It’s another example of the troubling state of local news.
In an effort to promote the second season of Fox’s successful drama, Empire, based on the music industry, WNYW is unthinkably giving away its last 30 minutes following each episode. Anchors Steve Lacy and Dari Alexander host the After Empire party, complete with hip-hop themed performances and DJs spinning on the turntables. Even this week, just 24 hours after a cop was gunned down, wasn’t enough to alter their programming, although hosting duties went to entertainment reporter Simone Boyce.
Yes, a station’s late newscast (still has the Fox 5 graphic in the corner with time and temperature) airing live music. Ever heard of that one?
This makes sense on the morning newscast Good Day New York, especially in the lighter 9 a.m. hour where performers regularly take the stage.
Television news has always been about garnering the ratings. That’s what news directors and GMs liked. Now, it’s not only about sales revenue and the Nielsen numbers. Today there’s a definite realignment with social media. At the same time, there’s also evidence of “dumbing down” the broadcasts.
If you’re up early on the weekend, for example, you may have noticed a different look on WCBS-TV.
With Cindy Hsu, a solid pro, moved to weekend nights, Channel 2 is opting for style at the desk.
Teaming anchor Andrea Grymes (above left) and recent hire Diane Macedo (above right) has the feel of girls “playing TV.”
Thankfully, the initial giggles and smiles have eased. That isn’t the type of chemistry essential in New York. Altoona, maybe, but not NYC.
Grymes is a decent enough reporter, but lacks in the substance department, especially when placed behind the desk. As for Macedo, her stock is apparently rising with management as an occasional fill-in anchor at other times.
Rolland Smith logged nearly 40 years in local news, including many in New York a generation ago at the aforementioned WCBS. He says change is not always for the better.
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.