Looking back, I wonder if it was a clue? When the stations issued their news releases from the Novemeber sweeps, Bill Bauman’s comments were not in WESH’s release. Instead, it was VP and station manager Bob Fein who was quoted as saying, “in May we saw significant growth for WESH 2 News over the previous year. It’s now very gratifying to see that viewers are continuing that vote of confidence and helping us build on that momentum.” But it’s what he didn’t say — about year-over-year ratings — that also stood out.
In the end, that’s what most people will remember. Bauman unexpectedly leaving WESH by announcing his immediate retirement at the company Christmas party. But there is more to remember about Bauman.
In my limited dealings with him over the years, I found Bauman to be very professional and passionate about his station and anchors. One time he tracked me down at work with a phone call to personally let me know about a message on the TV Talk Forum that he thought crossed the line about one of his anchors. And, he was right. It was a pretty vicious personal attack, and I removed it.
One time after WESH debuted a new set, he asked for my thoughts on it. I gave it a thumbs up but mentioned one part of it that I thought was a bit distracting. A week later, that part of the set was tweaked. Now, I don’t think it had anything to do with my comment, but rather it was something that was pretty apparent to viewers. And for the most part, I think that’s what Bauman knew best: what Orlando viewers wanted.
Let’s not forget that despite WESH’s current ratings woes, Bauman had his station poised to overtake WFTV-Channel 9 not that long ago. Solid, serious reporting gave WESH a sterling reputation that began to resonate with local viewers sick of endless crime coverage on WKMG and WFTV. But a combination of legendary news director Bob Jordan returning to Channel 9 to resurrect Eyewitness News and the decline of NBC’s prime-time ratings never allowed WESH to get over the hump. Then began the changing of the guard among its reporters and news directors.
Bauman is a local guy — a graduate of Winter Park High School. How many folks get to travel around and come back to their hometown to run a TV station? It must be pretty rare, and that could be the reason local TV news is so criticized by many today. So many of those responsible for local news have no local connections. We actually need more Bill Baumans in TV news — that was have one less today is actually bad news for all of us.