Ohio Anchor Leaves Show to Meet DeJesus

When Lydia Esparra got the interview call, she seized the opportunity.

Lydia Esparra (YouTube)
Lydia Esparra (YouTube)

Cleveland Anchor Leaves Show to Meet Freed Victim

“I Told Them on the Air . . . Got to Go”

Lydia Esparra, a weekend anchor at Cleveland’s WOIO-TV, became the only journalist to talk with freed kidnapping victim Gina DeJesus Thursday when DeJesus’ family interrupted Esparra on the air and said DeJesus wanted to see her.

Meanwhile, news outlets differed over the propriety of reporting on prior convictions of Charles Ramsey, the Internet sensation credited with helping to free DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight, who were imprisoned for a decade.

WEWS-TV apologized for its report on Ramsey’s domestic violence convictions, and Mark Naymik, writing in the Plain Dealer, said his newspaper “learned Tuesday night about some aspects of Ramsey’s troubled past. The paper left it out of its news stories.


“Ramsey’s action to help Berry stood alone. His past, even if it contained bad deeds, had nothing to do with his act of heroism Monday.”

Esparra described her meeting with DeJesus, a fellow Puerto Rican, on her own station [video] and with CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin Thursday on that network.

From the CNN transcript:

BALDWIN: And I talked with a family friend and a journalist here in the Cleveland area. She’s a weekend anchor at WOIO. Her name is Lydia Esparra. She visited Gina today and she told me about that visit.


LYDIA ESPARRA, WOIO ANCHOR: They have waited nine long years. And, of course, I have been covering the story.

BALDWIN: From the beginning.

ESPARRA: From the beginning, from the very beginning.

And Nancy and her husband, Felix, never gave up hope, never gave up hope. They said, my daughter’s alive. Even when I doubted her, she said, Lydia, my daughter’s alive. So…

BALDWIN: You were on the air, and they said get off the air.

ESPARRA: I was on the air.

Yes, once they came through — and that was Gina’s sister in orange. That was her sister Mayra protecting her.

BALDWIN: With her arm.

ESPARRA: Right. They are very protective of her because they haven’t had her for nine years.

So, yes, so I’m live on the air, and then one of her relatives comes over and says, Nancy wants you to come to the house.


ESPARRA: So, I said, OK, and I told them on the air, said, got to go, Nancy’s calling.

So, I go inside the house and I have my moment with Nancy and we’re crying and — with Felix and we’re crying, because I haven’t spent any time with them, and I’m friends besides being a journalist. It’s just such a tough line trying to be a friend and do your job.


ESPARRA: But first I’m a human being, so that’s the attitude I took.


ESPARRA: So, I went and I cried with them, because that’s what I do, and I cried.

And then I was like, am I going to be able to see Gina? And she — the niece says, yes. And Gina wants to see you.


ESPARRA: And I said, really? And she — yes, mom asked her. And she goes, Lydia’s out there. Do you want to see Lydia?

BALDWIN: And you never met Gina before?

ESPARRA: I have never met — never.

BALDWIN: You got to know her through missing posters and talking to the family.

ESPARRA: Everything, missing posters, talking to the family.

I used to keep her pictures on my desk. Any time I covered a vigil, I would keep everything on my desk of her to remind me that she was missing. I would talk to Nancy. She would tell me stories. She was shy. She’d never get in a car with anybody, a stranger.


BALDWIN: How is she? How was Gina?

ESPARRA: She’s doing fabulous. It was unbelievable.

My hands were sweating because here’s someone I never imagined would come back to us. And so when I went inside, I embraced her and she embraced me reluctantly, because she’s, obviously, been locked in a basement for nine years, and we talked.

And the first thing I said is, you look nothing like your composite. She’s a tiny little thing. She’s very small, short hair. She had longer hair when she disappeared. And her skin’s a little pale from the lack of vitamin D from being outside. But she was just so kind and so happy.

And a relative came up to her and said — was talking in Spanish and she looks at her mom and says, mom, I don’t remember my Spanish anymore.

