Dave Wagner, the franchise anchor at WCNC (Channel 36) since 2008, parted ways with the station this week after his contract was not renewed.
His departure comes as Gannett – the McLean, Va.-based media giant that acquired Channel 36 in December 2013 – is making changes to build audience for its Charlotte newscasts, which have long run a distant third to market leaders WSOC (Channel 9) and WBTV (Channel 3).
In the May ratings sweeps, WCNC’s 6 p.m. newscast attracted only 15 percent of local news viewers in the time slot; WSOC’s No. 1 newscast commanded 50 percent.
WCNC began advertising on industry job sites for a new anchor last month, saying it would consider candidates with as little as three years anchoring or reporting experience.
Wagner did not immediately return calls for comment Wednesday.
Replaced Chris Justice
Wagner, 56, arrived in Charlotte in 2008 from NBC affiliate in Cincinnati and replaced Chris Justice, who left WCNC to become a full-time minister. A few months after starting in Charlotte, Wagner launched the Sunday morning public affairs program “Flashpoint” that featured interviews with key newsmakers and journalists.
WCNC news director Matt King did not immediately reply to inquiries about who would succeed Wagner on “Flashpoint” as moderator. Consumer reporter and back-up anchor Bill McGinty has been filling in for Wagner, who announced his departure on Tuesday evening’s newscast.
Wagner, who first went to the winter games in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, made covering the Olympics part of his job at WCNC, attending the games in London, Vancouver and Sochi.
Posed as prisoner
Among other high-profile projects in Wagner’s carrer was a series in 1998 that revealed former Nazi war criminals were receiving Social Security benefits overseas and a 2006 case that resulted in freeing a man from prison who was falsely accused of child molesting.
In 1985, while working for a station in Lexington, Ky., Wagner went undercover. posing as an inmate at the Fayette County Detention Center with the warden’s permission to investigate why the jail was plagued with suicides.
Wagner grew up in Ohio, the son of a United Methodist minister. His family moved from church to church every few years, staying for stretches in Columbus and Dayton.
His brother and his sister followed his father into the ministry. Wagner went to the news business.
He became interested in media while a student at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, near Columbus. He got part-time work as a disc jockey and worked as news director of a station while still in college.
Among his career stops were 12 years in Tampa, Fla., and nearly eight years in Cincinnati.