CW69’s ‘localized’ Atlanta newscast on March 20 felt very... Boston

Originally posted Friday, March 20, 2020 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Last month, Atlanta’s CW69 (WUPA-TV) launched what it was calling a localized newscast but the current COVID-19 pandemic has put a crimp on the effort.

So on this particular Friday, Atlanta viewers learned a lot about what’s going on in... Boston. 

The CW69 label is in the bottom right hand corner with local temperature and time and a small ticker on the bottom provides a handful of Atlanta headlines. 

But otherwise, the newscast I watched tonight at 10 p.m. (I started at 10:04 p.m.) was largely the newscast of the CBS affiliate in Boston WBZ anchored by Liam Martin.

About a week ago, CBS News headquarters  in New York closed after multiple employees tested for the virus. That is where the CW69 Atlanta broadcast had been headquartered so it is now homeless. Simulcasting another newscast was the next best option. 

Here is the somewhat confusing ownership context: the CW69 is owned by ViacomCBS. In many markets, the CBS and CW stations share resources. In Atlanta, the CBS affiliate (WGCL-TV CBS46) is actually owned by Meredith and Meredith shares resources and provides newscasts for its sister station Peachtree TV (WPCH-TV, once Ted Turner’s SuperStation of yore.)

Most of the stories that aired on CW69 Friday night were from reporters out of WBZ including a report about a Boston area men’s shop suffering from cancellations related to the virus and another about a local couple stuck in Honduras due to the virus scare.

At about 10:14 p.m. a single Georgia-based piece aired about a hospital creating its own face mask covers reported by Mark Strassman, a national CBS news correspondent for CBS News. 

At 10:17 p.m., Karen Carter showed up to do a brief localized weather report. She works out of Detroit. 

The clear sign she isn’t from metro Atlanta: she mispronounced Carrollton - twice. She called it “Carlton.” 

Five minutes later, WBZ did an even longer forecast for Boston. 

At 10:42 p.m during a news story reported by WBZ reporter Jon Keller, Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s sale of stocks early during the coronavirus crisis came up but that was because it was truly national news about possible insider trading among politicians. 

At 10:44 pm. the weather report Carter gave at 10:17 p.m. repeated and the WBZ meteorologist fed more detailed Boston weather at 10:49 p.m.(Yes, it’s colder up there.)

I reached out to CW69 general manager Tom Canedo, who said in January that he couldn’t afford to start a news operation out of Atlanta so this was a way to do a cost-effective version using CBS national resources as well as a couple of Atlanta-based reporteres. 

I’ll update this when I get a response from Canedo on the situation. 

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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