The Newsroom

NewsNation-new national 3hr primetime newscast-WGN America

Scheduled debut Sept 1 from WGN Chicago

Stuart West Country (West) Spotlight
The studio and newsroom look nice and shiny, but I can't help thinking that there is an unusual mismatch of styles in the studio areas. I can't work out what they were trying to do with it. It will probably look much better on screen as you wouldn't see it all at once.
Independent World News

For a moment I thought it was a basketball court. Laughing

23 days later

Behind the scenes 30min documentary on the creation of Newsnation ahead of its September 1st launch. I found this a fascinating watch. To see something built from scratch was very interesting. Seems like a noble endeavour. Hope it works.

Last edited by Mouseboy33 on 17 August 2020 11:48pm
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12 days later

NewsNation the 3hr primetime nonpartisan national news cast will launch on Sept 1. HEre is the full theme music package the broadcast will use. Specifically composed for them. (Theme A - Nice strong memorable signature. Sounds brilliant from the 5:40 mark when it hits the crescendo and the drops back down into the bed. Then a very strong dramatic end. I really like it. Theme B is a bit complicated by I dont hate it. Its unlikely it will make it to air but I dont it. Well done to Stephen Arnold and team for recording this during a pandemic)

Chicago Tribune, former owner and the home city of WGN America and the base of NewsNation wrote a piece on the premiere

GN America, the erstwhile home to Bozo and Andy Griffith, is set to reinvent itself as a cable news network with the Tuesday launch of “News Nation,” a prime-time newscast that pledges to deliver unbiased reporting.

The mission is to take a bite out of CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.

Delayed but not derailed by the pandemic, WGN America has assembled a 150-person newsroom and has been making dry runs for several weeks of its nightly three-hour newscasts from extensively remodeled Chicago studios.

Going live amid a health crisis, civil unrest and a polarizing presidential election means the pressure is on “News Nation” to hit the ground running.

“We’ve got to deliver,” said Sean Compton, 46, executive vice president of WGN America. “We’ve got to make sure that we’re not alienating any of our audience, that everyone feels they’re getting fair, accurate reporting of the news.”

Sean Compton, executive vice president of WGN America, talks about the versatile digital screens inside the "News Nation" studio on Aug. 21, 2020.

Sean Compton, executive vice president of WGN America, talks about the versatile digital screens inside the "News Nation" studio on Aug. 21, 2020. (Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune)

Nexstar Media Group bought WGN America last year as part of its $4.1 billion acquisition of Chicago-based Tribune Media — the former broadcast parent of Tribune Publishing — which created the nation’s largest local TV station group. In January, Nexstar announced plans to turn the former superstation into a prime-time cable news network.

Then the pandemic hit, adding a layer of difficulty to the ambitious project and pushing back the launch from July to September.

“It slowed us down a little bit from a technical standpoint — we were worried whether we would get all our equipment in,” said Compton, a longtime Tribune Media executive named to head WGN America under Dallas-based Nexstar.

The nearly 60-year-old broadcast facility on West Bradley Place in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood remains home to WGN-Ch. 9, but much of the operation is focused on WGN America. The former “Bozo’s Circus” studio is now a “News Nation” training room. An upstairs storage room, earmarked 20 years ago as a potential home for WGN Radio, has become a high-tech newsroom.

The sleek $3.5 million “News Nation” studio was built in the space formerly occupied by the WGN-TV news set, which was relocated in the building. It features giant movable video screens, a three-person anchor desk and an image of the Chicago skyline as a backdrop — a constant reminder that this cable news network emanates from the heartland, Compton said.

In addition to Chicago-based anchors, producers, editors and researchers, “News Nation” will leverage the resources of Nexstar’s 110 TV newsrooms and 5,400 journalists across the country to provide live national coverage.

“We have boots on the ground everywhere,” Compton said. “This makes sense because we’re in Sioux Falls, and we’re in Los Angeles and Chicago. CNN doesn’t have people in Fort Wayne.”

The network will be heavy on weather, with two meteorologists on staff and hundreds of local meteorologists on call, but plans no regular sports reports.

