WKBW-TV (Channel 7) has gained a new investigative reporter after years without one, WIVB-TV (Channel 4) has lost one.
Charlie Specht, an award-winning Buffalo News reporter from 2010-13 before becoming director of community development for the Village of Williamsville, is returning to journalism as the first full-time investigative reporter at Channel 7 in years.
Meanwhile, Buffalo native Rose Ciotta, an award-winning former Buffalo News and Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, has left WIVB-TV Channel 4 with the expiration of her three-year contract as a behind-the-scenes investigative producer who didn’t appear on the air.
A 2010 St. Bonaventure University graduate, Specht has made no secret to his friends about the desire to return to journalism.
He attended St. Bonaventure when its journalism program was headed by Lee Coppola, a former Channel 7 investigative reporter.
While at The News, Specht received the Mike Hendricks Award from the Associated Press as the top young reporter in New York State.
While he is new to local TV news reporting, Specht was a Channel 4 intern in 2007, a reporter, producer and anchor for St. Bonaventure’s student television station and a research intern at NBC’s “Meet the Press” in 2010.
For years during its dominant days in local news, Channel 7 had a strong investigative reporter tradition that included Coppola, John Pauly and Tony Farina.
However, the position got lost because of budget cuts under a previous owner as the station went into decline.
Michael Nurse, Channel 7’s general manager, said Ch.7’s present owner, the E.W. Scripps Company, understood the importance of having an investigative reporter in the competitive TV news business.
“In conferring with senior Scripps management, it was collectively agreed that the station was ready for the next logical progression in its rebuild process with the addition of investigative reporting,” said Nurse.
“Investigative reporting is critical to provide both in-depth stories often not possible in a daily news cycle. It is also critical to provide additional context and background on key stories as they occur. Investigative reporting, and especially stories that solve issues, are critical differentiators in a competitive market like Buffalo.”
Nurse’s explanation also is one of the reasons that former Channel 4 News Director Joe Schlaerth hired Ciotta three years ago to produce investigative stories, primarily for reporter Luke Moretti. Because of union regulations, Ciotta, who was part of a Philadelphia newspaper team that won a 2012 Pulitzer Prize for public service, was unable to appear on the air.
Among Moretti and Ciotta’s successes together was a month-long series, “Your Food: What Do You Really Know?” It won a regional Edward R. Murrow Award.
In a telephone interview, Ciotta said it was her choice to leave after completing her three-year contract.
“We had a really good body of work and I’m proud of that,” said Ciotta, who had personal reasons for coming home in 2013 after working in Philadelphia.
“It was a great way for me to come back to Buffalo to spend the last two years of my mother’s life,” she said. “She passed away in April.”
Ciotta added she is "looking at other opportunities."
It is unclear if her job will be filled any time soon or at all. It is rare for any station in a market the size of Buffalo to hire a relatively expensive investigative reporter who doesn’t appear on camera. Additionally, the new owner that is about to take over Channel 4, Nexstar, is known as such a cost-cutting organization that it is nicknamed Deathstar in the industry.