The Ben Hoover reaction

Suddenly, Donita Todd, general manager of WIS-TV, seems to be the least popular woman in town.

As you’ve probably heard or read, she’s bearing the brunt of viewer rage over the sudden departure of anchorman Ben Hoover.

Hoover announced the move thusly:

After 6 years of anchoring and reporting at WIS, this Friday, July the 4th will be my last day on the air. Recently, I was informed by station managers that they did not wish to renew my contract. Like so many other anchors and reporters in the past, I wish I was in a position to announce the next opportunity for my family and me. But, to be honest, I didn’t see this one coming. So, as we like to say on the news, you’ll have to stay tuned. And, maybe say a little prayer for my family and me.brgnP616_400x400

One of my closest friends shared this with me in the last few days: “If it’s not fatal, it’s not final…and, if it’s not final, it can be fruitful.” That friend is Judi Gatson. Working side by side with “JG” has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career and life. Judi, Dawndy, Papa Joe, John, Ben, Rick and my core group of “news hounds” here will forever be like family to me. I will miss them like crazy.

Some of the stories I’ve covered over the years have been very heavy and hard to tell. A dad living on the streets after every corner of his life crumbled. The young parents in a fight and race to save their precious little girl. A military mom smiling through raw pain to ensure her son’s legacy (and dimples) aren’t forgotten. All of them, and others, facing down some of life’s greatest challenges. But, what’s always stood out to me is the one common thread that ties them all together – hope.

So, in the name of the dig deep, do good, work hard, “never give up” spirit so many of our viewers have shown me over the years, I say — HOPE is a pretty doggone good thing.

After Friday, you won’t see me on WIS anymore but please stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and email I promise to do the same. Judi Gatson Dawndy Mercer Plank WIS TV John Farley Ben Tanner

After two or three days of protest, the station put out this statement yesterday:

During the last several days much has been posted on social media about Ben Hoover’s departure from WIS news, much of it erroneous.

However, we simply cannot engage in a public conversation regarding details of Ben’s departure from WIS TV. It is a private personnel matter.

We sincerely thank Ben for his service to the station and the community and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.

We also want to thank our viewers for their concerns and comments regarding this matter.

We can assure you that WIS remains fully committed to the excellence you have come to expect from this television station over the last 60 years.

Based on the response to the statement on Facebook, that oil has done little to calm the troubled waters. Some examples:

  • “You got rid of the wrong person. Donita Todd needed to go.”
  • “What part of the comments were “erroneous”? The part that the viewers want him back? That he and Judi were good together? That he put his heart into his work – walking to work in the snow, living with the homeless? Again what part was erroneous?”
  • “I don’t own a Bull. I never have. But I do know what a bull does several times a day. And this smells just like it.”
  • “Excellence is not a word to be used in any way by WIS. You did not allow him OR Judi to anchor the final broadcast. There is NOTHING excellent about that. Rest assured your other employees are planning an exit, because the station has lost it’s moral compass.”
  • “WOW!! I have read through many many discussion forums in my life…NEVER have I read through one where all the comments from the public voicing their opinion are all in agreement!!! The viewers have really spoken and come together on this one! WIS really should re-think their decisions on this one!!!!”

As always, I hate to see a guy lose his job, but there’s an emotional core to this protest that I’m having trouble understanding. Was there this kind of outpouring when David Stanton left? Maybe there was, I don’t recall — I was sort of busy with my own stuff at about that time. Maybe y’all can enlighten me.

Anyway, it must be some comfort to Ben to know he was so appreciated. I hope so.

Thoughts? Observations?

29 thoughts on “The Ben Hoover reaction

  1. Kathryn Braun Fenner

    I don’t watch local TV news, but I recall a significant outcry when David Stanton was whacked, but since so many other journos were getting axed as well, perhaps it got buried. Here several local reporters and maybe an anchor seem to be voluntarily moving on, and Hoover seems to have a boyish charm.
    My guess is that he may have been fired for cause, which cause the station cannot reveal, not for being unpopular.

  2. Barry

    I do recall some backlash when Stanton was let go. But Facebook and Twitter are more ingrained into society now.

    Hoover was very popular. I confess – I liked him. His stories and reporting when he lived downtown in the homeless shelter was as good as anything I’ve seen in Columbia in a long time from local tv.

    His walking about 4-5 miles to work last year in the snow and capturing part of the walk on video wasn’t breaking news stuff- but it was very enjoyable tv and showed a side of someone that wanted to be on the air and report the news.

    I think viewers are sick of the way radio and tv work when it comes to firing people. One day you are on the air and going strong, the next day you are fired – and not allowed back in the building – and the people that have been letting you into their home for years just don’t matter.

    In summary- radio and tv folks treat their employees like trash sometimes .

