Jason Knowles is Toledo's version of Mike Wallace, the feared interrogator on 60 Minutes.
When the WTVG-TV, Channel 13, reporter calls to request an interview, you know it's not for a fluff piece. Chances are, the subject is going to have some explaining to do.
Knowles has been the face of WTVG's I-Team for nearly four years. His investigations into government waste, scams, and filthy restaurants have generated countless "hate e-mails and nasty phone calls."
Vitriolic feedback comes with the territory. But most of it, he says, can be traced to those whose feathers he has ruffled.
Indeed, his persistence -- "I don't take 'no' for an answer," he says -- can bring out the worst in people with something to hide. Knowles said he has been "threatened on several occasions, and pushed and shoved a few times."
He may have had his last job-related confrontation in Toledo, however. His last day at ABC-owned WTVG is June 11. He is headed to sister station WLS-TV in Chicago as a special projects producer.
"What I'm going to do is similar to what I'm doing now," he said. "It's basically an off-air reporting job."
He will be working with WLS anchors on various projects, but he won't appear in any of the reports.
Knowles, 29, said he inquired about reporting jobs in bigger markets, such as Orlando and Raleigh, but the prospect of working in Market No. 3, even if it meant working behind the scenes, was too attractive to pass up. He estimated it would have taken him another five years to make it to Chicago as a reporter.
It's not the first time Knowles has gone the off-air route. In 1997, WTVG hired him as a photographer. Six months later, he became a reporter for the station's Findlay bureau. He stayed there two years, then moved to Toledo when WTVG started the I-Team in June, 2000.
In late 2001, Knowles began airing the weekly Restaurant Report Card, which is based on inspection reports from the health department. It has become one of the station's most popular features.
WTVG news director Brian Trauring said Knowles, as an I-Team reporter, "has shined a powerful light on examples of wrongdoing and held those responsible accountable. ... I think it takes a certain amount of integrity and courage to do the type of journalism that he does."
Trauring said the I-Team will continue after Knowles departs and that he is advertising for a successor.
At WLS, he will be reunited with former WTVG news director Janet Hundley, whom Knowles calls "a mentor." Hundley is an assistant news director there.
NEW GIG: Former WTVG assistant news director Andrew Vrees has been named news director of WMUR-TV in Manchester, N.H. He had been working as assistant news director at KOAT-TV in Albuquerque. Trivia: David L. Zamichow, WTVG's general manager, was the general manager of WMUR before moving to Toledo in the early 1990s.
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