For anyone that didn’t already know, Channel 56 has been purchased by Sunbeam Television Corp. In Boston, Sunbeam also already owns Channel 7. Bostonians may recall a time in Boston’s local news history when the news was a little less, umm, dramatic than it is now. That time was before Sunbeam arrived and before Fox’s Boston affiliate had a local news show. Sunbeam changed the news format for Channel 7 and the other local stations followed suit.
That is, except for Tribune‘s Channel 56 which remained somewhat old school, running a non-sensationalized hour-long news program Monday through Thursday nights and half hour program Friday through Sunday nights. That’s all going to change now that Sunbeam has acquired Channel 56. “The 10 O’Clock News” staff are all being sent packing. In its place, Sunbeam will be airing yet another version of its already ubiquitous news program.
Does Boston really need yet another sensational newscast? These newscasts work like the National Enquirer: drop an outrageous tease (“Will the world end tomorrow? Tune in tonight to find out”) and then deliver no actual news content (“the world will not end tomorrow; coming up after the break, how to keep your kids safe on the Internet” etc.). A steady stream of junk news intended to string you along as long as possible – the dietary equivalent of all sugar and no meat.
I had been hopeful that Channel 56’s defiance of following the pack would earn them praise, recognition, and viewers. And by extension, some cash to keep it going. They definitely deserved to be rewarded. And to their credit, they kept it going for 24 years.
Two of the visible news staff deserve special mention. Karen Marinella anchored the news for 8 years – not since Liz Walker has a news anchor been as genuine or as underappreciated. And Mike Wankum, while continuing the tradition of funny-named weather person, broke the trend of weather persons being either unlikable, vapid, or uncomfortable on camera. Wankum is likable, smart, and very comfortable on camera. Since Marinella is married to a Channel 7 anchor (there’s some irony), it’s unlikely that she’ll be leaving the area – here’s hoping that she resurfaces on one of the other Boston stations and classes up the joint. Wankum is more likely to be poached by another market but I hope a Boston station picks him up too.
Good luck to Marinella, Wankum, and the rest of the Channel 56 news staff. You will be missed. And for those of you who haven’t watched before or in a while, tune in Monday night for the final newscast to see how local news should be done.