Perkiness Overload

The February ratings period is over, and if Channel 9's seemingly perpetual lead shrank a bit in several time periods, the margin between its broadcasts and those aired by competitors remains hefty. For instance, a Channel 4 press release boasts that ratings of its 6 a.m. newscast grew 71 percent in a year -- an impressive rise. Yet CBS4 continues to draw fewer than half the viewers who tune to Channel 9; the former boasts a 3.1 rating/12 share, while the later registers a 6.7 rating/25 share.

Nevertheless, Channel 4 isn't ready to quietly accept also-ran status. The station hired forecaster Stacey Donaldson away from Channel 31 (whose morning newscast is still limping along ratings-wise), and has gone to extremes to ballyhoo her arrival.

Some painful examples? On March 2, the outlet aired a seemingly endless chat between Donaldson and morning anchor Brooke Wagner in which the major topics were Pop Tarts and knitting. That was followed by live banter that hit cutesiness overload the second Wagner and co-anchor Tom Mustin donned glasses intended to echo Donaldson's trademark specs. In addition, the station's website includes another extended video in which main weather guru Ed Greene welcomes Donaldson aboard at excruciating length.

With this week's broadcasts, Donaldson is officially part of the Channel 4 team -- and based on a couple of days' worth of shows, it's clear that the assorted squad members will have to play together for a while before they find the right balance. Right now, everyone's trying much too hard to be bright and up and sunshiny -- so much so that the effect can be downright grating at times. Donaldson is a strong presence who could help CBS4 chip away at 9News' still-substantial ratings total, but only if the perkiness is dialed down a notch or twelve. -- Michael Roberts

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