May's Day

by Jim Harris  on Monday, Nov. 30, 1998 12:00 am  

KATV-TV, Channel 7, knew for several weeks that news anchor Chris May was leaving for a position with the NBC affiliate in Boston. The station kept it quiet, though, for an important reason: the November Nielsen ratings period.

"You don't ever know how much that will effect viewership," KATV news director Bob Steel says. "We purposely kept that quiet until the ratings book ended [Nov. 24]. One of the stations had put on a new anchor that is well known in the market [Andy Pearson at KTHV-TV, Channel 11], and if viewers knew Chris was leaving that could have affected ratings."

May's contract called for a 90-day notice. He'll finish his work at KATV the first week of December and start in January in Boston anchoring morning and noon shows. KATV is looking for his replacement. One possibility was extended an offer but turned it down when his station gave him a raise.

"We've had inquiries but we haven't advertised the opening yet," Steel says. "There is an ad in Broadcast magazine this week. I expect to get quite a few calls."

Other KATV anchors have eventually reached major markets (Liz Walker to Boston, Greg Hurst to New York), but May is the first to move directly to a market as big as Boston, No. 6 in the nation. Little Rock is 57th.

"This is a huge jump for Chris," Steel says, "and he's not yet 30. It's a bittersweet moment. We're happy for him and sad for us. He'll be hard to replace."

Steel says May, a native Arkansan, is very well-read, loves politics and is an extensive researcher. "He's a future network correspondent, I've always said that."

May interned for Steel at KARK-TV, Channel 4, then joined KATV as a reporter. He was doing Saturday's "Daybreak" when Steel took over at KATV, and Steel promoted May to the anchor desk three years ago. KATV has dominated the news ratings during that time.

Steel addressed other speculation:

• KATV has talked to reporter Joan Early about returning to the market if a reporter's position opens. She left earlier this year for Columbia, Mo., but is marrying a Little Rock resident next June. "We are at full staff at the reporting side with the exception of Chris."

• Anchor Karen Fuller has sent a tape to a Chicago station for a critique; Fuller grew up in Chicago and has expressed that area as being her "dream" job. Fuller, however, is under a contract with KATV for "several years," Steel said. Former KATV anchor Rob Johnson, who worked with Fuller, is at WLS in Chicago, where Fuller sent the tape.



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