The dawn of 2009 brought about some changes at local television stations—both on the air and behind the scenes. Among the most prominent was the departure of WBRZ-TV’s former morning show anchor and assistant news director, Todd Ross, who left the ABC affiliate in early January to pursue other opportunities.
The 37-year-old Ross spent seven years co-hosting the popular 2une In with Whitney Vann before moving into management in mid-2007 to take over the No. 2 position in the newsroom.
That’s a thankless job in any news department—even for those well-suited to the challenges—and Ross is the first to admit that “management and WBRZ wasn’t a good fit” for him. He stepped down as assistant news director in November but continued as a reporter and fill-in anchor until early this month.
With Ross’ departure, WBRZ loses an experienced reporter and credible anchor who had established himself in the market and was a known commodity on the air. Ross, who has two young children, says he is looking forward to spending more time with his family and is pursuing several opportunities in this market.
“That’s important to me,” he says, “because I very much want to stay here and raise my children in Baton Rouge.”
Meriwether in the morning
Missing from WAFB-TV’s 10 p.m. newscast of late is Greg Meriwether. But the high-profile reporter isn’t off the air. Beginning Feb. 1, Meriwether will be a regular fixture on the CBS affiliate’s morning show, where he’ll be doing his popular Street Beat reports and adding a whole new rough-and-tumble dynamic to the low-key, two-hour, news-and-interview show.
News Director Vicki Zimmerman says the move has been in the works for some time. Early mornings are the only time slot where TV news viewership is growing—locally and nationwide—and expanding the Street Beat seemed like a natural way to capitalize on that trend.
“We’re taking a popular brand and expanding it,” Zimmerman says. “And we’re really bringing something new to this market.”
As it does with all newscasts, WAFB leads the competition in the morning ratings, but by a far slimmer margin than at any other time. According to the most recent ratings, about 14,000 households tuned in to 9News This Morning on average, compared to the 12,000 or so that watched WBRZ’s 2une In. But Zimmerman denies the move was done to bolster ratings.
“Obviously I want to increase the gap between us and the competition for every newscast,” she says. “But this was something the market in general was missing.”
Given his new schedule, Meriwether is no longer anchoring the 9 p.m. newscast that airs on WAFB’s sister station, WBXH-TV. Those duties have been given to André Moreau, who also co-anchors WAFB’s 10 p.m. newscast with Donna Britt.
Oswalt returns to school
Gone from WAFB’s weekend weather desk is Scott Oswalt. The veteran meteorologist, who spent nearly 10 years at the station, resigned late last year to devote more time to his weekday job as an English teacher at Live Oak High School in Watson—about which most viewers likely didn’t know.
His successor is Baton Rouge native Jeff Morrow, who knows the ropes around WAFB, having worked there as an intern under Chief Meteorologist Jay Grymes a couple of years ago. Morrow, a Parkview Baptist graduate, received his meteorology degree from the University of Oklahoma and spent the past year at NBC affiliate KKCO-TV in Grand Junction, Colo.
A new face in a key behind-the-scenes position at WAFB is Brent Ledet, a former colleague of Station Manager Sandy Breland’s from CBS affiliate WWL-TV in New Orleans. Ledet, who most recently ran a production company in Phoenix, assumes the role of creative services director—a newly created position that puts him in charge of both production and promotions at the station.
Breland combined the two departments in a cost-cutting move after long-time marketing and promotions director Andree Boyd resigned to take a similar position with NBC affiliate WDSU-TV in New Orleans.