You can call Kaity Tong (left) a WPIX survivor. She weathered the storm when she was relegated to weekends five years ago.
Now the 23-year PIX veteran is ready to start anew. She’ll co-anchor a new 6:30 p.m. weeknight broadcast starting next month. Another familiar face to viewers, Brenda Blackmon, is coming on board to join Tong on the 30-minute newscast.
Blackmon spent 23 years at WWOR until Fox canceled its 10 p.m. broadcast in 2013, which she anchored for many years with Harry Martin.
“Brenda is one of the most recognizable and talented journalists in the market, and we are thrilled to pair New York news icons Brenda and Kaity at the anchor desk of PIX11’s newest newscast,” WPIX President/GM Rich Graziano said in a statement.
Tong has been a fan favorite during her time at PIX, especially since dealing with the station adversity. She responded to numerous congratulatory tweets. In one saying, “Cannot WAIT to sit beside Brenda.”
Tamsen Fadal and John Muller hold down the fort from 5-6:30 p.m., before returning after dinner break for the 10 p.m.
Channel 11 will have the only local option opposite the network’s big three newscasts.
We’re not sure what this means for the Craig Ferguson-hosted game show, Celebrity Name Game, currently occupying the 6:30 p.m. slot.
Fox’s WNYW is the perpetual ratings champ with its 10 p.m. newscasts. But even Rupert Murdoch 21st Century Fox isn’t immune to belt-tightening.
Tuned In has learned that WNYW has laid off several behind-the-scenes staffers. We’re told that a “bunch” of engineers and videographers were bounced, cre4ating an uneasy feeling at the East 67th Street broadcast complex.
Once again, we were refused a comment by a Fox spokesperson.
“This wasn’t unexpected, but there were hopes [that] a last minute deal would be worked out to save some positions,” an insider says. “Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
Earlier this month, Fox dramatically severed ties with local news at Secaucus-based WWOR, causing the company to get roundly criticized by many, including elected officials.
Related: FCC Investigates WWOR as Former Anchor Harry Martin Seeks “Mutual Agreement” with WNYW
Whether Fox will pay anchor WWOR anchor Harry Martin to remain with the company as a Channel 5 reporter is still unclear.
The brave new world for WWOR minus a news department began last night with the debut of Chasing New Jersey. As we reported last week, Fox management, without any fanfare, opted out of its regular 10 p.m. newscast. Instead, Channel 9 is airing a show that is being labeled by some as TMZ meets A Current Affair. The nightly show jettisons anchors and reporters in favor of a ringleader and chasers to highlight New Jersey-centric topics. Perhaps the closest element to being “news” worthy is interviews with state politicians.
The dramatic movement by Rupert Murdoch and Fox in the last few days has brought attention squarely upon the FCC. The agency has been in a struggle with WWOR for years. Since Channel 9’s move to the shadows of the Meadowlands in the late 1980s, the station has been under the gun by the FCC. Becoming a New Jersey broadcast outlet forced Channel 9 (then owned by RKO) to cover the Garden State properly.
An FCC spokesperson tells Tuned In that the WWOR issue is before the Commission so it cannot comment. The spokesperson adds that there is no specific timeframe for a decision.
In order to satisfy a license renewal, the FCC will need to determine if local news is getting the short end of the stick at WWOR, whose license expired in 2007.
Matthew Schwartz spent a career at Channel 9. The reporter worked at WWOR (and the original call letters WOR) for 20 years. Even though he’s been out of New York for a decade, Schwartz says the death knell sounded for Channel 9 News when Fox purchased the station in 2000.
“I wasn’t surprised at all. I saw it almost from the get-go,” Schwartz tells Tuned In. “I blame the FCC first, and then I blame Fox second, because they’re equal partners in this. How could [the FCC] let this station, licensed to New Jersey, not even have a newscast? What a joke. It’s a disgrace.”
Effective immediately, WWOR/Channel 9 is out of the news business. VP/station manager Dianne Doctor announced Secaucus-based WWOR will offer viewers all things Garden State. The 30-minute Chasing New Jersey will feature wide-ranging interviews with everyone from local politicians to area residents, as many important issues facing the state are discussed.
The new program, originating from Trenton, will not include an anchor. Instead Bill Spadea will be the “Ringleader.”
Tuned In has learned that Channel 9 employees were told about the news today with this terse statement from the human resources department.
“We regret to inform you that the news has been cancelled and we’re shutting down.”
Several staffers will be laid off as a result of this programming shift, TVSpy reports. The website says co-anchor Harry Martin has been offered a reporter position at WNYW. From 2009 to 2012, Martin was solo at 6 p.m. on WNYW along with his Channel 9 duties. Brenda Blackmon will produce and anchor specials for WWOR. She has been a mainstay of WWOR since 1990. Sports anchor Russ Salzberg and meteorologist Audrey Puente won’t be affected as much. Salzberg is the regular nightly sportscaster on Channel 5 and Puente is a featured back-up on the station.