Cole Heath was told by a good source – his mother – that he was named after a limousine driver on “Falcon Crest.”
Tiffany Lundberg was told by her mother that she was named for the famous jewelry store because “good things come in small packages.”
Starting Monday, Cole and Tiffany will try to help restore the name of Channel 7 as co-anchors of the station’s new morning newscast “Good Morning.”
The most noticeable thing about the pairing is the height disparity.
Heath is 6 feet 5; Lundberg is 5 feet, so Channel 7 is probably going to have to find some creative ways to make them look visually compatible.
They realize they have a tall order in front of them.
Channel 7 is a weak third in the morning, getting less than half the audience of Channel 2’s first-place “Daybreak” and Channel 4’s second place “Wake Up!,” which is getting its own makeover in September with the additions of new co-anchor Teresa Weakley and meteorologist Todd Santos.
The mornings have become one of the most important and biggest growing areas in local TV news, establishing the tone for the day.
Heath, 27, who arrived from KREM in Spokane, Wash., got some inside information about Channel 7’s successful news history until 2002 and its problems in the more than a decade since.
The family of his wife, Kim, is from the Amherst-Williamsville area and many relatives still live in the region. Kim never lived here but visited relatives here often. Her parents are from the area but no longer live here.
“The funny thing is as soon as I told them about being interviewed, they said ‘Oh my gosh, that was our station. We watched Channel 7 all the time,’ ” Heath said in an interview.
Those were the good old days of Channel 7.
“My career path and family tree has kind of gone hand in hand,” added Heath. “I started out in Joplin, Missouri, where my mom was from. I went to Spokane, where my dad’s family is from, and then coming here is where my wife’s family is from. It is kind of a very unique situation.”
Lundberg, 32, who played characters at Disney Resorts in the entertainment department for eight years before going into broadcast journalism and working at stations in Waco, Texas, and Casper, Wyo., also has a local connection. Her boyfriend of four years, Patrick McNamara, grew up in Bemus Point and still has family living in Jamestown.
“He was really excited,” said Lundberg. “He has been away so long and now he is able to come back and spend time with his dad and his family that he has moved away from.”
So just the relatives of the co-anchors’ loved ones can raise the ratings for “Good Morning” by watching.
Heath and Lundberg have been here for only a few weeks, but initial impressions are very favorable.
“I love old architecture,” said Lundberg. “My dad is a contractor. I was born and raised around construction and buildings, and I have an appreciation of how the city looks. I am excited because it seems like a lot is going on. They are refurbishing a lot of things in the city. It seems like it is not only an exciting time at WKBW that we are starting something fresh, but it seems that’s the kind of the same in Buffalo right now.”
She knew a little about Western New York before she came here.
“I am a huge ‘I Love Lucy fan’ so I knew that Buffalo was close to Jamestown and Lucille Ball is from Jamestown,” said Lundberg. “They have the museum there. I was pretty excited being here.”
Heath also said he knew of the historical ties to the area before coming here.
“Teddy Roosevelt was inaugurated a few miles from here, McKinley’s assassination. And the great museums, the food and the bottom line – the people. I’m told some of the nicest, most genuine people in the world. And in the time we’ve been here it’s been nothing but that.”
A native of California, Lundberg isn’t concerned about Western New York weather. After all, she worked in Wyoming for two years.
“This is a great place for us to move and possibly settle,” said Lundberg of herself and McNamara. “Also it is a morning position, which was what I was looking for. I’ve worn all hats in the news industry, and I feel my passion lies in the morning because you still get to tell the news but you also get to have a little more fun.”
A native of Arizona who met his wife at Arizona State, Heath also isn’t concerned about Buffalo’s weather after living in Spokane.
“Washington had a fair share of snow and cold temperatures,” said Heath “I have a parka as well. I’ve also had my 120 degree summers, so let’s try a new adventure.”
Heath was more careful than Lundberg discussing what they are walking into. Channel 7 is a poor third in local news here, with its highest-rated newscast at noon when Channel 2 doesn’t compete.
“I don’t have an opinion on the past,” said Heath. “We’re looking toward the future, and we’re excited for the future.”
“There is nowhere to go but up,” added Lundberg. “We’re really excited to try something new and fresh and hopefully gain some new viewers. Try something different that hasn’t been done before … We’re trying to bring more excitement to the show, to be a little more upbeat.”
She conceded it is hard to compare because she didn’t see the morning program co-anchored by Patrick Taney and Ginger Geoffery, who have both left the station.
Heath and Lundberg certainly are getting more help. “Good Morning” will include a second reporter, Rachel Elzufon, and a new traffic reporter, Desiree Wiley, to bounce off of.
“It will be more of a fun atmosphere,” said Lundberg. “You can come and get your morning news, but you’re still entertained at the same time. Because in the morning, let’s face it, people are sleepy and you want someone to wake up to put a smile on your face. I think that’s really what we are trying to do.”
She is no stranger to entertainment, with her Disney background. She wouldn’t say what characters she played, which illustrates she can protect her sources.
“I have to keep the magic alive,” said Lundberg. “I worked in parades and the character department. I have that background and my degree in broadcast journalism and been in the news industry, so it’s kind of a good balance for the morning show.”
“We want to have a party feel,” Heath said of “Good Morning.” “Not crazy. But people can come and go. It is moving, more fluid. Tiffany and I kind of feel like we are the DJs of that party. It gives people a better idea of what is going on in the community because we have the resources to do it.”
Heath and Lundberg certainly will give the morning show a young vibe. Lundberg said she grew up in California watching anchor John Beard, who now anchors Channel 2’s “Daybreak” with Melissa Holmes.
The big question is how much time they get to grow in their roles before Channel 7 may consider ending the party. It would be a Disney fantasy to expect instant success.
“They keep reiterating there is no pressure,” said Heath. “They are setting us up to succeed.”