KDKA says Don Cannon ill, as news anchor misses shift

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News anchor Don Cannon appeared dishevelled and unable to read the TelePrompTer during KDKA-TV's 6 p.m. Saturday broadcast, prompting calls from viewers to the station as well as e-mails and calls to the Post-Gazette. Cannon did not appear on later newscasts and was also off Sunday.

KDKA general manager Chris Pike issued a statement Monday, but it didn't fully explain Cannon's behavior.

"Don wasn't feeling well during Saturday's 6 p.m. newscast and as a result was excused from the later evening shows," Pike said. He did not say when Cannon may return to the air. Cannon had been off the air for several weeks before returning Saturday.

Don Cannon -- KDKA mum on when anchorman will return.
Click photo for larger image.

A call to Cannon's cell phone was not answered. The mailbox for voice mail was full and not accepting new messages. A call to his home was answered by a woman who would not identify herself, saying, "I have nothing to say."

Cannon, 67, has a public history of battling depression and alcoholism.

In February 1993 while working for WTAE, Cannon was charged with drunken driving. At the time, a family spokesperson attributed the incident to clinical depression. In December 1994, Cannon appeared on a WTAE newscast in which he had difficulty speaking coherently. In January 1995, he spoke to the Post-Gazette about his problems and revealed he had stopped taking anti-depression medication before the on-air meltdown.

"I knew there was something going on in my head that I didn't quite understand," Cannon said at the time. "But I also said, 'You've got a responsibility, and this is your job, and you've been here 25 1/2 years, and you've done this about 13,500 times by any calculation.' It's like riding a bicycle. Once you do it you never forget how to do it. That night, I fell off the bicycle."

A few days after the Post-Gazette interview, Cannon "voluntarily resigned by mutual agreement," according to WTAE's then-general manager Jim Hefner. Cannon was hired by KYW in Philadelphia that year but quit three months later. After that, he worked part-time as a news anchor for a San Diego, Calif., radio station.

In 1999, Cannon was hired by KDKA-TV to anchor the morning newscast; seven months later, Cannon moved to his current weekend anchor slot. At the time of his hiring by KDKA, Cannon discussed his troubles with depression and acknowledged he had an alcohol problem.

"And basically I had one -- me and about 18 million other Americans -- and it took me a while to confront it, accept it and get over it," he told the Post-Gazette in 1999. "Realistically, if you want to be honest, I'm a full, firm believer in the one-day-at-a-time philosophy. That's the only way it works, as far as I know."

TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Ask TV questions at www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Q&A.


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