30 years ago today, WLS in Chicago took a big chance.
The station decided to try putting on a local newscast in the morning.
Robert Feder writes that on April 3, 1989, the game changed with the debut of “Eyewitness News This Morning” from 6:30 to 7 a.m. weekdays on WLS-Channel 7.
Just four months earlier, the ABC-owned station experimented with two 15-minute newscasts — one at 6 and one at 6:30 — but combining them was considered a risky proposition at the time.
“The consolidation of our former two, 15-minute news broadcasts into a half-hour will allow us a more comprehensive news presentation,” news director Tom Dolan said in announcing the expansion. Whether it would succeed was another matter.
The initial team consisted of news anchor Alan Krashesky, an amiable 28-year-old reporter who’d joined ABC 7 in 1982, meteorologist Jerry Taft, and traffic reporter Roz Varon, who leveraged her experience from radio to create a new role for local TV.
“A morning half-hour newscast in 1989 was innovative in terms of what stations were doing at the time,” recalled Krashesky, who’s now the station’s principal anchor at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. “When the morning news first started, it was radio-driven, and the powers that be wondered if anyone would take the time to watch news in the morning.”
With the addition of Kathy Brock as Krashesky’s co-anchor in 1990 and the show’s expansion to a full hour two years later, everything clicked.
“When you get up at 2:30 in the morning you really have to like the people you work with,” Krashesky said. “We quickly learned that team chemistry would be a key part of our success. We genuinely liked each other — Roz and Jerry — and a bit later, Kathy joined us. It truly was a blast.