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DA hires former Channel 7 anchor Joanna Pasceri

Another Buffalo broadcast news veteran is moving into public relations.

Joanna Pasceri, who said her farewells in December as co-anchor of WKBW-TV news, is joining the Erie County District Attorney’s Office as public information officer.

The job was created to keep the public better informed about the work of the office, Acting DA Michael J. Flaherty Jr. said in a news release. Along with answering reporters’ inquiries, Pasceri will be getting more information to the public online and via social media.

“It will help us when the media and the public call with questions. There will always be somebody here to answer them,” Flaherty said. “I’m not always here, and I am often busy and can’t return calls quickly.”

He added that she still will be bound by the rules of confidentiality regarding such matters as grand jury proceedings and discussing cases in which no one is charged, “But at least people will have an answer and know why.”

Pasceri’s $47,000 annual salary already was in the budget, Flaherty said, so no new money will be needed for the job.

Pasceri is well-known to local television audiences from her 22 years at Channel 7, the last nine years as co-anchor with Keith Radford of the evening news. She resigned in December after the station’s new owner made it clear it intended to demote her from the anchor position.

She brings more than on-air experience to the new job. Pasceri, 50, has led media relations training for a number of groups in connection to the justice system, including the Department of Criminal Justice Services, the WNY Chapter of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York and the Bar Association of Erie County.

She also spent time leading communication classes at Medaille College.

Pasceri is a Lockport native and graduate of SUNY Fredonia. She started in television at WETM-TV in Elmira and became a full-time reporter at WKBW-TV in 1997. In her time at the anchor desk with Keith Radford she became known for her warmth and generosity, and, unlike the planned retirements of other longtime media figures, her departure was sudden and unannounced until her final broadcast.

At the time she said she plans for the future were “still in the works.”

Now, in a prepared statement, she says of her new job, “I am so very proud to be part of a team of professionals dedicated to doing the right thing every day. It’s a perfect fit for me. I highly respect the values of this office.”

The addition of a PR person is part of Flaherty’s overall reorganization of the DA’s office. As chief assistant, Flaherty stepped up to the top job when former DA Frank A. Sedita III became a state Supreme Court judge in January, and shortly afterward Flaherty declared his candidacy when the district attorney seat goes on the ballot in November.

Since then he has proposed changes to the county’s Code of Ethics for political figures and announced a community outreach initiative to make prosecutors from his office available to block club meetings and other community events to improve communication about such matters as elder fraud, domestic violence, animal cruelty and drug problems.

Flaherty made it clear that Pasceri, who started Monday, will be responsible for serving the DA’s office only and will not in any way be involved in work for his election campaign.

“I already have a campaign press secretary,” Flaherty said, “and those two lines won’t cross.”

Pasceri follows a number of her television news colleagues to the “other side” of the information business. Former Channel 4 reporter Lorey Schultz works in Mayor Byron W. Brown’s office with the mayor’s director of communications, former Empire Sports anchor Michael DeGeorge.

Former Channel 4 morning personality Victoria Hong is now with Delaware North and Channel 2’s former anchor Jodi Johnston is at First Niagara. And Jean Hill, who was a Channel 7 anchor before Pasceri, has been with M&T Bank for more than a decade.

Mark A. Sacha, a former assistant district attorney seeking the Democratic nomination this fall for the top prosecutor’s post, said Tuesday he sees no reason for establishing the position and promised its elimination if elected.

“This whole press release thing has gotten out of control,” he said. “The politicization of this office has been taken up another notch. “It’s a totally unnecessary job that was created for political reasons.”