Philadelphia’s most senior anchor — and one of the most entrenched anywhere — is on the retirement runway.
That’s Jim Gardner, who’s led Philadelphia’s (usually) top-rated station since Noah was in short pants.
He announced he will surrender his 11 p.m. shift at the end of the year, and then leave the 6 p.m. show at the end of next year.
Not to worry about the ratings. 6ABC is genius at smooth transitions.
I covered the station directly as a TV critic from 1980-‘85, and then for the 17 years I was a gossip columnist.
It was a bitch. While other stations leaked like a puppy, 6ABC was tight as a submarine.
While their competitors played anchor du jour, and endured fights among staffers — looking at you Larry Mendte/Alycia Lane, a manager/Ukee Washington, and Sharon Reed/Alicia Taylor — and people getting fired between shifts (hi, Patrick Emory), the ABC station always ploughed a steady course.
Now, if I were still at the Daily News, and if the Daily News were still the Daily News, and not the zombie it has been turned into, we would devote a couple of pages to Name Jim Gardner’s Replacement.
We would do what I can’t do here — show pictures of the entire reporting staff. The best I can do is offer you a link to the 6ABC website. There’s more than 40 of them.
If I were handicapping this, I would look at who is already anchoring, in any form, any day part.
Next I would look at reporters who had been given a shot at anchoring, maybe as fill-ins.
And, naturally, WPVI will do focus groups and other research.
Not counting sports people and weather staffers (who amazingly outnumber sports staffers), there are almost a dozen anchors — Rick Williams, Sharrie Williams, Alicia Vitarelli, Sarah Bloomquist, Brian Taff, Matt O’Donnell, Tamala Edwards, Nydia Han, and Walter Perez.
That is a deep bench.
Unique in Philadelphia, Jim Gardner is a male solo anchor at 6 and 11 p.m.
Every other station has a male/female duet, and of different races.
6ABC maybe is behind the times, but the station’s philosophy was, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
While it still ain’t broke, it’s hard to imagine the station continuing with a white solo male anchor.
So the Daily News would ask readers to suggest a new anchor(s) and offer some prizes.
I can ask for suggestions, but I have no prizes.
Because I always want to be ahead of the curve, I would pick Christie Ileto as one anchor.
Why? She’s a veteran reporter, she has done some anchoring, she has a pleasant personality, and a really beautiful smile. What’s not to like?
Conventional wisdom says she should be married to a male broadcast partner, either white or “white Hispanic,” such as Walter Perez, who once struggled with whether he wanted his surname pronounced PeREZ (Spanish) or PERez (English). He settled for English.
I’d be daring and name consumer reporter Nydia Han to work with Ileto.
Why? She’s done great work for the station, people know her, and love her. Like Ileto, she’s got a great smile and projects a warm personality.
Does anyone think two women anchoring together would be a negative?
Any who feel that way would be more than balanced by people who go for their smarts, looks, and charm.
Those are my picks.
Who are yours?