CHAMPAIGN — A popular local television personality said on his Facebook page that his on-air role at WCIA will be reduced after tonight.
Dave Benton, who is battling cancer, made the announcement during today’s 6 p.m. newscast with co-anchor Jennifer Roscoe.
"It was four or five months ago when I got word that my brain cancer had returned," Benton said. "I had a couple of more ways to fight that, and we tried those two ways to fight back and find better time. The reality is, in those four months, they did little to help. What I found two weeks ago is my brain cancer is back, twice as much as I had had in some cases. Basically it was taking over. It was a little harder to read. My eyes started to move a little bit more, so I know things are changing.
"What I have realized in my ability not to always see what I am looking at and to get ready to read, it has become more difficult. My goal has always been to be as good as I could be as possible.
"Now that I can’t read everything live on the air and know what’s coming next, the time has come for me to step down from anchoring here, simply because I want to make sure we are doing an accurate job. And I’m not saying something that doesn’t make sense because I think that’s what I said. The time has come for me to step down from doing that.
"I hope to work behind the scenes for awhile and do that for a little while longer. I have the time to be prepared for that, and I have these glasses I can read and know what that is. But in live television, you can’t do it that way. It’s gotta be like that.
"I hope to be helpful behind the scenes and do some great things. It has always been a goal here to be part of the team to do a good job. I can still help behind the scenes, and I’m gonna do that.
"You go to television, and I thought I would be famous. I worked in Chicago, and, what I found early on in the 30 years I have been in television that it was better to be a good reporter and try to do some good stories and help people and solve issues. Over those 30 years I have found a lot of issues and topics and things that I thought were important to be a part of.
"And so, what I hope is, in these nine and a half years, that I’ve done that. That I had the opportunity to do some good work, to be a good anchor, to make a change.
"I know that, here at Channel 3, the goal was to hold the seat, and I’m going to work with great people. I’m going to be with great reporters. I want to do a good job holding that seat because, at some point, someone’s going to take that next spot. And I want them to be ready for that. Whoever that is will do a wonderful job, and I am praying for them.
"It has been an opportunity and a blessing I never ever expected.
"The last year and a half, I never expected this kind of reaction. I’m not that famous, really. With today’s technology, it comes from everywhere. People are so supportive in their prayers. Unbelievable, more than I ever imagined.
"I want to thank you for that. You have changed my life in the last year and a half. You have made all sort of things possible.
"So I’m going to be around here longer, behind the scenes. Maybe you’ll see me once in a while or hear my voice, and that’s a good thing. We’re just gonna move forward, as I am grateful for all that God for the blessings I have received.
"I’m not done yet."
Wrote Benton earlier Monday: "I want to update all of you on what’s happening with my health. The last time we talked was about five months ago. I found out two weeks ago that the tumor has grown. The treatments aren’t working and it’s affecting my ability to anchor the news."
Benton said he hopes to remain a part of the newscast "a little longer" with Crime Watch stories during the 5 p.m. hour.
He went on to say: "Thank you for all your support, prayers, and well wishes. It’s been an ‘interesting’ year and a half. My goal was to be in the anchor seat and do a good job. I hope I’ve done that. Now it’s time for the next step."
In September, staff writer Debra Pressey profiled Benton’s courageous fight with the disease. Read it here: tinyurl.com/ppfh47h