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Reflections from a year back on the local TV beat

What, no anniversary cards?

I quietly passed the first anniversary of my remarriage with The Buffalo News last week.

Upon my return, I called myself the Jay Leno of The News and take some pride in outlasting the host of “The Tonight Show.”

It’s been an eventful year loaded with local media news, often concerning TV people who, along with the Bills and Sabres, are Buffalo’s celebrities.

The most significant change since my first 40-year stint at The News concerns reader interaction. In my first TV tour, I received handwritten letters of praise or condemnation for my opinions.

Now when people are complimentary about what I write they usually send an email to my Buffalo News email address –

When they are displeased and call me an idiot or worse, they send comments directly to The News website.

Sometimes, I read those comments and think I accidentally landed on Twitter, which has so many snarky comments and bitterness that you need an antidepressant handy to stay on the social network.

I was even recently accused of rooting against Channel 7 to recapture its former news glory. Actually, I’m rooting for it to be more competitive because the community and local broadcast journalism would be better off if its new owners succeed.

In any event, I thank all of you who have emailed me with story suggestions, offered kind words or even constructive criticism.

It is nice to know that some people are glad that I am back to hold accountable the media people who hold people in power accountable, explain why WNED-TV isn’t carrying PBS programs when the rest of the nation is and what Western New York looks like when a popular show like “Top Gear” or “American Pickers” comes to film here.

Keeping track of the comings and goings in local TV can be a full-time job considering how many media members have bailed for public relations jobs in the last few years.

I realize it is good PR to say something nice before turning critical to avoid being called a moron again, so I will first note some of the more promising developments in the past year.

I can’t wait to see what E.W. Scripps Company does when it takes over Channel 7. Brad May is going to be an excellent Buffalo Sabres TV analyst. Joe Buscaglia does a great job covering the Buffalo Bills for WGR radio. Alt 107.7 is quickly becoming one of my favorite radio stations. Channel 4 anchor-reporter Nalina Shapiro and reporter Rachel Kingston have noticeably improved. Channel 4 meteorologist Todd Santos was a good hire. Channel 2 smartly brought Steve Brown back. Steve Cichon has done a great job reinventing himself as a “cool” guy since leaving WBEN radio. Finally, Lauren Hall of WNLO-TV’s “Winging It” looks like a future star. And I’m not just saying that because she tweets a lot about Syracuse basketball. (OK, maybe that has a little to do with it.)

Without further ado, here are some of the top media stories of my first year back.

Channel 2 Sports Director Ed Kilgore retires: After pointing out a conflict of interest, I was blamed by some people for his leaving a little early after taking a job with one of the companies owned by Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula. The Sabres’ collapse this season highlights the conflict. If Kilgore had been offered the job with Pegula and stayed on when the Sabres became the worst team in the National Hockey League, it would have been awkward watching Kilgore “cover” that story.

Chris Musial “retires” as Channel 4 General Manager: At least LIN Media, which owns Channel 4 and Channel 23 – although that too could be changing with the station’s pending sale to Media General – said that Musial retired voluntarily at age 55 from the station he had worked at since college. Channel 4’s new GM, Rene LaSpina, hasn’t made any major changes despite coming in with a reputation that suggested she would.

Pete Gallivan leaves Channel 2, then returns: The anchor-reporter took a job with the Cuomo administration and found out in a few months that public relations isn’t his thing. The profession certainly isn’t for all news types, though many are leaving the business for better pay and security. Gallivan was rehired by Channel 2, which has used him in a variety of roles, including sports. I recalled Gallivan’s flip-flop when WBFO-FM News Director Jim Ranney announced recently that he was leaving to work for State Sen. Patrick Gallivan. But Ranney is confident that he is going to like his new role.

Bill Ransom retires as GM, Channel 7 is sold: Ransom presided over the demise of the local ABC affiliate for about 18 years, but it is hard to tell how much he can be faulted since he answered to the hedge fund that took over from Granite Broadcasting in hopes of selling it. The recent sale to Scripps gives station staffers some hope that Channel 7 can become competitive again.

TWC’s confusing cable rate hike: You practically have to be one of the brainiacs on “The Big Bang Theory” to figure out how much more you will be paying. TWC added a separate fee for the carriage of broadcast stations whose out-of-town companies get money from cable even though most subscribers can get their stations for nothing.

TWC revises its cable channel lineup: I still can’t figure out all the tiers. I’ll have to find TBS and TruTV now that the channels are carrying the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. It sure is annoying looking for stations that carry sports and aren’t on the sports tier. TWC said it was doing it so all of its systems nationally would carry the stations on the same channels. But I visit New York City often and the channels on its TWC system aren’t the same as the ones here.

Maryalice Demler and Rob Ford: The Channel 2 anchor has had a tough year, notably embarrassing herself by tweeting a picture with the disgraced Toronto mayor at a Buffalo Bills game there and adding that the man who has admitted to sampling crack cocaine was “a sweetheart of a guy.” Demler’s misstep was more embarrassing because she is on the board of “Kids Escaping Drugs” and currently can be seen on public service announcements for it.

Happy Anniversary Mike Randall: Meteorologist Mike Randall celebrated his 30th anniversary at Channel 7 and then had his hours cut. You would think Scripps might reconsider the reduced role for one of Channel 7’s few recognizable figures. Admittedly not getting an anniversary card is nothing compared to what happened to Randall after his anniversary.