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Published: Monday, 3/1/2004

Long-term deals delight WTVG, news anchors

TV news types who are young and single tend to see Toledo as a steppingstone to a larger market.

Those who are married with children often have a different view. They see it as a good place to raise a family.

For Diane Larson and Lee Conklin, Market No. 69 represents the equilibrium of career and family life. Their contentment was apparent Wednesday when they talked about the long-term contracts they signed the day before to stay with WTVG-TV, Channel 13.

Diane Larson: Started at WTVG in 1984. Diane Larson: Started at WTVG in 1984.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

“It's all good,” said Larson, who has been at the station for nearly 20 years. “They've been great to me here. I love working with Lee; it's fun to come to work. And it's been great for my family too. I feel really lucky.”

Conklin said: “For me, it's not about making a gazillion dollars. It's about being happy at work and happy at home.”

Conklin, 42, agreed to a six-year deal — the longest for any TV anchor in the market — that expires on Sept. 3, 2010. Larson, 44, has a contract that runs through May 31, 2009.

Larson has anchored WTVG's 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts for the past 12 years. She and Conklin have been paired at 6 since October, 1999, and at 11 since September, 2000. (They also co-anchor the lower-profile 5 p.m. newscast.)

“We hope they both finish their careers here,” WTVG general manager David L. Zamichow said. “We think they are the right team for us, and the right team for Toledo.”

Lee Conklin: Started at WTVG in 1992. Lee Conklin: Started at WTVG in 1992.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

The Larson-Conklin tandem is a proven ratings draw, especially among viewers age 25 to 54, the demographic that advertisers covet. In Nielsen Media Research's November sweeps, two of the three newscasts that they anchor — 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. — were No. 1 in the key demo. (WTOL-TV, Channel 11, prevailed at 11 p.m.)

WTVG news director Brian Trauring says Larson and Conklin have “great ability and great chemistry.” When anchors don't get along, he said, it can turn into a big problem internally.

“They are terrific to work with,” he said. “I feel very fortunate that they've chosen to stay.”

Conklin said he did think about his career possibilities before deciding to commit to another six years. He will be 48 when his contract expires.

“They've been very good to me,” he said of the ABC-owned station. “What it comes down to is, your wife being happy, your kids being happy, having a good school district. I want my family to be content. This is our home.”

Conklin has been married for 18 years and has four children; the oldest is a high school freshman.

Similarly, Larson, considered a network-caliber talent, put her family ahead of her career. She has been married since 1989 and her daughter is in fourth grade. “When you have kids, it's nice to know that they're going to be in the same school district,” she said.

At work, though, Larson fills a different role.

“She is kind of like my older sister. She's somebody I can trust,” Conklin said. “I couldn't be working with someone more professional.”



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