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Anonymous critics blast Beard on blog

One of the Simon Cowell wannabes who responded to my Buffalo News blog, Talkin' TV, wrote last week that I owe a big "Thank you" to Channel 2 morning co-anchor John Beard for the increase in "action" or traffic to the site. So thank you, John.

Most of the respondents to my Sept. 14 blog post on Beard's premiere have been incredibly hard on the veteran anchor, who last week replaced Pete Gallivan as the co-host of "Daybreak" alongside Jodi Johnston.

The harshness of the critiques contrasted with my gentler criticism of Beard after his premiere. Under the headline "Beard Looks Rusty in Channel 2 Debut," I said he talked so loud that it appeared he was trying to wake viewers up at 6 a.m.

However, I added that Beard -- who anchored at WIVB-TV almost three decades ago -- deserved time to adjust to his new surroundings after almost two years of unemployment.

Some perspective is badly needed when it comes to reactions to blog posts. Most of the snarky respondents and would-be comedians don't reveal their real names. Some use funny ones like Sgt. Bilko. For all I know, some of the harshest criticism could come from a Channel 2 competitor or someone with a vested interest. Most respondents seem to take great pleasure in beating up on people (and God bless them, that often includes beating up on me).

In other words, we're not usually talking about happy campers.

Talkin' TV also was loaded with comments critical of Channel 4 management after the station replaced Lisa Scott with Joe Arena in the morning earlier this year.

The most ridiculous comments last week compared Beard to Ron Burgundy, the ignorant and narcissistic 1970s San Diego anchorman played by Will Ferrell in the movie "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy." Some respondents also picked on Beard's receding hairline and how he has aged. The most legitimate criticism concerned whether Beard is suited for the mornings after spending most of his career as an evening anchor.

Beard is no Ron Burgundy. He may have appeared rusty, but he's a talented big-time anchor who developed a great reputation while working in Los Angeles for decades.

Of course, Buffalo is a community known to hate change -- unless it is change in the head coaching job of the Buffalo Bills.

Jim Toellner, the Channel 2 general manager who made the call to hire Beard and put Gallivan on the anchor bench so he could be a reporter, understands that as well as anyone.

"Change is always difficult, especially in the morning," said Toellner.

Toellner acknowledged that Beard had some things to get used to last week, including working in a new studio with a new Teleprompter, a new co-anchor and on a morning news program.

"He said it took a couple of days to get used to the changes," said Toellner.

The GM said he hasn't read many of the critical comments to my blog item, which included some slamming him. He added that the number of negative calls and e-mails about Beard "is nothing compared" with the negative reaction the station received when meteorologist Chesley McNeil (now in Atlanta) made his debut.

"And he turned out to be one of our most endearing personalities," said Toellner.

He added that some callers have expressed support for Beard, while others have asked what happened to Gallivan.

"I tell them you have to give it a couple of weeks," said Toellner. "We take what people say and how our customers feel very seriously. We also have heard a lot of positives about John and how pleased people are that he is back. And the ratings have been strong."

Last week, Channel 2 won every day at 6 a.m. and the week by a significant margin over Channel 4's "Wake Up." It also won Monday, but the margin was very thin. A bigger indication of whether Buffalo is warming to Beard will come with the ratings over the next month.

"Many people think John is the gold standard of anchors and I think Buffalo will grow to love him," added Toellner. "We're committed to John and feel he's good for the station, and Pete going back to reporting is good for the station, too."

Time -- and Nielsen ratings -- will tell if the blog respondents or Toellner will end up with the last laugh.


>'Leno' drops to third

While we're talking ratings, on the first night that NBC's "The Jay Leno Show" faced original programming on CBS and ABC, it finished third in its time slot locally.

The interesting flashback season premiere of "CSI: Miami" had a 12.6 rating on Channel 4 to win the 10 p.m. hour. ABC's "Castle" had a 7.4 on Channel 7. Leno had a 5.5 on Channel 2, slightly more than half the rating he averaged here last week. The 5.5 rating is higher than the ratings of many of the new 10 p.m. series that NBC carried last season. And Leno's show is much cheaper to produce than the shows on ABC and CBS, which is the main reason NBC made the move.


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