The appearance of Channel 2 sports anchor Ed Kilgore as host of a HarborCenter news conference Saturday featuring Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula turned out to be a game-changer for the station’s plans to keep him around until the end of the May sweeps.
Channel 2 reversed itself Tuesday and decided that Kilgore will make his final appearance on the station on today’s 6 p.m. newscast.
A week ago, the station said it planned to allow Kilgore to anchor until May 24 after he accepted a job to work for a company owned by Pegula that the station said wouldn’t involve the Sabres.
In a brief written statement Tuesday morning, Channel 2 General Manager Jim Toellner said the station’s plans changed after Kilgore was the host of Saturday’s news conference.
“The event became as much a Sabres event as it was a downtown development event,” wrote Toellner. “WGRZ management was unaware of Ed’s prominent role there prior. After a long career of unblemished integrity, we initially felt a few weeks with Ed on the air and separated from the Sabres could work. Although we have complete faith in Ed’s objectivity, we see from Saturday events that perceptions might not go that way for all.”
The decision came about 24 hours after a Buffalo News blog called Kilgore’s news conference appearance a blatant conflict of interest and suggested that the sports anchor leave the station immediately.
Toellner’s statement didn’t really back down on the ethics of the original plan to allow Kilgore to report on the Sabres after he accepted an offer to work for a company owned by the Sabres owner. The events of Saturday indicated the shakiness of that plan.
Kilgore said Tuesday he thought the conflict of interest controversy was “silly.”
“There is no way I would have changed my opinion on-air” [of Pegula],” said Kilgore. “But I understand the perception, I do.”
In the release, Toellner wrote that the 66-year-old Kilgore will be paid through May 24 but will no longer work at the station after today.
“We thank and salute Ed Kilgore for his long and impressive career and contributions and congratulate him on his new endeavors,” continued Toellner.
Toellner said today’s 6 p.m. newscast will celebrate Kilgore’s more than 40 years at Channel 2.Kilgore said he will edit his own goodbye piece and that it will include commentaries he made over the years.
“It is not going to be a traditional sportscast,” said Kilgore. “It is going to be 40 years edited to about two and half minutes. And I’m going to say a quick goodbye.”
Channel 2 celebrated the sports anchor’s 40th anniversary at the station only three months ago. During that celebration, Kilgore joked that sports anchor Adam Benigni, who already has the 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. sports duties at Channel 2, shouldn’t get too comfortable in his seat.
Benigni, who has been at Channel 2 for almost 16 years, will add to his duties and sit in Kilgore’s seat for the 6 p.m. sportscast, Toellner said.
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