Around 3 a.m. this morning, Jason Newton started preparations for his last shift on the air at WISN-TV Ch. 12 in Milwaukee. In December, the anchor and reporter will begin his newsroom duties at WBAL-TV in his hometown of Baltimore.
"It’s the longest, most difficult secret I’ve kept," Newton said in a conversation on Tuesday night. "It was a long time, but I had to be patient. When it was presented to me, it took a good week to be settled on the decision."
Newton said that when he went to visit the staff at the Hearst-owned sister station, he went there to see what the possibilities were.
"I am loyal to Channel 12," he said. "We put down roots here, bought a house and kids go to school … I talked to my wife about it. I just wanted to go to listen to what is on the table."
The station wants Newton to be the morning news anchor for its weekday morning newscasts, to "basically be what Patrick (Paolantonio) is to the show here at 12," the newsman said.
But it ultimately was the chance to go back home, to be near his family, that sealed the deal.
"When I went to the station, I drove the same route past my elementary school, and past my high school …" Newton said of his station visit. "There’s only one place I’d ever go from here (Milwaukee), and that is to be closer to family."
Newton said that when the announcement was made, it lifted a huge weight from his shoulders. The Baltimore Sun ran the story early on Tuesday morning, alerting those in Newton’s circles, that he was coming back home.
"I talked to my mom earlier today," Newton said, explaining how excited his parents are with the move. "And she opens her email and shows me. ‘I have 146 new messages,’ she said. ‘Here, let me read one for you,’ and she goes on.
"Then she pauses with an, ‘oh, my.’ I ask her what’s wrong, and she tells me, ‘there’s an email from your kindergarten teacher.’"
Newton said that it hasn’t really all sunk in yet, but here’s his career that took him to college, up the coast, to the Midwest and now back to Baltimore. His friends and family members always knew what he did, but it will now be more tangible … that a member of his family can turn on the TV, and there he will be.
"Newton will be a great addition to our newsroom," WBAL news director Michelle Butt told the Sun. "As a native Baltimorean, he knows how to connect with our viewers and is invested in our community."
When I asked Newton what he thought were some of the highlights from his time here in our market, he mentioned some of the stories he worked on, like Nicolet High School being flooded and arriving at the scene of the shootings at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek. But, even more than that, he mentioned the people he had the chance to work with.
"I’m here learning from Mike Anderson, Nick Bohr and Kathy Mykleby about what to do, and they knew the right way to do it," Newton said. "It’s the same thing at WBAL … I have the opportunity to know what needs to be done, to perfect it – if you ever can perfect it. … I’ve learned a lot, but I still have a lot to learn."
Newton told me that the three main stations in Baltimore are located on what everyone calls TV hill.
"You can’t help but see it, you can’t miss it. And you wonder what’s going on in there," Newton said. "And now, I’m in the building."
Media is bombarding us everywhere.
Instead of sheltering his brain from the onslaught, Steve embraces the news stories, entertainment, billboards, blogs, talk shows and everything in between.
The former writer, editor and producer in TV, radio, Web and newspapers, will be talking about what media does in our community and how it shapes who we are and what we do.