WTOL-TV, Channel 11, launched its 5 p.m. newscast on April 4, 1994. Jerry Anderson has been the solo anchor from the beginning.
That's about to change.
Citing national surveys that indicate viewers today want more news and less fluff at 5, news director Mitch Jacob is shaking up "First at Five." Starting Wednesday, Chrys Peterson will join Anderson at the anchor desk.
"The show is evolving," Jacob said. "It's time to take a fresh look at it."
Peterson, who signed a five-year contract in August, will continue to anchor the station's top-rated 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts with Terry Thill. Among the local primary news anchors, she will match Jim Blue and Jennifer Stacy of WNWO-TV, Channel 24, with 2 hours, 5 minutes of on-air duty each weekday.
She said anchoring a 90-minute news block, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., "will probably take some getting used to, but it will be fine. It's not like it's going to be 90 straight minutes." (She will have a five-minute break, for example, during the NewsTalk segment, in which Anderson takes calls from viewers.)
In every ratings period since its debut, WTOL's 5 p.m. newscast has been No. 1 in total viewers. Among viewers age 25 to 54, which is the demographic that advertisers covet, WTOL has seen its lead against WTVG-TV, Channel 13, shrink in recent years.
When asked if he would make the same decision if he were the news director, Anderson said cases could be made for both sides. "On the one hand, what we've been doing is different than our competitors and we regularly win," he said. "On the other hand, we have Chrys Peterson, and she and I work really well together."
Anderson expects a smooth transition. After all, it's not like he has never worked with a co-anchor. He occasionally fills in on the 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts. Plus, he was an anchor for 12 years at WTVG and shared the desk with Frank Venner, Randy Price, Jeannine Lauber, and Diane Larson.
Peterson won't be the only addition to the 5 p.m. newscast. Chief meteorologist Robert Shiels will handle the weather segments, replacing Larry Whatley. (Like Peterson, Shiels will remain on the 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts.)
Whatley still will have an on-air role on station newscasts, Jacob said, although the specifics have yet to be determined.
BIG JUMP?: Geneen Anderson, weekend weathercaster and medical reporter for WNWO-TV, Channel 24, told news director Lou Hebert last week that she is leaving for another job. She wouldn't say where she is headed, but the buzz in local media circles is that it's to a network-owned station in New York City.
NEW PAIRING: "Jen" has replaced "Stoney" as the sidekick for host "Train" on the WTWR-FM (98.3) morning show. She previously worked under the name of "Cameron" on WXQQ-FM (96.9).
HARDWARE: Adrian's WLEN-FM (103.9) has been named Adult Contemporary Station of the Year by the National Association of Broadcasters.