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Published: Sunday, 4/22/2007

Lee Conklin has winning ways as television anchor

Whether Lee Conklin is co-anchoring the evening news with Diane Larson on WTVG-TV, Channel 13, or out in the field reporting on a big event, he always tries to hit a home run.

No big surprise there.

Conklin was a star baseball player at South Lake High School in the Detroit suburb of St. Clair Shores, where his play earned him a spot in the school s hall of fame.

He also is an outstanding runner, basketball player, and golfer, not to mention a sports junkie.

Conklin s competitiveness has helped make him one of Toledo s most dedicated and respected news anchors.

Conklin is smart. He s funny. And he s quick to deflect any praise.

Working with Lee is one of the best parts of the day for me, said Larson, who has been paired with Conklin on all three evening newscasts at the ABC affiliate since 1999. He s great, no matter what he s doing. He s probably one of the best-liked people in the newsroom. I don t know anybody that says, I can t stand Lee Conklin. Everybody just loves him.

When he s not reading the news to northwest Ohioans, Conklin usually can be found reporting on stories from the field. He covered the late Pope John Paul II s papal visits to St. Louis and Toronto. He was in Cape Canaveral, Fla., when Ohio native John Glenn made his return to space.

Conklin attended President Bush s inauguration, and made two trips to New Orleans and surrounding areas to report on the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

He reported live from the scene during the crane collapse at the I-280 bridge which killed four iron workers, and he was on hand for the recent memorial service involving the Bluffton baseball team.

Before we forget, Conklin also serves as the host of the weekly show, Conklin & Company, which was nominated for an Emmy last year.

I like to think most viewers consider me a newsman first, he said. That s my job, being there at 5, 6, and 11 every day or most days and I take it very seriously. I d like to think I m trustworthy, professional, and easy for the viewer to watch and understand. That goes for anchoring from the desk or from the field.

Conklin, 44, has been married to his wife, Lisa, for nearly 22 years. They are the parents of two girls (Courtney, 18, and Kelsey, 17) and two boys (Jake, 13, and Michael, 9).

Conklin is a huge Tigers fan and University of Michigan football supporter. Not only was he an outstanding baseball player in high school, he was MVP of the basketball team, and he also ran cross country.

Conklin spent three years as an assistant basketball coach at his alma mater and landed his first job doing news and sports at a radio station in Logansport, Ind., in 1984.

He left after eight months for a gig in nearby Plymouth and then moved to WABJ-AM, 1490, in Adrian, a year-and-a-half later to become the morning host and sports director.

Lee Conklin reacts to a shot made by a teammate during a charity basketball game in March. Lee Conklin reacts to a shot made by a teammate during a charity basketball game in March.
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While there, Conklin did play-by-play for Adrian College football, high school basketball, baseball, and the county golf tournament. He also hosted a nightly sports wrap show.

I really enjoyed my time in Adrian, Conklin said. I met some great people and got to do college football. It was a lot of fun. But I moved five times between 1984 and 1986. That got old.

Conklin secured his first job in the Toledo market in 1987, landing a position in the news department at WSPD-AM, 1370.

Conklin also had a stint as the sideline reporter for University of Toledo football games, he did play-by-play for two seasons for the basketball team, and hosted a two-hour nightly sports talk show.

In 1992, he started doing the weather on weekends at Channel 13.

The good news was that I was getting to do everything I enjoyed about broadcasting news, weather, and sports at the same time, Conklin said. The bad news is, I worked seven days a week for a year and a half.

WTVG hired Conklin as their full-time weekday weatherman in 1994. Although he left WPSD in 1992, he was still employed as UT s play-by-play man for basketball at the time.

Conklin worked a lot of late nights and didn t sleep a whole lot, but not long after he began doing the weather, he started co-anchoring the morning news on Channel 13 with Susan Ross Wells. Conklin also worked weekend mornings with Rebecca Regnier for a brief time.

He and Larson first co-anchored together at 5 p.m. in 1997. They have forged a special on-air relationship through the years.

I work with a woman who s incredibly talented, Conklin said. We have a lot of fun. She s funny. She s smart. We have good chemistry together. We re kind of like brother and sister almost.

Lee Conklin with daughter Courtney, left, his wife, Lisa, sons Michael and Jake, and daughter Kelsey. Lee Conklin with daughter Courtney, left, his wife, Lisa, sons Michael and Jake, and daughter Kelsey.
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Conklin and Larson are easily the two most recognizable faces at Channel 13.

People like Lee because he relates to people well and treats them with respect, WTVG news director Brian Trauring said. Beyond that, he has a genuine concern for our home community. His success is also a result of the great partnership he and Diane have established. There s nothing fake about them.

Conklin has three years remaining on his contract, but he s likely not going anywhere. Nor is Larson.

As hard as it is to believe, neither one has an agent.

I ve seen a lot of people come and go, Conklin said. I ve stayed here because this has become our home for the last 20 years. The kids were born here, we ve made so many great friends, and I truly like the people I work with.

Brian has been good to me. David Zamichow has been a tremendous GM to work for. I will always be appreciative of the fact he saw potential in me over 15 years ago, despite the fact I had no television experience.

Conklin s teenage daughter, Courtney, said her dad is pretty laid-back when he s not at work.

It is really easy to forget the kind of job he has because he never brings it home with him, she said. When he s home, his focus is on the family, and that s it.

Conklin credits wife Lisa with doing an incredible job of running the household in his absence.

She runs a tight, yet loving ship, and our kids are better off for it, he said. I marvel at what she juggles work, home, and an incredibly busy schedule, running the kids from place to place.

The kids all understand the fact that this is my job, that I m gone at night.

Conklin s daughter, Kelsey, said it s not so bad having a locally famous father.

For as long as I can remember, my dad s been reporting the news, she said. It s a situation we ve all gotten used to. It s actually strange to see him in a suit, when I m used to him walking around [at home] in a T-shirt and shorts.

Lee Conklin is the same easy-going guy, whether he s reading the news, playing sports, or just being dad.

Ron Musselman is The Blade s media columnist.

Contact him at: mussel@theblade.com or 419-724-6474.



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