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Recently in WFLD-TV Category

Sports anchor Jill Carlson is out at WFLD-Channel 32. Carlson's contract, which runs through the end of August, is not being renewed. Lou Canellis, who had been handling sports for the station's "Good Day Chicago" morning show, is believed to be a prime candidate for the weekday sports anchor job Carlson was to have filled at least temporarily following longtime sports anchor Corey McPherrin's re-assignment.
McPherrin and Anna Davlantes were shifted to "Good Day Chicago" to host the final three hours of that five-hour program. McPherrin and Davlantes started their new jobs today.

A WFLD spokeswoman said various people would anchor sports on the 9 p.m. newscast until a permanent replacement is named. Canellis could be a front runner for the job. Sources say Canellis was the sports anchor for trial runs of the 9 p.m news done last month to give newly-arrived co-anchor Bob Sirott and veteran WFLD anchor Robin Robinson a chance to work together in front of the cameras before their first official newscast together on July 19.

WFLD general manager Michael Renda, newly returned from vacation, said Monday the station is "somewhere in between" starting and finishing the massive overhaul of the station's newscasts that began more than nine months ago. "We're not ready for prime time yet," said Renda, but added that viewers should have a fuller sense of what he and news director Carol Fowler want from the flagship newscast by September. Among other things, the newscast is expected to feature longer news segments and a more conversational tone in the delivery.

Renda said he was pleased with the bump up in ratings for WFLD's flagship 9 p.m newscast in the July Nielsen ratings book. But he cautioned "it's way too early to read too much into it." Still, Renda likes what he's seen of the chemistry between Sirott and Robinson as 9 p.m. co-anchors.

Carlson's departure is but the latest of a seemingly unending series of talent exits and arrivals at WFLD in recent months, and Renda said more changes will be made if he and Fowler think they are warranted. "We're still evaluating everything," Renda said.

Rumors can surface quickly and be shot down just as fast. That's what happened today when Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 general manager Michael Renda was suddenly rumored to be leaving the station, a mere 10 months into his tenure there. But a WFLD spokeswoman quickly refuted the rumor. "It's absolutely not true that Renda is leaving," she said.

Renda and WFLD news director Carol Fowler have been busy in recent months totally revamping the station's news department and its 9 p.m. hour-long late newscast. On-air talent has been jettisoned, and new talent has been brought in, including contributing anchor Anna Davlantes and Mike Flannery, who will start his new job as political reporter next Monday.

Renda had success improving the newscast ratings for the Fox station in Philadelphia, where he was prior to being posted to WFLD. But so far the ongoing overhaul of the WFLD news product has not resulted in any improvement in the ratings for the late newscast.

Co-anchor Jeff Goldblatt's tenure at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 is about to end. A station spokeswoman confirmed that Goldblatt's contract, which is up in August, will not be renewed. Goldblatt is, however, expected to continue working at the station through the end of his contract.

Goldblatt's experience in broadcast journalism prior to taking on an anchor role at WFLD in 2008 had primarily been as a TV news correspondent with the Fox News Channel, not as a news anchor. Goldblatt's lack of experience in that anchor role apparently became a liability over time, at least in the eyes of the current WFLD management team, including general manager Michael Renda and news director Carol Fowler. "He was a square peg in a round hole, and there was no chemistry between him and co-anchor Robin Robinson," said a source with the station.

WFLD is reportedly considering several candidates to replace Goldblatt. One name that has been floated is Bob Sirott, who had been expected to become co-anchor with Allison Rosati of NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5's flagship 10 p.m. newscast last year. But Sirott was jettisoned in favor of Rob Stafford. Sirott also previously co-anchored WMAQ's weekend news with current WFLD contributing anchor Anna Davlantes. Sirott had nothing to say about speculation he might succeed Goldblatt at WFLD. "My plan is to enjoy the summer," said Sirott.

