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Published: Monday, 6/18/2001

Anchor turns likely no-win situation into victory party

A case could be made that Bill Hormann was in a no-win situation when he replaced longtime news anchor Jeff Heitz in mid-January.

WTOL-TV, Channel 11, was the undisputed leader in local television news during the 26 years that Heitz served as anchor. If the ratings dipped after Heitz left, which was more likely than not, then the new guy would be blamed.

Fast forward five months. The ratings came out last week, and no fingers were pointing at Hormann. Instead, high-fives were in order - ratings for WTOL's 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts were higher than the previous May, when Heitz occupied the anchor chair next to Chrys Peterson.

To the surprise of the competition, Hormann came out a winner in this potentially no-win situation.

“I took it personally when one of the other stations in town said, `We'll be No. 1 by November,'” Hormann said. “That comment was made, and it showed two things - utter disregard for the viewers and utter disrespect for the new guy in town.”

Hormann, 39, said he is “humbled” by the way he has been accepted by viewers. And, please, he only wants his fair share of the credit for the May ratings.

“Whatever success this station achieves while I'm sitting at the desk goes to an entire crew of photographers, producers, reporters, managers, and fellow anchors,” said Hormann, who has a refreshing sense of historical perspective. “They were here before me; they established a strong, trusted foundation in this community, and I'm simply adding my style and personality to all that. I'm another ingredient in our stew.

“Jeff Heitz helped get this station to the position it's in today. He made my job easier.”

WTOL news director C.J. Beutien, a former anchor, was responsible for hiring Hormann.

“Bill is a positive influence in the newsroom,” Beutien said. “In the search for a new male anchor, I was looking for a multitalented individual - one who could anchor from the desk, report live from the field, do a great job explaining things from the Chroma-Key wall, loved to get involved with the community, and, most importantly, had great chemistry with Chrys.

“Bill has all of those traits and has proven them since being here. There are not many who possess all of those talents, believe me - I looked at over 700 tapes.”

Count Peterson as a Hormann fan. “A new person brings new energy and a fresh perspective to a newscast,” she said.

Heitz spent 28 years at WTOL. Hormann says he wouldn't mind doing the same.

“Now the hard work begins,” he said. “You've got to keep [the ratings numbers] there.”

COUNTDOWN: Jack Mitchell and Mary Beth Zolik - better known to radio listeners as Mitch and Mary Beth - return to the air July 2 on WRVF-FM (101.5). They had the No. 1-ranked morning show at WKKO-FM (99.9) before leaving the station in October.

TWICE AS NICE: WUPW-TV, Channel 36, expands its 10 p.m. newscast to an hour starting Aug. 6.

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



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