Air Check by Diana Marszalek

WMAR Goes In-Depth To Shake Up 6 P.M.

Yesterday, the Scripps Baltimore ABC affiliate debuted its new ABC2 In Focus that it hopes will be an attractive alternative to the competiton. The half-hour newscast is more “in-depth” than “investigative,” featuring fewer but lengthier stories than typically appear on traditional newscasts.

On a day when Boston marathoners, sparring gubernatorial candidates and a shooting made Baltimore news, viewers who tuned into WMAR at 6 p.m. Monday got long, pre-produced stories on illegal dumping, police overtime and big-event security.

Those enterprise stories added up to ABC2 In Focus, a new half-hour newscast that is intended to differentiate the Scripps-owned ABC affiliate by giving viewers something more substantial than they can find on rival stations driven by the day's breaking news.

Story continues after the ad

“We are all covering the same news every day,” says News Director Kelly Groft. “This is news but it takes a little longer. We let it breathe.”

Groft says Monday’s stories (there were just the three of them) exemplify what she’s trying to do with In Focus: provide a news-heavy local alternative to traditional evening news, while hopefully solving WMAR’s problem of being the market’s lowest rated newscast at 6 p.m.

Groft describes In Focus as being more “in-depth” than “investigative,” featuring fewer but lengthier stories than those that typically appear on traditional newscasts. Stories run up to five-minutes long, and there won’t be more than six of them per show, she says.

Many of the stories, like the ones Monday, are produced in advance of the live broadcast, but In Focus will cover breaking news when called for, she says. But the show won’t air the same sorts of live reports viewers will catch on, say, WMAR’s 5 p.m. news or its competitors, she says. In Focus stories will maximize coverage of breaking news events by widening the scope of the reporting done to cover them.

Brand Connections

“Someone will be behind the scenes, digging,” Groft says.

To make that happen, WMAR is expanding its investigative reporting staff from two to four (the current team is working exclusively on In Focus) and has hired two investigative journalists for digital endeavors.

The station’s Jamie Costello and Kelly Swoope will split anchoring duties, most likely by alternating nights, Groft says.

In Focus looks different than other WMAR newscasts as well. The show broadcasts from its own sleek set using black, white and red, as well as a wall plastered with nine TV monitors.

“We are very serious, and I think it shows an investment in our product and an investment in our market and to our viewers,” Groft says. “We are evolving and bringing them into something different.”

In Focus also has a big digital component. The station’s new digital journalists are producing their own investigative reports, as well as supplements to stories that appear on-air, Groft says. On Monday, users were able to follow the Boston Marathon course using an app WMAR made available.

Digital platforms are also being used to pique viewers’ interest in stories before they air, Groft says. Questions to spur conversation about story topics will be posted a full 24 hours before broadcast, hopefully driving viewers to tune into them, Groft says. WMAR successfully used a similar strategy to woo Scandal viewers to its latenight newscast earlier this year, she says.

In Focus has been long in coming, starting a year or so ago when research showed viewers have “a thirst for news” and that 6 p.m. would be the right timeslot for it, Groft says.

For years, WMAR’s 6 p.m. newscast has ranked third, while WJZ and WBAL go “head-to-head” for first and second place, she said. Although WMAR saw some spikes in viewers surrounding weather, there was otherwise no significant change.

Scripps execs say they fully back In Focus. “We have assessed an opportunity in Baltimore, based on that market’s unique dynamics, to serve viewers in a way that differentiates the depth of our story telling from the other competitors,” says Scripps SVP of Television Brian Lawlor.

But the show won’t likely leave Baltimore, he says. “We do not expect In Focus to be a model that would be rolled out across our division. We do not believe that every newscast needs to look the same and are very comfortable with taking creative risk in an attempt to find new ways to engage viewers in specific markets,” Lawlor adds.

Which is what Groft hopes the payoff will be from offering viewers a new take on news: “It’s essentially your big sweeps stories five days a week.”


Comments (0) -

Marketshare Blog Playout Blog




Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 27, 2016
  • 1.
  • 2.
  • 3.
  • 4.
  • 5.
  • 6.
Source: Nielsen


  • Rob Owen

    Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.

  • Maureen Ryan

    Pitch has swagger, for good reason. It gets the big things right; the Fox drama about the first female baseball player in the Major Leagues is one of the year’s most assured and exciting debuts. But part of what impresses about the pilot is also the way it confidently strings together so many small but telling details. Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) is the first woman to be called up from the minors to the big leagues, and no show since Friday Night Lights has done a better job of portraying the internal and external pressures that weigh heavily on young athletes asked to do much more than merely succeed on the field. Pitch will likely do a good job of getting viewers to root for it. The hope is that the show won’t be an impressive, short-lived curiosity, but rather a long-term phenomenon.

  • Kevin Fallon

    In a fall TV season that’s already making a splash for championing diverse, distinctive voices in an array of projects that they created, wrote, and starred in, Better Things on FX stands out. The show is created by, written by, and starsPamela Adlon. She plays Sam Fox, the single mother of three daughters modeled after her own reality-show-ready experience raising three girls in Los Angeles following a divorce. Sam is also, like Adlon, a working actress — on shows both raunchy, a la Californication, and animated for children, like her role on Recess. It’s a refreshingly blunt take on single motherhood without sacrificing the warmth of parental love, portraying the dance between selfishness and selflessness that’s at the heart of being a parent — especially one weathering the hormonal fireworks of a household of four women at different ages.

  • David Wiegand

    The fall TV season doesn’t count as much as it used to — we already know that. But no matter how many retreads the broadcast networks throw at viewers in the next few months, this fall will be memorable because of the premiere of Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 6, on FX. The half-hour comedy created by and starring Donald Glover (Community), simply and brilliantly recalibrates our expectations of what a TV comedy is and how black lives are portrayed on the medium.

  • Louisa Ada Seltzer

    The second reboot of the 1980s John Candy movie Uncle Buck, bumped by ABC from midseason, has the same tired jokes you'll find on any second-rate sitcom. Too bad, because Mike Epps is appealing and ABC would be wise to keep him around for future shows, but there’s just not enough to this show to suggest it will last past summer. It also airs against NBC’s America’s Got Talent, summer’s No. 1 program on broadcast, which may make it even harder to find an audience.

  • Neil Genzlinger

    Bryan Cranston brings his Tony Award-winning interpretation of President Lyndon B. Johnson to television in an adaptation of the Robert Schenkkan play All the Way, and it’s still quite a sight to behold, just as it was on Broadway in 2014. Nothing beats witnessing this kind of larger-than-life portrayal onstage, of course. But the television version, presented by HBO, offers plenty of rewards, allowing Cranston to work the close-ups and liberating him from the confines of a theater set. Cranston’s performance is a gem — in his hands, this accidental president comes across as an amazing bundle of contradictions, someone who seems at once too vulgar for the job and just right for it.

This advertisement will close automatically in  second(s). You will see this ad no more than once a day. Skip ad