Fox 7 promotes from within to fill ‘Good Day’ anchor slot

Tania Ortega (Fox 7 photo)

Reporter Tania Ortega, a regular presence on Fox 7’s morning newscasts for almost five years now, is taking over as anchor of the weekend editions of “Good Day Austin.”

Ortega replaces Ann Wyatt Little, who recently left to work as an anchor/reporter at sister Fox station WJZY in Charlotte, N.C.

“Tania has covered everything from hurricanes and tornadoes to features for ‘Good Day Austin,’ ” Fox 7 vice president and news director Pam Vaught said. “Because she is tuned in to the city of Austin and the interests of its people, Tania is the ideal person to take over this anchor position.”

Ortega arrived in Austin after holding a variety of positions at two separate TV stations in Waco. She’s a graduate of San Diego State University.

“After four and a half years of reporting on location for ‘Good Day Austin,’ I’m excited to provide viewers with the news of the day and the human interest stories they love, all from the anchor desk,” Ortega said.

The weekend edition of “Good Day Austin” airs from 6 to 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

KXAN names new weeknight anchor

Sydney Benter (KXAN photo)

KXAN has wrapped up its search for a new weeknight anchor to sit alongside veteran Austin broadcaster Robert Hadlock.

Sydney Benter will take over for Shannon Wolfson, the city’s NBC affiliate announced Tuesday.

Wolfson revealed in August that she’ll be leaving the station in late November to focus more time on her family and to do some traveling.

Benter arrives from Cincinnati, Ohio, where she works as an anchor and reporter for the city’s CBS and MyNetworkTV affiliates.

“I’m looking forward to joining an award-winning team with such a strong commitment to quality storytelling,” Benter said. “In a day and age when news is available 24 hours a day and in 140 characters or less, KXAN’s in-depth, investigative approach sets it apart from all the rest.”

Benter will start in mid-December, according to KXAN, co-anchoring the station’s top-rated 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts, as well as the 9 p.m. newscast on sister station KNVA, Austin’s CW affiliate.

“Sydney is a stand-out storyteller who has a captivating and compassionate way of communicating,” KXAN news director Chad Cross said.  “Her dynamic reporting style will complement our team.”

A Cincinnati native, Benter has a journalism degree from the University of Cincinnati.

“At KXAN, we remain focused on delivering the most compelling and informative local reporting that touches the daily lives of our viewers,” said Eric Lassberg, vice president and general manager for KXAN and KNVA. “After conducting a nationwide search, we found Sydney aligns with our in-depth, investigative brand.”

Look for Buda man on Wednesday’s ‘The Price Is Right’

Trustin Volesky (FremantleMedia North America photo)

Look for a Buda man this week on “The Price Is Right.”

Trustin Volesky got to “come on down” during a recent taping of the popular game show hosted by Drew Carey.

You can catch the episode and see how he does Wednesday at 10 a.m. on CBS Austin.

CBS Austin, Telemundo Austin team up with Red Cross to host Harvey phone bank

CBS Austin and sister station Telemundo Austin will host a daylong phone bank Tuesday to raise money for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.

The stations, which are both owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, have partnered with the American Red Cross, which will distribute funds that are raised.

English- and Spanish-speaking operators will be answering calls Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 10:35 p.m., when CBS Austin’s 10 p.m. newscast wraps up.

The number to call is (512) 832-7575.

Anchor Shannon Wolfson leaving KXAN

Shannon Wolfson (KXAN photo)

KXAN news anchor Shannon Wolfson will leave the city’s NBC affiliate later this year.

Wolfson, who co-anchors with Robert Hadlock at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on KXAN and at 9 p.m. on sister station KNVA, will depart in late November to focus more time on her family and to do some traveling, according to a post on kxan.com.

“If I were to continue in TV news, I’d be staying right here at KXAN,” Wolfson said in the post. “This is one of the strongest news operations in the country, and I have been so lucky to be an anchor at KXAN. I would like to thank my KXAN family and our loyal viewers for the incredible support.”

During two different stints at the station, the University of Texas graduate has held a variety of positions, including general assignments reporter, investigative reporter, 9 p.m. anchor and, since 2013, co-anchor of all four evening newscasts produced by KXAN.

