Strong reporting outshines inexperienced anchors on ABC's overnight news


January 07, 1992|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

Question: What's green at the anchor desk, but deep in the field?

Answer: "World News Now," the overnight news service, which ABC News premiered early yesterday morning.

The program, which airs from 3:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. daily on WJZ-TV (Channel 13), is clearly superior to the on-the-cheap overnight news services offered by CBS and NBC. But, if you have cable, it is not yet enough to leave CNN or even CNN Headline News for.

Like the overnight newscasts on CBS and NBC, "World News Now" is in part an attempt to keep network affiliates from establishing additional ties with CNN, the all-news cable channel. WFAA-TV (Channel 8), the ABC affiliate in Dallas and Fort Worth, for example, carried CNN Headline News nightly from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. in return for letting CNN air its news reports on stories in the Southwest. During some major news events, WFAA-TV carried CNN instead of ABC News coverage.

"World News Now" will remind many viewers of CNN Headline News. It operates on a half-hour news "wheel," with most of the same stories repeated every 30 minutes.

The premiere Sunday night/early yesterday featured news stories on the civil war in Soviet Georgia, George Bush in Seoul and record-low car sales. These stories were followed by quick reports on weather and sports, as well as a light feature and a segment presenting affiliate-produced reports with national relevance.

The good news: Most of the reports were outstanding by the standards of overnight TV news. Whereas NBC uses an anchorperson in a studio reading copy while tape of international stories is shown, ABC used top-flight veteran reporters -- such as Bill Redeker live from Seoul.

The bad news: Back at the anchor desk in New York, ABC is using Lisa McCree and Aaron Brown, who are as green as they are young. McCree's only major market experience was at Channel 8 in Dallas where she spent more time trying out different haircuts than she did reporting. They may grow into it someday, but right now both seem too lightweight to sit at an anchor desk for the best broadcast news network going.

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