Archive for September, 2012
Turnover has been a constant part of Austin TV news over the past year. Many months after news personalities leave, questions and Internet searches continue to come into this blog, asking about their whereabouts. I have reached out to some of these former news people and compiled an update:
Former KVUE morning anchor Melissa Gale has landed on her feet after leaving the station in late June. She has started a video production business, More Eyes Media, to help grow small businesses with video creation, placement on the business’s web site along with search engine optimization, and distribution of the video to You Tube.
“I decided that I love to tell stories and that was what I missed the most from my broadcasting days,” Gale said. “Everyone has a story to tell, including businesses, and when a video pops up, people watch and go further into your site.”
Gale has three former broadcasters as part of her team, including a photographer, editor and web developer. She already has captured several good clients, including a car dealership, a doctor, a chef and a painting contractor.
Gale does not miss the early hours, although she still gets up at 6 a.m. to take her daughter to school. She says she needed to sleep and get back to normal, but that now she feels like a new person.
“I miss the people on the morning show; they were wonderful, but I had a good 20-year run in broadcasting,” Gale said. “All my Facebook and Twitter friends have been so sweet and that is meaningful to me. I know I had an impact. Now, I’m really excited about the future and I’m always looking ahead.”
Morning meteorologist Shawn Rutherford and KXAN parted company in January, and despite the hope of many of us that he would turn up on one of the Austin stations, it was not meant to be. Rutherford is taking a heavy load of 21 hours of religion courses from Liberty University Online and will earn a Bachelor of Science degree on December 15th.
He tells me he is now looking into some opportunities in public relations as a career change. Additionally, Rutherford is working on a special project that he indicates has been “a passion of mine for quite awhile.” We could hear more about that in a few weeks.
Rutherford’s former KXAN morning colleague, traffic reporter Debra Wynn (Fabac), left the air suddenly and surprisingly during last November’s ratings period. She has now shared with me that health concerns spurred her departure.
“I was suffering numerous fainting spells and I could barely get through the morning shift,” Wynn said. “I was in and out of the hospital all through last October. My husband and I decided I needed to concentrate on my health.”
She was diagnosed with Addison’s disease, the failure of the adrenal glands, which causes a number of serious symptoms including extreme weakness and fatigue. She says she is doing better with the use of supplements.
Wynn is married to former news director Michael Fabac, who left KXAN in May and who is now the news director at WCMH-TV, the NBC affiliate in Columbus, Ohio. She has been hanging back to sell the couple’s Avery Ranch house, which has now been accomplished. The moving trucks come next week.
Wynn says she is hoping to get back into television news at some point.
“Michael and I love Texas,” Wynn said. “Someday, we would like to come back.”
Courtney Timmons had enough of the crazy schedule required of a sports anchor/reporter, so she decided to leave her KEYE weekend sports job in late August.
“I just didn’t have a life,” Timmons told me. “My family is in Dallas but I was always telling them and my friends ‘no.’ I was always working weekends, holidays and during sporting events. I haven’t had a vacation in years. I missed weddings.”
As a result, Timmons has decided to enter the health field. She began at the University of Texas as a pre-med major before graduating with a degree in philosophy.
“I thought about physical therapy for a long time,” Timmons said. “I have a friend in Dallas who is a physical therapist.”
Last August, she started taking Austin Community College classes that are a prerequisite for a physical therapy major. She is hoping to eventually enroll at Texas State University to earn a degree in PT.
After spending this baseball season with Fox Sports San Diego as the field reporter on San Diego Padres telecasts, Leila Rahimi is returning to Texas. The former sports reporter for KXAN will be joining a new Comcast regional sports network in Houston as an anchor.
I was not able to reach meteorologist Kelly Slifka, who left KEYE in April after more than three years working the morning news at the station. Slifka also did weather for KVUE and for WISC-TV, Madison, Wisconsin, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Meteorology degree from the University of Wisconsin.
After leaving KEYE, Slifka created Kelly Stream, a website “devoted to live-streaming weather and other events live over the Internet using webcams and desktop capturing of radar, satellite information and computer models.” He is also providing dedicated weather updates to forecast, including weather forecasts beyond 7 days and using Twitter and Facebook to relay real-time information, according to his site.
Veteran San Antonio meteorologist Maclovio Perez filled in admirably as a freelancer all summer on KEYE. With the recent hiring of Jordan Steele, Perez was out. He tells me he has returned to his more recent career as an information officer for the San Antonio Independent School District.
Technically, David Mazza is not gone yet. As a freelancer at KXAN, he will continue to fill for Jim Spencer’s and Natalie Stoll’s vacations over the next few weeks.
I asked him if he had a new job lined up and he indicated that if everything works out, he will very soon.
“This has been a very interesting time, to say the least,” Mazza said.
It’s a shame that two of our stations, KXAN and KEYE, seem determined to hire only younger weather people, some of whom look like they have come straight from high school. Don’t get me wrong, the recent young hires show some promise for the future, but Austin is the 45th largest TV market. You would think all our stations could afford to pay at least one more veteran meteorologist like Perez or Mazza, especially during this election year when political ad dollars are pouring into the coffers of parent companies LIN Broadcasting and Sinclair Broadcast Group.
Competitively, KEYE and KXAN don’t measure up in total weather staffs to KVUE, FOX 7 and YNN, all of whom have full rosters of experienced meteorologists.
Another day, another new weather guy in Austin. Mark Monstrola, 27, debuted this morning as KXAN‘s new weekday morning meteorologist, demonstrating an easy manner and friendly interaction with co-anchors Sally Hernandez and Robert Maxwell.
Before joining KXAN, Monstrola was also the morning weather person at WFMJ-TV, Youngstown, Ohio, where he worked for more than five years, and the experience showed.
As a native Pittsburgher, I’m happy to welcome another member of the Black and Gold nation to Austin. He joins KXAN traffic reporter Mandy Dugan, who also hails from the Steel City.
Monstrola earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology from Penn State in 2007.
He is best known in Youngstown for disclosing on air in an offhand moment that Santa Claus is not real, thus trashing the dreams of Eastern Ohio/Western Pennsylvania children. Unfortunately, that video is no longer available on the WFMJ web site.
“Thank goodness I said it at 5:30 a.m. when most kids were not watching, but my co-workers wouldn’t let me up for a month,” Monstrola said.
On a happier note, Monstrola and his wife, Shannon, are celebrating their one year anniversary today. He was named Brides.com 2011 Groom of the Year, winning a free honeymoon, TV and other gifts. Shannon works in nuclear medicine with oncology patients.
Natalie Stoll, who has been filling in on the morning news programs, will return to her normal weekend duties after a vacation. Odd man out is freelancer David Mazza, who has been doing both morning and evening weather on weekends for many months. Mazza will fill for Stoll during her vacation.
KXAN News Director Chad Cross praised both Stoll and Mazza for their great work while filling in over the past months. I would second that. I guess we’ll never know why the station simply didn’t sign Mazza full time and keep him and Stoll in their positions permanently. Mazza, who worked previously at WOAI-TV, San Antonio, is a real pro and will be missed.