WWJ Detroit, the ViacomCBS-owned station, plans to build a full-scale local news department that serves both a 24/7 streaming service and early morning, midday, early evening and late news on linear. CBS News Detroit is expected to launch in late summer or early fall 2022.
WWJ is a rare Big Four-aligned station that does not produce local news.
“We view this as an unprecedented opportunity to start from scratch at a large-market, network-owned station and build the newsroom of the future–where we focus first on streaming and then have our content flow like water across our linear broadcast, digital and social media platforms,” said Wendy McMahon, president and co-head, CBS News and Stations. “When Brian [Watson, WWJ VP and general manager] and his team presented their vision for CBS News Detroit earlier this year, I thought to myself ‘This never happens. Until now.’”
Known as CBS 62, WWJ became part of the CBS group in 1995. WWJ aired an 11 p.m. news in 2001 and 2002, produced by WKBD. WKBD’s news department was shuttered at the end of 2002. From 2009 to 2012, WWJ produced a 5-7 a.m. news that featured weather, traffic and headlines from the Detroit Free Press and WWJ Radio. More recently, the station has aired two-minute “Eye on Detroit” reports during CBS This Morning and online, and “First Forecast” weather updates throughout the day.
CBS News Detroit will feature a round-the-clock streaming service with live local news coverage from 4 a.m. to 11:35 p.m. The station will also broadcast 40 hours a week of local newscasts.
Watson told B+C he’s wanted to launch a news department “since I arrived on Day One,” in summer 2012. He pitched it to CBS Stations leadership, including Adrienne Roark, president, and got the green light.
Roark was named president of CBS Stations in July, with oversight of the group primarily in the eastern half of the U.S. “I thought, wow--this is an unprecedented opportunity to literally start from scratch--a news organization in a large market,” Roark told B+C.
CBSN New York was the first local OTT platform in the CBS group to launch, late in 2018. Twelve out of 13 news-producing stations in the CBS group have launched the ad-supported OTT platform, with CBSN Miami scheduled to premiere in mid January.
WWJ will hire a full news staff, including a news director. The station will be more focused on hiring multimedia journalists than big-name anchors. Reporters will be embedded full-time in communities across the Detroit market, and in state capital Lansing. Watson mentioned “an atmosphere of hustle” in the newsroom.
Roark described the WWJ approach to news as “streaming first, then linear.” She would not share the number of personnel to be hired, but said it will be comparable to the competition’s headcount.
“We are fully invested in this project,” she said.
Detroit is full of strong local news outfits. Fox owns WJBK in DMA No. 15, Scripps has ABC affiliate WXYZ and MyNetworkTV-aligned WMYD and Graham Media Group has NBC affiliate WDIV.
“The time has come for our Detroit employees and the communities served by CBS 62 to have a full-fledged news department that utilizes the latest advances in newsgathering and streaming technology and a team of multi-skilled journalists who will be embedded in neighborhoods across the market,” said Roark.
Watson said the newsroom will reflect the way people consume news today. “This is a landmark moment in the history of our station and, for that matter, local news,” he said. “I don’t believe there is another station in a large market like ours that has done anything like this, so we are excited to help write a bold new chapter in the history of local news. My colleagues and I are deeply grateful to Wendy McMahon, Adrienne Roark and everyone else on the CBS News and Stations and ViacomCBS leadership teams for their incredible support and belief in our mission.”
He added: “CBS News Detroit will stand out as the market’s only grassroots, community-focused news gathering organization. We will super-serve our audiences on every media platform with more hours of live, local news than any other source in Detroit. Our journalists will be committed to giving a voice to people who might otherwise be unheard, and shining a light on the issues that are impacting communities throughout Metro Detroit.” ■
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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