Wolfson took over for Leslie Rhode, who also left the station citing a desire to spend more time with her family.

Wolfson’s job has already been posted on kxan.com.

 

 

YouTube TV set to add CBS Austin to its growing lineup

Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of Austin’s CBS affiliate, has signed a deal that will add its stations nationwide to YouTube TV, YouTube’s streaming TV service.

A timeline for when CBS Austin will join YouTube TV, one of a growing number of web-based cable TV competitors, hasn’t been announced.

As part of the deal, YouTube TV will also carry the Tennis Channel, a cable network owned by Sinclair.

Nationwide, Sinclair currently owns – or is in the process of acquiring – stations in 108 TV markets.

The YouTube TV lineup offers more than 40 cable TV networks, as well as cloud DVR service, for $35 per month. In many cases, however, local network affiliates, are not available as YouTube works to negotiate contracts similar to the one it hammered out with Sinclair.

AT&T’s DirecTV Now, a similar service, has also been working to reach deals with owners of local network affiliates. In Austin, it recently added ABC affiliate KVUE to its lineup after signing a pact with the station’s owner, Tegna.

CBS Austin connecting foster children with ‘Forever Families’

Destinee and Lindsay Liepman (CBS Austin photo)

With all the craziness in the world, it’s always nice to see news outlets devote some time to positive, upbeat stories that put a smile on your face.

That’s exactly what’s happening over at CBS Austin, where the station’s new “Forever Families” franchise aims to connect Central Texas foster children with adoptive parents.

If that name sounds familiar, it should. The series had aired for years on Spectrum News, but it was one of several specialty segments the 24-hour cable news channel dropped earlier this year.

CBS Austin news director Rob Cartwright said “Forever Families” fits right in with the station’s desire to deliver community-focused journalism.

Krayshawn and Lindsay Liepman (CBS Austin photo)

“The foster care system is often in the headlines for all the wrong reasons,” he said. “We wanted to do what we could to help some of these children find their forever families.

“It is our honor to work to connect children who have lived a majority of their lives in foster care with a forever family. The reaction we have gotten from people who have seen the segment online and in our newscasts has been amazing.”

Anchor/reporter Lindsay Liepman is producing the reports, which air Wednesdays during CBS Austin’s 6:30 p.m. newscast. The segments are also archived on cbsaustin.com.

Liepman said she grew up watching legendary Dallas news anchor Gloria Campos, whose “Wednesday’s Child” segment on WFAA-TV helped connect countless foster children with adoptive parents.

“The impact she made is immeasurable in both the community and for each child who was adopted,” Liepman said. “All these years later, the need is still there. It’s an opportunity to give more of myself to create real change in a child’s life. I wanted to do it for the kids. I wanted to do it for all the caseworkers and volunteers who are working with our state’s foster children every day.”

A mother of four, Liepman said many of the stories she hears are simply heartbreaking. It’s her goal to help heal that heartbreak.

Beth and Lindsay Liepman (CBS Austin photo)

“I have three boys and a baby girl – all of them 5 years old and younger,” she said. “When I come home after spending time with a ‘Forever Families’ child, I hold my kids closer. I share their stories with my kids and explain how I’m trying to help. It’s making me a better mom. When a child makes an imprint on your heart, it never leaves. It’s the difficult part of telling their stories every week.  But even though the work is hard, it’s important.”

The children she meets are all so incredibly different, Liepman said. That can make it hard, at times, to relate. But she says she’s always able to eventually break down walls and get camera-shy kids out of their shells.

“Some of the children I’ve felt an instant connection,” Liepman said. “Others I’ve had to work hard to build rapport and trust. Interviewing children can be difficult because so much of their personality isn’t in what they say on camera. It’s what you observe them doing. I want each story to reflect the child’s hopes and dreams so they have a chance to shine.”

Reaction, so far, has been phenomenal, Liepman said, and she’s looking forward to sharing some success stories in the coming weeks and months.

Casimiro and Lindsay Liepman (CBS Austin photo)

“The Central Texas community has rallied behind the segment and liked, shared and tweeted each story,” she said. “Within the newsroom, we are all grateful for the chance to do this type of storytelling and we’re all waiting for the update that one of our ‘Forever Families’ children has been adopted. I’ve been told many times the segments have brought viewers to tears. I’m glad people are connecting with the kids.”

