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Published: Thursday, 1/12/2006

Ch. 11 ends sports reporter's job

BY RUSS LEMMON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Joe Rychnovsky, 37, was at WTOL for nearly seven years. Joe Rychnovsky, 37, was at WTOL for nearly seven years.
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Joe Rychnovsky, whose on-air presence was among the most distinctive on Toledo television, is out of a job.

The sports reporter for WTOL-TV, Channel 11, found out Tuesday that his position has been eliminated.

According to WTOL news director Mitch Jacob, the move will allow the station to hire a reporter for its "Call for Action" team, which concentrates on consumer-oriented issues.

"We need to put our limited resources to where they're most needed," Jacob said.

Rychnovsky's departure leaves WTOL with a two-person sports staff in Dan Cummins and Gary Sensenstein. WTVG-TV, Channel 13, and WNWO-TV, Channel 24, both have three-person sports departments.

"I knew when they moved me to the morning show last January that they wanted to cut back in sports," Rychnovsky said.

For nine months, he did offbeat "Cup of Joe" segments on the two-hour morning newscast while continuing to work two nights a week in sports. The early morning/late night schedule proved to be too taxing physically for Rychnovsky, the recipient of a kidney transplant in 1987.

"There were health reasons that I had to quit doing that," he said.

Rychnovsky, 37, was at WTOL for nearly seven years. He had been working without a contract since March.

Given what has been going on nationally - some stations have eliminated their sports departments - Rychnovsky knew his job would be at risk if budget constraints and priorities intersected.

"Anytime you lose your job, it's upsetting," Rychnovsky said. "But I had seven wonderful years there. Channel 11 is a class act. In all honesty, I wish them nothing but the best."

Having gotten engaged in December, Rychnovsky said it's his preference to stay in Toledo. But at the moment, there are no sports openings at any of the other stations.

He definitely wants to stay in television as a sportscaster. His features - a profile of the last player on the bench, for example - are not your typical sports fare. He is best known for his "Hey, Joe, Try This!" segments, in which he would accept sporting challenges from viewers.

"I'm not your normal sports guy," he said. "I try to appeal to the nonsports fans. I'm always looking for the underdog because I was always the underdog."

Jacob said there is "no chance" WTOL will eliminate sports.

"Sports is still a priority for us, and we will continue to cover it as aggressively as we have in the past," Jacob said.

For this year's big local events, such as baseball's Triple-A All-Star Game at Fifth Third Field and the LPGA's Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, Jacob said the station's news reporters and anchors will pitch in to help the sports department.

Contact Russ Lemmon at rlemmon@theblade.com or

419-724-6122.



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