Fox9 debuted a 6 p.m. weekday newscast Monday, focusing on politics. It’s the sort of show competitors do on Sundays, but the “Fox at 6” will air every weekday through Election Day.
The 6 p.m. newscast bumps “Seinfeld” reruns, reprising an approach Fox9 first tried following the 2008 Republican National Convention. Says General manager Carol Rueppel, “I think we’re going to make a statement that Fox9 is covering this election and is serious about committing time and exploring the issues.”
Like its Sunday cousins, Fox9 is a mixture of field reports, reporter debriefs and talking heads (usual political-science suspects Steven Schier and Larry Jacobs on the debut broadcast).
In the coming days, Rueppel says players like MnForward’s Brian McClung and Alliance for a Better Minnesota’s Denise Cardinal will appear, as well as MinnPost’s Eric Black, and other polisci pundits including David Schultz and Kathryn Pearson.
If political junkies have seen this cast of characters before, Rueppel says it will include bloggers, authors and more than the usual suspects.
Potentially, “Fox at 6” offers a chance for Capitol correspondent Jeff Goldberg to stretch out and boost his fairly low profile. He’s only been in the market four years, but he’s the first true beat guy in awhile at a station that has covered politics haphazardly.
I didn’t get much uncommon wisdom in the debut broadcast; as I’ve noted before, Fox9 anchor Jeff Passolt’s interviews can be hair-raising, and colleague Marni Hughes doesn’t strike me as a political wonk. On Tuesday, I found myself wishing investigator Trish Van Pilsum had dug as deeply into Mark Dayton’s budget as the antics of campaign trackers, but perhaps that will come.
Fox9 now pumps out a staggering 8.5 hours of news a day, though reports in the new newscast are often repurposed for the 9 p.m. and morning reports. The half-hour is also plumped out with national reports.
Of course, with anything named “Fox,” people will watch out for conservative bias. (I had to chuckle when Monday’s unscientific viewer poll revealed Republican Tom Emmer with 50 percent support, the Independence Party’s Tom Horner with 34.5 percent, and DFLer Mark Dayton with 15.5 percent.)
I didn’t detect bias on the Monday newscast, and Van Pilsum’s story showed GOP trackers acting creepier than their DFL counterparts.
When I asked Rueppel if she was taking a “Fox News” approach, she replied, “We’re doing Fox9 News.”
Fox9 didn’t exactly sound the trumpets about the newscast — no press release, for example —leading to some speculation that the 6 is a dumping ground for low-revenue political advertising. (Federal law mandates charging politicians the lowest price that any commercial advertiser pays.) KSTP added an 11 p.m. newscast during a previous election season, but it’s now permanent.
Rueppel points to Fox9’s other recent news additions in arguing the wider business imperative. “From a broad advertiser point of view, the news and information viewer is sought out by certain advertisers. That explains, to some extent, us starting the first 4:30 a.m. newscast and adding 9-10 a.m.” — neither of which are election-season-only.
In the first few days, the station appears to be taking only a modest rating hit from pushing Seinfeld’s crew to 11 p.m.
For example, on Tuesday, Aug. 31, Fox9 earned a 1.8 household rating and 4 share for the 6 p.m. “Seinfeld.” This Tuesday, the 6 p.m. newscast racked up a 1.4 rating and 3 share.
Though advertisers usually concentrate on 25-to-54-year-olds, elections are one of the few categories where sponsors pursue the broader “households” demographic.