News director Bill Carey told FishbowlNY that a move like this became essential.
“It’s necessary to make a big change at Channel 11,” Carey says. “I don’t think it’s any secret that we’ve never been one, two, three or four in the ratings.”
So now Carey, who joined WPIX in 2009, makes his biggest splash at the station. He switches the likeable tandem of Watkins and Tong for another popular personality in Applegate.
“Jodi exemplifies a mix of characteristics that we find compelling,” Carey says. “She knows the market; she’s worked at a competitor and has a competitive fire.”
More from Carey follows the jump.
Applegate is familiar to audiences on a national level from her work at NBC and MSNBC. In New York, she had a successful three-year run at Fox5/WNYW on Good Day New York. Most recently, she was at News 12 Long Island, getting out of her contract to make the WPIX gig a reality.
Beginning Monday, October 11 (moved back a week), WPIX is relaunching the 10 p.m. newscast not only with a new solo anchor, but a new look.
“We have a different style of newscast that we’re putting on the air that we think her personality and the range that she offers can handle,” Carey says.
As for Watkins and Tong, they will remain at ‘PIX. Tong is the new field anchor each weeknight, while Watkins handles solo weekend anchoring. (Weekend anchors Peter Thorne and Jackie Hyland move to weekday reporters.)
“They have handled this magnificently. I approached them about the change in their responsibilities and we’re thrilled,” Carey says, “They’ve been receptive and are going to contribute in any way.”
Carey says he was sensitive to the people involved in the change, especially Watkins and Tong, and didn’t take his decision lightly.
“I think I bowed to their desire to contribute and their ability to contribute in these roles,” Carey says. “I think we become a stronger station on weekends.”
Additionally, Carey says Tong’s new role taking her to communities will have a “powerful impact” on how people feel about Channel 11.
Carey says viewers will likely see Watkins and/or Tong as Applegate’s fill-in.
“Not losing them and being able to work with them, I think is a plus for us,” Carey says.