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This week New Yorkers learned that beloved foul-mouthed WNBC anchor Sue Simmons’ contract would not be renewed. Now the whisperings as to who is going to be taking her place are already starting. But the reaction to the news of Simmons’ impending departure was impassioned. The Times even chronicled the Twitterverse’s cries. Our very own Michael Musto explained his adoration on his blog. From celebrity anguish — Martha Plimpton! Alec Baldwin! — to good old-fashioned internet crusading a chorus rang out condemning NBC for giving up an icon. We emailed some questions to the man behind the Save Sue Simmons! Tumblr — 26-year-old New York native and Columbia graduate student Ryder Kessler — to hear why he took to the web to fight for Simmons. Read his responses after the jump.
Why did you decide to make the Save Sue Simmons Tumblr?
I was devastated when I heard that Sue’s contract wasn’t being renewed — she’s been a part of my New York City life for literally as long as I can remember — and I knew that I wouldn’t be alone in that sentiment. Within ten minutes I had the Tumblr set up: clicking a few buttons and sharing my affection for Sue Simmons was the least I could do to give voice to all the New Yorkers who want Sue to stay on the air for as long as she wants.
What is the response you’ve gotten?
The response has been really encouraging: within twelve hours of my starting the Tumblr, it was getting mentioned by the New York Times and New York Observer alongside the celebrity tweets and Facebook pages that had sprouted up in support of Sue, and I was getting lots of messages from other disappointed fans. There’s clearly a groundswell of support for WNBC keeping her on the air, and it’s fantastic that the ease of speaking up on social media is letting Comcast hear that message.
What had been your favorite Sue story so far?
It’s hard to pick just one, but the overwhelming message is that Chuck and Sue are central to so many New Yorkers’ experience of the city. Especially for those of us who grew up here within the last 30 years, they’re like our TV parents — in our living rooms every day, making us laugh in lighter moments and somberly delivering the serious news when necessary. I’ve heard from people who shed tears when they heard Sue’s contract wasn’t being renewed. They want to speak up for this path-breaking woman who has been a part of their city landscape for decades, and I’m glad to be giving them a place to do that.
How long do you plan on keeping this going? What do you hope the end result is?
I’ll keep going until Sue’s contract is renewed — or at least until Sue herself announces that she’s happy to call it quits. After over 30 years as a beloved city icon, she’s earned the right to decide when to step aside.
What do you think about the Sue critics, who say it was her “antics and massive paycheck” that were responsible for her termination? See here.
Say it ain’t Sue! I can’t know what’s happening in the newsroom, but I tend to think the “antics” line is overblown. And it’s disconcerting that Chuck and Sue are both 68, but it’s the woman whose contract is being dropped. If Sue is less inclined than Chuck Scarborough to make appearances away from the anchor desk (another complaint I’ve heard), why not lower their base salaries a bit and then pay per appearance?
Comcast should realize they have a tremendous asset in New Yorkers’ investment in Chuck and Sue and trade on that. I’ve read, too, that their ratings are up, a rarity for local news today. I’ve heard from a lot of people who say that without Chuck and Sue on air together, they’ll have no reason to keep watching WNBC as opposed to one of the other local newscasts. Her salary is high, but you can’t buy iconic status, name recognition, and trust — especially in New York.