KDVR’s “Nightside” Offers a New Angle to Late Local News

Ron Zappolo interviews Tom Tancredo in the "new" studio.

If viewers were to watch the three local 10pm newscasts on channels 4, 7, and 9 last week, they would have seen a remarkable similarity between the three news products. All three are held down by the stations’ most senior talent, often leading with the same story on all three stations every night. All three late newscasts cover a traditional wide range of local, national, and world news pieces, seldom spending more than a minute or two on each story. The weather report is given priority, and sport is usually split between one or two commercial breaks.

Channel 31’s new 10pm newscast, “Nightside”, hopes to change that, and watching the debut last night, I think they did a very good job at that. The new newscast focuses on less stories but dedicates more time to them. From Heidi Hemmat’s piece about a Vail Post Office worker accused of multiple sexual assault incidents to Eli Stokol’s examination of the gubernatorial race, all but one story last night was a local story. The only one that wasn’t was a typical Fox News wire story about a man in India with the longest ear hair in the world, but it seemed very out-of-place. Perhaps it was run because they had fifteen seconds to fill before the break. The rest of the stories covered were all local and all had more airtime dedicated to them than expected.

The weather forecast has been reduced to about two minutes. Most other newscasts spend closer to three on weather. Chris Tanaka’s sport report has also been reduced to a single two-minute segment. In the 35 minute newscast, I counted roughly nine minutes of commercials. The other channels often run twelve or thirteen in their 10pm newscasts. (For reference, in a typical 30 minute television program, eight are usually commercials.) Most newscasts take their first commercial break by 10:10, but “Nightside” didn’t bow out until 10:14.

Channel 31 is also clearly trying to capitalize on their anchor team. Promos commemorating Ron Zappolo and Libby Weaver as their lead anchor team for 10 years have been running on the channel for several weeks now. The two normally have chipper on-air chemistry during the 5pm and 9pm newscasts, but “happy talk” is greatly reduced during the more serious “Nightside”.

I was also very impressed when Tom Tancredo was interviewed live in the studio. While I am not a fan of Ron Zappolo’s interviewing skills, Zappolo did challenge Tancredo more so than normal. I love seeing in-studio interviews of newsmakers, and I hope this becomes a regular segment.

The debut newscast ended not with a typical softie piece about Klondike and Snow or something of similar insignificance, but rather a 60 second interview with John Elway. I was not home at 10pm, so I recorded the newscast and watched it about an hour later, but my DVR cut out before the John Elway interview. However, it did look like the “60 Seconds With…” will be a regular segment.

The 10pm newscast also features a special set of graphics that are more subdued and less Fox-like. The time lapses of the city that are aired when coming back from the commercial breaks are a nice touch. The set is simply KWGN’s weather set repurposed with a city backdrop and several plasma screens. It is small and limited in camera angles, but it does give the program a unique look.

Even with significantly enhanced content, one problem that “Nigthside” faces is its lead-in. Channels 4, 7, and 9 all have network programming as their lead-ins, while “Nightside’s” lead-in is channel 31’s untouched, stodgy 9pm news. I am unsure how many people will stick around for an extra 35 minutes of news after an hour of news.

“Nightside” isn’t perfect, but it is refreshing to see a renewed emphasis on in-depth local news. Channel 31 is able to produce a newscast that is significantly different from all the others at 10pm and different from channel 31’s normal output. I am glad that someone is doing something different not just at 10pm, but in this market alone.

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4 Responses

  1. I thought it was pretty decent. It still has a ways to go, but it’s a nice alternative at 10pm.

  2. You have got to be kidding me?
    News?
    Journalism?
    Check those at the gate because it’s all aboard the Cretinvillle Express as the bubble-headed hacks spew forth more insipid and pointless blather from the Cut-it & Print It News Outlet.

  3. What’s the deal with the Nightside sports guy standing up there on a scaffold? Budget run low? Personal hygiene problem? What’s the point? This is a gimmick that just doesn’t work. Get him a desk or something, or just let him stand on ground level

  4. I Don’t like Night Side’s graphics–it’s Local TV’s in-house gfx pack, and it doesn’t really fit FOX31, i like the O&O Look. Other than that i like it, don’t know how well it is going to do against the big 3 outlets, “NEWS EDGE @11” on WTVT in Tampa is almost the same concept, and it’s ratings are dead in the water, but it is continuing so best of luck to KDVR on it’s new adventure.

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