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Fox46 expands its brand of news

By Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.
WJZY’s team for hosting the 6 p.m. newscast are, from left, sports director Anthony Flores, senior journalist Barbara Lash and chief meteorologist Rob Eicher.

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  • Cason gets morning show in Vegas

    Brittney Cason, the former Panthers cheerleader who held a variety of positions at CBS Radio in Charlotte, debuted this week as co-host on the morning show at the Las Vegas heritage rock radio station KOMP-FM. She is teamed with a DJ called Sparks and their show is named for their initials, “BS in the Morning.”

    Cason says she didn’t know her co-host until they were introduced in Las Vegas. “It’s almost like a blind date,” she says. “We’re building our chemistry. We’ve hit it off.”

    Radio is more competitive in Las Vegas than Charlotte, Cason says. There are five Top 40 stations and she says all 12 of her car radio presets are full with a couple of good local stations missing. Las Vegas’ top-ranked station, she says, plays Christian music. “It’s sin city and a Christian station is No. 1.”

WJZY (Channel 46), which started a news department for a 10 p.m. newscast that debuted in January, will add a 6 p.m. news show beginning Monday.

It is part of an expansion of local programming at the Fox-owned station and will be followed with the addition of a local morning show expected to launch in August. Fronting the new hourlong 6 p.m. show will be senior journalist Barbara Lash, chief meteorologist Rob Eicher and sports director Anthony Flores, roles they will continue on the 10 p.m. broadcast. Cheryl Brayboy will be the main host on the 6 and 10 p.m. weekend shows.

WJZY, which was purchased last year by Fox and began broadcasting the network’s shows last July, has tried to make inroads into the Charlotte broadcast news business by reinventing the format for TV journalism.

Its 10 p.m. show did away with the traditional anchor desk in favor of a stand-up host introducing stories and chatting with reporters, called “digital journalists” because they shoot their own video, tweet headlines from the scene and harness social media as part of the reporting process.

Fox has invested millions at WJZY in portable technology, which allows its journalists to send video from virtually anywhere. It has also built a techno-snazzy newsroom that doubles as the news set, and is installing a new production center.

In moving into the 6 p.m. hour, WJZY goes head-to-head with the biggest stations in Charlotte, the ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates, with their established audience habits. It is the biggest hour for watching TV news during the day with about 225,000 people watching local news at that time, 46 percent of them on WSOC (Channel 9), which dominates the local news market.

WJZY’s 10 p.m. newscast has lagged in the ratings since launching in January. Of the 91,000 news viewers at that hour, WJZY has about 15 percent of the audience with independent station WAXN (Channel 64) dominating with 55 percent. WCCB (Channel 18), the CW network affiliate, gets about 30 percent of the news viewers in that hour.

But Fox46 hasn’t been as interested in the rating as it has been with experimenting with the traditional presentation of television news. It pays little attention to the standard urban crime that is the key ingredient to its competitors’ offerings, and seeks stories that are more reflective of the region’s complexity. That formula will be expanded in the 6 p.m. hour, says station manager Karen Adams.

“We’re continually hearing that people are turning away from local news because it depresses them,” she says. “We’ll be taking a look at the issues that affect our viewers. We feel like we’re an alternative. It’s not Pollyanna news.”

Geoff Roth, news director, says the 6 p.m. newscast will have more live segments from the field because news is still unfolding around the city at that hour. It will also have more interviews in the studio with newsmakers, who are easier to book in the early evening rather than for the 10 p.m. show.

Roth says there will probably be more commentary and discussion between reporters and the show’s host on the 6 p.m. show. There are no plans to do traffic segments on the newscast, he says.

A morning news show will be more feature-oriented rather than the hard-news approach taken by WBTV, WSOC and WCNC. It will launch July 28 and run 4:30-9 a.m. weekdays, 5-8 a.m. Saturdays and 5-9 a.m. Sundays. A set for the morning show has been under construction at the station’s studios off I-85 for weeks. Adams says the morning team will be announced soon.

Media Movers

Anniversary of note: Anchor Erica Bryant marks 10 years at WSOC (Channel 9) on Saturday. She joined the station from Charleston’s NBC affiliate, where she worked alongside another future WSOC-er, Blair Miller. … Returning to Creative Loafing after a 12-year absence is columnist Jerry Klein. …

Joining the regional board of governors for the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is Amy Burkett, general manager of WTVI (Channel 42), as regional vice president. … WBT-AM (1110) fill-in host Doc Washburn lands a full-time job in Little Rock, Ark., meaning he’ll be moving there from his home in Florida and will no longer be part of the evening show in Charlotte. …

WSOC (Channel 9) news director Julie Szulczewski picked up the award for best coverage of a breaking story from the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters this week. It was about a police chase of a stolen car that wound up cutting through the station’s lawn on North Tryon Street. … A new food series, “American Grilled” debuting 10 p.m. Wednesday on the Travel Channel, features an episode filmed in Asheville’s Pack Square Park where judges Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country BBQ restaurants and local food writer Jason Sandford rank Asheville grillers Tiny Townsend, Jeff Bannister, William Smith and Dillon Black as they compete for a $10,000 prize.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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