Forget the anchors. These are the faces you don't know, steering the ships of local television news. And for the first time in two decades, there's a wave of change.
All of Richmond's network affiliates soon will have new bosses in place — around the same time — with veteran Nancy Kent Smith, in her 20th year as news director of NBC-12, taking a promotion as regional director.
Starting Sept. 1, she'll supervise the Raycom news departments in several cities, including Cleveland, Cincinnati and Tucson, Ariz. — while keeping her eye on Richmond from her office here. "I'm actually moving down to a dark, dank, windowless room," she says.
She's handing her old office keys over to Frank Jones, who's been with the affiliate since 1992. Jones has climbed his way up from producer as operations have expanded through the years to nearly 50 hours of news programming weekly for three stations — NBC-12, CW and Fox 35.
"He's ready for it," Smith says, "ready to take it into the next generation."
Don't expect any kind of overhaul, Jones says: "I'm blessed that I am leading the No. 1 news organization in town. We have a great staff and a lot of hard workers here. And I've been here. So I've been part of the process all along."
Any changes will be viewer-driven, he says.
Another insider was pulled from the ranks across town at CBS-6, which recently was purchased as part of a Tribune acquisition. Sheryl Barnhouse, assistant news director for eight years, was tapped for the role in July after the departure of Bill Anderson.
Barnhouse has been with CBS-6 since 1998, she says: "So I've become a bit of a lifer." As for what's next, she says, it's about "staying the course and producing responsible, fair journalism."
As for 8 News — it's hiring.
Lisa Melton — the news director who snatched NBC-12 anchor Gene Cox from semi-retirement last year — left the ABC affiliate in July after a 21-year broadcast news career in Richmond that included eight as news director for 8 News.
Vice president and general manager Viki Regan, seven months into her job, says she's open to candidates inside and outside the station.
Regan's looking for someone "to enhance and build off of what we already have," she says. "Someone's coming into a great operation — a growing operation."
The bosses will be watching closely. In June, the station's parent company, New Young Broadcasting Holding Co., announced a merger with Richmond-based Media General, so 8 News will become the station the big bosses tune to at home.
"We will be noticed, as all stations would be," Regan says.