Wednesday, May 03, 2000

Two anchors are sinking newscasts

        Give it to me straight. That's how I want it.

        After watching Clyde Gray paired with Stacy Case on Channel 9's late news — and the other 11 p.m. anchor teams — I'm convinced that male-female news teams only ratchet up the wretched happy talk, and dumb down a newscast.

Clyde Gray
        Nothing personal about Ms. Case, who has joined Mr. Gray for May sweeps. I just prefer Mr. Gray's single-anchor format that Channel 9 had since Carol Williams moved to days 18 months ago.

        Call me old-fashioned, but I just want the news — not mindless chatter about mowing lawns, pretty sunsets or fabulous weather.

        • “Look at that. That's beautiful. Uh-huh!” observed Ms. Case when meteorologist Pete Delkus opened his segment Thursday with a weather shot.

        • “I need just a little bit of rain,” she told Mr. Delkus Wednesday. “I cut the grass too short. I'm in trouble at home.”

        This is news?

        Over at Channel 5, Teri Barr is trying her best to fill in for Norma Rashid, who says she was fired in March after 17 years:

        • “No way!” she gushed when Channel 5 showed golfer Paul Stankowski's ball dropping into the cup from 149 yards Thursday.

        • After Ken Broo asked teammates for a “Bravo” for a sports highlight, Ms. Barr joyously declared: “I got to participate in the "Bravo!' I like that! Woo!”

        I guess that's news to them. Woo-Hoo!

        For years, Channel 12 has promoted its “nonstop news” (interrupted by commercials, of course). In truth, only the single-anchor format offers uninterrupted news.

        Working solo, you don't have to look attentively at your partner (instead of at viewers), and wait for an invitation to deliver a story. (Thanks for that report, Clyde?)

        I can understand even complex news stories without having two people introduce it. Mr. Gray did just fine reading entire stories, as Peter Jennings, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw have done for years.

        After watching Mr. Gray flying solo, I don't need this two-headed monster alternating sentences. It's kind of creepy, two people completing each other's thoughts like a couple celebrating their silver anniversary.

        Granted, Channel 9 has needed a strong female presence on the 11 p.m. news since Ms. Williams left. Too bad they don't have a women consumer reporter, instead of John Materese, as a nightly fixture.

        Actually, Channel 9 was way ahead of the curve. Chicago's WBBM-TV made headlines in February when Carol Marin became solo anchor of a no-nonsense, hard newscast.

        What a concept: More news. Less chatter.

        Let me make myself clear: I dislike the format, not the female. Men can say equally inane things. After riding Son of Beast on Friday, Channel 5 reporter Matt Miller was asked by anchor Courtis Fuller: “Did you survive it?” (Duh! It was a LIVE report.)

        I know I'm in the minority. TV news consultants say 85 percent of viewers prefer the Ken & Barbie approach. I fully expect Channel 9 to adopt a co-anchor format by fall, regardless of whether the Gray-Case team (or the nightly $1,000 cash bribe, er, sweeps contest) increases ratings during this 28-day “experiment.”

        Unfortunately, it takes an anchor team months to develop a comfort level, or “chemistry.” Channel 5's 11 p.m. team is a nightly work in progress for relative newcomers Dave Wagner (September), Ms. Barr (last month), Ken Broo (February) and Angelique Frame.

        The forced camaraderie at the close of Channel 5's late news often sounds like a bad double date. Just listen to the half-hearted “Boos” and “Bravos” during Mr. Broo's sports. (Do I hear any Bravos?)

        Dual anchors systematically lower the level of discourse. One plus one equals less, not more.

        Back to you, Clyde. Permanently, I hope.        

John Kiesewetter is Enquirer TV/radio critic. Write him at 312 Elm St., Cincinnati, 45202.