Marianne Banister leaving WBAL-TV anchor desk after more than 15 years

Anchorwoman Marianne Banister is leaving WBAL-TV after 15 years.
Anchorwoman Marianne Banister is leaving WBAL-TV after 15 years.

Marianne Banister, one-half of the longest running anchor team in Baltimore television, is leaving WBAL-TV after more than 15 years as co-anchor of the 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts at the top-ranked station.

Her last day at the station will be Wednesday, WBAL General Manager Dan Joerres said. She will say "goodbye" to viewers at the ends of the 6 and 11 p.m newscasts, he added.

Banister came to WBAL in 1995 from station KABC, the ABC owned station in Los Angeles where she anchored early morning and 6 p.m. newscasts in the nation's second largest TV market. She was 35 years old.

She and co-anchor Rod Daniels consistently finished first or secord in the ratings across all those years -- an impressive feat, particularly on the topsy-turvy media landscape of recent years.

"I loved working with Rod and Tom (weatherman Tom Tasselmyer) and Gerry (sports anchor Gerry Sandusky)," Banister said Tuesday. "It's been a great combination and a great team effort, and I am just really, really proud of the work we've done there."

Which is why, she added, that she was "completely surprised" when she was told by management that the station had decided not to renew her contract.

"I want to make this clear: This is not my choice," she said. "I'm not retiring. I'm not leaving to 'spend more time with my family.'  My two girls -- one's 14 and the other's 19, and at this stage, they tend to want you around less," she said kiddingly.

"But the former general manager here, Jordan Wertlieb, made this decision a few months before his move to the New York offices (of station owner Hearst), and he told me, it was purely an economic decision. They had to cut a position. Basically, my contract was the one that came up, so, in essence, I drew the short straw."

Banister says that while she obviously would not have chosen to be let go, she bears absolutely no "animosity" to the station or Hearst.

"Basically, my position has fallen victim to the economy. I guess you might say I've officially now become part of the news I've been covering," she added. "You know, we all talk about it, but you don't think it is going to hit home. But it has... But, again, I am so proud of the work we did here... and I am excited by the opportunities that I am now exploring elsewhere in the business."

Coming from a much larger market to Baltimore, one of Banister's most important contributions to the success of WBAL has been the sense of polish, poise and professionalism that she immediately brought to the station's anchor desk during its lead newscasts. She helped give WBAL an on-air presence of authority the last 15 years -- no doubt about it.

She could show up on a cable channel like CNN tomorrow, and the viewers wouldn't look twice. In fact, the anchor she replaced in 1995 was Carol Costello, who now is an anchor and correspondent at CNN.

The anchor team that Daniels and Banister have been at war with during the last decade and half is that of Vic Carter and Denise Koch who teamed up at WJZ-TV only a few months after Banister arrived in Baltimore in September of 1995.

In a memo sent to staff Tuesday morning, General Manager Dan Joerres told employes that "characteristic" of her "professional attitude," Banister asked management to "delay announcement" of her departure "until the last possible moment."

In a phone interview with the Sun, Joerres said that the station and Banister had been in discussions for "months" about the move.

Baltimore had long been one of the country's most stable markets. But massive changes in technology, viewing habits and the economics of local TV news across the country have taken their toll in recent years with the departures of Sally Thorner at WJZ, Mary Beth Marsden at WMAR and now Banister. Most stations in markets of Baltimore's size can no longer afford two high-priced anchors at 5, 6 and 11.

In terms of a replacement for Banister, Rod Daniels will anchor the 11 p.m. late news solo, while Donna Hamilton will join him as co-anchor for the 6 p.m. newscast. Hamilton will also co-anchor the 5 p.m. with Stan Stovall.

That is the new WBAL anchor desk lineup for the "foreseeable future," Joerres said. There is no plan to launch a search for a replacement for Banister at this time.

One part of Banister's future, she said Tuesday, will be as a media consultant. She has launched Banister Media, which is described as follows on its website:

Control your message. Build your business. Achieve success. Banister Media will design a program specific to your needs. Communication management is essential to protect your company's most valuable asset; it's good name.
What is your future worth?

Award-winning journalist Marianne Banister has been covering news and newsmakers for nearly 30 years. As both an anchor and reporter in Los Angeles, Denver, Baltimore and Sacramento, she has covered all aspects of breaking news such as the trial of O.J. Simpson, the Northridge earthquake, Laguna Beach fires, and recovery from the L.A. riots. A trusted journalist, she gained exclusive access inside the world of politics in California, Maryland and two presidential campaigns. A respected reporter, she has covered the heartaches of humanity such as the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, forgotten orphans of remote Russia, and the drug trade in the backstreets of Tijuana, Mexico.

Marianne has a unique perspective from inside the newsroom; the editorial process, technology, deadlines, and what journalists want when they come knocking at your door. She knows firsthand how the power of the presentation, message and image and can help you build those concepts for corporate success.

Marianne is a graduate of Colorado State University, where she majored in Broadcast Journalism and Speech Education. She spends countless hours mentoring young people and briefly taught Communications at the University of California at Davis.

She lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her husband and two children, and is always ready for the next big story!

To visit Banister's website, click here. She is also on Twitter @MBanister1.

"We're staying in Baltimore, my husband and I and our girls," she said. "We're staying put. And so, I'm going to adapt around this. You know, how life hits you with surprises? They're not always welcome. But when they come, my father always taught me that you can't control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it."

Banister says she has been able to do some consulting "on the side" with "non-profits" already.

"But obviously, I would never been able to jump into it mainstream as a full-time journalist with Hearst Corporation," she said. " But now, I'm able to do it...."

"As I said, I am not retiring," she re-iterated. "I love this business. I've been doing this since I was 17 in radio. I just cannot imagine not doing news or broadcasting or reporting in some vein. I do have some irons in the fire, as we say, and I hope and expect that I'll be popping back up on Baltimore television if not elsewhere."