UTICA -- After several years without any local newscasts, Eyewitness News HD is set to debut on ABC affiliate WUTR and Fox affiliate WFXV today. As of this writing, that first newscast is one hour away. Traditionally, newscasts on WUTR have struggled to compete with longtime market leader WKTV, but today's launch has the support of at least three people very familiar with WKTV's inner workings.
First and foremost, Stephen Merren, the VP/GM of Nexstar Broadcasting's Utica properties. Before joining Nexstar, Merren was the longtime GM at WKTV. Merren announced the plans to launch local news on WFXV and WUTR back in March, during a party celebrating WFXV's 25th anniversary.
Just a little less than a month ago, when Merren made the surprise announcement that the newscasts will be produced in HD, we also learned that Caroline Gable has been named the primary co-anchor of the new venture. To take the job, she left WKTV, where she was a reporter and part-time anchor.
And just today, we've learned former WKTV News Director and Operations Manager Jerry Walsh has been doing a lot of work behind-the-scenes to help with today's launch. Walsh left WKTV in 2007 to become the News Director at Nexstar-owned CBS affiliate WROC in Rochester. According to today's edition of Northeast Radio Watch, Walsh has been recently promoted to "a corporate position" with Nexstar. As part of his new role, Walsh has been tapped to assist with the Utica launch.
WUTR's newscasts will air weeknights at 6pm and 11pm, while WFXV will offer a 10pm newscast. The 6pm WUTR newscast will be repeated on tape at 7pm on MyNetwork affiliate WPNY-LP. Gable will be joined at the anchor desk by News Director Joe Parker and Chief Meteorologist Jeff Matthews.
Well...the first Eyewitness Newscast is complete on WUTR-TV, and, credit is due, when credit is deserved. The first grade? I would give it a solid "B". The HD picture quality was a treat to view. Such a clear picture. The news set was very contemporary, and seeing monitors and partial control rooms in the background from time to time always sets of sensors in the brain where you find yourself saying "Hey, it looks pretty cool and important on that set"
The timing and delivery of their newsroom reports was good, even though one female reporter was a bit too animated with her report when she was live on camera in the newsroom. The young male reporter was also good, even though a bit nervous, but I'm sure will smooth right out.
The stories they covered were fair to good. Nothing hard hitting yet, but good.
Their Meteorologist Jeff Matthews was very natural and seems to be a decent ad-libber. Personally, I would rather see that style, than a stiff person.
Now, for the anchors...I thought Joe Parker was excellent. His delivery was down to earth, with a good, smooth delivery, and great eye contact. The only issue is that his suit was wrinkled and looked like he got it off of a used clothing rack. I will need to get him into A. Vitullo's Menswear. In addition, when he was standing next to Caroline Gable, leading into the construction of the news set story, not only could you notice the wrinkled suit coat, but the flap from the right pocket wasn't face out of the pocket and smooth. It was half int he pocket and half out. Normally, not a big deal, but very noticeable in HD and made him look a bit unprofessional.
Caroline Gable, read very well and also did a good job for the first night. Some might think her voice is a bit like fingers on the blackboard, but since she came across so well, I would think her more higher pitched, nasal voice would be accepted. The only thing she needs to do is STOP moving her hands and arms when she is reading the news. This is not show and tell and it is very annoying.
So, in my opinion, a very good first newscast. There is no comparison between this new product and other news outlets in the market. WUTR now has a great anchor team and a polished set of reporters and a top notch Meteorologist. They also have the best picture quality, and best audio quality.
It will now be interesting to see how WUTR, WKTV and Time Warner's YNN fare over the next several months. It will be very interesting as a lot of monitoring will be done in the short term.
I wish the young news and weather people would keep the the hand gestures to a minimum. Its so annoying that I'm starting to look away from the screen when they give the news and weather reports. Don't these people watch themselves and compare their presentation with professionals on other stations and on the network news and weather stations? One guy on WKTV does the Piano playing animation with his hands, then you have the weather girl who does the hand flip at least 10 times during her weather report. Brian Sandler on YNN, formally WKTV, does the best job with this annoying habit. He very rarely does more than one or two hand gestures during a sports report. Bill Worden looks like he does it only because somebody told him had has to. But the rest of the crew should put their hands in the pockets. Let the silly car and furniture salespeople point at us and act like fools, but come on news people, you don't have to SELL the news. Report it, and stop with the hand flips, piano playing, and Woody Woodard arm waving.