KCAL Los Angeles staffers are in rehearsal mode, as the station’s seven-hour morning news block is set to launch January 5. An independent station owned by CBS News and Stations, KCAL will debut a 4-11 a.m. weekday block that day. Central to the news block is the assignment desk, located in the studio, with the assignment desk manager “a regular part of the news presentation,” said Joel Vilmenay, president and general manager, KCBS-KCAL.
The desk’s starring role came to be when Mike Dello Stritto, named KCBS-KCAL VP and news director last February, remarked that the stations had the best assignment desk in the country.
“We challenged him — what does that look like in local news?” said Jennifer Mitchell, president, CBS Stations. “This is what his vision was.”
The assignment-desk editor will discuss news stories with anchors and offer the latest updates from the desk. Mitchell called it “a true differentiator.”
KCAL, which turns 75 this year, has a three-hour news block in primetime. It is new to the morning news game.
Starting January 5, KCBS will air network program CBS Mornings from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m., and also in its typical 7-9 slot. KCAL news will air on KCBS in the 6-7 a.m. slot.
KCBS currently starts morning news at 4:30 a.m.
As of that day, KCBS-KCAL will offer 91½ hours of live local news a week. Eighteen staffers were hired for the morning launch. “We’ll hire more, if necessary,” Vilmenay said.
Vilmenay started at the CBS stations in October 2021, after a run as GM at WDSU New Orleans. Word of the KCAL launch was “very well-received” in the newsroom, he said.
“They knew we’re going to make investments and add members to the team and really lean into local news,” he said.
The morning anchor team includes Jamie Yuccas and Rudabeh Shahbazi. A promotional campaign began New Year’s Day. Billboards and radio spots will remind residents that there’s a new player in morning news.
When CBS News and Stations announced its plans for KCAL morning news in July, Wendy McMahon, president and co-head, CBS News and Stations, said: “By launching morning news on KCAL 9 and adding a second daily broadcast of CBS Mornings on CBS 2, our local-to-global news organization is perfectly positioned to showcase its premium content on our broadcast and streaming channels in the Los Angeles market. As one of the most trusted local news providers in Southern California, the window of opportunity for KCAL 9 News in the morning is wide open.”
The plans for the KCAL morning block began in earnest about a year ago. Mitchell said KCAL’s reputation as a local-news outlet, bolstered by its primetime news block, will serve it well in the morning. “There’s tremendous strength and legacy in the KCAL brand in this marketplace,” she said. “There’s a true, rich history behind that, so this launch makes complete sense.” ■
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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.
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