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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

REVIEW: KHOU 11 News at 4 kicks off with strong start and different approach

Do you think Belo Houston purposely launched KHOU 11 News at 4 on August 1st, the same day MTV launched in 1981? Well, one was a lot more revolutionary at the time of launch and that was the network formerly known as Music Television 30 years ago. KHOU 11 News at 4 however had a solid launch, but as a commenter on this blog said, "it seems just like any other newscast!" Well except for the part that same commenter claimed PETA would be mad at, but more on that later.

The third 4pm entrant to the Houston news scene kicked off with four live reporter talkbacks/vosots in a row. Anchor Len Cannon tossed to Tiffany Craig, Leigh Frillici, Kevin Reece and even CBS correspondent
Danielle Nottingham for good measure. (What I want to know is...are KHOU reporters angry because they lost an hour to work on stories they previously had all to themselves because the other big two stations have 4pm newscasts? The sales department would probably tell them to get over it though. News makes more money for a station than syndicated shows generally.)

Then the half hour newscast set out to set itself apart from the competition with a "Len at Work" segment. You guessed it, anchor Len Cannon goes and shoots a story at someone's place of employment and gets taped doing their job. Monday he was a firefighter (you can email the station and give suggestions - dominatrix anyone?). Another segment that pushes out the usual national and state news in the back half of the show was "The Scoop." Reporter Courtney Zubowski talked about Restaurant Week at a Midtown sushi joint. What surprised me was she came back a second time after a commercial break with the chef to give us a quick sushi demo. That ran till the end of the show. KTRK 13 has a segment in its 4pm show like this called Your Hometown Live.

Then there is the part many of my readers are eagerly awaiting... meteorologists Chita Jonhnson's weathercasts. As a commenter on my blog put it, "Chita Johnson is hot like the weather! Dang..." Clearly she is a weapon that KHOU knows will differentiate itself at this time of day from the other stations. Johnson does have a lot of personality and even co-anchors the show with Cannon in the lighter parts. The new 4pm duo also approaches the small talk more like a morning show.

Missing from the debut show was anchor Sherry Williams who I told you Friday was promised to be on the new show. Oh well, she will have plenty of opportunities to be on it in the future I'm sure.

KHOU clearly threw a lot of resources at its 4pm news debut. It better. There are two other entrenched 4pm newscasts in Houston that have been on since the 1990s (KPRC 2) and 2001 (KTRK 13). And what a reader said on my blog shows there is some strong loyalty out there, "I will NEVER stop watching Erik (Barajas) on KTRK!" Someone get a restraining order or a Nielsen Local People Meters (LPM)...I'm not sure which!

As someone who has helped bring on a new 4pm show in this town, I'm sure what we saw Monday will only be a starting point. Expect changes. You might find this post a year from now and fondly recall "The Scoop" segment or "Len at Work" because they could be gone by that point. Who knows? At least the station is trying something different...even if these segments aren't exactly groundbreaking in TV terms (Does KHOU need an Imaginator?).

Now to the promised PETA anger I mentioned earlier. It was after this story concerning a water moccasin windshield surfing on a moving car that Cannon said something like, "hopefully someone ran right over that thing." A commenter here said "As a PETA member, I'm offended..." You learn quickly in a mass medium like TV, you can't please everyone. Heck, the next commenter said, "Anythng that annoys PETA is a-okay, #1 in my book."

KHOU 11's TV promo for News at 4 with Len Cannon and Chita Johnson COMMENT: Click to leave your thoughts on this post here