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WGRZ's Genero, Waldman to make local TV history after O'Connell's departure

The departure of Kevin O'Connell from the Channel 2 weather team more than a week ago has quietly led to some local TV history being made.

It is believed WGRZ will have a woman as its regular meteorologist on weekday evening newscasts for the first time in about a half-century in Buffalo.

Actually, it will be two women.

Heather Waldman and Maria Genero will split the duties on the 5, 5:30, 6, 10 and 11 p.m. weekday newscasts, Channel 2 News Director Athan Kompos announced to the staff late Tuesday.

Doris Jones, who was inducted in the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1999, is believed to be the first woman to have had regular weekday evening weather assignments in the 1960s.

According to local media historian Steve Cichon, June Bacon-Bercey was Channel 2's regular evening meteorologist in the early 1970s.

Since then, forecasters have been men — many of them becoming legends — who have dominated the evening time period.

WKBW-TV (Channel 7) has used Tom Jolls, Mike Randall, Aaron Mentkowski and Andy Parker on the evening weekday shifts, WIVB-TV (Channel 4) has used O'Connell, Don Paul, Lou McNally, Ted Textor and now Todd Santos, and Channel 2 has used Barry Lillis, Paul and O'Connell.

O'Connell's departure has led to several members of the station's weather team getting promotions.

Genero's visibility will significantly increase. Starting in late August, she will be part of the three early evening newscasts on a Monday-through-Friday shift. Until then, she will remain on the weekend edition of the morning program "Daybreak" and be involved in the early evening newscasts Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Waldman, who was hired in January of 2017 in anticipation of O'Connell's retirement and instead primarily worked weekends, started weekdays a few weeks before O'Connell's departure. She will do weather on the 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts in addition to being part of early evening newscasts.

Patrick Hammer, who was initially hired to replace O'Connell in 2015, is the station's chief meteorologist and will remain on the weekday version of "Daybreak." Mornings have become very important to local TV stations.

Jennifer Stanonis will be back permanently as the weekend evening weather anchor and be a reporter on other days of the week.

Kevin O'Neill will get an expanded weather role in August, taking Genero's position on the weekend "Daybreak" and continuing to do live feature shots on the weekday version of the morning program.

The station doesn't need to replace O'Connell with a full-timer, but it may need a part-time fill-in during heavy vacation periods.

O'Connell's lengthy, recorded goodbye on Channel 2's 6 p.m. news July 16 helped the station get an unusually high 10.0 rating. By comparison, Channel 4 had a 7.6 at that hour. The goodbye didn't help at 11 p.m., when Channel 4 took its accustomed lead by a slim margin, 6.4-6.3.

The goodbye was vintage O'Connell, but still a little weird and awkward. It probably was recorded instead of live so Channel 2 executives knew what he was going to say after his forced exit and so it could re-air at 11 p.m.

O'Connell was as enthusiastic as usual, making sure viewers knew he wasn't retiring and he would continue to be a community supporter. In that sense, it seemed a little self-congratulatory while trying not to be.

He probably should have mentioned the meteorologists above who remain at Channel 2 and have patiently waited for him to exit.

The weird and awkward part was that co-anchors Scott Levin and Maryalice Demler didn't say anything about O'Connell after his speech and the tribute ended.

However, the co-anchors did introduce the O'Connell tribute before their former teammate spoke.

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