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KTVI Adds A Newscast

Channel 2 Brings Back 6 p.m. News
After a two-year absence, the 6 p.m. newscast is back on KTVI-TV, Channel 2.
Station officials have announced that beginning Monday, Jan. 7 [1991], the 6 p.m. edition of Channel 2 News will replace the syndicated program A Current Affair, which will move into the 4 – 5 p.m. time slot with fellow infotainment mainstay Hard Copy.
“The exact reason for us bringing it back at this time is to be competitive with the other stations,” said Bill Berra, news director at KTVI. “The perception was that we were not competitive because of the lack of the 6 o’clock, that we were being beaten to stories or didn’t have the staff.”
The reasons for the initial yanking of the local programing did indeed have to do with both editorial and advertiser-related dilemmas. The station cited Channel 2’s declining news ratings and the high costs of presenting a low-rated and sparsely advertised-in newscast.
In the last 15 months, though, KTVI has taken some steps to restore the luster of its heavily tarnished news operation. Newscasts in the morning and middle of the day have been added, and the staff has been built up, reversing the shrinkage of several years ago. The station has also invested heavily in modernizing the news department’s technical operation. There are new cameras and edit equipment, plus a heavily used satellite truck to enable the station to originate news segments from anywhere around the country.
KTVI’s editorial product has also improved. Its coverage of major events, such as the recent dangerous weather in St. Charles, has won plaudits from local television critics.
Berra expects the editorial focus of the new broadcast to stress local news with a mixture of local and national at 5 and 10.
Eric Mink, long-time television critic of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said that the move was probably geared toward positioning the station toward a run at the start of 1991.
“You just get the sense that the first of the year is when they’ll make the move,” Mink said. “They’re picking up “Arsenio” then, and that should help strengthen the late news. And they possibly wanted a month to try out Dana King and see how well she works with (Don) Marsh. They seem reasonably comfortable with that. I’m sure they also promised Berra that it would come back when they hired him.”
The 6 p.m. program will be anchored by KTVI’s primary anchor team of Don Marsh and Dana King. They will also anchor the station’s 10 p.m. newscast. Station veteran Donn Johnson and current morning anchor Tom O’Neal will take over the 5 p.m. newscast. O’Neal will continue to anchor KTVI’s mid-day news with Kathryn Kiefer. As for the morning newscasts, Kiefer will replace O’Neal to co-anchor with John Auble in the 6:30 a.m. slot.
Whether anyone is watching all these new arrangements is another matter. Mink pointed out that the 6:30 a.m. broadcast is currently being beaten by cartoons, while the 5 p.m. newscast is being edged out by Channel 30’s reruns of “Cosby” and is just edging out Channel 11’s household sitcom “Growing Pains.”
But Berra would not use the word “credibility” when describing the return, even ratings seem to be a decidedly lesser concern here.
“Credibility…how do you define credibility?” Berra asked.
Mink was shocked by this answer, saying “I can’t imagine how anyone there could say such a thing. That sounds so bizarre to me that you should probably go back and check again with the source. There’s no question that they lost a lot of credibility, though they have done much to repair and improve things dramatically.”
Whatever the reasons, Channel 2 is sounding optimistic.
Said Berra: “This shows Channel 2 is back.” At the very least, it’s far better than having “Geraldo” wage the 6 o’clock battle for KTVI.
(Used with permission of the St. Louis Journalism Review. Originally published 1/1991).