Angenette Levy didn't see it coming, how people would be so moved by her going.
"I have been so overwhelmed and touched by the responses, and all the messages on Facebook," says Levy, who left WKRC-TV last Thursday after 10 years to pursue other options in journalism.
"The kindness of people so touching. My phone hasn't stopped ringing, and the text messages keep coming. It has been overwhelming how much viewers have embraced me and touched me."
Maybe it's because viewers knew she was one of them, an Turpin High School and University of Cincinnati graduate. Maybe it's because they appreciated her tough reporting on court cases, crime stories or politics presented with fairness and balance. On her last day, she was in Southeastern Ohio covering the surprise guilty plea by Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader to theft in office and tampering with records. (She had broken the story on Reader's indictment last year.)
Maybe they've watched her on Facebook Live or Twitter. "I've loved keeping in touch with people. It's fun," she says.
Or because she simply smiled at them while on assignment, or greeted them.
"If I see people on the street, I naturally say hello to them. The news is so full of sad stuff, so it's nice to say 'Hi!' and brighten their day," she says.
This was Levy's second stint at WKRC-TV. She started in 2002 as an assignment desk assistant, a job she found in the Enquirer's classified advertisements. For two years she learned the TV news business from the bottom up, starting by answering phones and working her way up to writing news scripts, doing off-camera interviews and writing "packages" for anchors to voice over. That got her an on-camera reporting job at WFRV-TV in Green Bay in late 2004. After 5-1/2 years in Wisconsin, she returned to Channel 12 as a reporter in 2010.
"I've been really fortunate, because I only had to go one other place before coming home," she says.
Now she's looking for work again. Levy doesn't disparage WKRC-TV or its owners, Sinclair Broadcast Group, the nation's second biggest TV chain with 193 stations. She says she was offered a new three-year contract, and she turned it down.
"I've had such a great opportunity there. I spent 10 years there," she says. "It was hard to leave, but I’m looking for a new challenge in my career."
She doesn't want to say much more about why she left. She doesn't have to; she's the latest in a string of veteran journalists who have left the station in the past three years: Rob Braun, Cammy Dierking, Deb Dixon, Joe Webb, Jeff Hirsh and Larry Davis. Sinclair bought Channel 12 in 2012.
When Braun, one of Levy's mentors, left in 2019 he made it clear that he didn't "fit well with the Sinclair News model." He had clashed with his bosses in 2018 when Sinclair ordered news anchors across the country to read a commentary complaining about media companies pushing "their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think." He wanted to rewrite it in his own words, but his bosses said no.
A few months later he told WVXU listeners that he balked at the mandated commentary because "they weren't my words. Some of what was in that was true. And some of the things… I didn't believe… We were just required to read them as puppets, and it just didn't sit well." And he didn't agree with airing stories from other Sinclair stations instead of filling Local 12 newscasts with "purely local things."
Braun has encouraged his Facebook friends to "show your support for my friend and colleague Angenette Levy. She has also chosen to leave Channel 12. It’s a hard decision to make. Angenette joins a long list of distinguished journalists who have chosen to leave, including Rich Jaffe, Deborah Dixon, Larry Davis, Jeff Hirsh, Joe Webb and Cammy Dierking…. Walking away from something you love is difficult but sometimes it’s the only real choice. The love and support you have shown me in the past year has been amazing and much appreciated. Let’s do the same for Angenette!"
Since December, she took great gratification in anchoring the Saturday morning news. She booked newsmaker interviews, either in the studio or by Zoom since the global pandemic.
"I really enjoyed doing that for 10 months. I want to do more one-on-one interviews and more long-form stories," she says.
She also wants to stay in her hometown. She's married with a 5-year-old son. She can't work on-air at another TV station for at least six months, due to her non-compete clause.
"All opportunities are on the table. I'm not closing the door on anything. I'm open to several possibilities. I'm a reporter at heart. That's what I do. I'll just have to wait and see. I'd like to stay here."
Don't be surprised if you see her on another station next spring or summer. For now, she's looking forward to spending time with her son and husband, "taking a little bit of a breather" and going to lunch with friends.
"As a reporter, I never got lunch. They say you have an hour for lunch, but you never get lunch."
Now she can.