CW2's Tom Green has announced that he's leaving Daybreak, the morning-news program he's anchored for fifteen years, at the end of May. And he's doing it on his own quirky terms.
"Ron Zappolo told me when he left [Zappolo stepped down as main news anchor for Fox31, CW2's sister station, in 2013], he said, 'Whatever you do, if you ever do want to quit or walk away, make sure you have a plan,'" Green recalls. "We talked about it. But here I am, with no plan, just like he told me not to do. I appreciate his sage advice, but like a teenager, I'm not doing a good job of taking it."
As we noted in our coverage of 9News anchor Adele Arakawa's December revelation that she's departing from her station in June, TV stations feeling the pinch of shrinking budgets in this brave new media age are regularly slashing the salaries of high-dollar veteran talent or shedding these personalities entirely in favor of lower-paid replacements.
As such, journalism-biz observers may assume that Green jumped before he could be pushed. But even as he acknowledges the current economic realities of traditional broadcasting, he stresses that things went down a little differently in his case.
"My contract was up in May, and it may be a little presumptuous to say, but the calendar had reached a spot where I think they were going to offer me a deal to stay," Green allows. "I don't know that to be true, but I believe that's what probably was going to happen. Instead of us going through that, though, and getting into the conversation about whether they would be cutting costs or what they wanted the show to be, I said, 'How about I just tell you that I think I'm not coming back?'"
He feels that this twist "wasn't exactly what Holly [Gauntt, the station's news director] wanted to hear. But it was something I'd considered and wanted to do. So we never got to the step where we talked about whether they wanted to add this or subtract that, because I wanted to walk away."
The decision to leap sans parachute is a first for him, despite the many moves he's made in his career over the past twenty-plus years.
"When I left Channel 9 in 1995, I think I was already doing The Fan — the afternoon radio talk show with [former Denver Nuggets coach] Doug Moe," he notes. "And when I left The Fan after three years, I'm pretty sure I'd already made a deal to go to Channel 7 and do sports there. Then, when I left 7, I was actually going to go to Fox Sports Rocky Mountain, but that contract got turned sideways through no fault of anyone locally; they tried to change something we'd already agreed upon, and I said, 'No, thanks.' Then I took the morning show at Channel 2. So I haven't left anywhere before without a real map."
Green's impending departure will be bad news for viewers who prefer a low-key presence and dry wit over the sort of perkiness overload associated with many morning-TV personalities. Not that he's consciously been offering a form of counter-programming.
"I don't do much," he maintains. "I just do me, and that's how it plays, I guess. Almost anyone who ever manages talent or coaches people, the first thing they say is, 'More energy!' But I seem to have connected with people for all these years because I'm not really portraying anything. I'm just being myself, being honest."
When combined with spontaneity and Green's sneaky sense of humor, this forthrightness is capable of catching audience members off-guard. "I'll make a snide remark or a funny comment I think is harmless, and it'll get under someone's skin — and then I hear about it, in most cases from someone else," he concedes. "So I'll reach out to them and try to explain myself. Sometimes honesty can get you in trouble."
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Even so, Green isn't ready to abandon broadcasting entirely. He makes it clear that he's not retiring, and he is definitely open to a fresh direction. "It's exciting, because this obviously is an opportunity to go in any one of 360 degrees," he says. "But it's terrifying, too. I don't know what's out there yet."
In the meantime, he goes on, "I'm taking a very positive attitude, which I think will be easier to do over these next four months, because I'll still have a paycheck. When that ends, there'll be more of the staring-at-the-ceiling-at-night kind of thing — like, 'What are you going to do now, genius?'"
We miss him already.