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Saturday, August 24, 2013
Dan Dennison’s new job as a roving reporter at WDBJ put him on the move — right out the door.
Dennison, the former news director at WDBJ-TV (Channel 7), has left the Roanoke CBS affiliate less than three weeks after he was replaced as head of the news department and made a features reporter.
WDBJ president and general manager Jeff Marks named Kelly Zuber as news director on July 31, putting Dennison in a job Marks called the “reporter of the future.”
But Dennison left the station earlier this week, Marks confirmed.
“Dan changed his mind about the reporting role and has elected to move on,” Marks wrote in an email. “We are all grateful to him for the work he did to elevate the production and content of our newscasts.”
Dennison came to Roanoke from Hawaii in 2011 with nearly 40 years of television experience. Before then, he had been out of the business for two and a half years after his news director’s job at KHNL in Honolulu was eliminated in a round of corporate downsizing.
After that, he worked at Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Honolulu, first as media coordinator and later as the constituent outreach and partnerships coordinator.
Last month, Marks said that Dennison would cover a 26-county region while equipped with high-tech mobile reporting technology. As news director, he had filed a series of outdoors-themed stories for evening newscasts. According to the WDBJ website (www.wdbj7.com), he aired five more stories after the job switch. Those included reports about Floyd County’s tomato crop, a falcon expert at the West Virginia State Fair and an adaptive kayaking program at Wintergreen Resort for disabled people.
Channel 7’s newscasts have historically retained the top ranking in the Roanoke-Lynchburg market, according to viewership ratings from The Nielsen Co. However, during Dennison’s first ratings period at the station in July 2011, WDBJ lost the top ranking for the first time since 1958. The station has led the last eight ratings periods, including July’s most recent rankings.
Dennison shed little light on the reason for his departure.
“I’m proud of the accomplishments made by the WDBJ7 team during my tenure at the station,” Dennison said in a statement he emailed to The Roanoke Times. “This includes many product improvements, as evidenced by consistent ratings growth, and recently in recognition from broadcast industry peers, in the form of three regional Emmy Awards and an Edward R. Murrow Award for overall news excellence.”
July ratings disappoint
Speaking of ratings, Channel 7’s newscasts led across the board according to Nielsen’s July ratings.
The 6 p.m. newscast attracted an average of 73,000 viewers, ahead of WSET-TV (Channel 13) with 52,000 and WSLS-TV (Channel 10) with 30,000. Channel 7 also did well with viewers ages 25-54, who are sought by advertisers.
Channel 10’s numbers were not what station management had hoped for after bringing back longtime anchorman John Carlin, who returned to co-anchor the news with Karen McNew after having been off the air since 2008. Still, WSLS general manager Leesa Wilcher was confident about better days ahead.
“If we were a sports team you would say we were ‘rebuilding’ right now, and we are very optimistic about the future,” Wilcher said.
Likewise, Randy Smith, president of Lynchburg’s WSET, was disappointed in his station’s numbers, although Channel 13 was a consistent No. 2 behind WDBJ. He attributed his station’s performance to the volatility of Nielsen’s summer ratings, when television viewing is more inconsistent and more difficult to measure.
“The July book was a bit disappointing for us after several years of continued growth,” Smith said. “We still held our position but not with the dominance we have grown accustomed to. I’m just glad it was a July book.”
New faces at WDBJ
WDBJ has added new members to its weather and sports departments.
Lindsey Anderson has joined Channel 7 as a staff meteorologist. She replaced Jay Webb, who left earlier this year to head the weather department at WHSV-TV in Harrisonburg. Anderson, a native of Naperville, Ill., came to WDBJ after graduating from North Carolina State University, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in meteorology, minored in environmental science and mathematics and was a member of the dance team.
Brad Zahar joins the sports staff after having worked at stations in Ohio and West Virginia. He arrives just in time for football season, as WDBJ prepares its 30th year of “Friday Football Extra.”
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