The anchor desk at WGN America's "News Nation" studio is seen Aug. 21, 2020. Nightly three-hour newscasts begin Sept. 1. (Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune)

WGN America started as a TV superstation in 1978 by uploading WGN-Ch. 9′s local programming to satellite and beaming “The Andy Griffith Show,” Cubs baseball and Chicago news to distant cable providers. It converted to a full-fledged cable network about five years ago, dropping local programming and adding original first-run shows.

More recently it has returned to its rerun roots, but that changes Tuesday night when WGN America shifts to a prime-time news network, putting it in direct competition with another cable pioneer.

The debut of “News Nation” comes 40 years after the Cable News Network went live from Atlanta with a husband-and-wife anchor team, introducing the concept of a 24/7 TV news channel “to provide information to people when it wasn’t available before,” founder Ted Turner said at its 1980 launch.

Derided initially, CNN gained traction as cable’s penetration grew, making its mark with round-the-clock coverage of the Gulf War in the early ’90s. Then came MSNBC and Fox in 1996, which infused their programming with personality-driven opinion shows, eclipsing CNN’s ratings during the new millennium.

When former NBC president and CEO Jeff Zucker took the helm of CNN in 2013, he added more personalities and the now ubiquitous pundit panels to the lineup, boosting the network’s ratings but leaving what WGN America hopes will be an opening for straight cable news.

“We’re kind of going back to what Ted Turner saw in 1980 as an opportunity,” Compton said.

“News Nation” is led by Jennifer Lyons, 52, who was promoted from news director at WGN-Ch. 9 to vice president of news for WGN America.

Job one for Lyons was to recruit the news talent while the country was locked down at the onset of the pandemic. Some 1,100 people applied and the vetting for the small screen was mostly done over a computer screen.

“The daunting part was finding the talent,” Lyons said. “You’re starting from scratch and you’re doing it all over Zoom.”

WGN America "News Nation" co-anchor Joe Donlon formerly was co-anchor of WGN-Ch. 9 newscasts. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

Marnie Hughes will be co-anchor of WGN America's "News Nation" broadcast, which launches Sept. 1, 2020. (WGN America)

The highest profile hires are co-anchors Joe Donlon and Marni Hughes. Donlon moved down the hallway from co-anchoring the local WGN-Ch. 9 newscasts, while Hughes was most recently an anchor in Seattle.

Lyons has spent the last month coordinating the new talent, the new equipment and feeds from “seven or eight” local Nexstar TV stations each night during rehearsals, where “News Nation” runs through its full 7 to 10 p.m. newscast.

Donlon said the extra rehearsal time will prove invaluable when “News Nation” goes live to 75 million homes.

“We needed it,” said Donlon, 57. “There will be a lot of eyeballs on us and we need to be clean, we need to be solid and we need to live up to the mission.”

Hughes, 41, left her role as a Seattle TV news anchor last fall to move to Indianapolis — without a job — to return to her Midwestern roots. She picked up stakes once again in May, moving to Chicago after she landed the co-anchor gig.

A Michigan native, her first TV job was in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Like Donlon, “News Nation” is her first network news platform. She believes their local news backgrounds will dovetail well with WGN America’s grassroots approach to national news.

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“It feels a little bit more like a local news team that you can get to know, and that you’ll tune in to watch and have some fun and get informed,” Hughes said.

On a recent day, the “News Nation” newsroom crackled with activity. Writers and producers worked the phones and their computers, assigned to one of six regional zones that feed into the national newscast.

An empty seat between every other workstation keeps 6 feet of social distancing, with a faux computer screen in the middle for better live newsroom shots, Compton said.

Adding 150 TV production jobs to a city that has lost everyone from Bozo to Oprah over the years is “a big deal for Chicago media,” Compton said. On a national level, he hopes “News Nation” will be an even bigger deal to cable TV news viewers looking to turn down the heat on partisan politics.

“I think we’ll draw a lot of viewers from the other cable news networks,” Compton said. “Because people think they go there to get news now, and they’re really getting political talk programming. We’re just trying to report the facts.”
Last edited by Mouseboy33 on 29 August 2020 10:11pm - 3 times in total
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WW Update

NewsNation launches Sept here is a write from the LA TIMES. It includes a tidbit concerning Reuters providing international news. Also that they are aiming for 100,000 viewers and the the launched was financed by dropping some syndicated programming.

