South Florida viewers have been tuning in to the TV news version of musical chairs lately.
In the Fort Lauderdale-Miami market, WPLG-Ch. 10 recently reassigned reporter Jen Herrera to co-helm the morning weekday newscasts; and morning anchor Kristi Krueger shifted to afternoon and evening slots.
WTVJ-Ch. 6 rearranged its weekday morning news team, having Jawan Strader join Pam Giganti, and moving Keith Jones over to the weekend evening shift.
In the West Palm Beach market's WPEC-Ch. 12, evening anchors Suzanne Boyd and Eric Roby shifted over to the morning show in October, and John Discepolo became a main evening anchor with Liz Quirantes.
General managers and industry observers say there are several reasons why viewers have been seeing a wave of anchor shuffles on local TV news. Some newscasters may have time off and their colleagues are filling in.
Then there's the on-air chemistry between anchors. With television being such a visual medium, co-anchors must complement each other.
But generally, "it's always about the ratings," said Teresa Ponte, chairwoman of the journalism department at Florida International University, acknowledging there seems to be more than the usual activity on anchor desks. "I can't remember when there was this kind of a switcheroo."
In fact, the question of who is going where and why has sparked a guessing game on local blogs and websites. On local TV blog, sfltv.com, some viewers have weighed in on the recent anchor changes. Wrote one viewer of WTVJ's changes: "Good call, didn't seem like Pam and Keith had much chemistry."
Another viewer commented on the WPLG shift: "Probably testing the waters to see if they can boost sluggish ratings. Jen Herrera may bring some viewers to the morning show…"
Dave Boylan, general manager for WPLG in Pembroke Park, confirmed that his recent anchor changes are not permanent. He said Herrera is covering for Krueger, who is pitching in on afternoon and evening shifts because main anchor Calvin Hughes has been dealing with a loss in the family. Morning anchor Jason Martinez has a sick relative.
"Adjusting people at various times of the day is part of the business … it is the 24/7 nature of the job," Boylan said.
Also, recent departures have opened up positions. At WFOR-Ch. 4, Strader's departure to WTVJ allowed the CBS affiliate to bring Josh Benson as a morning weekday anchor with Rhiannon Ally.
An upcoming change at WPLG will be the addition of former WSVN-Ch. 7 meteorologist Julie Durda, Boylan said. Her arrival this month, in a yet undesignated role, comes as the station's weekend anchor Michael Smith prepares to exit in April.
Durda's departure from WSVN allowed that station to move weekend meteorologist Vivian Gonzalez to weekday mornings in November. Last year, the station also added anchor Alexis Rivera to its morning team, which consists of Christine Cruz and Diana Diaz, who have been helming that show for 10 years.
"If you are successful, the best thing to do is stay with a consistent anchor team,'' said Robert Leider, general manager of WSVN, which leads in viewers in day and evening newscasts. "The reason people change in our business is because they want to do better."
At WTVJ, the Miramar-based NBC affiliate, officials announced in February that they were repositioning Strader from weekend evenings to the coveted morning news team. He succeeds Jones, who joined WTVJ last summer from Tampa. They are the latest tweaks at WTVJ since Manuel Martinez took the helm.
"As you know, since moving to this position a year ago, we have made numerous changes at WTVJ — new brand (NBC 6 South Florida), new leadership, new anchor teams, new set, new graphics," Martinez wrote in an email. "We have made all these improvements and changes in order to better serve our viewers."
WPEC's changes were done "with the thought to become the No. 1 television station in the market," said Michael Pumo, general manager at the station, which is now owned by Sinclair Broadcasting and has a news-sharing partnership with the Sun Sentinel.
"We made a number of changes to add resources to the television station that had been lacking under the old Freedom [Communications] regime," he added. "With Sinclair coming in, they have given us many more resources and we have been able to add, look and strengthen our lineup from mornings beginning at 4:30 a.m. through Sunday night at 11 p.m."
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