Last week, the Channel Surfer looked at the best the broadcasting business had to offer in 2002. This week: the stuff that made him cringe.
Worst real-life soap opera: WMAL-AM (630). In February, the once-mighty news and talk station moved afternoon host Chris Core, one of Washington’s best local talkers and a fixture on WMAL’s airwaves for 25 years, to the morning shift, where it tried to shoehorn him into the long-running Tim Brant-Andy Parks show.
It turned out to be one of the biggest disasters since ABC paired Harry Reasoner and Barbara Walters on the evening news. After just one morning, ABC-owned WMAL moved Mr. Core to early evenings, but to make room for him there, it fired classy evening hostess Victoria Jones. When Mr. Brant left in the spring, WMAL revamped its morning show yet again, this time with Mr. Parks and political pundits Bill Press and Jane Norris.
Listeners complain that the newcomers are too shrill, and the Channel Surfer has the e-mail from angry fans to prove it. Can new General Manager Chris Berry, who came aboard in November, turn things around in 2003?
Scariest trend: The once-dominant 6 p.m. newscast on WUSA-TV (Channel 9) finished fourth in its time slot during the November ratings sweep. Even “The Simpsons” on WTTG-TV (Channel 5) drew more viewers. In a related development, the devil started wearing a parka.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: WUSA essentially dropped its “Eyewitness News” banner in January after 30 years. To loyal fans, this was akin to Wheaties retiring its “Breakfast of Champions” slogan. Somehow, watching Gordon Peterson welcome us to “9 News” every evening just isn’t the same.
Mistake of the year: In November, National Public Radio affiliate WAMU-FM (88.5) rebroadcast an episode of “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” from early October with a breaking news bulletin about the first sniper shootings, which were a month old by the time of the rebroadcast.
Dumbest mistake: Yours truly. Last week, the Channel Surfer praised local Metro Networks reporter Julie Wright for speaking out against noncompete clauses. Unfortunately, the Surfer got her last name wrong. His face is still red.
The jury is still out: Allbritton Communications Co. merged its two Washington-area operations WJLA-TV (Channel 7) and NewsChannel 8 in August. The union created the largest local television news operation, but will that allow it to break news and produce more serious, in-depth stories, as Allbritton executives promise?
By this time next year, we should know.
Ins and outs
Finally, a look at what’s hot and what’s not in local broadcasting:
In: Morning news. Out: Evening news.
In: Newsroom mergers. Out: Noncompete clauses.
In: Moving stations to the suburbs. Out: Staying in the District.
In: Voice tracking. Out: Syndication.
In: “Girl Talk” on WASH-FM (97.1). Out: “The View” on WJLA.
In: Brian Bolter. Out: Mike Landess.
In: James Bartel. Out: Dennis Owens.
In: Suing Elliot Segal. Out: Fining Howard Stern.
In: Sam Donaldson on radio. Out: Sam Donaldson on television.
In: Billy Bush on television. Out: Billy Bush on radio.
In: Sports Junkies in the morning. Out: Sports Junkies at night.
In: “Save MHz.” Out: “If PBS doesn’t do it, who will?”
Questions? Comments? Tips? Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.