Gloria Neal.

Channel 4 extends the Gloria Neal experiment

As noted in this August 15 More Messages blog, Channel 4 added longtime radio host Gloria Neal to its morning news team for the run of the Democratic National Convention, and she rewarded this move by adding a much-needed dose of smarts and sass to the proceedings. Station supervisors obviously agreed, because they've extended Neal's run, scheduling her twice per day in the pre-7 a.m. morning-news block, and that's a good decision, and an unexpected one given the difficult economics facing all media outlets these days. Now, however, the station has to find the best way to utilize her talents -- and that may take some doing.

During one of her segments on Tuesday, Neal sat at the anchor desk alongside co-anchors Tom Mustin and Brooke Wagner, jawing about the presidential race. The conversation's tone was supposed to be casual, but it turned awkward instead due to the set-up; Mustin and Wagner would ask questions and then Neal would turn to another camera and read pre-scripted answers. Neal's attempts to give her responses a spontaneous spin only reinforced the artificiality of the exchange -- and making Neal, one of the most natural presences in local media, seem artificial is quite an accomplishment.

Neal is accustomed to ad-libbing from her years behind the microphone -- so there's no reason she should seem stilted on television. Channel 4's managers would be better off loosening their grip and letting her by herself. -- Michael Roberts

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