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Beard delays departure, giving WGRZ options after Levin exit

As expected, WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) "Daybreak" co-anchor John Beard has been convinced to stay at the station beyond June, the first date he extended a departure originally planned for the end of 2016.

In a brief interview, he said his decision to stay for an additional six months until the end of 2017 was made even before Monday's announcement that Channel 2's lead male anchor, Scott Levin, is leaving broadcasting after the May sweeps to work in management for the West Herr Automotive group.

"It is pretty obvious I love living here and working at Channel 2," Beard said. "My timeline and theirs overlap and I agreed some time ago to stay on at least until the end of this year."

In light of Levin's surprising announcement, Beard's decision to stay on is good news for Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner because it gives him more time to figure out how he is going to replace his morning and evening anchors.

WGRZ anchor Scott Levin is leaving the station after 19 years.

It isn't as if Channel 2 has a deep anchor bench or an obvious candidate to replace Levin as the primary male anchor alongside Maryalice Demler. Sports Director Adam Benigni recently anchored a couple of newscasts, but said afterward he planned on staying in sports. Pete Gallivan was Demler's co-anchor Thursday when Levin was off.

Gallivan also is an obvious candidate to replace Beard in the morning since he was the "Daybreak" co-anchor before Beard arrived and he often fills in for Beard during one of his numerous vacations.

It might be less disruptive if Gallivan temporarily took Levin's seat after May 24. But it wouldn't be a total surprise if Gallivan took Beard's "Daybreak" slot after the May sweeps and Beard slipped into Levin's news anchor spot while Toellner did a search for anchors for one or both newscasts. After all, Beard, 68, was the lead evening anchor at Channel 4 in the late 1970s and early 1980s and also was a lead evening anchor in Los Angeles before coming to Buffalo.

The new hours would most likely please Beard, who has said the tough early morning hours are one reason for his plan to leave. But Beard said he hasn't been approached about making the shift.

"I talked to Scott Monday and completely understand his decision," said Beard. "Everybody does. Some people have asked if I will be anchoring the evening shows, but no one in management has talked to me about it. We just found out about Scott's move on Monday and it doesn't happen until June. So I think it's a little early for that conversation."

Early, yes. But it sounds like Beard would be happy to listen to the possibility.

Levin's departure is the most visible, but Channel 2 also is losing behind-the-scenes employees in the news department. The most notable is the move of producer Sally Durwald from Channel 2 after 17 years to Channel 4. Previously, photographer-reporter Nate Benson went to work for 43 North and producer Jim Gibbons went to work in marketing for former Channel 2 News Director Jeff Woodard at Fredonia State College.

Rep. Chris Collins wasn't exactly a big local TV draw last week when he appeared on CNN's "Messy Truth with Van Jones." The first 15 minutes of the program started with a 1.3 rating but the hour ended with a 0.8 rating.

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