|Longtime News Anchor Retires
BY DAVID STOKES
While viewers of Atlanta and north Georgia acclimate themselves, nearly one year later, to the retirement of legendary news anchor Monica (Kaufman) Pearson from WSB-TV/Channel 2, after 37 years of service, came the announcement last week that the second most-watched news channel in Atlanta, WAGA-TV/Fox 5, has ultimately forced the retirement of another fixture of television news in the country's eighth largest mass media market, Amanda Davis.
Late last month, on April 25, Ms. Davis was allowed to videotape what was a five minute message to viewers, during its popular 10pm. newscast, of the plan for retirement following a prolonged imbroglio upon her arrest last fall for DUI, in November, near the Atlanta Civic Center. Ms. Davis had been absent from the top-rated number two newscast for months, amid inquiries by viewers on whether she would return to co-anchor the newscast with her self-described "tv husband," Russ Spencer. During her message to viewers, followed by dialogue with Spencer and "Cookie," Davis' nickname for chief meteorologist Ken Cook, she reminisced of her years at Fox 5, along with other years on Atlanta television, period, which started with a five-year stint, in 1983, at the top-rated WSB/Channel 2 newsroom as a reporter/substitute anchor. In 1988, however, Davis transitioned to Fox 5, amid a contract negotiations breakdown with WSB/Channel 2 management, to become a permanent news anchor at the midtown station. For the next 25 years, Ms. Davis increased her presence and 'stock' with north Georgians as a primetime anchor, along with presenting weekly installments of the station's "Wednesday's Child" segment and hosting, every January, the annual Commemorative Service in remembrance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Ebenezer Baptist Church on Auburn Avenue, NE. "Moving on to the next chapter of my life," Davis also indicated to viewers her desire to remain in Atlanta with family, but gave no indication of the next move professionally. Nevertheless, for the past six months, viewers and co-workers have missed the impeccably dressed and coiffed news personality. While she has enjoyed a respectable reputation and assisted with Fox 5's gains in news ratings, Davis has been in trouble prior to the most recent DUI charge. In the early '90s, Davis was arrested for DUI but no other individual was involved with the incident. In last Fall's incident, Davis wrecked her car with an oncoming car while driving in the opposite direction's lane. No injuries were reported. Four months ago, in January, at Fulton County State Court, her case was continued for a later date toward final adjudication. Furthermore, the litigation kept Ms. Davis in lingo and off the air indefinitely, to the chagrin of viewers. "She deserves a second chance ... and we want her back giving us the news," indicated Jackie Stone, an Atlanta Inquirer reader and "daily" viewer of Fox 5 news. "We miss her," Stone relayed, which was the general sentiment of many viewers, according to a Fox 5 news producer, speaking exclusively with the desire to remain anonymous for this story. "She is very much loved (by viewers), and is missed here in the newsroom," the WAGA employee said. "But in such a sensitive profession where actions count with (viewers), we must always be mindful of how we act outside of the station—even when not during working hours. Reputation is everything in this business." Seeking a comment from Fox 5 management on Davis' departure, station Manager Bill Snyder did not return calls by presstime.
In a related story involving another news personality, Elle Duncan of WXIA/11 Alive News was released from the Atlanta city jail, on April 28, following her DUI arrest the previous night after a NBA playoff game between the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers. The two-year 11 Alive News morning traffic reporter's court date was not immediately known. However, Duncan—whose real name is Lauren Duncan—has been suspended from duty but is scheduled to return to work on Monday, May 6, according to an 11-Alive employee who requested to remain anonymous due to not having permission to discuss the situation. Duncan, 30, arrived at Atlanta's NBC television affiliate after providing color commentary at Atlanta's top-rated "People's Station" of V-103 for, most recently, then-afternoon drive host Ryan Cameron, and earlier, Frank Ski and Wanda Smith. The native Atlantan is also a sideline reporter for the Atlanta Hawks, and was leaving the Buckhead Bottle and Bistro eatery, after the game, when she was stopped in her silver Mercedes Benz by a Georgia State Patrol officer, on Piedmont Road, NE, for reckless driving in which, according to the incident report, she "narrowly missed striking another vehicle ... at a high rate of speed." Duncan's eyes were "watery" and "bloodshot," according to the police report, as well as she possessed "an odor of alcoholic beverage coming from her mouth." Formal charges against Duncan were DUI, registering .099, and reckless driving. In a statement posted on the 11Alive website two weeks ago, Duncan indicated, "I am greatly embarrassed for my actions (on the early morning of April 28). I have been reminded—in a very difficult way—that any amount of alcohol can impair us. I take full responsibility for my actions, and I apologize to my fans, our community and my 11 Alive family." Ellen Crooke, vice president-news director of 11 Alive, did not respond to a reporter's phone call for comment by presstime.