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.
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