WRITTEN BY NEAL ZOREN
For Digital First Media
Rob Ellis had such a busy week, you’d think his career was managed by Chip Kelly.
Ellis was talking about Kelly and the moves he was making, specifically the shift in quarterbacks from Nick Foles to Sam Bradford, last Tuesday when he opened his 8 p.m. segment on WIP (94.1 FM) to announce he was leaving the sports talk show. At that point, Ellis did not reveal his next destination, but he hinted broadly that he would remain in the Philadelphia broadcast market and that listeners would only have to wait until the morning to learn where he would land.
Wednesday morning came, and Ellis, an Upper Darby native and member of the Monsignor Bonner High School Hall of Fame, was named as one of the inaugural hosts of a new Comcast Network (TCN) morning show called “Breakfast on Broad” and already saddled with the nickname, “BOB.”
Rob on “BOB.” Has a ring to it, doesn’t it?
Ellis is not the only prominent media figure who will depart a major post to join the “BOB” crew. Jillian Mele, who’s been reporting traffic for Channel 10’s morning show, also makes the leap to TCN, where “Breakfast on Broad” hits the air Monday, April 6 at 6 a.m. The show will replay on Comcast SportsNet at 11 a.m.
(Look for an Ellis interview in this space April 6.) Also on “BOB’s” opening day team are Sarah Baicker and former Eagles offensive lineman Barrett Brooks. “BOB” will occupy TCN’s 6-8 a.m. weekday time slot and, true to the station’s purpose, concentrate on sports rather than on general topics.
Sports has never been a big part of morning newscasts. Channel 3’s dawn anchor, Ukee Washington, has a sportscasting background, as does Channel 10 morning henchman, Vai Sikahema, like Brooks a former Eagle. They can work with colleagues to emphasize a sports angle that counts as major local news, but they don’t cover sports on a regular basis. Nor do their shows. Sports, in general, has gotten limited play on local newscasts in recent years, probably because of the 24-hour spotlighting done by TCN’s main partner, Comcast SportsNet, and the national sports channel, ESPN.
While talking about his WIP departure during his last show, Ellis said a person has to take risks. He said when a person is not happy in a particular situation, it’s time to rethink what he’s doing and see what else might be available. Taking a chance on something new might be scary, but, Ellis said, it’s better than wallowing in dissatisfaction.
WIP put Ellis on a roller coaster of sorts in recent months. In January, he was part of an afternoon (2-6 p.m.) team with Anthony Gargano, who left the station without much word about why. Let’s leave it where Gargano left, that contracts weren’t satisfactory, and contracts weren’t signed.
Ellis stayed on his program and worked with a series of co-hosts, but it was clear, almost from the time Gargano quit, that WIP was considering its options and had plans for the afternoon show that might not include Ellis.
When all was decided, they didn’t. The afternoon show was expanded an hour to 1-6 p.m. and given to Josh Innes and Tony Bruno, who continue to feel their way but are doing a good job.
Ellis was moved to solo anchor from 6-10 p.m. Frankly, he was great in this slot. He spoke with reason, explained things well, and had good conversations with callers.
Ellis can be testy if he thinks he’s challenged unfairly or if a caller persists in spouting ideas he regards as nonsense, but on the evening show, he was a calm, scholarly voice as opposed to being a strong personality, as he had to be to compete for air space with Gargano.
I enjoyed Ellis on the 6-10 p.m. slot. But he did not enjoy being there. The move from afternoons to evenings, even though some drive time is involved, was considered a demotion by most people who comment on the radio business.
I’m not sure I agree with that. Especially since working alone seemed to suit Ellis and allowed him to find a personal style that put him in a good light and made him eminently listenable. If I was in my car, I’d wait for a break so I could follow Ellis’ train of thought before I turned off my engine.
“Unhappy” is the word Ellis used on his last day, and “unhappy” was what he talked about on his first day on the 6-10 p.m. slot. Being a gentleman, he did not blast Innes or Bruno. He did express some rancor toward WIP management. It was clear Ellis did not appreciate being yanked from afternoons and that he might appreciate having any host gig, but the new time slot was not exactly what we wanted.
Good for Ellis. He took arms against a sea of trouble. Considering he worked about a dozen years as a producer for CSN, he probably had tentacles in the Comcast gossip mill and knew about the prospective morning show. Landing a host spot on “BOB” is more than a happy ending. It’s an opportunity to launch something original to the Philadelphia market and see how sports competes against the news-weather-traffic cycle on TCN’s competitors, and against Channel 29’s “Good Day.” By being on from 6-8 a.m., “Breakfast on Broad” straddles the local newscasts on Channels 3, 6, and 10 and the national talk shows — “CBS This Morning,” “Today,” and “Good Morning America” — that succeed them.
