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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Say Seven?

Talk about going from one extreme to another! Before becoming the vanguard in slash-and-trash, if-it-bleeds-it-leads TV (ahem) “journalism”, WSVN (Channel 7 in Miami) was the tortoise/caboose/horse and buggy of local TV news. It was the old-fashioned, slower-paced, no-need-to-shout voice in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market. It was, to today’s “standards”, boring at times, but refreshing in several more important ways.

The Great Channel Swap of January 1, 1989 changed all that. With the station losing its NBC affiliation to WTVJ Channel 4 (which lost its CBS affiliation to our beloved WCIX Channel 6), long-time owner Ed Ansin had a choice: show old movies and tons of reruns, and go further back into the past… or reinvent the station as a sleazy mini-CNN, pushing the envelope at every opportunity to do so. We all know which path he chose.

Ansin had already hired general manager Joel Cheatwood a year or so earlier, so he had the right man to lead the charge. Cheatwood and news director Mark Toney turned Sally Fitz and Penny Daniels from even-keeled anchors into hyperbolic Chicken Littles; they turned the news area into the larger-than-life Newsplex; they turned every mundane police perimeter into some scary, better-lock-your-doors clarion call of doom (with Rick Sanchez proving the perfect person to spread hype and hysteria, through his amazing Crime Check segments). It was a freak show that every other news operation in town looked upon with equal amounts of scorn and envy. Scorn, because it violated every journalistic instinct. Envy, because all TV news people want to report stories that are larger-than-life… and every story that came out of the Newsplex was made to seem that way. And damn if the viewing audience didn’t eat it up. Oh my God, there’s a robber on the loose! And he’s heading this way!

(Breathless Sally and Frenetic Rick)

The videos that follow are from that moment in time before WSVN’s transition. They had started to loosen up a bit, but the Freak Show had not yet begun. Several past and future WCIX employees can be seen in this blooper reel, including Bob Soper, Jill Beach, Susan Candiotti (who didn’t even work for Channel 7!), and Mike Mason. There’s even a spoof of former Channel 6 Night Owl Movies host Big Wilson… plus then-Governor Bob Graham’s comedy debut. Don’t quit your day job, Senator! This is a rare glimpse into a time when the Three Stooges weren’t named Rick, Sally, and Penny. I hope this brings a big smile to your face.

(Look for Steve Rondinaro, Sally Fitz, Mark Wolin, Dave Willingham, Bob Soper, Bob Gilmartin, Stephanie Stahl, Steve Dawson, Denise White, Jill Beach, Wayne Fariss, Rick Sanchez, Susan Candiotti, Tom Brokaw, George Waldroup, Mike Mason, and others.)


Kim said...

Hey, I made this! No, really. A producer and I put this together years ago (1984, I think) for the SVN X-mas party. I've been meaning to post it, but my copy is on beta, so thanks for posting it!

Jeffers66 said...

Thank YOU, Kim, for making this. Those were some amazing times.