Tv News Loses Local Face

Analysis

Veteran Anchor Thorner Says She'll Retire From Wjz On Dec. 18

September 09, 2009|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,david.zurawik@baltsun.com

After more than two decades at the Baltimore TV anchor desk, WJZ newswoman Sally Thorner says she is retiring, and her last day at the station will be Dec. 18.

She came to represent local broadcast news at its best - serious, trustworthy and nonsensational, but also reassuring and friendly.

Thorner, who was on the air for 10 years at WMAR before she joined WJZ in 1993 in one of the most highly publicized anchor moves in Baltimore TV history, could certainly ask the hard questions. She was an excellent reporter.

But it is her calm and solid presence at the anchor desk that will be missed and remembered most by Baltimore viewers. Thorner also embodied some of the challenges facing women of her generation, and was open in discussing the choices she made professionally in relation to goals for her family life.

"I was blessed that I was always able to do it on my terms," Thorner, 54, said Tuesday.

"When I got married and had a baby, that was when I chose to get off nights, and now that we're reaching another sort of chapter in my family, I'm able to do this on my terms, too. And that's sort of unheard-of in any business, but particularly in this one."

Thorner explained that her son, Everett, has just started college at Yale University, and that her husband, Dr. Brian Rosenfeld, travels frequently in connection with Visicu, the critical-care medical business he founded.

"You know, we're feeling that empty-nester thing a little, and now I can travel with my husband," she said.

The New York native, who has lent her on-air prominence to many Baltimore fundraising efforts during the past 25 years, started her TV news career in 1980 in Springfield, Mass., right after graduating from nearby Smith College.

She came to WMAR in 1983 as a weekend anchor and general assignment reporter. By the time she left WMAR in 1992, she was one of the highest-paid reporters in Baltimore TV.

WJZ wanted her so badly that it paid her yearly salary of $250,000 for a year even though she could not appear on-camera for the station because of a no-compete clause in her WMAR pact. WJZ waited out that year and then launched a new 5 p.m. newscast with Thorner at the anchor desk.

"Sally Thorner's popularity is evidenced by the fact that she did what many broadcasters aspire to do but very few actually achieve: She changed stations and took a core group of viewers with her," said Mark Miller, the longtime news director of WBAL radio. "Her move really helped grow the next generation of viewers for WJZ and help make that station what it is today."

While many stations around the country are trying to shed their biggest anchor salaries, WJZ General Manager Jay Newman said Thorner's decision to retire was her own. She is said to be in the middle of a long-term contract that would not have been up for renewal at the end of the year.

"Sally came to us and told us she wanted to retire at the end of the year. And while we will miss her greatly, we wish her well," Newman said.

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