  3. Doug Ross

    The stations are going for younger, cheaper talent. When that happens, being the white guy is not a privilege.

  4. bud

    Ben Hoover’s story where he went undercover as a homeless person was very good. Hate to see him go. I’m sure if his departure was for cause we’ll find out eventually.

  5. scout

    I remember personally being upset when David Stanton was let go; I don’t remember if there was a public outcry like this though. The difference may be whether or not Stanton had a facebook page himself. Hoover’s posting on his facebook page seems to be where this started and things get shared so quickly these days. My guess is he didn’t and it just wasn’t as much out there for people to react to.

    Ben Hoover seems like a genuinely nice guy from what you can tell on the air. David Stanton seemed to have a bit more depth. It is/was unfortunate for both of them.

    The suddenness of it and seeming lack of notice are what make this odd to me. I guess Kathryn’s supposition makes the most sense.

      1. Mark Stewart

        Interestingly, either way he would have seen it coming – for cause or because of money. His response seems genuine; so I don’t think it fair to either party to settle on a reason without further info.

        1. Kathryn Braun Fenner

          Charles Bierbauer, who knows the biz, says that since his contract was not renewed, it was not likely for cause. Probably money. Hoover didn’t say he didn’t know before his last day. He said he didn’t see it coming, which just means when he found out, which was probably earlier.

      2. Barry

        Hoover has now stated money wasn’t an issue He had already taped some future promos and was told by management to get ready to do another follow up story later this year on the homeless story he did last year.

  6. Brad Warthen

    This has been a very popular post since immediately after it went up, according to Google Analytics. Hardly any comments, though. Just lots of lurkers. Welcome, visitors…

  7. Burl Burlingame

    Television is a harsh mistress. Most people working there know that. Newspaper reporters do it out of love of news, not to make the big bucks or be recognized. (Most if us cringe when that happens.) Television managers don’t let things drag on, either. If you’re out, you’re out.

  8. Perry Rainey

    No, there was not as much backlash when David Stanton was canned but the social media thing was not nearly as prevalent then as it is now. IMO, very unprofessional for Tanner to announce his firing on Facebook. TV mgt can always do what they need/want to do and none of us have the full story. however, it is obvious WIS will lose some viewers over this one.

  9. Kathy Thomas

    I was hoping you’d tell me what the big deal is. My friends are all on the bandwagon. I think Donita Todd’s editorials annoy people. I know the very young anchors give me an eye ache. They make comments about stories that are inappropriate and shallow. “Oh yes, we need to ban sugar!” “Gosh, he should go to jail!”about someone who has not been tried. And will the weather people please quit acting like they make the weather? And who is to say a thunderstorm is bad weather?
    Hmmm I think I got carried away.

  10. O

    Sic Willie, has the low down:
    Having worked at a local TV stations decades ago during college, the firing or “non renewal of contracts” for on air personalities, is and has been a clear pattern. The only one to have survived this long is Joe – Mr. Knowzit. Hopefully Jack Kuenzie will be a lucky one also. If I recall correctly, there has been a series of non renewals since the current GM arrived at channel 10 with the first being Drew Stewart who had brain cancer.

  11. Barry

    BTW – Donita Todd has deactivated her facebook account. I am sure she’s getting blistered.

    The Charleston Post and Courier has also picked up the story.

    WIS screwed up on this one.

    I’ve received Nielsen ratings books the last 2 years. Already decided if I get another one I won’t list WIS in it.

  12. O

    This is purportedly Ben’s status clarification on the Facebook page of “”

    “Here’s what I want you to know.

    Right now, I don’t have a new job and I need to make sure future employers and my community know why I was led to believe that my place at WIS was secure.

    I’ve worked in TV 15 years. I understand and accept that stations have the right to not renew contracts. Especially in situations when ratings might be down or the employee did something wrong, or both sides couldn’t reach a salary agreement. None of those issues applied to me. In fact when I asked why my contract wasn’t being renewed station management assured me I had “done nothing wrong.”

    Please allow me to explain what I meant when I said that I was caught off guard. News management had recently slated me to do a follow up to “Hope in Hard Times” this coming November, after my current contract would have expired. They also planned to have a co-anchor with me in the field at Oliver Gospel Mission. The week before I learned my contract would not be renewed I taped station promotions that historically have run for several months. We were far along in the search for a new house. My children were enrolled in school for the fall. That’s why I walked in with a folder with long-term contract options for management to consider. But, I never had the opportunity to open that folder. There were no negotiations. It was made clear that management did not wish to renew early on in that discussion and that I had “done nothing wrong.”

