Seattle-Tacoma's struggling new CBS affiliate has just one "sweeps" rating period under its belt, but it was an ugly one, especially for news, and KSTW-TV yesterday announced personnel and scheduling changes for summer and fall.
Most notably, weeknight co-anchor Don Porter, the steady if-not-flashy former NBC correspondent who lent much-needed credibility to Channel 11's news for almost four years, will move to part-time reporting in which he will work on quarterly special projects, said general manager Gary Schneider.
KSTW also will abort its half-hour newscast at 6 p.m., start an hour-long newscast at 5 to compete with the other three news stations, move the "CBS Evening News" from 5:30 to 6 and launch a 6 a.m. news hour.
Porter's move and most of the other changes will happen sometime in early August, when Dale Schornack arrives from KDFW-TV in Dallas, where he is a weekend anchor and reporter. In replacing Porter at KSTW's anchor desk, Schornack will join former "CBS Morning News" anchor Monica Gayle, who's new in town herself but is a Washington native.
Schneider said Porter had been wanting to work on projects outside the studio. Porter couldn't be reached for comment. The announcement of his move comes just three weeks after news director Charles Johnson left the station under publicly undefined circumstances.
Channel 11 became the CBS station in March after its parent company, Gaylord Entertainment Co. of Nashville, wrestled CBS away from KIRO-TV (Channel 7). KSTW had been an independent station with a modest news hour at 10 p.m. With network status, it has had to quickly assemble a bigger news operation and is hiring like crazy.
Not accustomed to turning to Channel 11 for news, few viewers sampled the station's new newscasts at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., and KSTW was fourth in the news race during the May ratings measurement by Nielsen Media Research.
But in August and September, KSTW will shake things up, and CBS is promising an overhauled prime-time schedule.
In early August, KIRO will have the 6 p.m. half hour all to itself for local news. KSTW will move "The CBS Evening News" from 5:30 to 6 to compete with "NBC Nightly News" on KING-TV (Channel 5) and "World News Tonight" on KOMO-TV (Channel 4). At 6:30, Channel 11 will continue to air syndicated comedy. For now it's "Roseanne." In the fall it will be "Home Improvement."
In the fall, KSTW will pick up a new syndicated show, "Day & Date," for its 4 p.m. hour, replacing sitcom reruns. "Day & Date" is designed to be a newsmagazine lead-in to local news. It is described in the trade press as a cross between "Today" and "Hard Copy," but it's supposed to be an alternative to trash talk. "Day & Date" will be live, with local-news inserts.
On July 31, KSTW will start a 6 a.m., one-hour local newscast to lead in to "CBS This Morning," which trailed the other stations in the morning ratings.
Porter joined KSTW in 1991 after a five-year stint at KING, where he anchored the 11 p.m. news. Before that, he covered the Pentagon for NBC.
In another hire, Channel 11 has chosen Christine Chen as weekend co-anchor. She will join Kevin Reece on July 8 and replaces Inga Hammond, who is now doing sports for KNXV-TV in Phoenix. Chen comes from KOIN-TV in Portland.