The changes are subtle, but if you look carefully they scream at you. In recent weeks, WPIX and WNYW viewers have noticed something different when it comes to how the sports portion of the newscast is produced.
On the PIX News at 10, the latest in a series of changes has news director Bill Carey dropping its sports department.
Instead, news anchor Jodi Applegate (Jim Watkins on weekends) spends a minute in the control room reading the scores and narrating a few highlights.
Carey says PIX (which carries Mets’ games) has never been a destination for viewers seeking sports information.
“Our station doesn’t have a sports profile … We never did a sportscast in the 6:30 news while it was on the air,” Carey tells FishbowlNY. “We don’t do sports in the morning show.”
Using the new 10 p.m. newscast started in October, Carey decided that now was the time to pull the plug on the local news mainstay.
“In trying to differentiate and have a different kind of a 10 o’clock presentation, we put each element and segment under a microscope.”
He says regardless of whether a particular team is on a hot streak doesn’t matter.
“Our reality is when you really take a sober stock of who we are, we don’t have people tuning into us for sports.”
Having said that, Carey did acknowledge that it wasn’t easy to eliminate something so engrained in viewing habits.
“To the point that it’s institutionalized in part of what everybody does, of course, I gave it a lot of consideration,” Carey admits.
The news director says this isn’t a cost cutting measure as “we didn’t go down in staff. It’s really about budgeting time in the show.”
Lolita Lopez now handles news reporting, while per diem weekend sports anchor Glenn Petraitis has been taken off the station.
And in the end, Carey felt that dropping sports was its best chance to stand out.
“The overall theme has been that we’re going to really try to offer something, obviously different, from the other five stations.”
One of those other stations is WNYW, which has maintained sports on the weeknight 10 p.m. news anchored by Ernie Anastos and Dari Alexander.
As odd as it is to see no sports anchor on PIX, what Fox 5 is doing with their sports is actually more jarring.
Like Carey at PIX, WNYW is budgeting their time elsewhere at 10 p.m.
They still throw it to Russ Salzberg at the My9 studios. Also like PIX, his reports are a svelte one minute. Odder still, something this reporter has never seen until now, Anastos and Alexander wrap-up their portion of the newscast before sending it onto Salzberg. For some unknown reason, the sports anchor is the one that closes the program, telling viewers to stay tuned for The Office next.
Both stations have sports as an afterthought in the final moments of their broadcast.
But, while PIX admits that they don’t have an audience for sports, it’s a different take from Fox 5.
A Fox 5 spokeswoman confirmed to FishbowlNY that moving sports to the end of the newscast has nothing to do with decreasing sports coverage.
The spokeswoman added that is just one of several new things the station is doing to shake things up and evolve, while remaining committed to give sports to viewers.
Of course, on the heels of an impressive sweeps win against rival WPIX, one has to wonder—why? Put another way—if it ain’t broke, why fix it?