Media Scene

March 21, 2014

New WBTV newscast adds a dash of snark and a sassy mama

Nobody knows what kind of rating it gets, but that’s not the point, at least not yet. Experimentation is the thing for WBTV’s (Channel 3) latest newscast, broadcast at 8 p.m. weekdays on its secondary digital channel, 3.2.

Media Scene

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Nobody knows what kind of rating it gets, but that’s not the point, at least not yet. Experimentation is the thing for WBTV’s (Channel 3) latest newscast, broadcast at 8 p.m. weekdays on its secondary digital channel, 3.2.

Anchored by Brigida Mack and Delano Little, the hourlong show debuted this month on the station’s auxiliary channel that carries Bounce TV, a movie and entertainment network launched in 2011 and targeted at African-America adults.

WBTV general manager Nick Simonette says executives at the station have been thinking about launching the newscast since last year, when WJZY (Channel 46) launched its own news department, dropping the 10 p.m. newscast produced by WBTV that it had carried for about a decade.

News director Dennis Milligan says the staff was already available for a second evening newscast. Beyond providing a laboratory for new approaches, the show also meets the station’s goal of better serving the region’s black audience, he says.

“It’s something of a playground for us, trying out things we might not feel comfortable with on the mother ship.”

One of the quirks of the newscast comes at the beginning as a clock ticks down the three minutes for “Rapid Rundown,” a summary of the top stories of the day. Social media connections with viewers are promoted throughout the newscast, and Mack and Little are freed up to interact in a more casual, ad-lib nature than standard newscasts allow.

“It doesn’t drag,” says Mack. “We have great rapport. We bounce well off each other.”

A nightly pop-culture segment is part of the mix, and it has an edge. “We take a cheeky look at the world of entertainment and say snarky things, things the viewers are already thinking at home,” says Mack. Yasmin Young of WPEG-FM’s (“Power 98” 97.9) “Morning Maddhouse” co-hosts the segment Mondays, when Little is usually off.

With an hourlong format, the 8 p.m. broadcast also allows more time to bring in people from the community for interviews, ranging from a Davidson College historian who talked about the genesis of the movie “12 Years a Slave” to Little’s ballroom dance teacher. (Yes, Little does ballroom dance and says it’s great exercise.)

Perhaps most unconventional is the Tuesday night parenting-advice segment, “Ask Mama Mack,” featuring Brigida’s ball-of-fire, hold-nothing-back mom, Stella Mack. At 60, Mrs. Mack has raised three children with tough-love charm. Her segment was the idea of executive producer Kim Saxon, who knew Mrs. Mack through her daughter.

Little, a native of Georgia who holds a biology degree from Georgia Southern University, joined WBTV’s sports department 25 years ago and still holds sports anchoring duties apart from his role on the 8 p.m. newscast. Mack, a Charlotte native who graduated from Myers Park High School and got her broadcasting degree at UNC Chapel Hill, left WSOC (Channel 9) five years ago for WBTV and has been mostly reporting for late newscasts.

Ratings on WBTV’s sub-channel are not measured by Nielsen, but Mack says they know they are attracting viewers through the interaction the show receives on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets. Milligan, the news director, says that advertising sales appear to be picking up for the show, too. “There seems to be an appetite for reaching out to the minority community,” he says.

Earlier this winter, WBTV extended its morning newscast with John Carter, Christine Nelson, meteorologist Al Conklin and traffic reporter Sammi Jo Francis by two hours, 7 to 9 a.m., by carrying it on Bounce when the main channel switches to “CBS This Morning.”

Media Movers

Katie Killen leaves the WCNC (Channel 36) early news team after two years to join the CBS affiliate in Colorado Springs, Colo., as morning anchor. … Joining the board of directors of the Radio Television Digital News Association of the Carolinas are news directors Julie Szulczewski of WSOC (Channel 9) and Dennis Milligan of WBTV (Channel 3). …

A new social media quiz popular on Facebook – “What Public Radio Host are You?” – is the brainchild of WFAE-FM’s (NPR, 90.7) new social media producer Katie Herzog, who became notable in public radio circles when she did a blog called “Babes of NPR.” … Kim McMillan, director of communications for the city of Charlotte for the last seven years, joins Cardinal Innovations of Kannapolis as senior vice president of communications. …

Marking five years of its popular Sunday morning “Biscuits & Bach” program, WDAV-FM (89.9) will hold an open house for listeners at the classical station’s studios, 423 N. Main Street, Davidson, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. March 30. “Biscuits & Bach” host Rachel Stewart will preside and a performance of Baroque music with cellist Tanja Bechtler and pianist Cynthia Lawing will be held.

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