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Changing face of news at duopoly in Detroit

Apr 8, 2002  •  Post A Comment

When Ken Jobe became news director at CBS-owned WWJ-TV and UPN affiliate WKBD-TV in Detroit in November, he hit the ground running.
“We were in the middle of the book and coming up on December,” Mr. Jobe said. “I got here right as the local administration changed hands, so we had a new mayor coming in, and certainly that’s been the largest story since coming here.”
The new mayor of Detroit, which has an 81 percent black population, is Kwame Kilpatrick, an African American. Mr. Jobe is the only African American news director currently in the Detroit market. The overall population in the market is 23 percent African American. Asked whether his race helps him get access to the mayor, Mr. Jobe recalled his tenure as news director at NBC affiliate WMC-TV in Memphis, Tenn., where at the time he was the only African American news director in the market. Willie Herenton, mayor of Memphis, is African American.
“In that situation it did pay off. We had a relationship that I don’t think [Mayor Herenton] had with other news directors there at the time,” Mr. Jobe said.
A Nashville native, Mr. Jobe has been working in the news business since 1981. He came to Detroit from Cincinnati, where he was news director at NBC affiliate WLWT-TV.
Mr. Jobe has a lot of work to do in Detroit. WWJ-TV moved into the WKBD-TV facility last year. WWJ was the only CBS-owned station that did not have a newscast-until the 11 p.m. newscast was launched last April. It is anchored by Amyre Makupson and Rich Fisher, the same team that anchored the 10 p.m. WKBD newscast on the same set. To help differentiate WKBD’s newscast from WWJ’s, Donna Terrell and Pallas Hupe were hired in February to anchor the 10 p.m. news. The 10 p.m. show on WKBD has been holding steady in the February book with a 3 Nielsen Media Research rating and 4 share.
Unlike much of the rest of the country, where the Big 4 network affiliates provide news for the duopoly station, UPN’s WKBD, not CBS’s WWJ, has the news department in the duopoly. WKBD, once a Fox affiliate and then an independent station, has been doing news for about 14 years. Mr. Jobe hopes to add a half-hour 6 p.m. newscast to WWJ’s schedule.
He has also begun making changes in an effort to improve ratings on the 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts. Mr. Jobe also wants to continue to emphasize enterprise reporting. He hired an investigative producer from Detroit’s ABC affiliate, WXYZ-TV, who will work with investigative reporter and weekend anchor Harry Hairston. Another of Mr. Jobe’s goals is to increase coverage inside the city. “What I’d like to do is become a full-service news operation. We want to expand into early-evening and morning news on WWJ.”
He is already gearing up for the May book, and he promises, “We’ve got some good stuff planned.”