For the first time in 25 years, WBTV (Channel 3) will air editorials in its newscasts, the first one coming today.
They will be voiced by the station's new general manager, Nick Simonette, who took over when Raycom Media acquired WBTV in April. Editorials on local topics are part of the Raycom tradition, Simonette said Tuesday.
“It's something that really helps us connect with the public,” he said. “People don't always agree, but that's OK – at least you're putting issues on the table and getting people to think about it. And we welcome rebuttals.”
Television editorials were once widespread, but the practice has diminished, in part because it takes time both from the newscast and from staffers' jobs to produce them.
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“Another reason is TV stations don't always want to take stands like that because it's controversial,” Simonette said.
WBTV has assembled a 10-member editorial board led by meteorologist Al Conklin, who has been at the station since 1993. Other members – from a variety of departments including sales and creative services – are Molly Grantham, Dedrick Russell, Janet Vislay, Thomas Brock, Kate McKinna, Alex Helms, Ashley Kerley, Steve Tomanchek and Simonette.
Editorials will air near the end of the noon, 5 and 11 p.m. newscasts on Wednesdays and on the 6 and 11 p.m. shows Saturdays.
“Only thing we won't do is promote or endorse a political figure in races,” Conklin said.
None of Charlotte's other stations offer editorials.
WBTV stopped airing editorials in 1982 after Doug Mayes, who had been doing them, left the station and joined WSOC (Channel 9).
Channel 3 was one of the first stations to adopt the practice in the 1960s, in part because then-station president Charles Crutchfield was eager to challenge what he felt was the liberal opinion page of the Observer, Mayes recalled Tuesday.
WBTV's first editorial aired on March 18, 1963, and was read by public affairs director Alan Newcomb, who was the station's editorial voice for years. “To provide our audiences with a full, well-rounded broadcasting service, we are persuaded that we must not only reflect public opinion but also help mold it,” the editorial said.
Today's editorial will be similar in nature, Conklin said, focusing on why the station believes it is time to resume local commentary.