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Published: 6/4/2001

WNWO's Sloan swaps newsroom for the playroom

As news director of a local television station, Michelle Sloan struggled with the constant tug-of-war between career demands and family responsibilities.

The tussle is over, at least for now, and family won out.

After seven years at WNWO-TV, Channel 24, Sloan is now a full-time mom to two children, ages 7 and 3. Her last day at the NBC affiliate was Friday.

“It was the most difficult decision of my life,” Sloan said. “TV news is in my blood. I'm calling this my first retirement.”

Sloan, 36, said she anticipates returning to the business in about two years, after her youngest child has begun to attend school.

She is married to WSPD-AM (1370) talk-show host Scott Sloan. Did she resign to give the couple more flexibility in moving, should he land a job in another city? “That didn't have anything to do with the decision,” she said.

WNWO's 11 p.m. newscast is a distant third in the ratings - behind WTOL-TV, Channel 11, and WTVG-TV, Channel 13. A news director's level of job security is often linked to ratings. However, a variety of factors keeps the station from realizing its potential. Among those factors: WNWO just resumed its 11 p.m. newscast in 1997 and, um, let's just say that station owner Raycom has never been accused of overspending.

“In no way, shape, or form was she asked to step down or resign,” WNWO general manager Jerry Heilman said. “She is an outstanding news director, as well as an outstanding person.”

That's not to say Sloan didn't feel pressure. She was in charge of a news department with more than 40 full-time employees.

“It's a very high-stress job,” she said. “I'm on call 24/7 every day.”

She said she decided to resign soon after reading an April 30 magazine article, “What Kids (Really) Need.” According to the article, 17 percent of children who spend more than 30 hours a week in day care have aggressive tendencies by kindergarten. Sloan was moved by four words in the report: “Only Mom will do.”

“That study touched a chord within me,” she said. “Those four words stuck with me for weeks. I said, `I need to do this, and I need to do this now.'”

WELCOME TO TOLEDO: Today is scheduled to be the first day on the job for Jose Suarez, who replaces Toledo native Gary Brown as news director of WUPW-TV, Channel 36. Suarez was anchor and news director at the NBC affiliate in San Angelo, Texas.

“He understands the concept of what we're trying to do,” WUPW general manager Ray Maselli said. “I want to keep our newscast edgy, and he knows how to do that.”

BACK ON THE AIR: Ross Hocker, whose legal woes precipitated a two-year hiatus from local public radio, is scheduled to return to the air tomorrow on Toledo's WGTE-FM (91.3). Hocker's regular shift will be 6-11 a.m.

In March, 1999, Hocker received a 180-day jail sentence for assaulting a fan with whom he had a brief relationship. The sentence was later suspended indefinitely.

Russ Lemmon's media column appears Mondays. Readers may contact him at 1-419-724-6122, or e-mail rlemmon@theblade.com.



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