Friday, January 18, 2008

Rating Cleveland’s Morning News Shows

The one thing of which Cleveland has no shortage is morning news shows. Between 5:00 AM and 7:00 AM, you’ll find news on channels 3, 5, 8, and 19. And each show has a personality all its own. Since I’m a frequent watcher of “Fox 8 News in the Morning” and a former frequent watcher of “Channel 3 News Today”, I spent the last few weeks watching all four channels to get an idea of who really has the best morning news show in town.

On the days I watched the shows, here are the names of those appearing for each channel. I did not list the names of individual reporters involved in the newscast:

WKYC Channel 3: Mark Nolan and Abby Ham, Hollie Strano (Weather), Pat Butler (Traffic)

WEWS Channel 5: Paul Kiska and Kimberly Gill, Jeff Mackel (Weather), Traffic - anchor coverage plus phone in

WJW Channel 8: Wayne Dawson and Tracy McCool, Scott Savol (Weather), Pat Brady (Traffic)

WOIO Channel 19: Brian Duffy and Tiffani Tucker, Jenn Harcher (Weather), Rick Abell and Nicole (Traffic)

Just like the Academy Awards, I’ve created a few categories, and the award is the Golden Alarm Clock. Here we go!

Morning Anchor Desk
This was a category that was tough to measure, since sometimes one half of an anchor pair was either strong – or weak.

I could not warm up to channel 5’s Paul Kiska and Kimberly Gill. Kimberly seemed to stumble on her words a few times, and Paul just seemed flat and unexciting in his delivery. Channel 19’s Brian Duffy and Tiffani Tucker were only marginally better, but they seemed a little livelier and snappier than 5’s coverage. I think there are other problems with both these channels that make these anchors less than interesting, which will be covered in later categories. For both anchor pairs, there seems to be little chemistry.

Channels 3 and 8 are in a virtual dead heat in this category, but both anchor pairs have a weak partner. Tracy McCool has returned to 8, which brings the energy back into the show. Wayne Dawson, however, is the weak link. Because I watch Fox 8 so often, I’ve seen Dawson’s frequent stumbles, one of which that resulted in a brief appearance on YouTube and Dawson’s seeming disappearance from the show for a few days. But, the biggest drawback is his attire. In the never-ending quest for Wayne and Tracy to match clothing schemes, he sometimes wears some ludicrous colored and patterned attire. It can be distracting and actually detract from the news.

Channel 3 has revitalized the show by moving Mark Nolan to the anchor seat, Mind you, I watched 3 for many years when John Anderson and Carole Sullivan were paired, and they made a great team. But, that seemed to break down when Carole left. Nolan is very well suited for his new role; he’s confident and comfortable, and he’s able to ad lib and be spontaneous probably better than anybody on local news right now. I have been watching more of channel 3’s news in the morning since Nolan’s anchoring, but there are other reasons why I haven’t completely switched back. One of those reasons is Abby Ham. She seems inexperienced and sometimes clueless about the news she’s reading. Sometimes it may be better for her not to ad lib or ask questions, because in doing so, she often shows that while she can read the news, she may not have a good grip of the content.

The Golden Alarm Clock for Best Morning News Anchors goes to:
Tie for channels 3 and 8

Morning News Coverage
All the stations covered the local and national news well. Fox 8 seemed the most consistent in having reporters out of the studio covering stories. They all had outside local coverage at some point, but 8 had someone out every day that I watched, which was not the case with other channels. Channel 8 also seemed to deliver more news stories in the time allotted. I tried to count the number of separate news stories for each channels, but the number varied by day, and by the type of news being reported. Unscientifically measured, channel 8 seemed more consistent in delivering the most news in the first 10 minutes than the others.

The Golden Alarm Clock for Morning News Coverage goes to:
Channel 8

Morning Weather and Traffic
This category doesn’t cover weather forecasting accuracy, because that would take more time than I’m willing to invest. Instead, it rates the delivery of the weather, graphics, and the frequency of weather updates.

Since all of them basically have access to the same weather data, the delivery and graphics are critical. Channels 5 and 19 seem to be very basic in this category, with fairly standard graphics and rather dull and uninteresting weather forecasters. It seemed as if both weather forecasters were going through the motions. Channel 3’s Hollie Strano puts a little more personality and lots of energy with her presentation, but she loses points with me when she begins banter with the anchors. Channel 8’s Scott Savol seems to have the right mix of an interesting presentation, great graphics, and a very pleasing personality.

Traffic coverage may not sound like a big deal, unless you’re going to be driving in it. Channel 5’s was clearly THE WORST every time I watched. Maybe I got them on bad days, but when I watched, it was the anchor that went through traffic conditions, with sometimes a call in from another news (radio?) office with traffic information. They also didn’t seem to cover traffic frequently. Channel 19 was marginally better, with two people covering traffic at times, but not always with a traffic helicopter. Rick Abell, however, should stop the editorial comments; while they may fit 19’s tabloid style, sometimes they border on unprofessional. Channel 3’s Pat Butler does a great job, sometimes inside, sometimes outside in the helicopter. Tops is Pat Brady on 8, who delivers traffic in an informative, professional manner, with just the right amount of energy, and she gets in the helicopter - I think - more than any others.

The Golden Alarm Clock for Best Morning Weather and Traffic goes to:
Channel 8

It seems that Channel 19 is undergoing a set change, which hopefully will bring them up to the newer HD look that other channels already have. Channel 5’s looks unimaginative and cold. Channel 8 unveiled their new HD several months ago, and it is a great improvement from their previous set. The lighting is fantastic and really brings out the best in the on-screen people. The fake Cleveland skyline behind them, however, still leave me cold. Channel 3, who I believe has had their current set longer than the other stations, has the best look and open feel. The weather desk and special reports areas are very visible when cutting away to these special segments. It gives the news much more cohesive energy than other stations.

The Golden Alarm Clock for Best Morning News Set goes to:
Channel 3

Commercial Breaks
I know all the stations have to pay their bills, but some channels show more commercials or break earlier for commercials. Channels 5 and 19 broke for commercials at 5:06 AM, with 8 breaking at 5:08 and 3 breaking at 5:09. Channels 3 and 8 got in more critical news and weather in the first minutes of the show, with 8 getting a quick weather and traffic blurb out virtually at the start of the show. Unscientifically measured, it seemed that channels 5 and 19 had less time for news, with more commercial breaks.

The Golden Alarm Clock for Morning News Commercial Breaks goes to:
Tie channels 3 and 8

Best Overall Morning News Show
The Golden Alarm Clock for Best Overall Morning News Show goes to…Channel 8.
They seem to pack the most news, weather, and traffic in each hour, and consistently deliver interesting field reports. The anchors, reporters, weather and traffic people have fantastic chemistry. A close second, though, is Channel 3, who is poised to overtake 8 if they get the right mix of morning personalities on the show.

The “Snooze Alarm” award goes to channels 5 and 19. These shows need a personality infusion with their on air people, and some set changes to make watching the news a more visually interesting experience. They also need stronger - and consistent - weather and traffic reporting. So these channels can take their extra snooze for now, but they’d better wake up soon.

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