Fox-Owned Stations Make Their Mark

Fox Television stations has made a serious investment in local news. In 2018, the 28-station group that Jack Abernethy oversees is producing 970 combined hours of local news per week. That’s up from 925.5 hours last year and 839.5 hours in 2014.

Some stories within the Fox group stand out for impacting their market. Last month, WTTG Washington’s Tom Fitzgerald sat with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, to discuss a grand jury report that alleges the cardinal covered up for priests who sexually abused children in Pennsylvania. “I think I did everything that I possibly could,” Wuerl told Fitzgerald.

Late last month, WFLD Chicago landed an interview with Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer charged in the 2014 shooting death of teen Laquan McDonald. Dane Placko sat with Van Dyke days before his trial.

“It’s been very difficult just to be able to talk about this,” Van Dyke said. “I’ve been in a shell for a lot of it. It’s just been difficult to open up about it. There’s just been, in my opinion, so many negative stories that seem to have a false story line. I think I needed to right the wrong.”

In April, WAGA Atlanta broke the story that former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed had paid out more than a half million dollars in year-end bonuses and “Christmas party contest winnings” to dozens of employees just before he departed his post. The bonuses ranged from $5,000 to $15,000. The WAGA investigative team reported that $28,000 was paid out for a lip-sync contest and $2,100 for an ugly sweater contest.

WTVT Tampa, for its part, uncovered first responders who lost their jobs due to posttraumatic stress disorder. Following the station’s investigation, Florida passed a law granting paid leave to first responders suffering from PTSD.

And KMSP Minneapolis aired a 30-minute special on the murder of local business owner Amy Allwine in 2016. Her husband was found guilty, staging her death to look like a suicide. The special was called Web of Lies — The Murder of Amy Allwine.

In KMSP’s words, “This documentary follows how detectives, forensic specialists, and prosecutors untangled a web of lies surrounding the murder of Amy Allwine, and the secrets her husband had kept from everyone.”

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.