It’s been more than two months since anchor Janelle Burrell vanished from the CBS3 noon news.
Yet I know she’s still at the station.
Janelle Burrell (right), without wedding band, anchors with Jim Donovan
Where is she?, I wondered.
Since what TV calls “talent” (I call them journalists) need permission to talk to other journalists, such as me, I made a few quiet inquiries to people I know from the Good Old Days, when covering television was one of my specialties.
I’ve been a fan of Burrell’s since I discovered the CBS noon news last year.
Not just because of her rhyming name, or because she (like me) grew up in Brooklyn, or that (unlike me) she’s an alum of Penn State, and earned a master’s at Columbia. No, she’s a great news reader, she projects warmth and has a mega nova smile that almost makes me reach for sunglasses. She’s one of those people who project through the glass of the TV screen.
From station sources I learned that she did something highly unusual for TV: she stepped down from the noon anchor chair in order to do reporting. She remains co-anchor of the 4:30-8 a.m. news.
Since surrendering anchor time is unusual, and unusual = news, I wanted to talk to her. CBS3 instructed me to reach out to Mike Nelson, senior vice president, communications, CBS, who would have to greenlight his journalist speaking to this journalist.
A couple of my emails were unanswered, so I reached Nelson on the phone on Aug. 2 and requested an interview with Burrell. I followed up with reminders on Aug. 10 and 14. No response.
It’s like I wanted to interview Taylor Swift, or Queen Beatrix.
Burrell and I (and CBS) are all in communications. I have a long record, a very long record, as a Philadelphia journalist. What’s the big deal?
Since the greenlight man retreated into an executive protection plan, I will resort to a cut-and-paste job.
That’s where I scour published sources and build a Burrell profile, and also lean on CBS3 staffers who spoke to me with a promise of anonymity because they could be in trouble for speaking to another journalist, as irrational as that sounds.
Burrell is described as a hard worker, “wicked smart,” serious but friendly, who keeps pretty much to herself. She’s a foodie, but does not like chocolate.
While she likes to anchor, she let the station know she wanted to do community reporting, and management said OK. That is the unusual part: Usually you get to anchor after proving your chops as a street reporter. Then you get to write and read copy and no longer have to go out in all kinds of weather chasing stories. Or speak to unsavory people.
But that’s what Burrell wanted to do — dig out stories that make a difference. I would have liked to ask her what kind of stories, and why? How would that complete her? But CBS, in the communications business, did not cooperate.
She arrived at CBS3 (a/k/a KYW) in April 2019, replacing Rahel Solomon, another glamorous anchor, and she still co-anchors the early morning show with Jim Donovan.
She broke into broadcast work as an intern at WPSU-TV while at Penn State, majoring in English and minoring in biology.
Prior to joining CBS3, Burrell worked as a general assignment reporter and anchor for WCBS-TV in New York City, joining the station in 2013. She was also a part of the anchor team that helped launch the station’s digital channel, CBSN New York.
On WCBS-TV, Burrell contributed to the news team’s coverage of major events including the Pope’s visit to New York, the 2014 Super Bowl, and the terrorist truck attack on Manhattan’s West Side.
She met national morning radio news anchor Derricke Dennis in July 2010 at a journalism convention in San Diego, according to published reports. They married in October 2015 at Liberty House in Jersey City’s Liberty State Park — her first, his second, according to The New York Times. He was 41, she 32. He is a native of Brooklyn and a graduate of Howard University.
While there is no record of a divorce, Burrell doesn’t wear a wedding ring on-air, nor in her station publicity shots. She does not talk about a husband, according to station sources I spoke to, who believe she is single. Burrell lives in a one-bedroom condo within walking distance of the station, according to online records.
I don’t like not being able to nail down pertinent details, but that’s a result of CBS’ obstructionist policy. CBS — the communications company.