Sixteen years ago Laura Emerson became the identity of WUPW-TV, Channel 36, as its first primary news anchor.
That era ends Friday night with Emerson's final local newscast. The 6:30 and 10 p.m. weekday anchor is leaving the Toledo market for a job at WPSD-TV, an NBC affiliate in Paducah, Ky.
Beginning Jan. 16, Emerson will co-anchor the 5, 6, and 10 p.m. newscasts in this central-time zone market, which stretches into western Missouri, southern Illinois, and the northern edge of Tennessee and is slightly smaller than the Toledo-area market.
For Emerson, the time just seemed right to leave WUPW and take a job with a highly competitive station with "a full day's worth of news."
"I'm excited about a new opportunity," she said. "This is a historically very solid and competitive station and I was impressed with the people when I went down to visit.
"I'm sad to leave Toledo and I have a lot of friends here. It wasn't an easy decision to go."
Steve France, WUPW news director, said he and others at the station are sad to see Emerson leave as well.
"She has been a part of our news organization since day one and in her time here helped form Fox Toledo into the viable news organization that we are today," France said. "For 16 years Laura has been welcomed into our viewers' homes to deliver the news of the days; her departure will be the equivalent of saying good-bye to a longtime friend."
Emerson joined WUPW after stints at affiliates in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Colorado Springs. At that point, the station rented space at WTOL-TV, Channel 11, for its first news operation.
"We started with nothing so you could be very experimental. We tried a lot of new things -- some worked and some didn't. It was exciting to be part of a brand-new product," she said. "In 2000 we moved out of WTOL and hired more of our own people and became fully independent as a news organization.
"It was exciting to see the growth and to see the audience growth. It's been slow but over the years there has been progress. Today, I'm proud of how often we win the lead story when you compare the content between the various Toledo TV stations."
Emerson also takes pride in leaving the station's news department in better shape than when she started.
"Now when you go out in a Fox Toledo Jeep or have a Fox Toledo jacket on, people know who you are, when your newscast is on, who they are talking to, and that took some time to establish."
Emerson's husband, Bruce Slusher, WUPW's weekend weathercaster, will remain at the station, she said, until the couple sells their home.
Meanwhile, the search for Emerson's replacement will begin in the coming weeks.
"These will not be easy shoes to fill," France said. "I plan on taking the time needed to review all job candidates, so that I find the person that is the perfect fit for our news organization."
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.