Channel 9 Drops Weekend Morning Newscasts

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Facing new economic pressure, WUSA (Channel 9) will drop its weekend morning newscasts later this month and replace them with infomercials and unspecified local programs.

In recent years, TV stations have tended to expand, not reduce, the number of local newscasts, which were reliable magnets for car dealers and other local advertisers. But TV and radio stations, as well as newspapers, have been battered by the disappearance of advertisers, with the pace of decline accelerating in the post-election, post-holiday period.

WUSA, a CBS affiliate owned by Gannett Co. of McLean, will eliminate its lightly viewed morning newscasts on Saturday (6-8 a.m.) and Sunday (8-9 a.m.). The last program will be on Jan. 18, two days before the presidential inauguration, said Allan Horlick, the station's general manager. Both newscasts are anchored by Jennifer Ryan.

Horlick said in an interview that economic conditions are difficult, but the station also wants to "produce its way to a better future" by developing new local programs. "We need to find new ways to connect with our viewers and our advertisers," he said.

In the meantime, while station managers take suggestions for such programming, Channel 9 will carry program-length commercials during the time it devoted to news. The station already runs infomercials from 5 to 6 a.m. and from noon to 1 p.m. on weekends.

WUSA is the fourth-ranked of the Washington area's four major TV news stations. The station has been aggressively cutting salaries of its news staff and has shed a handful of newsroom jobs. In December, it struck an agreement with its local labor unions that will enable it to do away with the traditional news crew, becoming the first unionized station in which news editors, reporters and technicians report, shoot and edit news stories, without regard to job titles.

-- Paul Farhi

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