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Emery King, Detroit Station Reach Deal

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Ex-Anchor Will Do Documentaries, but Not News

Fifteen weeks after anchor Emery King was unceremoniously fired from Detroit's WDIV-TV to a community outcry, the Post-Newsweek station announced tonight that it had reached an agreement for King to rejoin the operation July 1.

But, King told Journal-isms, "I'm not an employee of WDIV anymore. I'm an owner and employee of Kingberry Productions," the production company started in 1993 by King and his wife, Jacqueline Casselberry King, "and proud to be. My days of doing news at Channel 4 are over, and it's on to other things."

The station planned to announce on the 11 p.m. news Thursday that, "A new contract agreement has been reached, and Emery will return to the air on Local 4 in the coming months as the producer and host of documentary specials and as host of Local 4's televised town hall meetings," as a station news release put it.

"In the new arrangement, Emery will have the opportunity to continue doing what he has always enjoyed -- writing, producing and hosting documentary feature programs that are of interest to the local community."

The agreement apparently means there will be no African American male anchors at the station, where King, 57, had been an anchor and reporter for 19 years.

It also seemed a way for the station to continue in what some called a more tabloid direction but still keep the serious-minded, old-school anchor identified with the station.

The Detroit Free Press had editorialized in March that, "In a market where TV news has become a sorry mix of thin gruel -- the more violent or tragic the better -- cotton candy and 'gotcha!' reporting, WDIV's decision to dump veteran anchor Emery King wasn't all that stunning. A substantive, thoughtful broadcast journalist, King may have felt out of place, anyway, in the flash-and-dash atmosphere that's so prevalent in local TV newsrooms."

King told Journal-isms, "This has always been a goal of mine, to build Kingberry Productions into a full-fledged production and communications company. This is a really great opportunity for us to move further down that path." Working at WDIV "was more than a full-time job."

King's company has produced documentaries, many on African American subjects, that have been distributed to colleges, libraries and school districts around the country. Under the new agreement, he will host and moderate town hall meetings expected to air twice each year on WDIV, the station said, and exclusively produce documentaries for WDIV among commercial Detroit over-the-air television stations. These programs will "uplift this community, enlighten and inform the public on compelling issues that work to improve this community and make it a better place to live," King said.

To herald King's return, the station taped an interview with King earlier yesterday by his former co-anchor, Ruth Spencer, and planned to air it on the Thursday night newscasts.

Joe Berwanger, vice president and general manager of WDIV, said in the news release, "Throughout the final months of his contract, Emery and I continued to work together in finding the best possible 'next chapter' in his long and storied career. Bringing high-quality local documentaries to our viewers is a great opportunity for our station and something that I've wanted to do. Emery is the perfect person to produce and host these specials, and I'm thankful that it's also the direction that he has wanted to pursue."

[Added July 1: "At the end of the day, we still won't have his institutional memory and his level of integrity," Darci McConnell of the Detroit chapter of National Association of Black Journalists said of King in the Detroit News. "And frankly, we still lose one of the key African-American, on-air political reporters in this region."]

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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