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Published: Monday, 3/21/2005

On-air anger gets Cummins a suspension

In what is believed to be a first for the Toledo television market, WTOL-TV, Channel 11, recently suspended one of its primary anchors.

Sports director Dan Cummins is expected to return to the air today after serving a one-week suspension for his demeanor during a 6:30 a.m. live shot March 11 from the Mid-American Conference basketball tournament in Cleveland.

Cummins has been at the station for 25 years. He became sports director in 1996, when Orris Tabner retired.

NewsBlues, a Web site for TV news professionals, reported last week that Cummins had been suspended. Quoting an anonymous source, NewsBlues said Cummins appeared visibly angry during the live shot in front of Gund Arena in Cleveland.

Cummins explained to producers that the arena would be locked up that early in the morning and suggested a look live [a prerecorded package] instead, the NewsBlues report said. The producers told him no, and [he should] be ready to go by 6 a.m. When the anchors tossed to Cummins, he appeared very upset about being up so early and made some angry remarks. The general manager was watching and suspended Cummins for a week.

WTOL general manager Bob Chirdon declined comment.

All four Toledo stations sent reporters to the MAC tournament. The University of Toledo women s team was eliminated on March 9, and the UT and Bowling Green State University men s teams were eliminated March 10. BGSU s women s team played March 11 and would claim the title the following day.

Dan Cummins: WTOL sports anchor will return to the air today after serving a one-week suspension. Dan Cummins: WTOL sports anchor will return to the air today after serving a one-week suspension.
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WTOL was the only station to have a live report from Cleveland on the morning of March 11. Cummins and WTVG-TV, Channel 13, sports director Rob Powers did live shots on their respective 11 p.m. newscasts on March 10, but only Cummins was back on the air seven hours later. Given his body clock, one could assume that he was operating on two or three hours sleep.

Powers said he has done quick-turnaround live shots (11 p.m./6 a.m.) before, but only for high-profile events such as the Ohio State-Michigan football game and the Fiesta Bowl. Doing one on the morning of March 11 never came up in discussions at his station, Powers said.

I feel for Dan, Powers said. If you re not in that situation, you have no idea what it s like. You don t go to sleep right at midnight, and you don t wake up two seconds before you go on the air.

The consensus among TV news types contacted who saw the ill-fated live shot: Cummins was grumpy and frowning while on the air. According to one observer, WTOL news anchor Jerry Anderson tried to smooth things over with viewers after Cummins segment.

You could tell it was an uncomfortable moment, the observer said.

But did the punishment a one-week suspension, which, according to industry sources, likely cost Cummins more than $1,500 fit the crime ? Certainly, a case could be made that it was an overreaction, especially when you factor in Cummins quarter-century of employment at the station.

In an informal survey of local TV news veterans, most of whom have worked in the market for more than 25 years, none could remember a station suspending a primary anchor. Reporters, secondary anchors, and behind-the-scenes workers have been suspended, they said, but they ve never heard of it happening to a primary anchor.

WTOL news director Mitch Jacob was on vacation at the time of the incident. Upon his return to work last week, he said corporate policy prohibits him from commenting on personnel matters.

Assistant news director Lou Hebert was in charge of the newsroom during Jacob s absence. Those familiar with WTOL s newsroom hierarchy say Hebert would have had the final say regarding the 6:30a.m. live shot. He declined comment.

Speaking in general terms, Jacob said: Our people work hard, and we do ask a lot of them. To be the news leader, you have to be there in different time periods. It s not an 8-to-5 job, or a 2-to-11 job.

Cummins did four live shots from Gund Arena on March 10 during the noon, 5, 6, and 11 p.m. newscasts. And after the morning live shot on March 11 the one that apparently drew the ire of the station s general manager Cummins did another live shot at noon. He didn t find out that he was suspended until 4:30 p.m., upon his return to the station.

Cummins, reached at his home, expressed regret for his behavior during the live shot.

I love WTOL. I ve been here 25 years, and I want to finish my career here, said Cummins, whose contract expires at the end of the year. I made one mistake, and I accept the penalty.

Gary Sensenstein and Joe Rychnovsky filled in for Cummins last week.

RADIO CHANGE: Alabama-based Urban Radio Broadcasting, which owns Toledo s WIMX-FM (95.7) and eight other stations, has agreed to purchase WJZE-FM (97.3) from RASP Broadcasting, according to Kevin Wagner, president of Urban Radio.

He did not disclose the purchase price. He said last week that the company would soon start the transfer-of-ownership process. Meanwhile, Urban Radio took over operation of the station on Friday.

WJZE, which has had a classic hits format the past 4 years, now has a contemporary hits/rhythmic format. It will compete with three other teen-oriented stations WJUC-FM (107.3), WVKS-FM (92.5), and WTWR-FM (98.3).

We were looking for a second property to complement WIMX, Wagner said. This gives us an urban duopoly in a Top 100 market.

WIMX has a urban adult contemporary format.

VACANCY: Wendy Sheridan, WTVG s longtime assignment editor, is no longer at the station. When asked about her departure, news director Brian Trauring, citing a corporate policy against discussing personnel matters, responded with a no comment. Sheridan switched to TV in 1997 after working in local radio.



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