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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

End of an error

Veteran Boston television anchor Tom Ellis may be hanging them up -- and not by choice.

Ellis was a TV anchor legend, but not in the best sense. His heyday coincided with that of Ted Baxter, the bumbling anchor at Minneapolis' fictional WJM-TV.

While he worked at all three Boston newsdesks during their heyday, Ellis often seemed out of place with his Texas twang and his inappropriately timed winks and smirks.

His hiring at Channel 5 was controversial, his pairing with Natalie Jacobson uncomfortable. The joke was that NECN, Ellis' home for the last 14 years, stands for Never Ever Cross Natalie. Ellis, and former Jacobson spouse Chet Curtis did and came to rest at the cable outlet.

Ellis's refusal to go quietly is somewhat understandable. The part-time gig represented a sort of triumph for the one-time king of Boston anchors.

But the industry has passed him by. True his only contemporary -- and WBZ-TV replacement Jack Williams -- still soldiers on. But Williams had been shown the pasture several years ago until Channel 4's abysmal ratings gave him a reprieve.

The news desk likes young and at 76, that's one thing Ellis can't claim. Natalie herself was eased out by Channel 5, Liz Walker is gone from Channel 4. The parade of interchangeable faces at WHDH-TV is considered a key to its success by many. Aside from Randy Price, can you really tell the difference among the neatly coiffed talking heads?

Tom Ellis represents a bygone era in television news. His re-emergence at NECN at the twilight of his career was a rare gift for him. A quieter, more diplomatic departure would have been a better move because Ellis' options for another gig are virtually nil.

And that's the way it is.

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