Tribune Launches South Florida Morning Show

Will look at other dayparts after joint WSFL-newspaper program debuts

A year after moving in together, Tribune’s TV and newspaper outfits in South Florida are set to launch the morning program South Florida.com/Live. Seeking a young and hip audience, South Florida debuts Monday and runs 5 to 9 a.m.

As the name indicates, the program will offer multiple interactive elements; viewers can interact with its hosts via text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, the phone or a real-time chat window on SouthFlorida.com. “We’re going to be where our viewers are,” says WSFL Miami Director of Local Programming Jose Suarez. “There are a lot of ways to engage our talent.”

The program will represent the CW affiliate’s lone news program. It used to air a 10 p.m. newscast that was produced by WTVJ, but scrapped that arrangement last year. “We’ve never really had our own news department,” says WSFL General Manager Howard Greenberg, who’s also the publisher of South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel.

WSFL moved into Sun-Sentinel headquarters in Fort Lauderdale last April, with Greenberg overseeing the whole news operation. He says fully integrating TV, Web and newspaper resources, in terms of both content and business, is the most effective way to cover the marketplace. “You can get a lot accomplished when you work across platforms in media,” he says.

Three young hosts front South Florida. They’ve been popping up on WSFL to get viewers familiar with their faces and the program’s unique name. WSFL has pulled back the curtain on the rehearsal process by streaming rehearsals on the Web and encouraging users to offer feedback. “Watch us work out the bugs,” says the Website.

Suarez says he’s getting “a handful” of user suggestions a day, some of which have figured into the show’s format.
Tribune brass is studying the convergence in South Florida to pick up best practices to apply in other markets where it has TV and newspaper properties. Ten days ago, Tribune announced it was merging TV and newspaper outfits in Hartford. It’s also planning to merge newsrooms at cable channel CLTV and WGN in Chicago. Unlike in Miami, a television veteran, Richard Graziano, will manage Hartford’s integrated operation. "This is the future of media," Tribune COO Randy Michaels said at the time. "Bringing these media properties together will enable us to bring more resources to our news coverage, improving and expanding what we can offer readers, viewers and advertisers in the area."

Despite being mired in Chapter 11 with a massive debt load, Tribune has grown its news presence in various markets, such as at KSWB San Diego. Back in the live-local game in South Florida, WSFL may go local at other times of the day. “We think there’s opportunity to grow for sure,” says Greenberg. “We’ll get 5-9 (a.m.) where we want it, but yes, we are going to look at other dayparts.”