Who will replace WTMJ-TV anchor Mike Jacobs?

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Who will replace WTMJ-TV (Channel 4) anchor Mike Jacobs?

Let me state the obvious: it will either be someone you never heard of or someone from within.

atmjJacobs was the longest-serving anchor in the Milwaukee market; he joined WTMJ in 1977. He announced his retirement last week.

Several factors suggest the station could go off campus to replace him.

And clearly there is precedent for doing so.

On Wednesday the station’s ownership the Journal Broadcast Group will merge with E. W. Scripps, making it the fifth largest independent TV station group in the US, with 34 stations in 24 markets, covering 18% of households.

That’s a broad talent pool to choose from and the station, and Milwaukee market, has shown a willingness to trade market familiarity for other factors. They seem like familiar faces now but:

WISN-TV (Channel 12), a Hearst Broadcast station, hired Craig McKee from San Diego, to sit beside veteran local anchor Kathy Mykleby in 2012; and it recently named Melinda Davenport who joined the station in 2014 from a Hearst station in New Hampshire, as its morning co-anchor.

WITI-TV (Channel 6) hired anchor/reporter Stephanie Grady from a station in Albany, N.Y. in July. And in 2013 morning anchor Jessob Reisbeck, a Wisconsin Rapids native, came to the station from Fresno.

—In 2013 WTMJ hired Bay Area native Shannon Sims from a station in Dayton as weekend anchor. The station hired news director Janet Hundley from WLS-TV in Chicago last June. And the new vice president for TV for the E.W. Scripps broadcast group, which includes WTMJ, is Debbie Turner, from Nashville, who was previously vice president for TV for the Journal Broadcast Group.

A case for hiring from within can also be made, but who currently on the staff has the gravitas? Another factor: someone’s talent contract may include language requiring the station to offer them the anchor job.

And what of Jacobs co-anchor Carole Meekins? What is the likelihood she stays on? If she does, how would that affect the station’s choice? Anchor teams have a mommy-daddy dynamic. Would her staying on preclude another woman being named for the job? The frontrunners surely include:

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—Steve Chamraz, a Chicago native who went to Marquette University alum and worked at WTMJ-TV and WTMJ-AM.

He worked at stations in Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City before returning to WTMJ in 2011.

He currently co-anchors the 3 and 3:30 newscasts.

 

 

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—Charles Benson, inducted into the Chicago/Midwest Emmy Silver Circle in 2013. In a video honoring Benson’s induction Jacobs called him a “consummate professional and old world journalist who has thrived in a new media world.”

He is “always working his phones, always working his contacts left and right,” Jacobs said. Benson worked at WITI from from 1986 to 2001 and joined WTMJ in 2004.

 

The bench is a little thin after that although Tom Murray, Susan Kim, Sims, Yona Govino and Vince Vitrano deserve a mention. Whatever happens it will change the public face of the station.

And WDJT-TV (Channel 58) anchor Paul Piaskoski’s has recently become available. The Milwaukee native started as a reporter at WTMJ-TV. He joined WDJT in 1996 and became its 10 p.m. news anchor in 2000. He is currently biding his time at the station after being demoted to weekend anchor.

During the February sweeps WTMJ found itself in fourth place for the first time in memory and did not win a single news time period when in direct competition with news on other stations.

WTMJ VP and GM Joe Poss, said he would not comment on the hiring process. Jacobs told the Milwaukee Business Journal his retirement is not related to the Scripps merger. He said he planned to retire last month after his 64th birthday but was asked to wait until after the May ratings sweeps.

That should give the station until the important November sweeps to get its house in order and install a face familiar or new in the anchor chair.

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