On George Richert’s first day back as a reporter at WIVB-TV (Channel 4), the big local story was the news conference held by Bishop Richard J. Malone and his lawyers about the sexual abuse allegations involving priests in the Buffalo Diocese.
Naturally, Richert couldn’t be a part of Channel 4's reporting team covering it because only two months earlier he was the director of communications for the diocese.
“Certainly, right now or any time in the near future, I think it would be a conflict of interest,” said Richert in a telephone interview Monday on his first day at Channel 4. “I think it would be viewed it would be tough for me to be objective. We all would consider it a conflict of interest.”
Richert understandably was very careful in talking about his two and a half years at the diocese. He started there in February 2016, leaving his Channel 4 job after 17 years.
He isn’t second-guessing his decision to leave reporting to become a diocese spokesman.
“I thought it was the right thing to do at the right time and I don’t regret trying it,” said Richert. “But I think there is a time and a place for everything and right now the time feels right to be back here.”
He acknowledged the situation at the diocese was tough.
“I suppose,” he said, carefully choosing his words. “Yeah. The whole thing has been a process. I know what I was thinking two and a half years ago when I left … and the last six months especially has been challenging and that’s why I am especially thankful and appreciative to be back to what I know the best, which is reporting on TV. My job got increasingly difficult at the diocese and that was part of the reason why I chose to leave.”
When he left the TV news business, Richert said the “adrenaline rush of chasing news faded away.”
“I have a different perspective now and I am excited to be back and I am thankful to be back,” Richert said.
He declined to say when he started talking with Channel 4 or if he called the station or the station reached out to him about returning.
He said his wife’s reaction about his return to TV was a simple one.
“She said, ‘good for you,’” recalled Richert. “I think most people believe it is where I belong, and I would agree.”
Despite his new enthusiasm, he wasn’t buying the suggestion that everyone should step away from their jobs for a while to get a new outlook.
“I wouldn’t advise it,” said Richert. “But I think it helped me to get a fresh perspective on the unique opportunities that a reporter has. Some days will still be tough but the very next day could put me in a place or a moment that nobody else gets to be at than reporters or photographers.”
When he entered the Elmwood Avenue station Monday he said it didn’t feel any different than when he last worked there.
“Not really, it was warm, I felt very welcome and so much it seemed like I remember in good ways,” said Richert.
Meteorologist Mike Cejka was the first co-worker he saw. Cejka greeted him by saying “welcome back” before other co-workers followed suit.
Of course, Richert won’t “really” be back until he is sent out to cover some nasty outdoor weather by Lake Erie, an uncomfortable job for every Buffalo reporter and one that Richert said he wouldn’t miss when he left Channel 4 in 2016.
“As long as I don’t have to do that three days in a row, I’d be happy to do that,” said Richert. “It gets old after a while. But I don’t mind going back to that.”