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More drama hits home at WCCB

By Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

Turbulence continues at WCCB (Channel 18) with the departure this week of anchor Israel Balderas.

Balderas, who anchored the station’s 10 p.m. newscast with Morgan Fogarty, was fired Monday with about six months left on his contract and a week left in the May sweeps period.

Balderas said his dismissal came as a shock.

“I am extremely disappointed with a series of unfortunate decisions that have been made at WCCB,” Balderas said. “I’m in the process of evaluating all of my options with my attorney Adam Ross.”

Station manager Jim White said the company can’t comment on personnel matters. Insiders say the dismissal came after Balderas had a confrontation with a co-worker where voices were raised.

It wasn’t anything of the magnitude of the scrap that led to the departure of Balderas’ predecessor, anchor Brien Blakely, in January 2011. Blakely and a producer came to blows at the station’s studios at Television Place and Blakely wound up with six stitches in his nose. Blakely landed on his feet – he is now an anchor in Seattle.

Balderas, 42, joined WCCB in 2010 on the “Fox News Rising” show. After moving to the 10 p.m. news, his energetic delivery made for good chemistry with Fogarty, the station’s franchise player.

Balderas, who filled in at Fox News Channel’s Washington bureau while he pursued a law degree at Catholic University, is a political junkie who was prominent in the station’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention last September and has been increasingly covering local political issues since, including a focus on the Interstate 77 toll lanes proposal.

Balderas was named TV anchor of the year in November by the Radio Television Digital News Association of the Carolinas.

Kirk Hawkins, who joined the station a year ago from the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, filled Balderas’ place on the newscast.

Balderas’ departure is the latest distraction to hit the station. In January, Fox notified WCCB that it would be switching its programming to WJZY (Channel 55) after purchasing the station from Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting, meaning the loss of ratings magnets like “American Idol,” NASCAR and Panthers games. WCCB will begin carrying network shows from the CW network July 1 and will rebrand the station from the old “Fox Charlotte” to “WCCB Charlotte CW.”

Media Movers

At WFAE-FM (NPR, 90.7), Duncan McFadyen moves from weekday “Morning Edition” host to a new reporting position. He will also host “Morning Edition” on Saturdays, replacing part-timer Joey Popp, who has done the weekend show for 16 years. It is part of an expansion that will include the creation of an online content producer for WFAE’s newsroom to improve digital coverage, said program director Dale Spear. As WFAE conducts a nationwide search for a new morning host, Marshall Terry will fill in on “Morning Edition.” …

Next week, the American Advertising Federation-Charlotte will honor Beth Hernandez, communications manager for Balfour Beatty Construction, as its 2013 Silver Medal Award winner. Hernandez is a former president of the Charlotte chapter. … Harold Johnson, longtime WSOC (Channel 9) sportscaster, is back on TV, doing ads for Black Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in his native Statesville. …

Speed channel will air at 8:30 p.m. Sunday another “Inside the Headsets” instant documentary from Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. It will be produced by NASCAR Productions’ Charlotte office and feature highlights and audio from drivers, crews and announcers. … Janaye Williams of Charlotte will be a contestant on “The Price Is Right,” 11 a.m. Monday on WBTV (Channel 3). … “Wheel of Fortune” will have its Wheelmobile at Town & Country Toyota on South Boulevard on Saturday and Sunday to interview potential contestants for the show.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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