The TMZ Style Newscast


WJZY in Charlotte is doing a 10PM newscast that appears to take its cue from TMZ.

The Charlotte Observer writes that it's either the future of local news or an experiment gone boldly awry.

By any standard, it is different.

There’s no anchor desk. Reporters stand around a video table – think of a Ms. Pac-Man machine gone gigantic – and chat about their stories with host Cheryl Brayboy, in what feels like a cocktail party of news.

There’s no reporter standing in front of an empty courthouse talking about what happened there hours earlier. WJZY isn’t playing the “now-on-the-scene-of-nothing” game.

There’s no sea of flashing blue lights. WJZY isn’t spicing up its report with routine urban crime.

Launched six weeks ago, the hour-long show was designed to be unlike anything that has gone before. After the Fox network bought WJZY in 2013, it wanted to take a new approach, to see whether it could reverse declining viewership nationally and engage a younger audience.

Karen Adams, the station’s manager, remembers getting a call from Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernethy last January, asking her to leave the Fox affiliate in Greensboro and take over the network’s new Charlotte station.

“He said he wanted me to create the newsroom of the future and the culture that would support it,” says Adams.

She brought in as news director Geoff Rothfrom Fox’s Houston station. He’s a tech wonk who built a team outside the normal structure. Rather than a reporter, photographer and editor working on a story, the WJZY news team consists of “digital journalists” who can shoot and edit their stories on iPads or smartphones.

Stories are aimed not only at the TV broadcast, but the station’s website and mobile destinations. People aren’t waiting around until 10 p.m. to get their news anymore, Roth says. They want it now and they want it on multiple devices.

A traditional anchor desk was never part of the plan. “We were not going to do the traditional ‘voice of God’ behind the news desk,” Adams says.

“Everything we do is a two-way conversation with the viewer,” says Roth. “Young people are used to that through social media.”

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