BANGOR, Maine — The two former local TV news co-anchors whose on-air resignations shocked viewers last November have survived their daring move and the burst of international celebrity it created, they said in a joint interview at the Bangor Daily News on Saturday.
Tony Consiglio is now writing for a new website, sportsjerks.net, a rare entry into the often frothy world of online sports journalism, he says, in that it is founded by two poets who care about quality writing.
Cindy Michaels has three jobs. The California native hosts shows for WFMX MIX 107.9 FM and WAVE-93.7 FM and sells vacation excursions through sharkdiver.com for Shark Diver, a San Diego company, she says.
“When we left the company, we knew we did not have anything to go to, and we knew it would be a challenge,” Michaels said. “You somehow make it. I told myself, ‘I am a survivor. I will get through this.’”
The two left their jobs at WVII (Channel 7) and sister station WFVX (Channel 22) on Nov. 20 in protest of what they said was years of interference from upper-level management in newsroom operations, which the stations’ manager denied. At the time, and now, they refused to describe the precise reasons they left.
“I still don’t think that it is necessary to put out there, to tell people what was said,” the 28-year-old Consiglio said.
“We’ve already said everything there was to say about it,” Michaels said.
They opted out on-air, they said at the time, simply because they wanted to bid a proper farewell to their audience and knew they wouldn’t get that opportunity if they told management beforehand.
The consequences of that gesture were anything but simple. It was featured in the New York Times and the German news magazine Der Spiegel, trended to No. 1 on Yahoo! News, and went viral with 5 million hits on YouTube. The TV news show 20/20 tried five times to get them on-air, and Michaels got three marriage proposals, she said.
“The proposals didn’t even have descriptions. They just said, ‘Marry me,’” said Michaels, who didn’t respond to any of them.
Consiglio and Michaels said they received a blizzard of emails from fellow journalists and their viewers, almost all of it positive. A few people chastised Michaels, saying she had thrown away her 16 years of broadcast radio and TV experience with the gesture.
A few journalists came forward with stories that mirrored hers, Michaels said, speaking of “upper management getting into the newsroom” and telling “how to make someone look better than they would if we didn’t run the full clip.”
Consiglio and Michaels received several offers in the immediate wake of their resignations, but said they didn’t find them suitable. The economic shock of the move forced Michaels to sell items on eBay and take loans from friends and family.
“I sold stuff down to like old bottles of perfume, just trying to make money. I had a garage sale at my house,” Michaels said. “I was writing. I was doing voiceover stuff.”
For Consiglio, leaving the TV stations allowed him to get back into sports reporting, which is where he started, he said.
No longer being before the cameras allows Michaels to avoid controversies like that stirred by Ellsworth radio station WDEA, an AM station owned by the national conglomerate Townsquare Media. The radio station posted a poll on the station’s website July 15 asking readers to vote for “the hottest TV newswoman in Maine.” The poll lists six TV news reporters and anchors.
Unlike others who deemed it sexist and objectifying, Michaels said she doesn’t take the poll too seriously, given the edgy nature of radio.
“As long as it was the radio station that did it and not the TV stations, then no harm done,” Michaels said. “And as long as the anchors-reporters sit back and do nothing to make themselves look foolish by playing along and just ignore it, and enjoy the little attention and bout of flattery they are getting, so what?”
Both Bangor residents said the most rewarding aspect of their on-air gesture was how many people empathized with their feelings. People took their stance as a sign, they said, of integrity — something the news business often seems to lack.
“It was nothing I was looking for,” Consiglio said of the positive response. “It was surprising.”
“People have called me and said, ‘I want to do a Cindy Michaels,’” Michaels said. “It’s very humbling.”
Consiglio and Michaels said they have no regrets about their resignation. Always and only good friends, they said they found the experience worthwhile, Michaels said.
“You have to look at the whole situation. If all those same situations and incidents brought me to a point where I needed to walk away, absolutely I would do it again,” Michaels said.
“I think you can never go wrong by doing the right thing,” she added. “It may take some time before you see some good coming from it, but as long as you keep trying, you will be blessed.”