Chicago Sun-Times
Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

Recently in WLS-TV Category

Samantha Zackowitz has joined ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 as a staff producer. She will focus much of her time on developing segments for the station's "190 North" weekly leisure and entertainment program.

Zackowitz started at WLS as an intern in the news and programming departments and then continued her involvement with the station as a freelance producer. Three years later Zackowitz, we're told, has two Emmys for excellence in the television industry on her mantel. Along the way, Zackowitz also got to produce her dream segment for "190 North" about the Chicago Blackhawks season that culminated in winning the Stanley Cup.

The Live Well Network -- the ABC-owned television station group's broadcast, online and wireless service for emerging digital channels in local markets -- is expanding its reach. Five new television affiliates -- all part of the Belo Corp. group of TV stations -- have signed on to air Live Well programming. The Belo stations are located in Dallas-Ft. Worth, St. Louis, New Orleans, Hampton-Norfolk and Charlotte.

The development of the Live Well Network was spearheaded by ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 general manager Emily Barr. Among the new programs slated to debut on the Live Well Network next month is "Here's How-Right Now!" a fix-it program developed by WLS and shot at the WLS studios in Chicago. Until the addition of the Belo stations, Live Well programming was seen only on ABC-affiliated stations. More TV stations outside the ABC family are expected to join the Live Well Network in upcoming months.

Fans of former WLS-Channel 7 reporter and weekend morning news anchor Kevin Roy who hoped he might soon return to the air in Chicago have reason to feel a little less hopeful this week.

It looks as if the former local TV talent has, at least for now, opted to retreat from Chicago. On his Facebook page, Roy announced he had packed up all his belongings in Chicago and moved them to a residence in Palm Springs, Calif. Via email, we asked him if that is the resort town where he intends to now base himself while he considers future opportunities in broadcast journalism or another career. He emailed us back the one-sentence response: "That's a good way of putting it."

Roy's contract was not renewed at WLS last April when he failed to show up for his weekend morning anchor job. Roy subsequently appealed to friends on his Facebook page for any job leads.

ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, the top-rated station for local news, is aggressively expanding its local news footprint. Starting Aug. 2, WLS will add an additional half-hour to its early news show, which will now run from 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m.

The WLS early morning anchor line-up, including Judy Hsu and Hosea Sanders, meteorologist Tracy Butler and traffic reporter Roz Varon, will not change. WLS is bringing on an additional reporter to cover breaking news on its early morning news. She is Jessica D'Onofrio, who had been with WKMG-Channel 6 in Orlando, Fla., for the past six years. Chicago is D'Onofrio's hometown.

WLS also is adding an additional hour of news on Saturday mornings starting at 8 a.m., effective Sept. 4 The station already has a 6 a.m. newscast on Saturdays. Stacey Baca will anchor both Saturday newscasts along with meteorologist Mark Bishop.
WLS news director Jennifer Graves clearly intends to ensure that WLS remains positioned as the go-to channel for local news in the Chicago market. "This is a great opportunity for us to fill increasingly important morning time periods for viewers who are in the habit of turning to ABC 7 for news and weather," said Graves.

WLS's move to add an extra half-hour of early news programming on weekdays comes on the heels of Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9's decision to add an additional half hour of early news, effective Aug. 16. NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5's early morning news has started at 4:30 a.m. since January of 2007.

WLS also is adding its half hour on the same day that Anna Davlantes and Corey McPherrin take over as co-anchors from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. of Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 9's "Good Day Chicago" early morning show.

DAVIES_JANET_clr_email.jpgWLS-Channel 7 will air the special presentation " Billy Elliot Dances His Way Into Chicago" on Sunday at 10:30 p.m., with an encore presentation slated for Saturday, May 1, at 11:35 p.m. The special will take viewers on to the red carpet at the opening night of the musical "Billy Eliot" in Chicago. WLS entertainment reporter and "190 North" host Janet Davies will host the half-hour special that will include an interview with Sir Elton John, who composed the music for the Tony Award-winning show. The four young actors who will play the role of Billy Elliot during the Chicago engagement at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts will discuss their part in the show as well. The special presentation also will examine how the musical's creators developed their stage production from the film on which it is based.

As of today, ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 reporter Ben Bradley has the distinction of being the only local TV reporter to travel to -- and report live from -- Haiti since the catastrophic earthquake struck the impoverished country last week. Bradley flew into Haiti Wednesday morning on a special United Airlines flight packed with 15,000 pounds of water, 300 tents and 60 relief workers. Bradley spent about an hour on the ground in Haiti -- just long enough to do a live phone report for the WLS mid-day news. He is expected also to be featured on the station's afternoon newscasts.

Bradley was set to return to Chicago later today on the same United aircraft, which will come back with some of the hundreds of people who have been cleared by the United States State Department to leave Haiti. That includes a number of orphans being adopted by families in the U.S.

Four of the five largest television stations in Chicago have signed on to participate in a risky joint news-gathering venture first announced last fall by NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 and Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32. The two charter members of the venture reached out to other local stations to participate over the past several months, and Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9 and CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 have agreed to join the venture as well. Only ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 will continue to operate as an independent news gathering operation.

Sources say the new venture will involve two camera crews from each of the four stations involved. They will be assigned to cover news each day by a managing editor in charge of all the pooled camera crews. Raw footage shot by the crews will be available for use by any of the participating stations. Managing editors will be rotated in and out of that position every 12 months, according to one source. The new venture is based on a model first tried out in Philadelphia last year.

Though she was approached to join in the new venture, WLS General Manager Emily Barr said her station opted out of the unusual arrangement because she felt it was important for WLS to remain an independent voice with the flexibility to cover the news as it see fits.



About the blogger

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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