The Next Russert?

Who is the best talent I've worked with at WTAP? Hint: he was in town this past week.

In 28 years, I've worked with a lot of people at WTAP.  I've even worked twice with one or two of them.

But one stands out above the rest.  I didn't get to see him, but John Fortney was in the area this week, addressing the Belpre Chamber of Commerce annual dinner.  That was a natural, since John lived in Belpre while he worked here.  He even maintained his residence there, for about a year after he signed on with Ohio News Network in 1996.

I was a bit amused by a comment he made when addressing the Chamber Thursday night.  "Thanks for watching me even when I was really bad", he said of his years on WTAP.

John, that had to be an after-dinner one-liner.  If you were really as bad as you say, then the rest of us have no business being in television.

I remember when John was trying to get an on-air job here, as a part-time weathercaster.  When I happened to see his audition tape one day, my first thought was "wow" (or at least words to that effect).

He could do it all.  I remember the week he filled in for Jim Wharton doing sports.  At 11:00, he finished the weather segment, and, after a commercial break, he was reading the ball scores.  I did that for many years on the weekend news, but not nearly as well. 

If he stays long enough at WBNS-TV, his current home, he could eventually be a main anchor.  But I have a feeling he has other ambitions.

He's kept one foot in at ONN, hosting its "Meet The Press"-style Sunday political show.  And he's also been the political reporter at WBNS this election year, covering everything from the presidential race (including interviewing the candidates) to the Marc Dann Attorney General sex scandal.

That could end up being his eventual calling.

If NBC is still looking for a successor to the late Tim Russert (assuming Tom Brokaw is just keeping the seat warm), I know of a potential candidate in Columbus, Ohio.

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