, remains the in-house favorite to get Johnston’s “Daybreak” shift. However, the station isn’t in any hurry to give it to her, which suggests it may be considering other people from outside the station.
The plan is to rotate staffers in the morning during the heavy vacation schedule from Thanksgiving until the end of the year before whoever gets Johnston’s role permanently makes her debut after Jan.1.
If it is Holmes, Channel 2 also will have to get a new 10 p.m. anchor. That also could make it an ideal time to give up on its backwards “10 at 10” news presentation that Holmes has been saddled with.
If Holmes doesn’t get the morning shift, she would appear to be a candidate for Johnston’s 5 p.m. shift. In a way, that would make more sense in that Holmes could anchor at 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.
A few words about Jeff Kaye, the former Buffalo radio broadcaster who went on to become one of the voices of NFL Films: As you may know, I’ve always been a connoisseur of voices and used to periodically rate the best local sports voices. Kaye may have had the best all-time voice in local radio and certainly was in the Top 2 or 3.
As one of my blog readers remembered upon Kaye’s death late last week, once upon a time I wrote a column for The Buffalo News with the headline “Van, Stan and Fan” critiquing the performance of Van Miller, Stan Barron and Kaye as the radio broadcast team on a Buffalo Bills game. I was not too kind to Kaye, who was miscast as a Fan on the broadcast.
It was just about the only thing that Kaye didn’t do spectacularly well in radio. He made it to the NFL as a narrator thanks to that incredible, descriptive, unique voice.
Finally, the list of cancellations of new shows has expanded. I’m not surprised since I labeled this season’s new offerings as the worst in recent memory. According to the trade publication The Hollywood Reporter, ABC has axed “The Last Resort” and “666 Park Avenue.” They will play out the rest of their initial 13-episode order before dying. They join CBS’ “Made in Jersey” and “Partners,” and NBC’s “Animal Practice” on the cancellation list.