The heavens didn't part when Brian Trauring walked into WTVG-TV, Channel 13, as its just-hired news director on a warmer than normal January morning in 2002.
But his arrival proved to be miraculous for the station.
Trauring joined the ABC affiliate with it firmly ensconced in second place in the Nielsen ratings, and crosstown news rival WTOL-TV, Channel 11, an uncontested No. 1, a market dominance that extended back to Ronald Reagan’s first term as president.
More than 16 years later, he leaves that position and WTVG having reversed those fortunes: Channel 13 has been unquestioned ratings leader for almost a decade, with WTOL the strong and occasionally competitive runner-up. In February's ratings book, WTVG was the most-watched news station among total viewership for all but one of its newscasts, the noon, which Nielsen reported as a tie with WTOL.
Trauring leaves WTVG on Wednesday to join Lilly Broadcasting as its vice president of news, marketing, and content development, and will oversee news operations at KITV, WSEE, WICU, WENY, Lilly Broadcasting’s Washington Bureau, CBS Puerto Rico, CBS, and ABC USVI.
Trauring worked for Lilly Broadcasting when it owned WTVG from April, 2011, to September, 2014, when it sold the station to current owner Gray Television Inc. WTVG will conduct a nationwide search for news director. But as the station’s new general manager Chris Fedele, acknowledged, it’s a difficult task: “Those are big shoes to fill.”
As a journalist, Trauring knows there’s more to WTVG’s success than its audience numbers.
As a good manager, he's quick to deflect compliments about his job performance and eager to talk about the accomplishment of his staff: those on air and off.
But, yes, he does acknowledge how far the station has come since he arrived, a turnaround that began “probably seven or eight years ago,” Trauring said, “but you never think you’ve arrived. You always look at it as continuous challenge. It's not like the other guys are going away."
In fact, the “other guy,” Anthony Knopps, worked with Trauring for more than a dozen years at WTVG as assistant news director until accepting a job as WTOL's news director in July, 2015.
As colleagues, they built a strong news station.
As fathers, they watched their children grow up.
As friends, they came to funerals for family members.
And as a rival — at least, in theory — Knopps sent Trauring a note telling his former boss he’s thrilled for him and his new job.
“I’m ecstatic for him that he’s back to a role that he really enjoyed. Not that he didn’t enjoy being at 'TVG, but he really enjoyed taking what he learned, that success at 'TVG and applying that throughout the Lilly empire. For him to be able to do that role in a clearly defined manner, that's fantastic."
WTVG is the longest stop in Trauring’s career. After graduating from Indiana University in 1978, he worked as a reporter and assignment editor in Louisville and Indianapolis, then as news director in Steubenville, Ohio, Augusta, Ga., Knoxville, Ten., and then WTVG. In 2016, he was inducted into the Ohio Associated Press Media Editors' Hall of Fame.
Trauring said he is leaving WTVG because the opportunity is too good not to take it.
“It was just the opportunity to continue to work here” — which means he and his wife can stay in the area and close to their family — “and work for good people and with good people,” he said. ”So now, Toledo’s home." (That, by the way, may or may not have been a deliberate reference to WTVG's slogan “This is Home.”)
Longtime WTVG co-anchor Lee Conklin remembers Trauring walking into the WTVG building on that first day, and the apprehension of having his fourth news director at the station in a dozen years.
“You don’t know what the future holds,” Conklin said. “But I can say without reservation that he has left our newsroom a better place.”
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