The KWBA Channel 58/Cable Channel 8 9 p.m. newscast is now a bit different: It's no longer just a rebroadcast of sister station KGUN Channel 9's 6 p.m. news.
"We're doing a live newscast, finally," said Julie Brinks, the general manager of Tucson's Journal Broadcast Group conglomerate, which operates KGUN, KWBA and four local radio stations. "It's a CW-style newscast. We put the resources in that are appropriate to the size of the audience."
So exactly what are those resources? Well, the CW-style newscast (KWBA is a CW affiliate) features a KGUN anchor--Guy Atchley and Jennifer Waddell will alternate--in front of a monitor, occasionally introducing stories that were produced for KGUN's 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts.
When Journal purchased KWBA from the Cascade Broadcasting Group, the suits promised to provide a greater array of local programming, highlighted by the eventual inclusion of a live 9 p.m. newscast. The thought process: Journal had the resources to make that concept a reality, whereas Cascade was tapped out.
"We reached a point where we couldn't grow (KWBA's local presence)," Cascade CEO Carol LaFever told me for the March 27, 2008, Media Watch. "Losing the (Arizona) Diamondbacks contract (after the team signed an exclusive contract with FSN Arizona) hurt us. That, combined with friction with our news-producing partner in Tucson ... really put us in a situation where we couldn't grow it very much."
Somehow, placing Guy and/or Jennifer in front of a monitor seems to stretch the spirit of what "additional local programming" would suggest. Granted, these are tough economic times, and hiring additional crew for a daily newscast can be costly--and it appears Journal has no intention of adding staff for the CW product in the foreseeable future.
However, look at what Belo-owned KMSB Channel 11 has put into motion for its 9 p.m. newscast.
"I don't even know what KMSB does," Brinks said, seemingly taken aback when I asked her about KMSB. "Now we're getting into a territory where I'm going to have to send you up to the corporate office if you want to have further conversations."
That would be Journal public relations head Jim Thomas in Milwaukee. He didn't return requests to chat by press time.
Since I'm a nice guy, here's a quick scouting report for Brinks: KMSB's newscast has a lot of room to improve, but KMSB has added staff and is trying to find a niche. Its recent expansion from 30 minutes to an hour has clearly been tough, but KMSB's newscast has made great strides toward becoming a stand-alone operation. While KMSB still uses footage from its news-trade agreement with KVOA Channel 4, it's pretty minimal, considering the overall bulk of the newscast.
And it's definitely better than having an anchor host a highlight show of a sister station's earlier newscasts.