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Harris Blackwood: Jeff Hullinger receives well-deserved promotion
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I love when new TV anchors come to town.

I love when they mispronounce towns such as Winder, Braselton and Hoschton. They always mess up Coweta County. By the way, it’s ky-eat-a, not co-wet-a or any such thing.

The new television anchor in Atlanta is an old television anchor. Jeff Hullinger has been named as the weeknight anchor on WXIA-TV, better known as 11 Alive.

Jeff and I got to know each other during the preparation for Gov. Nathan Deal’s inauguration in 2011. We maintain an ongoing dialogue about things such as Georgia history and the like. We always talk about having lunch, but never do.

Hullinger debuted as the sports anchor on WAGA-TV in 1984. He missed the era of Herschel Walker, but was around for the resurgence of the Braves, our Summer Olympic games in 1996 and the Falcons appearance in the 1999 Super Bowl.

I guess the news anchors had gone home July 27, 1996, when a bomb went off in Centennial Olympic Park. Hullinger anchored eight hours of coverage in the wee hours of the morning. He proved then he a penchant for something other than sports.

Through the years, he has won 19 Emmy awards and was recently inducted in the Silver Circle, an honor reserved for those who have 25 years or more in the TV business. I don’t know where you put 19 Emmy awards. If you had a really big house, you could put one in every room.

I digress.

Hullinger’s promotion at 11 Alive comes as some seasoned professionals are taking a company buy-out. Anchor Keith Whitney and reporters Donna Lowry and Kevin Rowson have accepted a company offer to retire. They represent more than 75 years of on-the-air experience at the station.

Another media friend, former country radio host Rhubarb Jones, and I were talking this week. We agree Hullinger has aged well and has an almost timeless look. What is true is he knows Atlanta and Georgia and has a believability factor that could really make a difference for the station.

Despite some strong years for NBC, the station’s network, channel 11 has never been able to leverage that into a first-place finish in the local news ratings battle. It hasn’t been for a lack of trying. If I started listing the station’s news gimmicks in the past 30 years, they would have to give me more space.

I’ve been around long enough to remember the 11 Alive News Hawk. A guy who was supposed to be an investigative reporter who finished his reports with a live hawk flying to the falconry glove on his outstretched hand. This is also the station that saw its sports anchor attempt a goal post jump at the super bowl of Motocross. It didn’t work.

The combination of Hullinger and Brenda Wood, who has nearly 30 years of experience in Atlanta TV, may be the tonic that channel 11 needs. They worked together years ago at WAGA and seem to have an on-air chemistry that is good.

I like Hullinger and enjoy our conversations about governors, not the current one, but those of yesteryear.

I’m glad he likes history. I hope he gets to make some in his new role in the showcase team on 11.

 

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.

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