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Montgomery-Selma

Alabama Anchor Returns from Heart Surgery

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John O’Connor, anchor at Montgomery NBC affiliate WSFA, has returned to work after heart surgery. WSFA meteorologist Eric Snitil posted a photo of O’Connor (right) to Facebook, with the message “so happy to see our buddy John O’Connor back behind the anchor desk only a little more than 4 weeks after sextuple bypass surgery. Hasn’t missed a beat!”

O’Connor reported having chest pains while walking a flight of stairs, and was in surgery days later. Doctors say he’s recovering well.

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WSFA Anchor John O’Connor Recovering from Open Heart Surgery

Viewers of WSFA, the NBC affiliate in Montgomery, Ala, may have noticed the absence of anchor John O’Connor over the past two weeks. He had good reason to be out. On Wednesday, November 5, O’Connor, 58, had unexpected open heart surgery and six bypasses.

“I went from not even thinking about it and less than a week later, I’m on the operating table,” O’Connor told WSFA reporter Morgan Carlson.

In the video above, O’Connor explains how it all started about two weeks ago, when he experienced some chest pain climbing a flight of stairs. The pain progressed over the weekend, spreading from the right side of his chest to a numbness in his arm. That’s when he went to the the walk-in clinic and received his diagnosis.

Doctors told O’Connor that his heart is otherwise healthy and that his condition was genetic.

O’Connor will spend the next several weeks in recovery. His anchor chair will be waiting for him upon his return: “When John is ready to come back, we will welcome him, and you will see him anchoring and reporting on WSFA 12 News again.”

Allen Henry Joins WSFA in Montgomery

allen henryAllen Henry has joined WSFA, the NBC affiliate in Montgomery, Ala., as a reporter in the East Alabama bureau.

“I’m excited to be joining the team here at WSFA. Everyone here has been great in helping me make the transition, especially our news director Scott Duff,” Henry told TVSpy. “I’m looking forward to getting started in the new East Alabama bureau, made possible with the partnership with Auburn.”

Henry is a recent graduate of Ohio University, where he majored in broadcast journalism with a specialization in sociology and political science. While he was there, he worked as a multimedia reporter, anchor and assignment editor for PBS affiliate WOUB.

WAKA News Director Leaves After One Month

WAKA_logoJack Pagano, the newly appointed news director for Montgomery, AL, CBS affiliate WAKA has left the station after being hired in May.

Pagano told TVSpy he left so he could take care of a family issue, adding. “I will seek another run in broadcasting as soon as my family situation is resolved.”

A retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, Pagano said he may return to the battlefield. “I’ve been asked/selected for a return although the “heat” is hotter than ever in Iraq and Afghanistan.  My “nine lives” have been used.”

Pagano replaced Rob Martin, who left the station for WIAT in Birmingham.

What Are Local Stations Covering?

In the Montgomery, AL, market, three of the four local stations are tangled up with each other through ownership or partnership agreements.  ABC affiliate WNCF and CBS affiliate WAKA are owned and/or operated by Bahakel Communications while WAKA produces the news for FOX affiliate WCOV.

If you look at the story selection, stacking of the show and even on-air talent between WAKA and WCOV it shows. Watch WNCF and the stories look like they were shot by the same photojournalist who shot the FOX and CBS affiliate’s stories.

WAKA Adds Jack Pagano as News Director

WAKA_logoJack Pagano has been named news director for Montgomery, AL, CBS affiliate WAKA.

Pagano replaces Rob Martin who recently left for WIAT in Birmingham. He’s a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel who told TVSpy he’s participated “in many overseas conflicts.”

“I played a huge role in developing the Afghanistan GMIC- Government Media and Information Center which trained hundreds of Afghans in the art of information,” Pagano said when he told us he worked in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013 as a senior strategist government contractor.

He’s worked as news director at WWAY in Wilmington, and has also worked in Dallas, Miami and Richmond. In the mid 1990s, he was a Pentagon producer and correspondent for FOX News.

Alabama TV Trailblazer Norman Lumpkin Dies

Norman Lumpkin, the first African-American TV reporter in Montgomery, AL, has died.

According to WSFA, one of Lumpkin’s first assignments when he started at the NBC affiliate in 1969 was to cover then Governor George Wallace‘s 1970 re-election campaign.

Despite the racial tension of the era, in which he was purposefully given false information by some in order to discredit his work, Norman pushed on and ultimately gained the respect of politicians and viewers for his work. Wallace, who was a staunch segregationist, made sure Norman was invited to each campaign event.

Lumpkin left WSFA in the 1990s to work as news director at the city’s ABC affiliate WNCF. He then went on to work as public relations director for the Alabama Highway Department.

“I learned a lot from Norman – not just about race, politics and the TV news business – but about respecting people regardless of their station in life,” former WSFA anchor Bob Howell told WSFA. “Each of us who knew or worked with him owes him a great debt of gratitude.”

Sportscaster Stephen Gunter Joins WSFA

Stephen Gunter has joined WSFA, the NBC affiliate in Montgomery, Ala., as a weekend sports anchor and reporter.

Gunter, an Alabama native, joins WSFA from WLBT in Jackson, where he has worked as weekend sports anchor since 2010. He made his debut on WSFA Thursday.

Gunter replaces Derek Steyer, who left WSFA after 14 years to join WFMJ in Youngstown, Ohio.

WSFA Debuts New Set

WSFA, the NBC affiliate for Montgomery, AL, has debuted a new set.

Designed by FX Design Group, the set has a working weather center and a separate spot for stand ups. Behind the standing anchor desk (pictured), a large monitor sits inside a wood background piece.

The station has included a picture gallery on its website showing multiple angles of the new design. Click here to view. You can also see more photos after the jump. Read more

WSFA Sets Record Straight Over Onion Article About Alabama

WSFA is going on the offensive to clear up any misconceptions regarding a recent posting on the station’s facebook page making it appear as if reporter Jennifer Oravet believed an article in the satirical newspaper The Onion was real.

Friday, TVSpy reported Oravet appeared to believe an Onion article claiming the real-life public relations firm of Hill & Knowlton had encouraged the United States government to distance itself from the state of Alabama. At 12:22 p.m. on Thursday, Oravet posted to the station’s facebook page, “I contacted the PR firm listed in this article, they claim the article is “ficticious” and have no involvement in the alleged study.” See the screengrab of her post after the jump.

On its 4:00 p.m. news the same day, the Montgomery, AL, NBC affiliate aired a story where Oravet tells viewers The Onion story was fake.  Anchor Mark Bullock tossed to Oravet for her report saying, “Jenn we know this article has no news basis.” Read more

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