BALDWIN: Really?


BALDWIN: She can’t speak Spanish anymore?

ESPARRA: No. And then we had a couple of other words. I asked her about the house, and then I left. The family told me to stay, have food. We’re Hispanic. We’re very open with one another. Lydia, stay and have food. But I did not want to make her feel uncomfortable. I left. . . .

In other developments, Angel Cordero, who speaks only Spanish, told ABC affiliate WEWS-TV that he arrived at the scene first and he was the one to kick the door down, freeing Berry, who had been trapped inside for nearly 10 years. Also, the Call & Post, Cleveland’s black weekly owned and published by boxing promoter Don King, had no coverage of the rescue events on its Web page, but reported on the saga in its print edition, a staffer told Journal-isms.

David Bauder, Associated Press: Charles Ramsey’s turbulent 15 minutes of fame

James Carr, the Shadow League: Charles Ramsey Is The Gregory Brothers’ Latest Muse For Psuedo-Blaxploitation

Henry J. Gomez, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: The rescue of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight: 30 minutes that ended a decade of nightmares (video, slideshow)

Latino Rebels: The Other Cleveland Kidnapping Hero: Ángel Cordero

Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Heinous crimes could happen next door and most people wouldn’t have a clue

Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Michelle Knight released from hospital; thanks community but asks for privacy

Ruben Rosario, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.: Some understanding for the Cleveland kidnapping victims

Jay Smooth, Ill Doctrine: T-Paining Too Much: The meme-ification of Charles Ramsey (video)

WEWS-TV: NewsChannel5 apologizes for incorrect reporting on citizenship of Castro brothers

Columnist Clem Richardson Laid Off at N.Y. Daily News

Daily News columnist Clem Richardson was among the dozen or so journalists laid off from the New York tabloid, Richardson disclosed, telling Journal-isms that Friday was his last day.

Richardson, 58, has worked at the News since 1993. His disclosure came as the New York Post offered voluntary buyouts to newsroom employees, the top two editors at the New York-based Village Voice said they were leaving the weekly newspaper over staff cuts, and the editor of Columbia Journalism Review, Cyndi Stivers, also based in New York, left to become editor-in-chief of AOL.com. CJR’s longtime executive editor, Mike Hoyt, was in the process of being laid off, according to Joe Pompeo of capitalnewyork.com.

Richardson explained Friday by email, “I have been a columnist since shortly after returning from a six month International Center for Journalists fellowship teaching newspaper writing for the Independent Newspaper group in South Africa. When I officially left the company today I was writing the weekly Great People, City Beat, and Uptown Talks columns, the titles of each explain what they covered.

“What’s next? Several friends in the business have graciously offered writing opportunities, and college teaching is a possibility should a position come up. All this time will allow me to finish the rewrite on my first novel, a Brooklyn-based fantasy, sometime this month, which a brilliant Brooklyn artist, Leokadia Cermakova has graciously consented to create the cover art and illustrate several scenes inside.

“Other than that I’m sitting here screaming at the ridiculous and unending one-on-one play that passes for the NBA playoffs nowadays and reflecting on how wonderful a life I have been blessed to live. I have heard from friends, colleagues and dozens of people I profiled, so I guess I got a few names right. . . .”

[On Saturday, reporter Tanyanika Samuels, who is expecting a baby, told her Facebook followers that she, too, was laid off: 

“As some of you may know, I was among those laid off from the Daily News on Friday. I consider myself in good company. Thank you to those who reached out. Looking forward to the future, most notably on the imminent arrival of baby #2. Just three weeks to go…eeek!” Samuels previously worked at the Kansas City Star and the Philadelphia Inquirer, according to her LinkedIn profile.]

Joe Pompeo, capitalnewyork.com: Daily News chief Colin Myler tells staff layoffs were inevitable; announces new digitial initiative in boroughs

Joe Pompeo, capitalnewyork.com: ‘New York Post’ offers buyouts; seeks 10-percent staff reduction in attempt to avoid layoffs