In rapidly evolving discussions inside WGRZ, the station’s management is discussing the possibility of moving longtime evening anchors Scott Levin and Maryalice Demler to host the Daybreak morning show, a source says.
In that scenario, Mike Wooten and Kelly Dudzik would takeover the 5:00 pm, 5:30 pm, and 6:00 pm nightly newscasts on a full time basis. The pair are seen as the future cornerstones of the brand, and the recent ratings slip has some arguing in favor of their ascension.
Both Wooten and Dudzik are attractive, fresh faced and energetic award-winning journalists.
In a similar scenario, Wooten and Dudzik will be given the prime time slots, while Demler would co-host the morning show, replacing the soon-to-depart John Beard. Levin would take the solo-anchor role at 10:30 pm and 11:00 pm, or takeover the weekend nightly newscasts.
No decisions have been made and discussions are ongoing, says the source.
The station is desperately scrambling to retain its audience leading position, which it is expected to lose to WIVB, a fierce competitor.
At the same time a youthful, energetic, and innovative team at WKBW is making huge strides in audience growth.
Many longtime observers argue that WGRZ’s problem has more to do with the constraints of the current format rather than any one or two personalities. Those critics say that more probing in depth investigative journalism in the mold of 60 Minutes would elevate the broadcast in a serious and substantive way.
Others argue in favor of abandoning the traditional nightly newscast format in favor of one similar to the Today Show, TMZ, or The View.
“If they trade the desks for couches it would certainly look different and feel fresh, but you never know what the audience is going to find endearing,” says one reporter at WIVB who asked not to be named.
“Dudzik and Wooten are serious journalists who can deliver a solid broadcast. It’s not like they would be giving it to kids,” the source says. “They are the only thing that can stop WIVB’s rise in the ratings.”
Supporters of Levin retaining the lead anchor spot say that his strengths have been underplayed, but with tweaks to the format he can retain the station’s leading position in the market.
“Viewers don’t want a lot of personality from a lead male anchor, they’re looking for a more serious, stern voice. If they gave Levin a solo-anchor newscast with darker lighting, a more somber intro, with a tone that revels in understatement, he would hit it out of the ballpark,” a Levin supporter at WGRZ posits. Remove the news desk, produce the broadcast with a sense of cinematography, and let Levin deliver the newscast in front of a green screen, his supporter argues.
Others predict that that Steve Brown, formerly of the Fox News Network’s Washington Bureau, will be elevated to a central positioning within the brand.