[quote] WGN America’s ‘NewsNation’ looks for viewers who want their news served up opinion-free
When entrepreneur Ted Turner first launched CNN in the early 1980s without any big name anchors, one of his credos was that the news would be the star of his then-revolutionary new network.

But cable news has evolved in recent years to offer up a steady diet of personalities, politics and points of view. Those elements have driven up the audiences for Fox News, MSNBC and CNN to record levels at a time when other TV networks are struggling to hold onto viewers gravitating to streaming services for their favorite dramas, sitcoms and movies.

Nexstar Media Group, the Irving, Texas-based TV station owner which acquired cable network WGN America as part of its 2019 purchase of Tribune Media, believes the shift to more talk and opinion on cable news has created an opportunity.

On Tuesday, the company will launch “NewsNation,” a nightly three-hour national prime time newscast (8 p.m. Eastern and 5 p.m. Pacific) that promises a neutral, opinion-free presentation of the day’s events, on WGN America.

If successful, Nexstar could expand the format into additional hours and over time turn WGN America, which now airs sitcom and drama reruns, into a serious cable news competitor. Like nearly every other entertainment cable channel, WGN America is losing viewers to streaming services and cord-cutting, and live news offers a chance at reinvention.

Sean Compton, executive vice president for WGN America, said the company has done extensive research that determined there is an appetite for straight-ahead TV news in the evening as an alternative to opinion hosts such as Fox News star Sean Hannity and CNN’s Don Lemon.

“Sean Hannity is not news,” said Compton. “He’s a friend of mine. I worked with him in radio for years. He’d get mad at me for saying that, but it’s true. Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon — that’s not news.”

Nexstar executives insist their promise of a politically neutral newscast is more than a marketing gimmick. Among the 150 people hired for the Chicago-based program (a process Jennifer Lyons, vice president of news for WGN America, described as “speed dating on Zoom”) are two producers dedicated to scrutinizing every story for language that could be construed as biased.

A team of rhetoricians — made up of media consultants and academics — have also been lined up to monitor the fairness of its coverage. Each night they will deliver a report on how the program fared to Lyons’ desk.

Rob Nelson, a “NewsNation” anchor hired from New York TV station WABC, is aware that positioning the program as an unbiased option will put it under a microscope.
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, OCTOBER 1, 2018 Tucker Carlson is seen in the studio on the set of his show on FOX News in Manhattan, NY. After flicking out at CNN and MSNBC, Carlson now has the most successful show on Fox News. He also has a new book that serves as a viewer guide to his show, Ship of Fools that comes out this week. 10/1/2018 Photo by Jennifer S. Altman/For The Times

“It’s a different level of scrutiny and quite honestly in the era we’re living in right now, saying ‘News Nation’ is balanced is putting a big target on our backs and people will be looking for anything that suggests otherwise,” Nelson said as he prepared for rehearsal before the launch. “So we have no choice but to get it right because we will be called out by one side or the other very quickly if we don’t.”

Anchors and reporters have gone through sessions where their work is analyzed in the run-up to the program’s premiere.

Joe Donlon, a “News Nation” anchor who came from Nexstar’s local Chicago station, said there have been debates with producers over the language used in some of the pieces he has written for the rehearsal programs. But he has been willing to adapt.

“I’m not above someone looking at my work and saying ‘I think it would be better with this,’” Donlon said.

Even without the challenge of enforcing a high standard of journalistic neutrality, launching a new national news operation is a risky and expensive venture.

Nexstar won’t be starting from scratch.
The Chicago-based set of "NewsNation," which launches Tuesday on WGN America.
The Chicago-based set of “NewsNation,” which launches Tuesday on WGN America.
(Stephen Battaglio / Los Angeles Times)

The company’s 185 TV stations with 5,400 employees in their local newsrooms will supply much of the reporting from around the country for “News Nation.” The program will have a bureau and a dedicated West Coast correspondent, Nancy Loo, working out of Nexstar’s Los Angeles station KTLA. Reuters will supply international coverage.

The three weekday anchors — Nelson, Donlon and Marni Hughes along with meteorologist Albert Ramon — are from local news outlets and did not command the large salaries it would have taken to attract established network news personalities.