CBS Austin debuting new late-night show, ‘Austin After Hours’

Taylor Ellison (CBS Austin photo)

Look for a new locally produced show to pop up next month on CBS Austin.

“Austin After Hours” with host Taylor Ellison will debut Aug. 5 at 10:35 p.m., featuring extended interviews with the people and places who help make Austin such a one-of-a-kind place to live.

The series will air the first Saturday of each month following CBS Austin’s 10 p.m. news.

“The only thing I love more than living in Austin is getting to share the joy of this city with others,” said Ellison, who also co-hosts the station’s weekday lifestyle show, “We Are Austin.” “I look forward to sharing these uniquely Austin stories in hopes that they my uplift and inspire audiences everywhere.”

The first installment includes interviews with “Everybody Loves Raymond” executive producer Phil Rosenthal, ceramic artist Keith Kreeger and soul-pop guitarist Jackie Venson.

“‘Austin After Hours’ gives us the opportunity to highlight Austin in a format that is as unique as our city,” said CBS Austin vice president and general manager Amy Villarreal.

After health scare, KVUE anchor ready to return to work

Jenni Lee

Jenni Lee was in the middle of anchoring KVUE’s “Weekend Daybreak” when it happened.

Blurry vision. A hellacious headache. Nausea. Something was clearly very, very wrong.

“I couldn’t even read the TelePrompTer,” she said. “I went straight to the ER after that.”

After some tests, doctors told her, in essence, that part of her brain was dangling into her spinal column. Subsequent neurologist visits confirmed she had an ailment known as Chiari Malformation One.

Lee has been off the air since, but after a three-month leave she’s feeling better and ready to return. Look for her to pop up this Saturday and Sunday. Then, after a long-planned trip, she’ll be back on the anchor desk for good.

“All the people who prayed, all the messages … they really do mean the world to me,” she said. “I’m going to choose to believe it worked. They carried me through. I want to thank everyone.”

That includes her husband, in particular, who cared for their son and performed countless other tasks while Lee was bed-ridden.

“He was the backbone of the family,” she said. “When I couldn’t do anything, he did everything.”

Doctors don’t know why the crippling pain has lessened, Lee said. Should it return, the longtime Austin news anchor could be forced to undergo surgery to remove part of her skull, relieving built-up pressure.

“The brain is a big mystery,” she said. “We’re not sure why the symptoms stop or when they could come back.”

One thing that’s not a mystery is what likely triggered the symptoms of Chiari Malformation One. Lee said she was skiing earlier this year when she fell, her head slamming into some ice.

“The symptoms typically present themselves in people in their 20s through 40s after they’ve had a head injury,” Lee said.

While the worst symptoms have largely subsided, Lee said she still is dealing with a number of issues such as pain in her neck and arms and tingling in her hands. She plans to ease her way back into work, with the help of colleague Cori Coffin, who will co-anchor with Lee this weekend to make sure everything goes okay.

“KVUE has been wonderful. They’ve really worked with me,” Lee said. “They’ve done everything possible to make sure my transition is a successful one and, for that, I’m truly thankful.”

Denver TV exec to lead KVUE’s newsroom

Tim Ryan (KVUE photo)

A new boss will soon be calling the shots in the KVUE newsroom.

The city’s ABC affiliate has hired Tim Ryan to serve as news director.

Ryan arrives from KUSA, the NBC affiliate in Denver, where he’s been assistant news director since 2000.

Both KUSA and KVUE are owned by Tegna.

Ryan replaces Mike Redding, who is departing after less than a year on the job for another position with Tegna.

“Tim has been on the forefront of innovation and excellence at KUSA,” KVUE president and general manager Kristie Gonzales said. “We’re happy to have his immense skillset in the building to continue the ratings and digital momentum at KVUE.”

Prior to Denver, Ryan worked as an anchor, reporter, photographer, producer and assignment editor at TV stations in Wichita, Kan., and Fort Smith, Ark.

Ryan has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and a master’s from the University of Colorado at Denver.