Marianne Banister's farewell from Baltimore television after more than 15 years of co-anchoring the 6 and 11 p.m. news at WBAL-TV was an unusually modest and subdued one.
Unlike the farewells for Sally Thorner at WJZ and Mary Beth Marsden at WMAR in December of 2009, there were no video montages of Banister's career at WBAL. There were no extended farewells or family members and colleagues coming onto the set to say goodbye.
Banister's final words to Baltimore viewers at the end of the 11 p.m. newscast lasted 35 seconds, and only 17 seconds were actual words of farewell. The other 18 seconds involved a bit joking by sports anchor Gerry Sandusky after Banister started to get a little choked up.
"Well, as many of you might know, this is my last broadcast right here at 11 News," Banister said at the end of the newscast.
"You know, I certainly loved being here. I'm going to miss these three guys that I work with every night," she continued, referring to Sandusky, co-anchor Rod Daniels and weatherman Tom Tasselmyer.
"And I want to thank you for allowing me and the rest of us to come into your homes every evening to bring you news. And thank you for being a part of our viewership at 11 News."
Sandusky reached over and put his hand on her forearm at this point as she started to lose a bit of her trademark poise and said, "And we will miss you."
After a pause, he lightened the mood, saying, "And we want to know, does this mean no invite to the pool?"
"Ger, I've got to tell you the pool has been a blow-up pool for years. That's the secret."
She kidded about Sandusky having "enough hot air" to help blow up the pool. And then, she addressed the audience again, saying, "Thank you for joining us."
Her final words as the closing music played, "Have a good night, everybody. Stay classy, Baltimore."
And it was over -- more than 15 years of co-anchoring a newscast that was always in first or second place in head-to-head competition with WJZ.
As was reported here Tuesday in an interview with Banister, her contract was not renewed by the station. Banister was very clear in saying that it was not her idea to leave the station, and that she definitely did not want to retire at 51. You can read that here.
Dan Joerres, the new general manager at WBAL, said he was honoring Banister's wishes in terms of announcing her leaving the station only on the eve of her departure and not having a prolonged send-off.
These are hard times in the media, and I have certainly said farewell on Friday afternoons to too many of my colleagues in modest newsroom gatherings where even among folks who have spent most of their lives writing and editing words, language suddenly seems inadequate to the emotion in the room.
But, as sure as I am that Banister will find a new home in the media world, I also have to admit her TV farewell was one that left me feeling a little sad.
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