Veteran Lou Davis retiring from WMAR

For 21 years, reporter covered Maryland, politics

December 24, 2003|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

Lou Davis, a news professional to the core, has retired from WMAR-TV after 21 years at the station. Based in Annapolis, Davis burrowed into stories, gaining an expertise unsurpassed by any television reporter covering Maryland politics.

"That was great," says Davis, 66. "It was a good run."

His contract expired last June; the new offer from WMAR brass included a slight cut in pay for a three-year contract-not an unfamiliar phenomenon for staffers with long service at the E.W. Scripps Co.-owned station. Davis says he ultimately decided to take his severance, which worked out to about a year's pay.

Nonetheless, the parting was relatively amicable. "We certainly didn't want him to leave, that's for sure, because of his stature in the community," says Drew Berry, WMAR's general manager.

The station gave him a proper sendoff. He was serenaded last Friday, his last day at the station, by a children's choir. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. surprised him by appearing on the Friday newscast in tribute. And, in an in-house tape that was not aired, William Donald Schaefer roasted Davis in true Schaeferian fashion.

Davis worked for NBC News in the early 1970s, reporting from Vietnam, among other places. When he came to town, Davis chose to work at WMAR over WBAL-TV, he says, because it gave him the chance to start the day at his office in Annapolis. The practice allowed the reporter to chase facts and follow story leads, in essence defining how he covered his beat, rather than merely accepting ideas handed to him by an editor. That's the mundane way journalists acquire expertise - and news stations gain authoritative stories.

"He's a terrific reporter and a terrific guy," says WMAR reporter Andy Barth. "He succeeded because he had the one thing a reporter had to have - people's trust."

Davis won't simply vanish from Baltimore's airwaves, however. Just in time for the General Assembly session, which starts next month, Maryland Public Television has snapped up Davis to fill the gap left by the late political reporter John Aubuchon. And Berry says he hopes to bring Davis back into WMAR's studios for occasional work as a political analyst.

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