It was neither cutting-edge nor particularly exciting to watch, but on the night of December 18, 2006, the Massachusetts television scene lost an important local voice. The Ten O’Clock News on Boston’s WB (always emphasis on ‘the’) was more than a local newscast, it was a story of perseverance and the ability to put together a collection of stories that fit the landscape, without the excessive corporate influence or sensationalism that characterized nearly every other outlet in Boston.
Every newscast began the same way, with a short public-service announcement that reminded viewers, “It’s ten o’clock, do you know where your children are?” It tied together the Boston’s WB FamilyFirst initiative that included the occasional ratings-draw piece and various sponsorships. The newscast itself, however, harkened upon an era before helicopter parenting. While the cold open with a rundown of topics covered that evening was nothing out of the ordinary, the talent intros done in the actual intro sequence were unique. It really emphasized the faces that bring the news home, something that has become a bit of a lost art now that the faceless, team coverage strategy has replaced it.
Gallery: The Ten O’Clock News
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Some of the special things about The Ten O’Clock News were what made it most different from the other four news ops in town. Imagine having a major market newscast that actually encourages viewers to tune in only for their favorite stories by revealing their exact location in the broadcast. Today, it’s all about keeping viewers tuned in for the full broadcast.
But that’s the thing, The Ten O’Clock News was the antidote to the Boston media landscape at the time; different from the newsplexes, garish gradients, and CBS4s that dotted the landscape. The Ten O’Clock News had a cult following of sorts; of all the choices that the Boston market offered (at one time there were four competing newscasts at 10p.m.), people chose to turn to channel 56. While competing stations were riding their way to ratings dominance through monstrous lead-in audiences, The Ten O’Clock News competed on content and relationship with the viewer alone.
Viewers came to love the then-fairly recent pairing of Karen Marinella and Frank Mallicoat. Meteorologist Mike Wankum attracted a fiercely loyal following that continued into his tenure at WCVB. Sports guy Mike Ratte and the reporting staff were gems of the station. The entire family at channel 56 was close on-and-off the air.
When CBS dropped the competing 10p.m. newscast on WSBK, many viewers and analysts began to smell blood in the water for WLVI. The cost of producing one newscast for a station using an existing news department exceeded revenue, so how could a standalone department exist with only marginally better ratings? Having been isolated from the depths of last place by UPN38’s Nightcast at 10, The Ten O’Clock News was free from most scrutiny, but once it became last place, things began to change.
Towards the end, the weekend newscast was cut to thirty minutes. The team of Paul Mueller and Stephanie Lydon, considered vastly underrated to begin with, were further marginalized. Arguably the worst offense of cost cutting was when corporate made the decision to cut staffing for satellite vehicles, culminating in a btvn exclusive story of a reporter, then eight-months pregnant, who was forced to drive the satellite truck to the scene of a story by herself. As a result of this exposé, btvn was allegedly banned in the WB56 newsroom.
Sadly, however, the cost of running a full, independent news operation for a small UHF affiliate of a weak network took its toll on Tribune brass. After shuttering news departments in other markets, the company put WLVI up for sale in July 2006, and found a buyer shortly thereafter. Sunbeam Television, having a rocky relationship with NBC, reportedly bought the station so that NBC couldn’t buy it and transform it into an NBC owned-and-operated station when 7’s contract expired. The final price of $113 million did not include any staff.
December 18, 2006, the last show on the old channel 56, was an emotional rollercoaster. Original anchor Jack Hynes spoke during the final segment, issuing fiery remarks that “someone else should have stepped up and bought the station,” lambasting Sunbeam for its decision not to assume the contracts of the people who worked there.
After the last broadcast, Tribune footed the bill for a farewell social at the Black Rose. It, according to the Herald, was like an Irish wake as the one-hundred and fifty staffers bade farewell to one another. When it was all said and done, many staffers were scattered throughout the country; reporter Adam Chodak went to Denver, anchor Frank Mallicoat ended up in New Hampshire (and eventually to Fox25), sports guy Mike Ratte went to Connecticut, and anchor Karen Marinella left television altogether. Some staffers were left without any job, and still are affected by Tribune’s decision to sell the station.
Though it has been five years since it left the air, The Ten O’Clock News still symbolizes a newscast based on relationships and content over style. It was the little newscast that could, but became victim to cost cutting and the practices of business that exist in society. While it is gone, memories of what were still fondly exist in every viewer’s mind, hopeful for the return of THE Ten O’Clock News.