The approach helped keep the cost of the “NewsNation” launch to around $20 million, executives said. Nexstar local stations, which cover 63% of the country, will use their air time to provide the bulk of promotional time for the program, valued at more than $100 million.

The company said it will offset most of the start-up costs by not renewing deals for several of the entertainment shows carried on WGN America, which reaches 75 million cable and satellite homes in the U.S.

Compton said having anchors without a national profile means “NewsNation” viewers will not have any preconceived notions based on their past places of employment. The only on-air journalists with network experience are Nelson, who once anchored ABC’s overnight newscast, and newly hired veteran correspondent Dean Reynolds, who departed CBS News’ Chicago bureau after a recent round of cutbacks (WGN America recruited him through his LinkedIn account shortly after he was let go).

Even the studio location for “NewsNation” will separate it from the competition. Instead of being based in the glitzy media hubs of New York and Washington, the program will air from the headquarters of Nexstar TV station WGN-TV, located in a 59-year-old utilitarian white brick building on Chicago’s North Side where the channel’s Bozo the Clown children’s show was taped for decades.

One floor above the main studio is a spacious newsroom built for “NewsNation” where socially-distanced producers are stationed by the region of the country they are covering.

Compton said the stories from Nexstar’s local stations for “NewsNation” will be presented in a way that connects to a national audience.

“You’re not going to see the ‘pet of the week’ from Indianapolis,” he said.

Compton noted that when a story occurs such as the college football season at Texas Tech being in jeopardy due to the pandemic, “News Nation” can go to the Nexstar station in Lubbock, Texas, for a live report that illustrates the challenges the public health crisis still presents throughout the country.

“We’re really working a new muscle,” said Hughes, who worked as an anchor in Seattle before joining WGN America. “In local news we take national news and localize it to make our community care about it. Now we’re doing the opposite.”

On election night, “NewsNation” will have journalists from Nexstar stations in most of the key swing states when the returns for the 2020 presidential race come in. The program will expand beyond three hours that night and on other occasions when there are breaking stories.

For Nexstar, “NewsNation” is also a chance to adapt to the changing TV landscape.

As viewing of scripted TV shows continues to shift online, live television is the best way to reach viewers with commercial messages. Nexstar Chief Executive Perry Sook told financial analysts earlier this month that WGN America is already selling advertising for “NewsNation” at a higher rate than the programming it’s replacing.

The company has not revealed its ratings goals for “NewsNation,” but people familiar with the discussions said WGN America is looking to average 100,000 viewers a night in the 25 to 54 age group advertisers want to reach with news programming.

The figure is about 25% of what CNN averaged in prime time during the month of July. The program will also air on weekends and have an app and website updated 24 hours a day.

News ranks right behind sports as the key reason consumers keep their pay TV subscriptions. Nexstar said ratings for news on its local stations has surged this year due to the pandemic, even increasing among the 18 to 34 age group that has turned away from traditional TV.

But established news viewing habits are hard to break. Mark Whitaker, a veteran journalist who has held top executive posts at CNN and MSNBC, knows that from experience.

“It really helps that a chunk of your viewership wakes up in the morning and turns you on and leaves you on all day,” he said. “MSNBC has that and so does Fox News.”

Whitaker recalled how CNN ratings fluctuated wildly based on the intensity of the news environment during his tenure from 2011 to 2013. A key reason executives who succeeded him added documentary-style series programming and opinionated personalities in prime time was to create a more reliable audience.

MSNBC was adrift as a cable news competitor until it was “consciously a channel for liberals,” Whitaker noted. Fox News was defined clearly from its start as a conservative counterweight to viewers who saw established news sources as too liberal.

Whitaker said the question Nexstar will face is whether viewers who want a straight-ahead newscast will become as “addicted” as those who regularly tune into CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.

Some who do not watch cable news may be satisfied with the down-the-middle presentations of “PBS NewsHour” or the half-hour evening newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC, which collectively still average more than 20 million viewers a night.

