Wait just a little bit longer.
That's the word from WJZ for those viewers who have been waiting almost a year for the arrival of Sally Thorner and WJZ's new 5 o'clock weeknight newscast.
The date, Dec. 1, has been circled on calendars all over town since last October when Thorner announced she was jumping WMAR's ship and signing on with WJZ to anchor a new newscast. A no-compete clause in her contract with WMAR keeps her off the air at WJZ until Dec. 1 even though her new employers are reportedly paying her $250,000.
Thorner will join WJZ Dec. 1, but the new 5 p.m. newscast featuring her will not debut until Jan. 3, Marcellus Alexander, the station's vice president and general manager, said yesterday.
Alexander says there are several reasons for the January start. Primarily December is a month of uneven viewing patterns due to the holidays, and the station can't start full-scale promotion of Thorner until Dec. 1 because of the no-compete clause.
Alexander says Thorner will substitute for vacationing WJZ anchormen and anchorwomen in December, as the station promotes her newscast full throttle.
Though she hasn't started, Thorner's presence is already being felt at the station. WJZ is hiring 11 new staffers for the newscast, knocking out walls to build offices for them, and relocating the main news set to a larger studio that can accommodate an anchor desk and an interview area.
Alexander tried to put the focus on the newscast instead of only Thorner yesterday, saying, "There are a lot of people who think we're launching a talent. The fact of the matter is . . . that we're launching an entire 5 o'clock news product and Sally Thorner is a key part of it."