Vanessa Echols and Greg Warmoth (courtesy WFTV.com)
If you want to break up a longtime, top-rated anchor team, you better have a good reason. And WFTV did last week when it ended the Orlando TV-record, 15-year on-air partnership of Greg Warmoth and Vanessa Echols on its morning Daybreak newscast.
Warmoth has moved to evenings at 5:30 and 11 — replacing Bob Opsahl and becoming the heir apparent as Opsahl’s ultimate successor. Weekend morning anchor Jamie Holmes has taken Warmoth’s early-morning seat next to the popular Echols.
WFTV has tried before to find Opsahl’s replacement, only to find viewers didn’t agree with the choice. But this time, essentially grooming a popular Orlando TV veteran for its main anchor role, Channel 9 has probably got the right man in Warmoth.
Warmoth has been around Orlando TV news since 1986, when he joined WFTV. Here are some things you may or may not know about Warmoth …
- When Warmoth joined Channel 9 in 1986, he was part of Channel 9′s three (yes, three!) sports reporters: the other two were Glenn Dehmer and Pat Clarke.
- He developed a strong relationship with Orlando Magic star Shaquille O’Neal — and was the one who broke the story of O’Neal leaving Orlando for the L.A. Lakers.
- He co-hosted the morning show on Orlando sports radio station WQTM-AM with former WDIZ disc jockey “Slats” (aka Tim Guinane).
- If my memory is correct, when ABC’s affiliates were meeting at Walt Disney World in 1997, WFTV asked weekend sports anchor Warmoth to fill-in on its morning newscast. He would become the permanent Daybreak anchor later that year.
- For awhile, Warmoth was doing the Channel 9 morning show and then anchoring the 10 p.m. news on sister station WRDQ-Channel 27.
There are some changes in roles taking place at market-leader WFTV-Channel 9.
First, longtime morning traffic guy Bob Baxa is no longer reporting for the station. He’s been replaced by Racquel Asa. “He did a good job for us. I was very happy with Bob’s performance,” WFTV news director Bob Jordan told Sentinel TV Guy Hal Boedeker. “He had been here the better part of 10 years. We wanted to do something different.” Baxa wasn’t actually a WFTV employee; he worked for traffic-data provider Metro Networks. Asa, who comes to Orlando from WSYR-ABC 9 in Syracuse, N.Y., is a WFTV employee and will also report for later newscasts, too.
Meanwhile, Eyewitness News Daybreak anchor Greg Warmoth is getting some additional duties at WFTV. He’s been tapped as the interim moderator of Channel 9′s public affairs show, Central Florida Spotlight. He replaces Craig Patrick. “Craig has family in Tampa. His old station, WTVT, offered him a job to come back. It was a family motivated decision,” WFTV General Manager Shawn Bartelt told the Orlando Sentinel. “He’s a great guy, and we were lucky to have him when we did.”
The WESH duo of Jim Payne and Martha Sugalski dispatched WKMG’s main anchors to move into the third round of OrlandoSentinel.com’s Celebrity Smackdown game. Also advancing to face the Channel 2 Cinderellas — the anchors of WFTV’s top-rated Daybreak show, Greg Warmoth and Vanessa Echols. Earlier, Payne and Sugalski upset WFTV evening anchors Bob Opsahl and Martie Salt.
More on the other big O-Town TV matchup after the jump …
WESH Sunrise reporter Shannon FitzPatrick signed off Wednesday morning. She’s leaving the TV biz to pursue a career in real estate and marketing. (I’d like to have a dollar for every TV person who has gone into real estate, but I digress.) FitzPatrick started at WESH in 1998 and moved to the Sunrise show in 2005. Little-known trivia about FitzPatrick: She’s the niece of 1980s WESH anchor Carol Granstrom.
Meanwhile, over at WFTV, I failed to note the departure of weekend anchor Jorge Estevez. His last day on the air was March 19. He’s heading to Miami’s CBS O&O, WFOR. No word on his replacement at Channel 9, although with Cynthia Demos also off this past Saturday-Sunday, it was Greg Warmoth and Chris Egert filling in on the weekend desk.