Hummel: I didn't want to go down that road
UPDATE: I've left a message for ABC6 news director B.J. Finnell, and will report on what he has to say if and when he gets back to me. I'm also trying to reach WLNE GM Stephen Doerr.
Here's some additional comment from Hummel:
The 13-year veteran of Channel 6 confirmed that he does not have another job immediately lined up, and that his departing in this fashion "has some people scratching their heads."
Hummel says his non-compete clause will keep him from working in the Providence TV market for a few months, but it sounds as if he'd like to catch on with one of the other stations after his self-imposed "sabbatical." The reporter, who has spent his entire career at the ProJo and at Channel 6, says he's looking forward to enjoying some time off during the pleasant months of August, September, and October.
Hummel, 48, says he has a continued interest in reporting.
"As journalists, we all want to try to make a difference," he says, expressing pride about what he did with his trademark "You Paid For It!" investigative reports. "Leaving that is tough," Hummel adds, but he was not certain that new ownership at the station -- despite assurances that Channel 6 was supportive of investigative reporting -- would continue the segment in the way he wanted to do it.
Ultimately, Hummel says, "For 13 yeears, I've been a cheerleader and an ambassador for the station, despite our struggles in the ratings, because I believed in the product, and I can’t say that anymore."
I just spoke with Jim Hummel. Due to a 1 pm appearance on WPRO's Buddy Cianci Show, my inquiry to station officials at Channel 6 will have to wait until after that.
Asked why he left, Hummel said, "I've really become disturbed by the direction the station has been taking." Asked to elaborate, he cited "increasing pressure to sensationalize and to distort the news to boost the ratings . . . I'm not going to get into chapter and verse . . . We used words like 'thug,' 'lowlife,' and 'scumbag.' Those are direct quotes," that were "condoned and encouraged. I just think we're crossing the line as journalists that I don't think we should be crossing."
While he agrees that Channel 6, the traditional local ratings laggard, needs to be different from its competitors at Channel 10 and Channel 12, Hummel said, WLNE's approach under new management is "a road I'm not willing to go down with them."
Hummel says he'd been thinking about leaving for several months, and told new management when his contract expired in February that he had questions about the station's future. A series of extensions carried him through late June, and he continued working under a gentleman's agreement.
Hummel called his departure today one that came on his own initiative, as well as an "amicable parting with a handshake and a 'good luck.' "
He says Channel 6's use of Cianci as an on-air analyst "was not a major factor, but it was a factor." After covering Cianci off and on for 25 years, Hummel says, "To then be told I had to work with him as a colleague, let’s just say it was a difficult position for a journalist to be put in."
More later . . .