Romona Robinson had known for weeks that her co-anchor, Tim White, would be leaving Channel 3 when his contract expired. But there was a twist to the NBC affiliate’s December personnel shuffle that surprised her: She was going to be the sole anchor of the station’s nightly newscasts at 6 and 11 p.m.
Sure, she had started her career by replacing a lone male anchor at KRCG in Jefferson City, Mo., and she’d done the news alone while co-anchors had been on vacation. But when the Channel 3 cameras focused on Robinson the evening of Dec. 15, 2008, she became the first woman to solo-anchor a weeknight newscast in Cleveland since the legendary Dorothy Fuldheim hosted a news-and-commentary show in the ’50s.
Just hours before Robinson stepped into her new role, we talked to her about working with Tim White for the better part of the past decade, the changing face of TV news and her biggest concern about sitting behind the desk alone.
What was your reaction when you learned you were going to be the lone anchor?
It was bittersweet. I was still losing my partner of almost nine years. Tim and I worked closely together. I mean, after nine years, you either love someone or you don’t. Some anchors have to pretend that they like each other. I’m fortunate I’ve worked with two really wonderful anchors — Jack Marschall at [WUAB Channel] 43 for almost nine years and then Tim White for almost nine years.
Who did you think would be chosen to replace Tim?
Tim and I joked about who my partner might be. We figured it would be somebody that I’d have to break in, so to speak, all over again. I had heard rumors that there was someone they were bringing in from Dallas. I had heard that they were looking at people [in Cleveland]. I thought maybe it could be someone [at the station].
Did you have to break in Tim?
Well, yeah. [Laughs.] Men think they rule the roost, and then you have to help them. You know, I’m married. And the key to a happy marriage is to make themthink that they’re in charge!
How will Channel 3’s nightly news change now?
We’re probably going to showcase our reporters more. We’ll have a chance to go more in-depth on the big stories.
How will all this affect your workday?
Because we’re showcasing the reporters, they’re going to take up a lot of that [on-air] time, so there won’t be a whole lot more for me to do as far as the newscast. ... What’s really important to me is my community involvement. I don’t want to lose that. I can’t say, “I’m doing my ‘Romona’s Kids’ [segment]. That’s all right. Tim’s back there. He’ll handle the teases, he’ll handle the news breaks, he’ll attend the editorial meeting.” I’ve got to be there.
Do you think some viewers may be turned off by the fact that there’s not a man sitting beside you?
If there are, I haven’t received any e-mails or phone calls from them. I can’t worry about those people.
If your newscast does well, do you think other local anchors will end up sitting alone, especially in this economy?
I had one of my competitors say to me, “Congratulations — I think.” It’s a new time.