What is that cloud in the sky? Is it … a swarm of flying pigs? May as well be: Veteran WWBT anchor Gene Cox will be behind the desk at Channel 8. He will co-anchor WRIC's 5:30 p.m. news on a temporary basis beginning Aug. 1.
The typically wry Cox, who spent 33 years at WWBT-12, says he isn't ready for retirement. "I feel like I'm not dead yet." He had to wait a year for his noncompete clause to run out before appearing on another local station; Cox says he sent out feelers two or three months ago. He talked to 12's management as recently as last week, but they couldn't come to an agreement that made both sides happy, Cox said Thursday. WRIC was much more enthusiastic about returning him to the anchor desk, he added.
The 5:30 newscast is a trial run for Cox and Channel 8. "I'm laying myself out there," he says. "It's up to them, and it's up to me. If it clicks, I'd like to stay."
Replacing Christina Feerick, who will remain at 5, 6 and 11 p.m., Cox will co-anchor with Amy Lacey, who is anchor/reporter at 5 and 6 p.m. The hope is that the change will improve WRIC's ratings, Cox says. "We'll see if anyone cares. Success and failure depends on public perception." He plans to keep tweeting, which has kept him in the public eye since his retirement in June 2011, but he says he'll be "a little more circumspect" now that he's back on air.
Juan Conde, WRIC's longtime 6 and 11 p.m. anchor, learned the news recently and says, "I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with someone of Gene's caliber. I have every confidence that he will help this station succeed."
August's media column will feature more on Cox's return to Richmond TV news.