D.C. Stations Power Through Pandemic

As competitive as they are, the stations in our nation’s capital are at times sharing resources to get through the pandemic and keep viewers informed. The four news-producing stations have been pooling video from scheduled events in DMA No. 7, limiting the number of photographers who turn up at this trying time.

“It’s really working out well,” WTTG VP and news director Paul McGonagle said.

The stations also teamed up on a promo about unity. “It sends a positive message to the market,” said Patrick Paolini, WTTG-WDCA senior VP/general manager.

Fox owns WTTG and MyNetworkTV station WDCA. NBC owns WRC and Telemundo station WZDC. Tegna has CBS outlet WUSA and Sinclair Broadcast Group owns ABC affiliate WJLA. Nexstar Media Group holds The CW station WDCW and Entravision has Univision-aligned WFDC.

Comcast is the primary pay TV operator. Verizon Fios also has a good footprint in the market, which includes Washington and parts of Maryland and Virginia. Cox has a smaller one.

Anchors Jim Handly (l.) and Doreen Gentzler and chief meteorologist Doug Kammerer help WRC maintain a lead in the Nielsens.

Anchors Jim Handly (l.) and Doreen Gentzler and chief meteorologist Doug Kammerer help WRC maintain a lead in the Nielsens. (Image credit: NBC)

WRC is a monster. With a “Working 4 You” motto, “News4” has specific beats, whether it’s transportation or consumer or medical. Anchor Doreen Gentzler covers health, which has come in handy during the pandemic.

WRC debuted weekly newscast News4 Kids on April 11. Eun Yang anchors. “It doesn’t talk to parents about kids — it talks to kids,” WRC assistant news director Matt Glassman said. “We’ll keep it going as long as there’s interest.”

Over at WUSA, the motto is “Inform, Inspire, Impact.”

“We have to deliver on all three,” said Richard Dyer, president and general manager. “That’s what people need.”

Late in 2018, WUSA relaunched its 7 p.m. news as The Q and A. “It represents an opportunity to have a direct interaction with our audience,” Dyer said. “It fits the needs of the time perfectly.”

WJLA launched a Saturday morning newscast and offers Outside the Classroom, which saw meteorologist Ryan Miller, a science teacher, turn his porch and backyard into a studio focused on science projects for kids. “Our staff and company worked quickly to find the technology to allow more people to work from home, producing, editing, shooting, anchoring and even our sales team,” said Michael Miller, VP/general manager. “Things that have never been done at this level.”

Fox 5 chief Paolini hosts weekly podcast “The Paolini Perspective.” Partnering with the Washington Teachers Union, WDCA has a daily lesson for schoolchildren at 10 a.m. “Fox 5 Takeout” supports restaurants at this difficult time.

WTTG’s Friday 10:30 p.m. news slot is all positive. “There’s been so much negative news, so people are happy to see stories of inspiration and hope,” McGonagle said.

WFDC has Spanish-language news at 6 and 11 p.m. Around half the staff is working from home. “We’re trying to keep everyone safe,” Luisa Collins, Entravision VP of news, said. “We all have to learn this is the new normal.”

WRC cleans up in the Nielsens. The station won the 6-7 a.m. race in households and adults 25-54, as well as the 5 and 6 p.m. contests. At 11 p.m., WRC did a 4.1 in households, ahead of WUSA’s 1.9 and WTTG’s and WJLA’s 1.8. In 25-54 at that hour, WRC averaged a 1.7, ahead of WTTG’s 1.1, WJLA’s 0.8 and WUSA’s 0.6. “There are a lot of things we’ve been able to do to keep our coverage fresh,” Glassman said, citing an interactive graphics editor.

As it battles through the pandemic, Washington remains a lively news market. “There’s never a dull day covering news in D.C.,” McGonagle said.

To residents, D.C. is both a global city and a local one. “It’s a world-class city with amazing local flavor,” Dyer said. 

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.