Sunday, April 6, 2003

Channel 64 to add nightly news

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati's "first and only 10 o'clock news" will have competition by fall. WB affiliate WSTR-TV will launch a 10 p.m. newscast in August or September, after a 2 1/2-year quest by Merry Ewing, Channel 64 general manager.

"We think we can take a good share of WXIX-TV's 10 p.m. news audience," Ewing says. "It's just a logical step to grow this station."

WXIX-TV (Channel 19) has one of the highest-rated 10 p.m. newscasts of all Fox affiliates. It had the second largest late news audience here during February sweeps, drawing more viewers than the 11 p.m. news on WCPO-TV (Channel 9) and WLWT-TV (Channel 5).

In 2001, Channel 9 managers had serious discussions with Channel 64 about providing a half-hour 10 p.m. news that ostensibly would cut into Channel 19's ratings, and bolster Channel 9's 11 p.m. news.

Unlike the Tristate's other newscast, Channel 64's will be broadcast from parent Sinclair Broadcast Group headquarters in Maryland, as part of Sinclair's News Central corporate initiative.

Channel 64 will hire reporters, producers, photographers and support staff to cover local events, and build a newsroom and set inside the station at the Interstate 75 Towne Street exit.

Local news will be inserted into the national telecast by a "lead reporter" or "local personality," says Ewing, who declined to refer to that person as a "news anchor."

"It will be a local newscast," Ewing says emphatically. "Joe Viewer at home will not know the difference from what you are seeing on Channels 5, 9, 12 and 19. We will have a Washington bureau. We'll have a news studio at WB64. We'll have news vehicles. We'll have everything the other guys have."

Weather and sports will be reported from Sinclair's News Central, she says. But significant local sports events "will be covered in a local way," she says.

Ewing would not say how many employees would be added for news, or how much the venture would cost. Ten years ago, Channel 19 spent about $2 million creating a news department from scratch.

Sinclair's WB affiliate in Birmingham, Ala., which announced the launch of a summer News Central prime-time newscast Wednesday, plans to add "between 15 and 20 employees" to produce the local portion of the news.

Channel 64 also will have access to regional news from sister Sinclair stations WKEF-TV (Channel 22) and WRGT-TV (Channel 45) in Dayton; WSYX-TV (Channel 6) and WTTE-TV (Channel 28) in Columbus; and WDKY-TV (Channel 56) in Lexington. Sinclair owns 62 TV stations in 39 markets.

John Long, Channel 19 general manager, says competition at 10 p.m. "will make us better." He says Tristate viewers will prefer his local newscast over Sinclair's national format.

"People want to know what's going on in their own back yard, not Baltimore," Long says. "We can 'out local' these guys night and day. I don't see this as real solid, legitimate competition."


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