Mike Gousha says that even his boss at Marquette University's Law School wasn't surprised when Gousha made it official Tuesday that he was returning to television next month, this time as a host and a political reporter on WISN-12.
"When I signed on here at Marquette, one of the things the dean said to me was, ‘I think you still want to do good journalism,'" says Gousha.
It turns out the dean was right. And though media insiders have speculated since his resignation from WTMJ-TV in August 2006, that it was just a matter of time before the venerable anchor resurfaced on Milwaukee's airwaves, Gousha insists that Tuesday's announcement wasn't premeditated from the day he left Channel 4.
"This was not something that when I left television I planned to do," says Gousha. "I think it was a product of a number of months of discussions. Both (news director) Lori (Waldon) and (general manager) Jan (Wade) made it clear that they thought I would be a good fit for their news operation, and I had a chance to talk with them at length and watch their product, and talk to a number of executives at Hearst-Argyle about their commitment to political overage.
"Over time, we decided this would be a really good fit. It's a nice complement to what I do at Marquette University Law School."
Wade broke the news officially in a statement, announcing that Gousha will host a Sunday morning political talk show that the station hopes to kick off in early January. He'll also serve as a special reporter, "along the same lines that Joyce Garbaciak does with us right now," says Wade.
Gousha will continue serving as a distinguished fellow in law and public policy at Marquette Law, but the opportunity at WISN fills a void in his career: "It allows me to practice good journalism."
Gousha, 51, says Marquette has been supportive and encouraging throughout the whole process.
"It's a good fit at this moment in my life," says Gousha.
As for Gousha's choice in stations, some have opined that Channel 12 has gained an increasing reputation as a leader in harder news. According to one report, Channel 12's 10 p.m. newscast was seen by 84,645 homes in November, up from 78,000 a year ago.
By comparison, recent ratings show that viewers are tuning out his old station's focus on "dirty dining" exposes and more entertainment-based news. That same report says viewership of WTMJ-TV's 10 p.m. newscast dropped from 96,000 households in November 2006 to fewer than 84,000 a year later. In 1998, Channel 4 had a viewership of 137,000 households.
"I don't think it's right for me to comment on my prior station. I had a good 25-year run there, and I still have friends there. I have been impressed by some of the depth and context I've seen at 12. They've done some very ambitious things I've watched over the last year."
Gousha points to extended coverage on important issues like violence -- and not just 30-second clips of chalk lines and body bags.
"It's that kind of thing that gets your attention. You see that kind of attention to issues that are important to the community. That's the kind of work I was looking at, that made this seem like the place I need to be at this time."
Hiring Gousha is a major coup for Wade, who has been on the job for just 10 months. She never saw him in his previous role as news anchor, but she says she's been talking to Gousha for nearly that entire time, and his reputation proceeded him.
"That's why we created the show for Sunday morning," says Wade. "We created a concept that Mike was very excited about."
Is Gousha concerned that he'll be a little rusty after more than a year off TV?
"I'd like to think it's like riding a bike," he says. "I don't think I'll be rusty. I think that this is something that once you've done it, you'll always remember how to do it. The key is putting on a show that's interesting, that's relevant to people in this community, that provides a nice addition to their day."
Gousha says he's also cognizant that people get their news in different ways than they did when he first started in the industry, a fact backed up by recent numbers showing a gradual decline in TV news viewership. Across the industry in Milwaukee, the over-the-air stations have dropped from 320,000 households tuning in to about 257,000 homes.
That means he hopes to leverage the Web and other media to "connect younger folks to the political campaigns."
"We're very aware of that, and that will be taken into consideration as we put this program together," says Gousha.
Gousha's new half-hour show will air Sundays at 9 a.m., after WISN's "12 News This Morning" and before "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." The program will initially feature political newsmakers and issues impacting Wisconsin locally, regionally and nationally, and will evolve into more universal topics after the 2008 presidential election.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.