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Jordan Williams' exit means Channel 4 has big decisions ahead

The July sweeps starting Thursday are generally considered the least important to local television stations.

However, they are important enough for WIVB-TV (Channel 4) to keep morning co-anchor Jordan Williams around.

Williams announced a few weeks ago that his five-year run as co-anchor of "Wake Up!" will end after the sweeps end, as he plans to return to his native Texas to be closer to family.

He is from Port Neches, Texas, is a graduate of Trinity University in San Antonio and was a reporter for KRGV-TV in South Texas before joining Channel 4.

His departure means it will be back to the drawing board for Channel 4 in attempting to find a morning team with lasting staying power. In five years, Williams has been teamed with Melanie Orlins, Brittni Smallwood, Teresa Weakley and Diana Fairbanks.

Generally, stations prefer to keep their morning teams together for a long time because viewers often view them like family.

In the recent May sweeps, Channel 4 was in second place to WGRZ-TV's "Daybreak" at 6 a.m. by a full rating point in households after being within one-tenth of a point a year ago. However, Channel 4 was the winner in the key, age 25-54 demographic, by half a point.

Williams' departure highlights the short bench that Channel 4 has concerning anchors. Besides veteran Don Postles, the only other male anchor left is Dave Greber, who works the 4 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts and could be Postles' eventual heir apparent.

Channel 4 appeared to have a strong female anchor bench behind veteran Jacquie Walker, but the recent exits of Nalina Shapiro and Callan Gray ended that.

The decisions management makes over the next few weeks or months on anchors clearly are extremely important ones to Channel 4's future.

•••

A heartfelt, stream-of consciousness 2,500 word essay by WECK AM/FM news director Steve Cichon revealing his mental health issues received plenty of attention on social media and deserves even more attention.

After reporting the suicide of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain on June 8, Cichon, 40, wrote a story he had been thinking about for more 30 years. He spent close to 2 1/2 hours composing the essay posted to his blog, BuffaloStories.com, with the title of "A brief memoir in depression and anxiety."

It immediately struck a chord, becoming one of Cichon's three most memorable blogs as far as eliciting a response from readers.

"It was definitely the most heartfelt response," said Cichon, who started counseling for depression and anxiety a few months ago.

The three posts all have something in common – Cichon's shared personal stories. The other two blogs receiving a big reaction were about the death of his father in 2010 and the death of his dog about a year later.

"When my dog died – it sounds like a silly comparison – I wrote a heartfelt piece," said Cichon, who writes historical stories for The Buffalo News.

"When my father died, I wrote a similar piece," Cichon said. "People don't often spill their guts in a raw sort of way in public and leave themselves wide open. Whenever you do that — and this is definitely a case of me doing that — people respond to something that speaks to them."

In the post, Cichon shared that he has "been suffering from depression and anxiety as long as I can remember."

"You will read this and never think of me the same way again," he wrote.

In the telephone interview, Cichon said he feels that has happened.

"When you've held something inside and all of sudden it becomes public, I think it is different internally," he said. "I know that people are looking at me and understanding something that they didn't know about me a week ago."

He got the reaction he would have predicted.

Some people told him it "was a good thing you've done." Some people said they were "proud" of him.  And there were those who said they thought "more highly" of him.

"That is mostly the response and that's the response I would have expected," he said.

However, he thinks that down the road some people who lack understanding of mental health issues might think otherwise, that it could even cost him a future job.

"You have two guys who are good and one guy has come out and said he has mental health issues, it might be an easier pick," he said.

But possible repercussions be damned, he had to do it. Finally.

He first thought about writing it when reading a story about the late legendary CBS newsman Mike Wallace's battle with depression.

"As I was reading that 10 years ago, 15 years ago, I was deciding I had to tell my story," Cichon said. "And someday I would. The culmination of that was (June 8)."

"The other part was watching people struggle with how to deal with it," Cichon said. "Not people who understand. This was sort of an expression of people who don't understand, to try to help people understand what is going on."

He thought of writing something after the suicide of fashion designer Kate Spade four days before Bourdain's death.

"This is something I had thought about many times before," Cichon said. "I was very close to trying to figure out how to write something when the news of Kate Spade came out and people were writing things and trying to make sense of it. It didn't come together for me."

It came together after the news of Bourdain's death.

"Almost immediately, as I was sitting in the newsroom, it flowed from my fingertips," Cichon said. "It was my writing style. It is sort of pure emotion. It is different than when I am sitting down writing a piece of journalism."

It also was pure poetry.

•••

If you drive on Route 33 (the Kensington Expressway), you may see a billboard that proclaims, "Shea's Loves Buffalo."

Buffalo also loves the theater, based on the attendance at Shea's and all the local theater companies. But, according to ratings for the Tony Awards, maybe not as much as you think.

The highly entertaining, three-hour plus program June 10 had a 4.0 live rating on WIVB-TV (Channel 4), which is the equivalent of about 24,000 households. A repeat of  "America's Got Talent" had a slightly highly rating on WGRZ-TV (Channel 2).

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