“I would say there is an audience that says they are underserved,” Whitaker said. “The question is do they want something like ‘NewsNation’ enough that they would watch it day after day and hour after hour the way they do the existing channels. People love Rachel Maddow no matter
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Brekkie Wales Wales Today
I'm confused now over what this is launching on. I thought it was on a collection of non-affiliate broadcast channels, replacing syndicated programming in primetime with a news service - but is it also airing on a national cable channel?
Turns out nobody had 2020 vision.
NewsNation is launching on WGN America. Its a separate national general entertainment cable channel. WGN America carries the legacy and the name of WGN 9 Chicago. (WGN stands for Worlds Greatest Newspaper, named after the long time owner The Chicago Tribune which owned tv assets all of which were purchased by Nexstar in the last few years). The schedule of WGN America is completely different from WGN Channel 9 Chicago. Back in the day WGN Chicago, WWOR NYC, WTBS Atlanta, were all super channels (There were a few others but not as big or widely carried). Basically nationwide cable channels of very successful local stations. They carried movies, local sports teams and all the programming the local stations would carry. Eventually WTBS (owned by Ted Turner) became TBS and by far the most successful and is completely 100% no longer considered a superstation. WGN Superstation usued to carry the local Chicago sports teams and locally produced programms and the local Chicago News to a national audience. But the channel eventually became WGN America which has suffered in recent years. A few years ago WGNAmerica tried to emulate TBS (formerly WTBS) and experimented with producing dramas and had a hit series called Salem I think. But eventually the programming proved to be too expensive and was shevled and replaced with syndicated repeats. So now the channel will air NewsNation in their primetime slot instead of syndicated programming.

Before and during the split from the local and then nationwide superstation.
Orginal IDs/Local and Nationwide

National Station ID

Local Chicago Station ID

Current Programming Promo for the National Cable Channel

(WGN 9 Chicago (local), like most local stations today, (even the networks) barely have regular station ID animations. Usually as required by FFC regulations, at the top of the hour, the call letters and registered location just appears at the bottom of the screen in small letters. This is another reason why local news broadcasts in America had big fancy openings with the station call letters announced at the opening of the broadcast. now they are just after thoughts and shoved at the bottom of screens and the news opens are a couple of seconds long or no open at all.)
Example of the station ID incorporated into the news open Heart station did this very well in the 90's

WSFA Montgomery
Last edited by Mouseboy33 on 1 September 2020 4:41am - 7 times in total
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Interesting tidbit from snarky but reputable industry blog FTVLIVE
According to one Nexstar insider, it also appears that News Nation will be getting first dibs on the breaking news shot by the Nexstar stations around the country.

A source tells FTVLive that the Nexstar stations have been told that breaking news video goes to News Nation first and is not to be shared with the cable news nets until after seen on News Nation.
Last edited by Mouseboy33 on 1 September 2020 7:40pm
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The premiere was last night. And overall, I felt it was very good broadcast. It looked great on screen. Nice camera moves. I really liked the flipping moving video walls. It was energetic, lively and fast paced. it didnt feel tabloid in its presentation. They really hammered home there is going to be no opinion. Almost too much through out the broadcast. I get though this was done as their point of difference from the nationals. But as with all new broadcast most of what you see will not last. This was the first night so the flipping video wall and the like will probably be phased out eventually, though i didnt mind it. I was concerned about the story selection in some cases, but some of these stories would become national stories if the big channels actually covered news anymore and not just political talk channels. Overall it felt like local newscast on steroids. Currently WGN America website and app are allowing people to view the broadcast free for now. This will end after a month and you will eventually have to log in to your tv provider account to watch. So it will disappear for most viewers. At this point, NexStar doenst seem to want to have a streaming component. So the potential audience for the broadcast will drop. They will have the live updates and radio updates from WGN Radio streaming on their app and website.
We will have to see where this goes. But its an exciting developments. Im interested to see how they cover breaking news and what they will do if the story stretches past their 3 hour block or begins before 3 hour block. Will they start early? Or will they stream from their newsroom and then toss to the anchors in the studio when the main 3 hr block begins? All of this will be interesting to watch.
Over all a very strong effort.
Top story video wall flipping segment, then the wall slides together to form one wall to display the date.
Main Title Card
Timeline graphic

Last edited by Mouseboy33 on 2 September 2020 1:56pm
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ginnyfan World News
Everything looks and sounds amazing.

Plus no bias, no talking heads, just news??? Shocked What a revolutionary concept for American television.
Brekkie Wales Wales Today
Is it on a news wheel then or one three hour programme?
Turns out nobody had 2020 vision.

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