Who will fill Kent’s NJN’s shoes (heels)?

Selecting the next NJN anchor will certainly be a different process than what happens at the major networks, local affiliates and other public community broadcast stations.

Aside from grappling with its talent loss – filling the shoes (um, heels) of Emmy award winning anchor Kent Manahan – NJN‘s anchor search will be hampered by deep cuts, budget uncertainty and buyout restrictions.

Of the handful of state employees at NJN who opted for the early retirement package, all but one — if not all — may have to be filled from the inside. By law, the early retirement provisions stipulate that only 1 in 10 buyout positions can be filled from outside the state payroll.

For some folks like Senior Political Correspondent Michael Aron and now interim News Director, that may mean wearing two hats for a lot longer.

Wearing that extra hat also means Aron will likely be at the center of deciding who will become the next NJN anchor.

According to Elizabeth Christopherson, NJN’s Executive Director, “there is a firewall between management and our news room” in describing how the anchor selection will be a personnel decision for the News Director to make.

As Aron sees it “we obviously have a major decision ahead of us, but it doesn’t have to be made until mid-December.”

Acknowledging the buyout restrictions Aron added, “My expectation is we will have to fill it from within. Even though our reporters are as thin as they have ever been, we do have a handful of people from which we can select, anyone of whom could take over the anchor position.”

Given his senior status, is Aron likely to throw his hat in the ring?

“I love what I’ve been doing and I’m reluctant to give it up. I don’t think I could wear three hats.

“I love going out into the world every day. The anchor sits indoors much of the day and is desk bound. For me, it is more gratifying to be reporting.”

But while Aron seems less than interested in the anchor position, check in with him in a few weeks to see if the announced national search for News Director starts and ends at his door.

So far, he likes the fit.

Coming next: Navigating the stormy seas at NJN.

Debbie Holtz, PolitickerNJ.com’s political media columnist, studies and teaches public policy and writing at Rutgers University.