Newsmakers: Local media landscape saw changes in 2012Written by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
It was a tumultuous year for the local media landscape in Toledo.
Changes started in January when longtime WUPW-TV Channel 36 anchor Laura Emerson left FOX Toledo for a larger news outlet in Paducah, Ky. Emerson had been with the station for 16 years, helping build it from the beginning as its first primary news anchor.
“I’m proud of the product we put on at FOX Toledo, but my previous two TV stations had morning, noon, multiple night newscasts. And it is helpful to have more coverage throughout the day, and I’m kind of excited to get back to that sort of a newsroom,” Emerson told Toledo Free Press at the time.
Toledo News Now
Shortly after Emerson left, FOX Toledo announced it would enter a shared services agreement with WTOL-11. The resulting merged newsroom, operating under the tagline Toledo News Now, debuted in April.
The announcement triggered a host of staffing changes, most notably FOX Toledo news anchor/executive producer Shaun Hegarty’s move to WTVG-TV on Channel 13, where he took a job as investigative reporter.
Hegarty said his transition has been smooth and his new job rewarding.
“In January, February, March, we were competitors,” Hegarty said. “I came over in April, but I was welcomed here right away and everyone seemed glad to have me on board, which made my transition much easier.
“It’s kind of amazing when you think back 12 months from today. It kind of blows your mind to think of where you were one year ago,” Hegarty said. “It was full steam ahead at FOX. I think at that point we knew Laura was leaving, but it was just kind of planning what would be the next step for the station. Then the whole thing gets pulled out from under you.
“But that’s the business and to land back on my feet three days later at the No. 1 place in town, that’s kind of unheard of in this business and I feel very fortunate in that respect. How many times do you get cut from a team and then end up on the first-place team? It just doesn’t happen. It’s really incredible and I feel very fortunate to have landed at a station like this.”
In November, controversial talk-radio host, program director and news director Brian Wilson abruptly parted ways with 1370 WSPD followed shortly by station general manager Andy Stuart.
Wilson declined to discuss the separation or his future plans, citing terms of the separation.
In a comment on his Facebook page at the time, Wilson said, “I am glad to have had the opportunity to preach the gospel of freedom and liberty to Northwest Ohio. Wish I had the chance on the air to say thank you and goodbye to my listeners. I will continue to make every effort to spread the message of free markets and liberty.”
Morning radio host Andrew Zepeda had perhaps the most turbulent year of all.
In March, despite ongoing legal issues stemming from a 2010 break-in Zepeda orchestrated at his former business, Cumulus Media promoted his morning show from tiny 100.7 The Vibe to a larger signal at Star 105.
In June, the station awarded the show a multiyear contract through December 2015.
But in October, Wood County judge Alan Mayberry ruled that Zepeda had violated the terms of his two-year intervention in lieu of conviction period by participating in a celebrity boxing match fundraiser at which alcohol was present. The violation terminated his intervention program, resulting in three felony convictions — theft, complicity to breaking and entering, and failure to remit sales tax — on charges related to the 2010 break-in.
Zepeda was sentenced Dec. 20 to 30 days in jail starting Jan. 21 and five years community control, including no bars or alcohol.
On Dec. 26, Zepeda was abruptly fired by Cumulus along with his team, including wife Michelle Zepeda. Cumulus Toledo General Manager Matt Spaulding declined to comment on the termination, but said Cumulus has not yet decided on a replacement show. Zepeda also declined comment.
Toledo’s print media outlets are not immune to turbulence.
The Blade and Toledo Free Press continue to work through an October 2011 lawsuit filed by Block Communications Inc. on behalf of The Blade alleging Toledo Free Press publisher Thomas F. Pounds breached the separation agreement he entered into after he resigned in 2004 as general manager of The Blade.
Toledo Free Press LLC filed a countersuit in December 2011.