Note to WNBC — What The EFF Are You Doing over there???
Sue Simmons, a longtime anchor for WNBC-TV, is on her way out.
The New York Post said in a column by Cindy Adams that the station would not renew Ms. Simmons’s contract when it expires in June. A spokeswoman for WNBC, Dawn Rowan, issued a statement that said the station had been “engaged in ongoing conversations with Sue about her transition from WNBC.”
“We have tremendous respect and admiration for Sue Simmons,” the statement said. “For decades, Sue has been a critical part of New York’s longest-tenured anchor team in the city and has more than earned her iconic status.”
An anchor at WNBC since 1980, Ms. Simmons earned the affection of New Yorkers, initially on the long-running “Live at Five” program in the 1980s and 1990s, and on Wednesday some of them wanted an explanation from the station.
“Fellow New Yorkers, I hope you all get that this is wrong, stupid and evil,” Mark Harris, a columnist for Entertainment Weekly, wrote on Twitter after reading the Post article.
Ms. Simmons’s role on WNBC had been diminishing. She has not been on the 6 p.m. broadcast regularly since she returned to work after back surgery at the end of 2010.
The change at the anchor desk comes at a time of rebuilding at WNBC. After going through years of cutbacks in staff and spending, the station has been adding news people and trucks that can do live remote segments. The changes have come at the direction of the station’s new owner, Comcast, which is trying to improve the standing of the NBCUniversal stations it acquired from General Electric last year.
Ms. Simmons made news herself in 2008, when she cursed on the air. She and her co-anchor, Chuck Scarborough, were doing a promotional spot for stories to be shown on the 11 p.m. newscast. They apparently believed the spot was being taped, but it was going out live.
Ms. Simmons began with a teaser about a consumer-affairs story: “At 11, paying more at the grocer, but getting less. We’ll tell you how to get the most.”
The station switched to images for a story about a cruise ship. There was silence from the anchor desk until Ms. Simmons — apparently addressing Mr. Scarborough — said, minus a couple of words that cannot be printed here, What are you doing?
She apologized during the 11 p.m. broadcast.
In 2010, Mr. Scarborough took questions from City Room readers. One of the first was what Ms. Simmons was really like to work with. He replied:
Sue has never had an unspoken thought, and I mean that in the nicest way. She is the least inhibited broadcast journalist I’ve ever known, making her always interesting and occasionally dangerous, like the night she read a touching story about an effort to save a sick baby whale that had washed ashore. At the story’s conclusion, her co-anchor (not me, thank goodness) said, “You didn’t seem all that sympathetic.” Sue immediately replied: “Oh I really am. If he gets well, I’ll kiss his little blow hole!”
That story is pure comedy. We love Sue Simmons and think the suits at WNBC are making a huge mistake! We wish her well! Good luck and godspeed.