“BOB” will play twice a day. The live morning program will air on The Comcast Network, while the rerun will air 11 a.m.-1 p.m. weekdays on ComcastSportsNet.
WIP has not announced a permanent replacement for Ellis on the 6 p.m. show. Jody McDonald has moved up to that slot for the shows last week. Brian Haddad has been taking McDonald’s usual 10 p.m.-2 a.m. shift that leads to Big Daddy Graham.
Mele, a La Salle graduate and native of Glenside, covered sports in her first job out of college, in Presque Isle, Maine. Though primarily a morning traffic reporter for Channel 10, she stayed marginally tied to sports as host of “High School Blitz” with John Clark, another Delaware County guy, who moved to CSN from Channel 10 when the NBC station closed its sports department in favor of feeds from CSN, a Comcast sister station.
Brooks, a second-round draft pick of the Eagles in 1995, has been a regular guest on CSN shows for about a decade. “BOB” is his first regular gig.
Baicker has been a fixture at CSN since 2009. She is known most for her hockey coverage but has spoken about all sports on various CSN panels and has reported on the Phillies and, last year, on the Taney Dragons.
Comcast SportsNet said “BOB” is designed to be highly interactive. Viewers are invited to Tweet and send Facebook and other messages to Ellis, Mele, Brooks, and Baicker. URLs that give access to the hosts are www.facebook.com/bobontcn, www.twitter.com/BOBonTCN, and www.Instagram.com/bobontcn.
Get your Irish on
Yes, Philadelphia held its St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday.
But have no fear. Channel 3 knows the big day when everyone is Irish is Tuesday.
It will rebroadcast its parade, in its entirety, from 9 a.m.-noon, with Chris May, Kathy Orr, and Kate Bilo as hosts. Father Kevin Gallagher of St. Denis Parish in Havertown, adds color commentary for what is, amazingly, the 245th St. Patrick’s Day march in the city.
Starting at noon Tuesday, you can watch the parade on Xfinity On-Demand.
Jaquez out at Channel 10
Nefertiti Jaquez and Channel 10 parted ways early last week.
On the surface, a reporter coming or going from Channel 10 barely rates a blip. A lot of people have held mikes for the NBC station in recent times.
The simmering issue is why Jaquez was so summarily dismissed. Channel 10 is not commenting, but the rumor mill — local, national, and in Houston, Jaquez’s market before she came to Philadelphia — is rife with word that Jaquez was fired for prematurely reporting the death of Philadelphia Police Officer Robert Wilson III last Sunday.
On social media, Jaquez said she had three good sources for the information she relayed over the air. Around 5:45, she reported Wilson was dead. On the 6 p.m., she recanted and said he was in extremely critical condition.
If Jaquez overenthusiastically jumped the gun and reported Wilson’s death before it was pronounced, she rates some reprimand. The killing of a police officer is not light news, and Wilson’s family might be listening.
Those three sources are worrisome. They lead to a question about whether Jaquez was hasty and inaccurate or whether official sources wanted to delay the news of Wilson’s succumbing to gunshot wounds he sustained while buying a present for his son.
Haste is one thing. Embargo another. And the pique of the police or public relations another thing entirely.
Given that Channel 10 took such precipitous action, one is given to think Jaquez transgressed. Did she trust sources who didn’t know the real story? If so, it is likely that three people could be in such error? Or did she fly in the face of facts and present a likelihood or surmise instead of news she actually had confirmed?
I am not such a fan of Jaquez that I think it makes a difference whether she’s on local air or not. Channel 10 has strong reporters in Katy Zachry, Tim Furlong, and Rosemary Connors, who also takes an anchor role at 11 a.m. weekday mornings.
I also can’t question Channel 10’s ultimate decision because I am unaware whether there were previous incidents of Jaquez confusing facts, reporting prematurely, or disobeying protocol in revealing the details of a story.
That said, I would back up Jaquez if she was right all along, forced to recant because of public relations pressure, even from the police as they cope with the senseless death of one of their own. Whether Jaquez had any sure basis for reporting Wilson’s passing is the nagging question here.
Channel 10’s action would say no, but I think this is matter the station should make clear.