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WLNY Lacks Long Island Focus for News at 9

When WCBS/Channel 2 formally acquired WLNY 10/55 the promise was an upgrade technologically and in front of the camera. However, the most important aspect is missing, keeping WLNY locked in to its home–Long Island.

WLNY, for more than 25 years, was an independent station based in Melville. Its news presence was just a 30-minute broadcast weeknights. It was neither high-tech nor featured the best talent, but viewers knew they had an ally in coverage of Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

Now with WCBS at the helm, cross off the need for better talent from the wish list. Having the entire Channel 2 news team at its disposal, led by anchors Chris Wragge (at his best here, especially hosting a nightly viral video segment) and Dana Tyler, WLNY need not worry about on-air product.

Viewers, on the other hand, can worry that Long Island news they’ve come to rely upon at TV 10/55 is no more. When WLNY does have a Long Island presence with Jennifer McLogan or Carolyn Gusoff (rarely have we seen the two on the same newscast), it’s nothing extra beyond what other stations covered that night.

In a one-hour newscast, you can count on one hand how many Long Island references are made. At the start, the graphic shows “Riverhead, New York,” where the station is licensed. There are the one or possibly two stories based in Nassau or Suffolk Counties. Making it worse, those stories are often pushed down in the broadcast.

Jaci Clement, executive director of the Fair Media Council, Long Island’s media watchdog, was a major proponent of the WCBS deal. While it’s still early, she’s not pleased.

“I didn’t care at all for the night TV55 ran news of the capsized boat being brought up – B roll 31 minutes into the newscast,” Clement admits. “Yet WWOR ran the story, and it was a story, at the top of their newscast. That tragedy was national news in TV55’s backyard – they should own stories like these and for the sake of Long Island, they need to own them.”

A WCBS spokesperson tells FishbowlNY that there is a delay in becoming Long Island-centric, due to revamping the Melville facility for HD broadcasting. WLNY holdover, anchor Richard Rose, who still hosts a Long Island public affairs show, is scheduled to anchor out of the new studio, as Long Island bureau chief. It may be akin to WPIX’s Kaity Tong, who anchored remotely for a brief portion on the 10 p.m. newscast after Jodi Applegate displaced her.

Of course, there are two problems with that–at this point most viewers can’t even get WLNY in HD on their television. And, regardless of the studio work being done, why have viewers been left to suffer?

“The promise of this being a force in Long Island news isn’t evident to viewers yet,” a defiant Clement adds. “And THAT needs to happen fairly quickly, otherwise Long Island will lose interest and respect.”

It was thought that Cablevision, which runs News 12 Long Island, would feel WCBS/WLNY breathing down its neck and be forced to make programming changes. Of course, stalwart News 12 is not the one that needs to change, since it’s drawing zero competition from ‘LNY.

WLNY is taking a splash in mornings as well with The Couch. The show has even less of a Long Island slant. Curiously, there are news and weather (just a brief check of Long Island temperatures) updates each half-hour. But where’s the traffic? In the highly competitive morning race, it’s odd to omit traffic, when viewers can find it on rivals WNYW or WPIX.

Weather, a must for making the presentation local, certainly doesn’t require a rebuilt studio. Lonnie Quinn (right) does little more than John Elliott on The Couch. After his regular forecast, complete with the week ahead, there is a post-script. Quinn plays to Nassau and Suffolk with the latest temperatures, a current radar shot on Long Island, and a graphic showing tomorrow’s temperature and conditions. It’s no more than 30 seconds, a.k.a. short shrift, given to the area this station is supposedly serving.

You get the feeling WLNY talent and management are delighted anytime they can work the words “Long Island” into their newscast, fulfilling their obligation.

Many Long Islanders, some of which even work in the broadcast industry, are upset that TV 10/55 is gone as they remembered and liked it. One source tells FishbowlNY, “Repeating CBS2 news at 5 & 6 yet again at 9, with just different faces, covering countless stories of New Jersey and New York City violence doesn’t cut it for me and I know I speak for a small but upset group.”

Make no mistake, this is just another WCBS newscast. The News at 9 is simply a spot to promote Channel 2 News at 11, which is done a handful of times during the broadcast. Other than reconstructing the Melville studio, this is a cost-cutting measure. WCBS isn’t spending two cents to hire a separate Long Island staff. They have reporters in place throughout the tri-state. As recited most nights on Judge Judy, which follows the News at 9: “It is what it is.”

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