Evening News: Is 9 p.m. the new 10?

By Natalie Hurst

It’s 8:58 pm. For the past four years at this time, I’ve usually been going through my 10 p.m. scripts and reviewing the lead reporter’s top story before her live shot. But tonight, like any Monday-Friday in my new lifestyle, I’m instead listening to the theme song for “Emergency!” and 90 seconds away from a new show open: the 9 p.m. news on KBCI’s second channel, RetroTV (KYUU).

What’s happened? Has 9 become the new 10?

“It’s not an age group, it’s more a lifestyle that we’re targeting,” said Julie Weindel, my news director and boss at 2News. And we’re not alone. Today’s 6 (KIVI) is now doing news at 9 on KNIN, joining Fox12 (KTRV) in their regular 9 p.m. news time slot. “We used to market news by shows,” Weindel explained. “Now, we market by product because we’re multiple platforms and multiple channels.”

It’s something NBC affiliate KTVB (News Channel 7) has been doing for years with their second channel 24-7, where viewers can find news programs live or on repeat, community specials, even Oprah and the Dr. Oz show. Weindel said all of the television stations are faced with the new challenge of accommodating people’s  busy lifestyles and giving viewers news when they want it. Weindel said that’s why 2News uses the 10 @ 10 format for the late news. “Give them news and weather in the first ten minutes,” she said. “They don’t want to mess around.” Weindel acknowledges it’s not just the 9 p.m. time slot being noticed by news directors.

“People go to bed earlier, they get up earlier,” she said. “Who would have thought we’d be doing news at 5 a.m. twenty years ago?” So fast-forward to the present. Will programming a second channel mean the chance of splitting viewers? “No, we have an opportunity to gain a loyal audience to our news product,” said Weindel. “It’s available to them in multiple places.”

More news in more time slots has streamlined anchor duties at 2News, where the same two anchors host the 4, 5, 5:30, 9 and 10 p.m. news. From my perspective, every minute of every hour is accounted for, and finding time to report, even MC a community event, means taking an anchor off a newscast.

Do anchors like it? I think my co-anchor Mike Murad will agree: It’s been a big adjustment both personally and professionally. So what will the future bring? Will we still be doing the same amount of news or possibly even more? “I think that our best accomplishment in 2009 is yet to come,” said Weindel.

And when the Nielsen diaries come back for yet another ratings period, we’ll know what the verdict is from viewers.

Natalie Hurst is an anchor for CBS 2News (KBCI) and serves as TV representative on the Idaho Press Club state board.