Longtime WPXI morning and noon anchor Bob Bruce is reuniting with his former co-anchor, Newlin Archinal, but their new venture will not be televised on Channel 11.
Bruce, 56, will retire from his TV job next week to focus on his financial consulting business, Integrity Wealth Consulting LLC, based in Wexford and affiliated with Commonwealth Financial Network. Archinal will work alongside him in the company.
Despite downturns in the TV news business, Bruce's decision to leave WPXI was his. It has been in the works for many months as he planned to retire at the end of his current contract, which is up Dec. 31. He said he told WPXI general manager Ray Carter of his plan in February, when he was approached by Carter about signing a new contract.
"Not many people leave television on their own terms," Bruce said. "So many of my friends left the business under not-ideal circumstances and I thought, 'I don't want that to happen to me.' "
A Memphis, Tenn., native, Bruce joined WPXI in 1996 after working in Minneapolis, Oklahoma City and Phoenix. He began planning his exit strategy in 1998 when he first became a financial planner working with several Downtown Pittsburgh firms. He set himself up as an independent contractor "to make sure there were no conflicts between the company and the station."
Even on his Web site earlier this week, he went by Robert Bruce and there were no photos of the anchor. That will change as he plans to go by Bob on a revamped version of the site ("I own my name again," he said, laughing).
For her part, Archinal knew a year in advance of her departure from Channel 11 that the station planned to move in a different direction (she was replaced by Jennifer Abney). Archinal decided to return to an aspect of the field she worked in after college when she was a business reporter for an all-news radio station in Wilmington, Del. Over the past two years she studied for and earned the licenses necessary to work in personal finance and began working at Bruce's company earlier this year with a focus on retirement planning.
"I miss the people," she said of her former workplace, "but I do not miss having to turn out perfect hair at 3 in the morning on four hours of sleep."
Does Bruce expect to miss the TV business?
"Absolutely not in any way, shape or form," he said, noting that he's eager to become "a civilian" and not have to worry about getting up early or working holidays.
"We both wanted to work more with people individually. For me, this is the end of a 37-year road and 12 years ago I made the decision I wanted to follow a different passion."
Bruce has used vacation time from Channel 11 to take courses in financial planning. He opened his own office almost seven years ago, working with executives, families and small businesses with clients all over the country.
Although Bruce said he did not come to Pittsburgh expecting to stay, it's become his home and he was determined to set up his business locally. His 27-year-old son, Scott, works with him as the firm's chief operations analyst.
"It became my hometown," Bruce said of the city. "I'm tickled to death I ended up here."
The firm will have a public presence, including videos Bruce and Archinal will post to the company Web site, iwcnow.com, and he doesn't rule out radio or TV appearances, possibly with PCNC.
"At this point, there's nothing planned because that would be in conflict with my Channel 11 work, but after the first of the year, I'm definitely looking at doing some things," Bruce said.
He expects to say something about his departure at the end of the morning news next Friday, his last day on the air. "[Traffic reporter] Trisha [Pittman], who is a dear friend, told me she's gonna cry and I said, 'Don't do that, because then I'll cry,' and I could never forgive myself for that."
Bruce praised WPXI parent company Cox Broadcasting and general manager Ray Carter, saying, "As tumultuous as [this business] is with news directors coming and going, they left me alone and let me do my job."
Todd McDermott, a former Washington, D.C., news anchor, was spotted at the station earlier this fall, but yesterday WPXI's new news director, Mike Goldrick, said he was not yet ready to announce who will replace Bruce at the anchor desk.
I flipped around Sunday night to see how the local stations were handling the shooting death of a Penn Hills police officer after first learning of the news from an alert at the bottom of the screen on WTAE.
That graphic looked somewhat different from what Channel 4 has used before but it was effective in conveying information in a quick way that seemed more readable than a crawl. I also appreciated the station's restraint: Everything the folks at Channel 4 knew was easily contained in that thin graphic; there was no reason to interrupt regular programming, which they did not do.
As he did for the April police shooting, weekday WTAE anchor Andrew Stockey came into work and anchored the 11 p.m. news, which began with an unfortunate round of chest-thumping about how Channel 4 -- the station closest geographically to Penn Hills -- was the first TV outlet on the scene. (It would have been a huge failure if they were not, given their proximity.)
"That's absolutely right, Andrew, we were the first [news] crew here," bragged reporter Ashlie Hardway as she began her report. Really? That was the part of the story that was important enough to be the lead?
KDKA seemed to be most on top of the developing story, getting details on the air quickly and even faster online in Twitter posts by reporters Jon Delano and Jim Lokay.
Because WPXI had NBC's "Sunday Night Football," their 11 p.m. newscast was delayed. The station did have Stuart Brown on scene for WPGH's 10 p.m. report.
Monday evening at 5, local stations played a round of battle-of-the-boxes with reporter's heads in multiple boxes on screen at the same time to say, "look how seriously we take this story!" Channel 4 won that (pointless) contest with at least five heads in boxes; KDKA and WPXI had three each.
It's tough to make a new holiday TV special that will enter the pop culture consciousness the way the '60s and '70s classics have but CBS gives it a go tonight with "Yes, Virginia" (8 p.m. KDKA-TV), a passable re-telling of "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus." It's set in the past but produced using computer animation.
It's cute and simple and fine with voice work by Neil Patrick Harris ("How I Met Your Mother") and Jennifer Love Hewitt ("Ghost Whisperer") as Virginia's parents. Macy's is a sponsor and the store is seen in the background of the show, but it's not obnoxious product placement.
The biggest problem is that "Virginia" pales next to "Disney's Prep & Landing," a new Christmas special that premiered Tuesday. It was infinitely more creative as it told the story of two elves who work on an advance team that makes Santa's entry into homes less cumbersome.
John Lasseter, director of Pixar's "Cars" and "Toy Story," executive-produces the half-hour program, which is not a Pixar production but benefits from the same smart, character-driven storytelling that is that company's hallmark. If you missed it this week, "Prep" re-airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Ion TV's "Durham County" returns for a second season Jan. 3 with a two-hour premiere as Michelle Forbes ("True Blood") joins the cast. ... FX renewed "The League" for a second season. ... Verizon's FiOS TV has added an interactive HSN widget that allows customers to make purchases using their remote controls. ... "The Bonnie Hunt Show" will not return after the 2009-10 TV season ends in May. ... TNT has renewed "Dark Blue" for a second season to air next summer. ... BBC America's "Gavin & Stacey" returns for a Christmas episode (10 p.m. Dec. 24) and a third season to premiere in 2010. ... A second episode of locally produced children's show "The Magic Woods," titled "Autumn Leaves Trail," airs on WQED's Create Channel at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow and Dec. 19, preceded by the show's 2003 pilot at 10 a.m. on both days.
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Today's TV Q&A responds to questions about "FlashForward," "Members' Favorites" on WQED and use of the word "busted" in local newscasts. Tuned In Journal includes blog posts about "The Cleveland Show" Christmas episode, A&E's new Jacksons series and "Better Off Ted." Read online TV coverage at post-gazette.com/tv.
In this week's Tuned In podcast, online features editor Sharon Eberson and I discuss fall finales "White Collar" and "Robin Hood." Listen or subscribe at post-gazette.com/podcast.
Contact TV editor Rob Owen at email@example.com or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv.