Channel 45 News will live or die on timing, not tuxes


SO, WILL Jeff and Lisa join Al and Denise and Sally and Stan and Pat and Rod and all the other anchors and anchorettes in the hearts of Baltimore television viewers?

Not unless they lose those tuxedos they won't.

The debut of "The News at Ten" on Channel 45 (WBFF) stumbled a bit at the start from shooting itself in the foot by dressing its anchor team in formal attire.

It was supposed to look festive. Instead it looked silly, marring a basically solid news show with a constant self-congratulatory appearance.

But that mistake should soon be forgotten as Channel 45 finds out if Baltimore wants to watch its late news an hour earlier.

Because whatever the personality of the anchors, or the news judgment of the producers, timing is the crucial element to "The News at Ten."

The station is asking people to develop a new habit that promises all the information they used to get plus an extra half hour's sleep. But it also means no "L.A. Law."

Despite their outfits, and their local anchor hair -- thick for him, blond for her -- the main anchor team of Jeff Barnd and Lisa Willis seemed solid, if a little crowded together on Channel 45's brightly lit, wood-laden set.

As for the station's approach, that was evident right from the top. The newscast headlined the beginning of the trial in Howard County of a man accused of killing a state trooper, but the first story it reported was on safety at Bethlehem Steel.

That's because that report could focus on the death of an individual, connecting it more viscerally with the viewers than the comments of lawyers about jury selection in a months-old murder ever could.

Look for "The News at Ten" to seek out such common-man stories, though let's hope it never sinks to the low that Channel 13 (WJZ) displayed on its 11 p.m. newscast last night when the town's leading news station decided that what Baltimore needed to hear about first was its exclusive report on the death not of a human, but of a dog, killed by another dog.

OK, OK, so Channel 45 had to learn that the local news business is a dog-eat-dog world, but that was a little ridiculous.

For the record, Channel 2 started its 11 p.m. report with the trooper murder trial, while Channel 11 (WBAL) led with the controversy surrounding the Presbyterian national conference that's taking place in town, a story not even mentioned on "The News at Ten."

Channel 45 did manage to land a live interview with Governor Schaefer for its inaugural show.

8, There were the usual flubs: A needed but

missing explanation at the end of an interview, a jarring transition....

Still, considering it was the first outing for an entirely new team in a brand new facility, all went pretty smoothly. And the show certainly proved that you get a lot more news in an hour than in the brief time allotted to that category in the other stations' 30 minute reports.

Also on the plus side, none of the on-air personnel had that look-at-me, I'm-the-star attitude so popular these days in local news. Sports guys Max Morgan and Bruce Cunningham seemed upbeat, if a little slick. The standout might be weatherman Len Johnson, who has a comfortable natural friendliness.

But all of that won't matter one bit if Baltimoreans don't want to watch their news at 10 o'clock. Only time will tell the answer to that one.

And no matter what the hour, nobody wants to see their news delivered by a bunch of folks dressed like penguins.

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