|"NO-FRILLS" NEWSCAST ENDS|
October 31, 2000
An Online NewsHour Report
Anchor Carol Marin broadcast her last "no frills" news program
last night on WBBM-Chicago, signaling the end of a nine-month experiment
that cut anchor chatter and commercial tie-ins out of the broadcast.
Marin's nightly 10 p.m. broadcast broke away from flashy graphics and soft entertainment features and focused instead on old-fashioned hard news.
Although it was on the air since February, the broadcast had yet to catch on with Chicago viewers.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Marin's program dropped from a 3.8 rating in February to a 2.7 in May and a 1.8 in July among viewers aged 25 to 54. By October, the newscast was at the bottom of the 10 p.m. ratings heap.
Marin gained national attention for leaving Chicago's WMAQ in 1997 when management announced plans to hire Jerry Springer as a commentator. At WBBM, Marin was the show's solo anchor and keeper of its editorial flame. She told the Sun-Times she stands behind the program's final product.
"I have no regrets, I have no apologies, and I have no simple answers," she said. "I do think [the newscast] needed more time. But I also understand that it is their company, and they get to decide how much time everything gets."
Deborah Potter, executive director of NewsLab, a non-profit group that encourages quality in local news, told The Online NewsHour she had also hoped Marin's experiment had had more of a chance to take hold.
"It takes time to change viewer's expectations," she said, "and I don't think it was given time to do that."
Station manager Walt DeHaven said management had met with Marin and discussed changes to the program, but both parties decided it was best to part ways.
"Ultimately, it came down to the fact that she signed on to do the news the way she wanted to do it," he told the Chicago Tribune.
Marin will remain in Chicago as a correspondent for CBS News, reporting for 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II.
WBBM's 10 p.m. news will return to a brighter set and with a male-female co-anchor team. According to new general manager Walt DeHaven, the station will return to a local news format more like that of the station's competitors.
"The tone of the news and maybe some style points will change, but we look at this as an evolution," he told the Associated Press. "Our commitment to good journalism remains the same."
Although many in the media applauded Marin's experiment in February, Potter said she fears the change could keep others from breaking the mold.
"I worry about a chilling effect," she said. "Local television is imitative, and I hope this isn't a situation where people say 'See, I told you so.'"
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