When Renda and Fowler bring on board a new (presumably male) co-anchor, that will leave the station with three co-anchors for its hour-long 9 p.m. newscast -- co-anchor Robinson, Davlantes and the new hire. On the surface it would appear to be an awkward anchor arrangement, but it's one, we're told, that Renda and Fowler are comfortable with.

The departure of Goldblatt is part of Renda's and Fowler's bigger plan to totally revamp their 9 p.m. news product. The intent is to end up with a newscast that includes longer, more in-depth segments that would differentiate the news program from others in the market.

WFLD has the lowest-rated late news program in the market, and Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9's hour-long late news is in next to last place in the Nielsen ratings -- having been hit by some significant ratings erosion this season. WGN insiders attribute that decline, in part, to powerhouse prime time network programming that has siphoned off some of the station's news audience.

Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 was one of 36 recipients of the 69th annual Peabody Awards announced Wednesday. The station was recognized by the 16-member Peabody Board for its coverage of the fatal beating of Chicago student Derrion Albert.
The brutal tragedy wound up having national repercussions. "The award speaks for itself," said WFLD general manager Michael Renda.

The Peabody Award, the first in WFLD's history, comes as the station has begun making a substantial number of changes to its news operation to try and improve its last-place standing in the Nielsen late local news ratings.

The Peabody Board does not hand out its awards in specific categories, but rather selects its award recipients based solely on the quality of the work submitted for consideration. There are no set number of awards handed out each year.

The Peabody Awards are the oldest honor in the electronic media, including television, radio, networks, cablecasters, Webcasters, producing organizations and individuals. The Peabody Awards are overseen by the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The 16-member Peabody Board is comprised of television critics, broadcast and cable industry executives, academics and experts in culture and the arts.

Joanie Lum has joined Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 as a reporter for the station's five-hour morning show "Good Day Chicago." She will make her first on-air appearance the week of April 19. Lum has more than 20 years experience as a TV news reporter in the Chicago market. She most recently was a general assignment reporter at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 for six years. Previously, she spent 16 years as a general assignment reporter for Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9. "We're pleased to have a reporter of Joanie's caliber joining Fox Chicago News," said WFLD General Manager Michael Renda, adding "her distinguished work has made her a fixture in the Chicago broadcasting community."

Dawn Hasbrouck has joined Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 as anchor of "Fox Chicago News at Noon." She will also report for various newscasts. Hasbrouck most recently spent three years as a weekend anchor and reporter at WBZ-TV, the CBS outlet in Boston. Hasbrouck said of her appointment: "I'm thrilled that Fox Chicago has given me the opportunity to return to my hometown and cover news in the city in which I grew up." WFLD general manager Michael Renda added: "We're delighted to have Dawn join Fox News Chicago. Her strong journalism background, deep Chicago roots and engaging personality make her the ideal addition to our team."

The August local late news Nielsen ratings numbers are in for Chicago television stations. And guess what? ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 is right where it's been for some time now -- solidly in first place. The station scored a 7.9 rating for its late news product Monday through Sunday, putting it comfortably in front of second-place NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, which pulled a 5 rating, a sharp drop from the 6.6 rating the station's late news had a year ago. WMAQ was in fact just a hair ahead of Tribune Co.'s WGN-Channel 9's hour-long news at 9 p.m., which managed a 4.8 rating, exactly what it scored a year ago. Meanwhile CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 still is looking for that sure sign a ratings turnaround has begun. In August, the station could do no better than a 3.1, up slighthly from its 2.8 a year ago. And bringing up the rear in the August ratings was Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 and its 9 p.m. news program, which scored a 2.7, up slightly from a 2.4 a year a go.

After a 22 year run, Anne Kavanagh is leaving Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 as full-time staffer. A station spokeswoman said Kavanagh will continue to work for WFLD in a freelance capacity, doing per-diem work and special projects. Most recently, Kavanagh had been a general assignment reporter working on WFLD's morning show, "Good Day, Chicago." In her official station biography, Kavanagh said she came to WFLD in 1987, when it first began airing newscasts. She characterized WFLD then as "the little station that could." Now it's a bigger TV station that has been relentlessly downsizing in recent months.

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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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