Laura Emerson returns to Toledo TV news at NBC 24Written by Tom Konecny | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Veteran newscaster Laura Emerson, who co-anchored FOX Toledo News from its 1996 inception through 2012, returned to Toledo news on WNWO NBC 24 on Aug. 10.
Emerson joins Jim Blue as co-anchor during the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts, with Blue continuing his joint duties as managing editor. General Manager John Nizamis said Emerson will anchor Sunday through Thursday, with Blue handling Monday through Friday, so that viewers see “a member of our A-team covering all the nights that really matter.”
Emerson spent the past three years in Paducah, Kentucky, with NBC affiliate WPSD, where she anchored the 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts. Paducah’s TV market size is comparable to Toledo by combining three cities in different states into one market, but Toledo is where Emerson wanted to be.
“I’m not here by accident,” Emerson said. “I really want to be here.”
Emerson said her former station “had a good news operation,” but the opportunity to return to Toledo and work specifically at NBC 24 was too good to pass up.
“I see this as an opportunity and it’s going to take a lot of time,” Emerson said. “We have an owner that likes to win, and has turned other stations around. A lot of things are going in the right direction. This station has suffered from some years of neglect. They’ve allowed their news presence to shrink and that’s something we need to rebuild now.”
Station officials say they are thrilled to have someone of Emerson’s caliber who knows the area and who is well respected.
“When Laura came into the equation, it made so much sense,” Nizamis said. “And it gives us a little more credibility than bringing in someone new. How can we go wrong with that? I could not be happier, because the level of experience and maturity, coupled with Jim — as we start to surround them with other talent — that they’ll really be role models for our younger talent.”
Having worked in Toledo before, Emerson is well aware of NBC 24’s modest position in local television ratings, which makes the task at hand all the more desirable.
“I’m in this to eventually make some gains and have some wins,” Emerson said. “One of the reasons I’m not afraid is because I went through the same thing with FOX Toledo. At least here there’s a news presence, and it does have some history, which is more than what we started with at FOX Toledo.”
Emerson said she never really wanted to leave Toledo in the first place. As a result of FOX Toledo’s eventual sale to another owner, its news department was closed in 2012 and WTOL-11 assumed a shared services agreement to operate FOX Toledo News, forcing Emerson to look elsewhere for work.
Emerson was on the cover of the Jan. 1, 2012, Toledo Free Press at the time she was leaving Toledo and moving to a station in Kentucky.
Emerson described Paducah as a smaller town experience, but with some similarities.
“But I definitely missed the diversity, the shopping, the restaurants, the larger town amenities,” Emerson said. “I miss the art community here, and we had a decent art community in Paducah. (Toledo) has the reputation of being a Rust Belt industrial city from the outside but until people come here they have no idea.”
Emerson officially started on the job Aug. 4, and has already run into colleagues enthusiastically welcoming her back to the area.
“It’s been reunion week for me,” Emerson said. “I have friends at the other stations. I have an equal number of friends at 11 and 13, and feel more connected to them because of the movement of personnel (after FOX Toledo’s sale in 2012).”
NBC 24 also made significant internal moves back in April, bringing in five top level managers from a Fort Wayne station.
“I’ve met all of the people from the Fort Wayne, Indiana station, and it’s exciting to see how cohesive the group is, how they like each other,” Emerson said. “I don’t know how we got so lucky to have a group of people that likes to work together so much. So often in this industry there are people with different goals that don’t get along. Here, they’re on the same page. I think that will service us well in the future.”
NBC 24 chose not to offer nonstop daytime news coverage of the recent water crisis on the notion that there wasn’t enough material to sustain the effort. Nizamis said their decision was appreciated by some in the public.
“We evaluated our performance on the water crisis against ourselves,” Nizamis said. “The other guys are better equipped to do the things they do. We just want to be better. That’s the kind of progress we’re looking to make. I don’t want to make any bold predictions or promises, because then you start letting people down. We stay in the moment, acknowledge where we are and what we need to do. Hopefully people will start to take notice in the next 60 to 90 days.”