Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Our Apologies To Leon Bibb

In one of our earlier items surrounding the retirement of Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 "NewsChannel 5" anchor Ted Henry, which starts after tonight's 11 PM newscast, we said Henry was one of the last iconic Cleveland TV news names left.

We mentioned his former co-anchor at WEWS, Wilma Smith, who is now doing a single nightly newscast over at Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 "Fox 8", and long-time WJW meteorologist Dick Goddard.

We mentioned, as an aside, "Fox 8"'s Robin Swoboda, back on the airwaves there as host of the "That's Life" mid-morning talk show, known for her long stint as a news anchor at Channel 8 - when it was a CBS affiliate and the newscasts were called "NewsCenter 8". And...we mentioned veteran WEWS anchor Leon Bibb as an aside, briefly.

We got a little heat for that brief treatment from a couple of Bibb's fans, and we just wanted to know that we did not mean to be dismissive.

When we were writing the previous item, we had something in mind.

Henry has occupied the very same chair at the very same station since he was elevated to evening co-anchor at WEWS in the mid-1970's. If you "Caught 5" any evening between 1976 and 2009, Ted Henry was the face you saw staring back at you through the TV.

Wilma Smith co-anchored with Henry for over 17 years at WEWS, before eventually moving to an evening anchor job at WJW.

To this day, when we see Wilma over at "Fox 8", we close our eyes and see her over at WEWS in the station's "Eyewitness News" days...with the booming voice of voiceover legend and Cleveland icon Ernie Anderson intoning in our head... "TV 5 Eyeeeeeewitnesss News...with Ted Henry! Wilma Smith! And the TV 5 Eyeeeeeewitness News team!"

Fox 8's Dick Goddard, of course, forecast the very first lake effect snow event in Cleveland weather history. OK, maybe not the first. (In case Mr. Goddard is reading, we're gently teasing him.)

Like Henry, Goddard has been in the very same spot at his TV home - South Marginal Road (and WJW's downtown predecessor studio) - for decades...even as the station changed ownership and networks to the younger-skewing Fox network, and went from "NewsCenter 8" to "Eight is News" to whatever else before becoming today's "Fox 8 News".

Then, there's Leon Bibb, who deserves more notice here.

Forgetting the whole "lengthy time as evening 6/11 PM anchor" thing. - a role Bibb had in the 1970's and 1980's at NBC affiliate WKYC/3 - he's indeed a fixture as far as being one of "Cleveland's Own" on borrow a slogan from WJW.

He's displayed a wide range of journalistic talents, and flexibility, over the years. (Take a look at Bibb's NewsChannel 5 bio for a taste.)

And Leon Bibb is perhaps the most literate and creative (and poetic!) of Cleveland's TV news anchors and reporters.

We always wondered why Leon Bibb didn't land as a "primary" anchor after his stint at WKYC. So, here are some reasons why.

After he left Channel 3, Channel 5 installed him as the regular weekend co-anchor, and later moved him to his current post co-anchoring "Live on 5" weekdays at 5 PM.

Perhaps it was just the lay of the land in Cleveland TV back then, with Ted Henry cemented into the weeknight co-anchor slot when Leon Bibb moved to WEWS. WKYC, at the time, was mired in third place...and a perennial third place station doesn't stick with its current talent for long, even if the anchors are not at all responsible for that dismal showing.

It eventually took WJW's shift from CBS to Fox in the mid-1990s to shake up the local news ratings, and to give WKYC a shot at getting out of the ratings basement. And it was nice of the folks at WKYC to fix up the basement when they left, so Raycom CBS affiilate WOIO/19 could enjoy the surroundings.

But yes, we're fans of Leon Bibb here at the Mighty Blog of Fun(tm).

And when he does eventually retire, it'll be a big loss to the Cleveland TV community...


Mike Golch said...

I actually got to meet Mr.Bibb in person this year is is a man whom I would call a class act,and a Viet Nam Vet!

Ed Esposito said...

Leon Bibb is one of the most gracious, talented and genuine there is in the business. His copy sings and should serve as testament to younger writers as well as us old geezers that broadcast journalism is still about the art.