WKRC-TV Hires Dayton Anchor-Reporter, WCPO-TV Promotes Kristen Swilley

May 13, 2021

And then there were two.

With the departure of reporter Walter Smith-Randolph, WKRC-TV has only two Black journalists on newscasts, anchors John Lomax and Kyle Inskeep.

But help is on the way at Channel 12, which was publicly criticized by the Greater Cincinnati Association of Black Journalists two months ago, while two Black journalists at WCPO-TV are being promoted to weekend Good Morning Tri-State newscasts.

Channel 12 has hired Dayton reporter-weekend anchor Courtney Wheaton from Sinclair sister stations WKEF-TV and WRGT-TV. Wheaton, president of the Dayton chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, will start as a reporter here June 1, after the May ratings "sweeps" end, says Jon Lawhead, Channel 12 general manager.

Wheaton, a 2012 Bowling Green State University graduate, will arrive five weeks after Smith's departure.

Smith-Randolph, 34, treasurer for the National Association of Black Journalists, has been named investigative editor and lead reporter for Connecticut Public Broadcasting's "The Accountability Project." The Queens native was hired in September 2018 from WWMT-TV in Grand Rapids.

"Walter left to be near family. He’s from New York City," Lawhead says.

Wheaton grew up in Cleveland and Toledo. She had previously worked at TV stations in Flint and Saginaw, Mich.; Lynchburg, Va.; and Zanesville, Ohio.

WKRC-TV's lack of minorities was a major concern for the Greater Cincinnati Association of Black Journalists on March 15. The group publicly criticized Channel 12 for its "lack of representation on Local 12's staff " noting that none of the station's 13 on-air female talent is a Black woman.

In late March, the GCABJ executive board members and National Association of Black Journalists President Dorothy Tucker had a "productive, lengthy conversation" with Channel 12 General Manager Jon Lawhead and News Director Tim Geraghty, who "expressed a desire to improve diversity in an intentional way," according to the GCABJ statement posted April 1.

When I asked a GCABJ officer this week if there was concern about Channel 12 having no Black on-air reporters now, I received this reply:

"Please attribute this statement to the GCABJ executive board:  The Greater Cincinnati Association of Black Journalists (GCABJ) will not be making any comments at this time. Please see our April 1 statement which announced that we are now in regular communication with Local 12’s leadership about this issue."

The April 1 statement also said that "Local 12 has agreed to quarterly meetings with GCABJ's executive board to ensure a direct line of communication over the next year and continue this important conversation."

Earlier this week, Channel 12 named reporter Kathryn Robinson, who is white, as the weekend anchor of Good Morning Cincinnati. The 2016 Syracuse graduate, hired in 2019 from WSAZ-TV in Huntington, W.Va., had been filling in on weekends with other staffers since veteran reporter Angenette Levy left the station in September.

At WCPO-TV, Kristen Swilley and Raven Richard soon will take over weekend Good Morning Tri-State duties. Their promotion came after WCPO lost two high profile Black women journalists in April - weekend anchor-reporter Timyka Artist and reporter Jasmine Minor, who has launched the everythingwecantsay website for Black journalists. Swilley and Richard are members of the Greater Cincinnati Association of Black Journalists.

Swilley was hired in 2015 from WMAZ-TV in Macon, Ga. The 2013 Florida A&M graduate starts anchoring Saturday, May 22.

"I’ve known Kristen Swilley for nearly 10 years since her days as an intern in Florida," said Mike Canan, senior director of local content for WCPO 9 News, in the station announcement. "It has been an absolute pleasure to watch her grow into the journalist she has become. She has a deep commitment to our community and to telling great stories that others miss."

Richard, a reporter-meteorologist hired in 2019, worked at TV stations in Kennewick, Wash., and Little Rock, Ark., after graduating in 2014 from Loyola University New Orleans. The Little Rock native will replace meteorologist Austin Winfield, who is leaving Channel 9 June 25.

WKRC-TV has the least diverse on-air staff among Cincinnati's four TV newsrooms. WKRC-TV's website shows only two Black journalists among the 28 on-air personalities. WCPO-TV has 10 Black reporters and anchors; WLWT-TV has eight Black anchors and reporters; WXIX-TV has six Black anchors and reporters.