Sun, WMAR form news partnership

TV station to present paper's stories, staff

February 07, 2002|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

Executives of The Sun and WMAR-TV formally announced a partnership yesterday to use the paper's news accounts and staff in the station's newscasts and to collaborate on marketing and advertising.

"It's a service for viewers, readers, advertisers and our companies," said Drew Berry, WMAR general manager. The station, Berry said, would be able to tell stories that were previously beyond its scope, and to reach newspaper readers who have not previously been its viewers.

In remarks to the newspaper's staff yesterday, Sun Publisher Michael E. Waller said the agreement would allow the paper to gain broader currency for its journalism and to obtain far more promotional spots than a limited budget currently allows.

The station will run approximately 1,200 spots a year, or three 10-second spots a day, Waller said.

After the staff meeting, Waller said the paper hoped to reach occasional readers who watch WMAR's news programs and perhaps get them to subscribe.

The Sun has lost some circulation in recent years as it has abandoned the pursuit of single-day sales in favor of stronger home subscription figures, audited figures show.

WMAR (Channel 2), which lags in ratings in the Baltimore market, hopes to use the affiliation to distinguish itself from its competitors, particularly WBAL (Channel 11) and WJZ (Channel 13), which are the Baltimore metropolitan market's highest-rated stations.

Channel 2 is already promoting the arrangement, saying it has created the largest news operation in Maryland.

The arrangement is likely to include a Sun-generated daily business report on WMAR's newscasts, recurring segments featuring the newspaper's cultural critics, and, on the late news shows, roundups of headlines in the next morning's Sun.

The two media outlets agreed to swap advertising space for commercial air time. In addition, WMAR's forecasters will be featured on the newspaper's weather page.

Channel 2 also has paid for a camera and mini-studio to be installed in The Sun's newsroom, where reporters are to be interviewed for WMAR newscasts.

During the staff meeting yesterday with Waller, several Sun journalists expressed concerns that exclusive stories could be revealed prematurely, before the paper has been published. Others registered skepticism on different grounds.

"Let's cut to the chase - you're bartering our services for free advertising," reporter Walter F. Roche Jr. told Waller. "What's in it for us, money-wise?"

"Don't do it, if you don't want to," Waller answered.

He said the involvement of the newspaper's reporters would be voluntary and would offer them the chance to master a new medium.

"We won't do anything we don't want to," Waller said.

WMAR is owned by the Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Co., while the Tribune Co. is the corporate parent of The Sun.

Tribune Co. has aggressively sought similar arrangements for its newspapers throughout the country, which includes such markets as Los Angeles, Chicago, South Florida, Orlando, Fla., Hartford, Conn. and New York.

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