Saturday, August 20, 2011

Who's To Blame for WDBJ's Decline in the Market?

Jean Jadhon: The Real Betty Boop?
WDBJ's reign as king (or queen, if you prefer, but I'd watch that) of the market is over, but my guess is that it won't be over for long. The dominant television news show in the Roanoke-Lynchburg market since 1958 finished second to Lynchburg's WSET (ABC) in the most recent Neilson Ratings with WSLS (NBC) finishing third. WDBJ is the CBS affiliate.

Read my buddy Ralph Berrier Jr.'s thorough story in a local daily here. (Note: This is a corrected spelling of Ralph's name. He's going to have to change it if I have any more trouble with it.)

The finger-pointing can begin now, especially considering that most of WDBJ's losses were among older viewers and the decline immediately followed the retirement of long-time anchor Keith Humphry and the firing of former producer Amy Morris (a Roanoke native), who wound up with a better job at WABC in New York. I think there's a good bit more to it than that, though.

Humphry was replaced by a 24-year-old anchor, Chris Hurst, who is, quite frankly, appealing and appears to me to be competent. He's easy to like and that is important in TV.

My instinct is to lay this at the feet of a team too young for its former audience and, with Jean Jadhon co-anchoring at 6 p.m., not very serious. Jadhon's annoying Betty Boop posing and chasing of non-stories mortifies professional news people throughout the market--especially the news women--but WDBJ General Manager Jeff Marks insists she is enormously popular. I don't know who she's popular with, unless my 85-year-old former mother-in-law counts as about 20,000 viewers. She loves Jadhon. Says she's "cute." What we all need is a cute anchor telling us about a bloody wreck on U.S. 220 and segueing with a squeal into a story of her own about a doggie that makes the old people in the group home happy.

Marks insists this is a burp in a market adjustment that has been going on for a while (I think he's probably right), but it must still be embarrassing to lose the lead and to lose it to a Lynchburg station, the one that has most often been a distant third in this market.

WDBJ still has the best--by far--television reporter in the market in Joe Dashiell, the best sports team and the top weather team, anchored by the ever-popular Robin Reed, who was a staple annually in The Roanoker Magazine's Sexiest Roanoker competition for years and is still a fixture in the region's elementary schools. (I don't know what that says about aging, but Reed does it well.)

Time will tell who ultimately has the most viewers--as totals continue to decline dramatically for all the stations.



  1. Disagree, respectfully. I think three things:

    1. It's Summer, and the ratings are always a little strange during that period.

    2. A new team is settling in. Give them a little time to settle in.

    3. Quite honestly, you sound as though you have some personal axe to grind against Ms. Jadhon. If you have been spurned or rebuffed or something, that would explain your tone.

    Nick Leitch, Roanoke

  2. WDBJ7 is already improving with the addition of their news director, who also shoots and produces a story every once in a while. They now include maps with their stories, which is a huge help to transplants like me.

    I prefer Hurst over Humphry and started watching the 6PM newscast again.

  3. I regularly watch the 6pm WDBJ "newscast" with my 87 year-old mother. My mother wore Keith Humphrey like comfortable sweater. He warmed her up. He was always right there beside her. She could count on him. She grew old with him.

    Since Keith left, and indeed, in the few years prior to his leaving, WDBJ seemed to be tinkering a bit too much with their formula for "The News." Instead of shoring up their impeccable, reliable news gathering image, they appeared to start chasing ambulances, trying to get the story before the experts at "NewsChannel 10". They seemed to be chasing #3's lead. That path, in my estimation, leads right to where WSLS currently resides.

    The new bloods at WDBJ seem fine. Hurst is a quick learner. He sort of reminds me of Keith when he started. Davis has really improved at 11pm. As you said, the sports and weather departments are excellent. And why is that? Do you ever see Robin Read or Travis Wells chasing ambulances or do they just do their job, competently and completely without trumpeting fanfare? BTW...they need to give that 1 minute back to Sports..hey wait a minute...the slide really started when they took the minute away from the sports report on the 6pm newscast.

    WDBJ and WSLS have fallen into the trap of thinking that the young demographic they are chasing actually give a tinker's dam about watching anything newsy at 6pm. They are completely unreliable viewers. They're all at Cheddars or B Dubs eating dinner and sucking down a few Keystone Lights. My mother, on the other hand, is getting cold easily these days and needs her sweater.

    oh on a side note: this post had the absolute best word verification pass: "colons"

  4. Nick: No ax to grind whatsoever. I do not know Ms. Jedhon. Never met her. I've seen her maybe once at a news conference. I simply think that her kind of news is not good for the news business. It is awfully difficult to take her seriously when she appears to be posing in a mirror most of the time. Her reporting, which is adequate, is diminished by per posturing. That simple. And, as I said, the ratings do not represent the final word on this. I suspect WDBJ will re-take the lead pretty soon.

  5. Susan is a former news professional--and a good one--at WVTF Public Radio in Roanoke.

  6. I just stumbled onto this blog. Jean Jadhon is an attractive newsreader. Hurst comes across as much too immature and smug to taken seriously. They have really slipped since Mike Stevens (and Roy Stanley) left the sports desk. Travis Wells is the only sports guy they have. Karen Loftus & Zac G lover are simply reading a script, and it is plain to see they have never been involved in any kind of sports. One evening Zac gave a score of a baseball game as "4 to zero". When he did that he gave away whatever credibility he had. Technically he is correct, but in this country anybody who knows sports would say "four to nothing".