The first major change in local television for the new year was confirmed yesterday, when WBAL-TV (Channel 11) said that Pat Minarcin will no longer be at the 11 p.m. anchor desk starting tomorrow.
"That change is one of the things we've been looking at," Channel 11 News Director Tom Hauff said yesterday. "And we decided to just go ahead and do it."
Hauff said Channel 11's new first-string lineup will be Rod Daniels as solo anchor, along with Gerry Sandusky on sports and Tom Tasselmyer on weather.
Dumping Minarcin is a major move. The station is breaking up its first-string anchor team of the past two years in an effort to climb out of what is, overall, a third-place position behind WJZ-TV (Channel 13) and WMAR-TV (Channel 2) in news ratings. The timing is especially important since Channel 11 is hoping to win new viewers to its local newscasts during the February "sweeps" ratings period when large numbers of people are expected to be watching the station for CBS coverage of the Winter Olympics. The 11 o'clock newscast is a local station's most lucrative and, therefore, important broadcast.
Minarcin will stay on as co-anchor for the station's early newscast, but his contract, which expires in July, has not been renewed. Minarcin declined to comment yesterday.
In November, the station brought in a consultant to analyze the lack of chemistry that some viewers said they felt between Minarcin and Daniels. The station also has been doing extensive audience research during the past few months to try to get a handle on what Baltimore wants in a local newscast. Last month, General Manager Phil Stolz mass-mailed a slick promotional package designed to look like Time magazine. One of the goals of the publication was to get viewers to share their feelings about the station's news teams with Stolz.
Hauff said the new anchor arrangement with Daniels' flying solo will hold through the February "sweeps." He said management was looking at "several possibilities" for the longer term. One of them would be teaming weekend anchor Carolyn McEnrue with Daniels. The weekend broadcasts have been among Channel 11's highest rated, and it is No.1 on Sunday nights. Channel 11 has the only all-male anchor desk in town.
Hauff also confirmed physical renovations in the newsroom that could result in viewers seeing changes in the news set in the next few months.