On March 13, 1967 Channel 5 launched the first prime time newscast in the tri-state area, just a few months after sister station WTTG in Washington D.C. became the first station in the United States with one. Since then, a lot has changed but there are still a few constants like the seemingly eternal question, “It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?”
In 1967, channel 5, then called WNEW-TV, had been an independent television station for eleven years since the disbanding of the DuMont Network where it was the flagship station. The station was owned by Metromedia, which obtained the majority of the network’s assets, including the DuMont Tele-centre on East 67th Street that served as the home for channel 5.
Metromedia tapped Bill Jorgensen, a reporter for WEWS in Cleveland to anchor the newscast in either Washington or New York. Jorgensen decided on New York after he had heard some in the industry say that the news couldn’t compete against entertainment programming. In the newscast’s first year, it was competing against programs from the networks such as The Big Valley, The Carol Burnett Show, The Dean Martin Show and I Spy. The neigh sayers were proven wrong and the plucky little newscast without all the resources of a big network behind it did quite well against the entertainment competition and quickly expanded from a half hour to an hour.
In December of 1969 John Roland joined the station and a little less than ten years later became Jorgensen’s successor after he moved over to WPIX in 1979. When Roland took over the anchor chair, WPIX’s Action News (later Independent Network News) offered the only 10 p.m. competition for news in the city. In other parts of the country 10 p.m. newscasts were popping up on independent stations after seeing the success in New York.
In 1986, Metromedia’s television stations were purchased by 20th Century Fox (owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp) to serve as the core of the new Fox network. Channel 5’s call letters changed to WNYW-TV and the station incorporated the new network’s schedule, which by design left the 10 p.m. hour free for local programs such as the Fox 5 10 O’clock News. This was also the year that Rosanna Scotto joined the station as a reporter and weekend anchor.
The next year WWOR entered the 10 p.m. newscast fray and Fox 5 launched a 7 p.m. newscast. The 7 p.m. newscast lasted until 1993, but it was in 1988 when the station found a more enduring and successful newscast, a local morning news program – Good Day New York. The format for the newscast was exported to the other Fox owned stations and was copied by WPIX.
By 2002 the station added two more newscasts, an hour long 5 p.m. and a half hour long 6 p.m. Two years later, when John Roland retired, he had been co-anchoring with Rosanna Scotto for ten years. Roland was succeeded by Len Cannon; however a few months later Ernie Anastos, who was anchoring at WCBS at the time, signed a long term multi-million dollar contract with WNYW. Due to the unusual circumstances, Cannon was granted a release from his contract and is now at KHOU in Houston, while Anastos started at Fox 5 in June of 2005.
In the past 40 years channel 5 has evolved from a scrappy independent station to a slick network powerhouse. Today, the Fox 5 10 O’clock news is number one in the ratings and instead of just 3 and a half hours of news a week as was the case when the newscast started in 1967, the station now has ten times that. Not bad a bad run for something most people said would never work.
Fox 5 is running a series of special anniversary reports all this week and will be having a special "New York's First. New York's Best. Celebrating 40 Years at 10" Friday at 10:30 p.m. The now ten year old 30th Anniversary special along with other anniversary related video clips are on the station’s website.