Debbie Denmon, Iola Johnson the latest to sign on as part-time pundits for KTXD-TV's upcoming Texas Daily news program (updated)
08/23/12 04:19 PM
By ED BARK
Add another pair of prominent former WFAA8 anchors to The Texas Daily's roster of part-time pundits.
The list is officially at 14 now with the additions of Debbie Denmon and Iola Johnson to Dallas-based KTXD-TV's latter day D-FW museum of broadcasting.
As previously posted, the Me-TV affiliate will be launching the one-hour Texas Daily on Oct. 1st in an 8 a.m. weekday slot. It's aimed directly at baby boomers who have aged beyond the 25-to-54 age group that's considered the main advertiser target audience for news programming.
Johnson was the first African-American anchor in the D-FW market, debuting on weekends in 1973 before teaming with Tracy Rowlett in 1975 for a ratings-rich 10-year run at 6 and 10 p.m. weeknights. Rowlett also is among KTXD's new hires, although no one other than main anchor Jeff Brady will be expected to log more than one or two appearances per week.
Denmon, sacked in July after a 12-year tenure at WFAA8, at first thought that a standard "non-compete" clause in her contract would prohibit her from being on the air with a rival D-FW station for at least six months. But unbeknownst to her, she said, WFAA8 didn't include that standard language in her final one-year deal with the station. In November of 2011, Denmon lost a discrimination suit against WFAA8 when an arbitrator rule that her case had no merit.
"I just figured it was the same-old, same-old, because it (a non-compete clause) had been in every single one of my previous contracts," Denmon said in a telephone interview Thursday. "It was definitely my fault. They didn't point it out and I didn't look."
Her attorney, Michael Coles, subsequently discovered that she was free to join another station at any point, Denmon said. That included during her time at WFAA8.
"If I had known that, I probably would have reached out to other people while I was at Channel 8," Denmon said. A WFAA8 representative, speaking on condition of anonymity, has confirmed that Denmon's final contract gave her the option of jumping to another D-FW station whenever she pleased.
That's a highly unusual situation, but Denmon and station management hadn't exactly been in close harmony during the latter stages of her career at WFAA8. She was cut loose with three months remaining on her contract, which WFAA8 is honoring in full.
Denmon said she hasn't been actively pursuing full-time work at another D-FW television station.
"I'm just taking this month to sit still, relax and get my bearings," she said. "Spending family time and just figuring out what's important to me. There are no anchor openings right now anyway, and I wouldn't want to go on the air as just a reporter."
Nor does she want to work weekends anymore, Denmon said. "I don't want to do anything out of desperation, and I also want to consider some things outside of TV. I just haven't been in any rush to beat down anybody's door. I'm a laid-back person and I pray a lot about what to do next."
Joining KTXD will reunite Denmon with a slew of former WFAA8 colleagues. But she most wants to meet Iola Johnson, whom Denmon idolized as a kid growing up in North Texas.
"Iola Johnson is the reason I originally got into broadcasting," Denmon said. "So for me it was a no-brainer saying that I would contribute. It's an honor just to be in the mix. I just throught it would be a blast."
Of the 14 veteran TV personalities named as KTXD contributors so far, only one has no former ties to WFAA8. That would be former NBC5 sports anchor Scott Murray.
Besides the aforementioned, the other WFAA8 alumni who have agreed to join The Texas Daily are Troy Dungan, Robert Riggs, Midge Hill, Phyllis Watson, John Criswell, Suzie Humphries, Gary Cogill, Rebecca Rodriguez, Jolene DeVito and John Sparks. Some of them also worked at other D-FW stations during their careers.
And yes, KTXD management also has talked to former NBC5 anchor Jane McGarry, who "resigned" from the station in July after pleading "No Contest" to a heavily publicized DWI charge.
McGarry has not made a commitment yet, but has told KTXD that she'll make a decision shortly.