Friday, July 29, 2011

29 JUL 11: From Three to Five

If there's one local theme that's emerging in 2011, Columbus is shedding the "big town" image to become a medium-sized city. Thursday brought another example of that trend - and if you were awake early enough to see it, you probably have a commute that fits right along with it.

WRBL doubled the length of "News 3 This Morning," becoming the first media outlet in Columbus to have local news at 5:00 a.m. ET. No, I did NOT wake up to watch this big event. I only learned about it watching WRBL's 11:00 p.m. news Wednesday night, and then I had a blog to write - so I might have tripped over something while stumbling to the TV set.

The expansion is surprising for WRBL, considering this is the station which dropped an hour of news two years ago in a cost-cutting move. "First Edition" at 5:00 p.m. was replaced by reruns of "Two-and-a-Half Men" - and recent events have convinced me the "half" referred to Charlie Sheen.

So the sun set on 5:00 p.m. news at WRBL, but now the sun is rising on 5:00 a.m. news - a half-hour earlier than WTVM's morning news. Meanwhile, WLTZ hasn't really replaced "Rise N Shine" since Calvin Floyd's talk show moved to 12:00 noon. The only "news" it has before 7:00 a.m. nowadays is a staged interview promoting herbal supplements.

To be honest, it was only a matter of time before some Columbus TV station started its morning news at 5:00 a.m. That's been the trend in other cities for years, including Macon. In fact, some stations in large cities now begin morning newscasts at 4:00 a.m. I personally think that's too early -- unless you're watching news before going to bed after a late night in bars.

In fact, I've been amazed for years at how Columbus radio and TV stations don't tend to start their morning shows until 6:00 a.m. When I was a radio news anchor in a small Oklahoma city years ago, for awhile the first newscast was at 5:30. I presumed most of the radios hearing my voice were located in barns on farms.

But we noted here a few years ago that plenty of people in Columbus are awake at 5:00 a.m., preparing for the workday [28 Aug 07]. It can be rush hour on Interstate 185, as drivers race south to Fort Benning. But then again, the freeways might be the only way to avoid being stopped for minutes by early-morning freight trains.

I've also heard stories of Columbus families arising at 5:00 a.m. during the school year because their children have early bus rides to magnet schools. "Early to bed, early to rise" can ensure students don't have bleary eyes....

And come to think of it, METRA buses have started their daily rounds at 4:30 a.m. for years. That system puzzles me more for ending daily service at 8:30 p.m. - as if the directors are giving taxi drivers a "prime-time" schedule.

So it only makes sense to me that WRBL now has morning news at 5:00 a.m. But I was surprised to find the 12:00 noon news has NOT been sacrificed in the process - especially since parent company Media General recently ordered more staff furloughs. If the Opelika-Auburn News morning meeting starts appearing at noon and looking like TMZ, you'll know what happened.

Long-time blog readers know I used to work at WTVM. A boss there once talked of WRBL "making another run at us." WRBL seems to be mounting yet another run now - starting a new media partnership with the Ledger-Enquirer, and this week adding 5:00 a.m. news. Now who will persuade Sonya Sorich to go to the station before dawn and read a "to-do" list?

BLOG UPDATE: No newsroom apparently took advantage of our Thursday plea to cover the Russell County Court hearing pitting Robert Schweiger against the mayor of Hurtsboro. We didn't even receive an e-mail from Schweiger about it - so I hope he wasn't so infuriated that he pulled out all the electronic cables at his home.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: A different perspective on the Columbus Civic Center controversy....

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