Longtime WMAR staffer Kelly Groft has been named the station's news director, giving her the chance to head a struggling news operation she joined a decade ago.
"I'm thrilled, it's something I've wanted for a very long time," said Groft, who officially takes the job Monday. "I've never shied away from a challenge."
Groft, a Harford County native who grew up near Bel Air, came to work at WMAR, Channel 2, in 1998 as a producer for the 6 p.m. news. She and her husband, Jay, a news photographer for WPMT, Channel 43, the Fox affiliate in York, live in southern Pennsylvania with their two children, Hannah, 7, and Camden, 4.
Groft replaces Peggy Phillip, who spent a little less than a year as WMAR's news director after coming to Baltimore from Syracuse, N.Y. Phillip has been named news director of NBC affiliate KSHB in Kansas City, Mo. Both WMAR and KSHB are affiliates of Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps.
WMAR's news operation has spent much of the past 15 years mired in Baltimore's ratings basement. For May, the station's 11 p.m. weekday news had just over one-third as many viewers as top-rated WBAL, Channel 11. Its evening news fared even worse, garnering less than one-third the audience of top-rated WBAL.
Groft, however, remains optimistic. "I can say, for the first time in a long time, that we really, truly do have momentum," she said. "We are growing, we're seeing little bright spots, more than we've seen before.
"We are 'The station that works for you,' and we've stuck to that brand, we've embraced that brand. People are learning it, people are reaching out more than they ever have. We're being noticed by more and more people in the community."