    My first contract with WIS was 5 years. My latest contract was one year in length. In both cases, both sides had to agree to terms. Some anchors choose longer contracts. Some choose for even shorter than one year. It’s a personal decision. Never was I told that a one year contract would pave the way for my exit. In fact, we agreed to come back together and discuss longer term options. If I entertained potential advancement within the company, never did management indicate or communicate that it would mean I would not be renewed. I have documented on multiple occasions my happiness with my co-anchors at WIS and my openness to calling Columbia my forever home. And, never in discussions did they indicate that my future at WIS was not an option. In fact, I got a very different response.

    I truly appreciate the support from the community. It helps tremendously to keep me going in this short amount of time I have to find a new job. So, from where I sit today, I cannot afford to let vague comments, including those by others outside of the situation and not privy to the details, leave an impression that what happened was something that I did or it was just a parting of ways. That’s simply not true.

    My announcement last Thursday was in line with how I was trained, my high standards of journalism, and with what’s been a big part of my career – doing the right thing. Viewers don’t deserve to be caught off guard or wonder for weeks where someone they’ve seen for 6 years has gone. And, nobody deserves to get half of the truth. I’ve always put the viewer first. That’s what I will continue to do. And, it is possible to do that while still being a loyal employee.

    I don’t know where my next job will take my family and me. I’ve been put in a position to consider anything and everything. Right now, Columbia is home. And, in order to move on both professionally and personally I needed to fill in some blanks so that there would not be any questions that could negatively impact my family or my pursuit to find another job.”

  13. Carole Keivit

    First, I address K.Braun Fenner, WHAT ! Grudge ?? How do you create that from this man’s
    tatement? He wrote a “Hartfelt, “straight from the hip” account of where he was and where he
    is now. They come Very few, as Genuine as this man. He knew is work, he had just enough
    seriousness, and appropriate lite humor. You could see his “”Real interactivness with his co-
    worker’s, and his “Chuckle”, like only he had and I would find myself smiling. He had the
    “Perfect blend” of a personna with everyone, on the Air, and out to viewier’s. I wish enough People, would be willing to “Boycott” WIS & shut them out , make a difference to get Ben Hoover, back. However, the otherside of that is Ben, would still know, if he was brought
    back, because we the people wanted, him back & fought for it. He may always feel, it’s not
    the same, because WIS was the willing ones to let him go, and they had a “Gem”. Many of
    of our “Wishes” are the same, but I believe now Ben Hoover, wants to start fresh, and he
    can Always hold his head high, where ever he goes. I ” Hope” he can stay near by, but wherever he fares the Best ! I wish that ofcourse for him and his Family. I “Hope” one day
    he’ll be an anchor on one of the main Affiliate’s…. C Keivit

  14. Carole Keivit

    Pls excuse, The word statement, somehow the S was chopped off. Also hartfelt, is spelled
    heartfelt, didn’t see that, I pride my spelling, Thanks ! C Keivit

  15. Carole Keivit

    Ms. Fenner, I meant to get back sooner to say I’m sorry, with the structure of your
    sentence,it did, for me anyway, sound like you were saying the grudge was on
    Mr Hoover’s part. I did think about it, and theres no way I could see WIS having a
    grudge toward Mr. Hoover. What could he have possibly done ? There’s
    never been any sign of any discord with his co-worker’s that leaked out & it would.
    He spoke highly of the whole crew he’s worked with. Have you noticed the flood of
    new young people that have just shown up close together? and then the few that
    left rapidly too? I scarcely noticed that Jody Barr was gone, because it was so fast.
    Maybe some of them had offer’s or they looked for other position’s. The main thing,
    is we do not know, nor apparently,did poor Ben Hoover. He said, he didn’t even get
    to open his folder, when he must have been “Blindsided” that he was being let go &
    no-one wanted to see what he had to show them that may have been great idea’s
    for what he could contribute for new idea’s in many area’s. He was just shot down
    and he didn’t deserve that for what he had given them and us already. I’ve heard of
    the Donita Todd deal, & then that there are more Station Mgr’s ??? You can train a
    Multi type person as a second Mgr. but Three ? Thats where the money’s going &
    the too many Intern news people pouring in. I came here when Jack Kinsie & David
    Stanton were like almost kids, Me too. Susan Aude was in weather. There was Joe
    Daggett. They Axed David Stanton sometime back too, and he was very good, I don’t
    get this State’s job Ethic’s Or Lack of. Until here, never heard of Right to hire, Right to
    fire. Really E-Z way to Manipulate people with the work system. It really just gets me
    that no-one has to tell you WHY your being let go. I wonder is it not legal to if you
    can afford the cost, to take them to court and demand to know what their reason
    was. They’d trump one up. I end here, I’ve been praying for Ben & his Family. I hope
    one day soon we see him in a top spot like Craig Melvin has. Ben deserve’s as much.
    All my BEST to the Hoover’s Carole Keivit

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