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Local Anchors Enjoy National Stage on ‘CBS Weekend News’

Doug Dunbar of KTVT
Doug Dunbar of KTVT (Image credit: KTVT)

One bright spot amidst the pandemic nightmare, at least for station anchors, has been local talent getting to host the CBS Weekend News. The weekend evening newscast is operated out of the CBS Broadcast Center in New York, and when the building was closed in March with COVID-19 taking over, CBS News decided to tap anchors and production staff at both owned stations and affiliates to deliver the newscast. 

Anchors said the chance to perform on a national stage has been something of a dream come true. “It was a moment of, ‘Hey, for a minute here, I have made it,’ ” said
Debby Knox, anchor at WTTV Indianapolis, who anchored May 9. “I thoroughly
enjoyed it.” 

Debby Knox of WTTV Indianapolis

Debby Knox of WTTV Indianapolis (Image credit: CBS)

CBS News started with its owned stations, as DeMarco Morgan of KCBS Los Angeles anchored March 14-15 and Doug Dunbar of KTVT Dallas did so March 21-22 and 28-29. KTVT’s news director mentioned to Dunbar midweek that he might anchor for the network that weekend. “My initial reaction was, ‘Who, me?’ ” Dunbar said. 

The lack of a direct content pipeline between CBS News and KTVT meant some challenges with getting all the parts in order, which Dunbar said ended up working out fine. “If I said I didn’t have butterflies, I’d be lying,” said Dunbar. 

KIRO Seattle anchor Monique Ming Laven, who helmed CBS Weekend News May 2-3, said she is “in awe” of the network pulling off newscasts from remote locations. “They have a completely different workflow from ours,” she said. 

Affiliates that have contributed include WGCL Atlanta April 18-19, KOIN Portland May 16-17 and KMOV St. Louis May 30-31. Kim Godwin, executive VP at CBS News, called the initiative “an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with affiliates.” 

CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell anchored a special newscast focused on George Floyd’s death June 6, bringing CBS Weekend News back in-house. 

Local Flavor 

Station anchors were encouraged to get a story or two from their region into the lineup. For KIRO, it was about Seattle auto shop Benchmark Motoring shifting its focus to manufacturing protective equipment for workers combating coronavirus. For KOIN, it was the 40th anniversary of Mount St. Helens erupting. 

KOIN anchor Jeff Gianola said his appearance was a win for the Portland market. “People have that hometown feeling and this was their moment to shine,” he said. 

Anchors admitted to nerves before going on-air. Gianola said if he had known about the hundreds of people who would email and text him after the broadcast, he would’ve been more nervous. Dunbar wore a Cancer Warrior bracelet in memory of his deceased mother to settle his nerves. 

Monique Ming Laven of KIRO Seattle

Monique Ming Laven of KIRO Seattle (Image credit: KIRO)

Dunbar wrapped his national newscasts with a subtle nod to legendary CBS anchor Bob Schieffer. He knew how Schieffer, who grew up in Fort Worth, would often refer to the market as Fort Worth-Dallas, the inverse of how it’s normally referred to. Anchoring from KTVT’s studio in Fort Worth, Dunbar concluded his newscast with a sign-off from “Fort Worth-Dallas.” An email from Schieffer soon turned up, acknowledging “the inside joke of all inside jokes.” 

“I want you and everyone there to knowjust how appreciative and proud I am for what you are doing,” wrote Schieffer. Said Dunbar, “It filled my heart that one of the legends of CBS News said, ‘I heard what you said.’ ”