New NOLA Newscast On the Rocks

If you can’t make it to happy hour today, perhaps you can tune in to WGNO New Orleans’ News With a Twist, which launchesat 6 p.m. today

DMA No. 52 of course knows how to tip a few jars, and its newest newscast has a decidedly potent-potable motif, notes

Anchors Susan Roesgen and LeBron “LBJ” Joseph will sit on bar stools as they introduce and comment on stories in mostly unscripted conversations. There will be a cocktail of the day, as concocted by a local bartender, and each broadcast will conclude with a mini-commentary called “Last Call.”

Clearly, stories will be on the lighter side, and with an emphasis on New Orleans culture. “Kind of a slice of what’s happening today in the city,” WGNO news director Rick Erbach said, citing news-talk radio and the syndicated news-and-entertainment “P.M. Magazine” program of the late 1970s and ’80s as influences on the new half-hour. “Our mantra is, ‘It’s not a traditional newscast.’”

WNGO is part of Tribune, whose brass speak frequently of shaking up the news mix to compete with the big guns in their markets. That’s the gameplan in NOLA as well.

Writes Dave Walker:Some high-profile experiments, however, have been unsuccessful. Last year, Chicago-based Tribune announced a new anchorless format for its news-ratings-challenged Houston station. The “NewsFix” project has been delayed, and the Tribune executives who fostered the outside-the-box thinking that led to it - innovation chief Lee Abrams and CEO Randy Michaels - have left the company.In New Orleans, “News With a Twist” began to take shape nearly a year ago with internal brainstorming at WGNO, Erbach said. It aims to grab the 6 p.m. time slot from other stations serving an already news-saturated audience, as well as to improve the station’s poor recent ratings performance in that hour.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.