WJZ, WBAL dominate early Dixon coverage

WJZ and WBAL dominated early coverage of the breaking news of Mayor Sheila Dixon's midday conviction Tuesday, and that is not surprising, because they are the only stations in town with noon newscasts.

By the time WMAR got to its 5 p.m. newscast with Mary Beth Marsden at the anchor desk, its coverage had a coherence and focus that it had lacked earlier in the day. And WBFF seemed to be in control of the story even though it offered less initially than Baltimore's two leading news stations. But no one was going to catch up with WJZ or WBAL by dinner time.

Of the two, WBAL was the most aggressive from the get-go when news that a verdict was about to be delivered came down shortly after noon. The three reporters at the courthouse and City Hall - Jayne Miller, Dave Collins and Kate Amara - were all over the story.

WJZ was also strong, staying on the story up until prime time with a special newscast at 7:30 p.m. (WJZ and The Baltimore Sun have a content-sharing partnership.)

If there was any doubt in anyone's minds why WJZ and WBAL are the two most popular news operations, Tuesday's breaking news offered a clarifying snapshot.

But while WMAR General Manager Bill Hooper said most of the station's problems early Tuesday afternoon stemmed from the "raw" nature of streaming online feeds and not having a noon crew for coverage, Scott Livingston, the news director at WBFF, said neither was a problem for his station.

As for WMAR, it could, perhaps, take some comfort from the fact that it pulled itself together by 5 p.m. and looked much more organized on-air. Except that today is Marsden's last day at the station. After 21 years as the face of TV2, she is leaving on a buyout offer after the 6 p.m. newscast.