Sinclair tests edgy news

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Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.'s hometown station, WBFF(TV) Baltimore, has
added a half-hour newscast to follow its hour at 10 p.m.

The new newscast arguably combines Fox News Channel attitude with CNN
Headline News pace.

The newscast competes with three others at 11 p.m., and it is in part,
veteran anchor Morris Jones said, a beta-test for a show that might follow
existing prime-time Sinclair newscasts in its many markets.

Like Sinclair's News Central, stations will be expected to plug in
local stories in quick, digested form, according to a "wheel" that determines
the time for local and national stories. The national news will be supplied by
CNN Newsource.

The Baltimore Sun called early programs "vertebrae-jolting" and "news
at the speed of light."

Jones said he objected to the newscast's characterization as "populist" or
"conservative," characterizing Sinclair boss David Smith's approach as balanced
and not driven by traditional media's story parameters.

"We want to give stories a treatment that allows the viewer to decide," Jones
said, further echoing the similarly characterized Fox News.

One year ago, Sinclair was getting a reputation for axing newscasts. But the
company has built a state-of-the-art facility at its Hunt Valley, Md., facility
and launched its centralcast at a previously newsless Flint, Mich., station last
year.

Although the company said it will ultimately add journalism jobs, some
staffers fear that their local news will be replaced by a centralcast approach
likely to diminish the local presence.

In March, News Central is expected to launch at Sinclair stations in
Oklahoma City; Raleigh, N.C.; and Rochester, N.Y. -- stations that are already
doing newscasts.

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