2006_11_cbs2.jpgMany people in the tri-state area have been asking the same question: “What the hell is going on at Channel 2?” The one easy answer is that it is the work of the station’s general manager Peter Dunn.

Dunn came to WCBS in November of 2005 from CBS owned sister station KYW in Philadelphia. There, he turned the station’s newscast into a tabloid newscast heavy on infotainment, complete with former Access Hollywood host Larry Mendte as the co-anchor of the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts. Many of the features that you see on WCBS today, such as anchors reporting from the field or standing next to plasma screens in the studio were pioneered at KYW.

2006_11_cbs24.jpgThe changes implemented by Dunn in Philadelphia brought ratings success moving KYW from third to second in the ratings, behind the 1970’s themed “Action News” on the ABC owned station. It was hoped that Dunn would bring the same sort of success to WCBS, which has been a perennial also ran - finishing third or lower in the ratings.

After a few months with Dunn on the job, news director Dianne Doctor, who is best known for abruptly firing legendary sportscaster Warner Wolf in 2004, left the station in April of 2006. To replace Doctor, Dunn brought in David Friend from CNBC to oversee the station’s news operations starting at the end of June. Friend had excellent tabloid television credentials, being the co-creator and executive producer of the entertainment news show Extra.

Even the station's graphics - which were left virtually untouched for three years under Dunn's predecessors - went through many changes. A full overhaul in April was quickly followed by another one in the summer, in which virtually every graphical element was changed. Dunn had done this before at KYW, where during his tenure the station went through at least six graphics changes in two years. By all accounts he had a heavy involvement in the graphical presentation at the Philadelphia station, so we can make a safe bet the same thing happened at CBS 2.

By the time Friend took the helm, the entire CBS 2 News This Morning team was dismantled being replaced with Maurice DuBois and Kate Sullivan from a station in Arkansas. This was the first of many shakeups, including the removal of Cindy Hsu from the noon newscast in favor or Roz Abrams and Mary Calvi, who also anchored the 5 p.m. newscast.

2006_11_wraggejohnson.jpgAs the summer progressed, younger talent appeared, such as sportscaster Sam Ryan. This youth trend continued into the fall with the addition of Kristine Johnson who was hired to anchor the noon and 5 p.m. newscasts with sportscaster Chris Wragge, best known as the “tapehead” that replaced Warner Wolf.

This led to the previous anchors getting reshuffled with Mary Calvi was shunted off to weekend evenings and Roz Abrams left in a sort of limbo with no position listed on her website bio.

To sum up, WCBS is trying to gain ratings by constantly tweaking their newscast and getting rid of or shuffling off popular veteran anchors in favor of younger faces. Given all the tweaks and changes haven’t worked for ten years, they may as well just try to get the rights to Seinfeld reruns, since those have often gotten higher ratings than WCBS’ 11 p.m. newscasts. You aren’t going to get viewers if you keep changing and generating negative buzz about your station.

TV Notes:
Big changes at WNBC?
Wednesday, Gawker reported the rumor that “Dr. Max Gomez, Joe Avellar and Jane Hanson all got the boot from WNBC today.” Gomez didn’t appear on Wednesday’s Live At Five, instead Sue Simmons and Peri Peltz handled the medical stories and there was a taped piece from KNBC medical reporter Dr. Bruce Hensel. So it looks like the NBC-Universal budget cuts may have finally have hit WNBC.

Bartelstein Back
WABC’s troubled morning anchorman Steve Bartelstein returned to the station Monday after being “indefinitely” suspended for arriving 20 minutes after the start of November 8th’s 5 a.m. newscast.

2006_11_rocket.jpgRockette for a day
One of the best sweeps stunts from the network morning shows aired Monday morning. NBC’s Today show sent Meredith Vieira across the street to become a Rockette for a day in the
Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

Scrub up!
Scrubs returns to NBC’s lineup Thursday, November 30th at 9:00 sharing the hour with 30 Rock. The bad news is it goes up against the powerhouse CBS show CSI and ABC’s popular Grey's Anatomy.