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Stacey Donaldson gets heave-ho at Channel 4; new morning team on the way

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In March 2007, Channel 4 went to extremes to ballyhoo the arrival of forecaster Stacey Donaldson, late of Channel 31, to the outlet's morning show. Included were an extended chat with anchor Brooke Wagner about, among other things, Pop Tarts and knitting, and a video welcome from main weather prognosticator Ed Greene.

Three years later, a new morning team is being announced -- and its most notable feature is the absence of Donaldson. News director Tim Wieland confirms that her contract wasn't renewed; her last scheduled appearance on the station is February 19.

Why make these moves? Wieland can't go into detail about that -- but the cause is likely the troubles the TV industry in general has suffered since 2007.

With advertising revenue down precipitously at TV stations and other old media operations (like, obviously, newspapers), Denver affiliates have spent the past couple of years axing on-air talent whose contracts were inked during fatter days. Victims include Channel 9's Bob Kendrick and Nick Carter, plus Channel 2's Ernie Bjorkman and Channel 31's Steve Kelley, not to mention Fox 31 weatherman Chris Dunn and reporter Charlie Brennan.

Donaldson, who hasn't responded to interview requests at this writing, became expendable when Channel 4's morning show failed to put a dent into Channel 9's a.m. juggernaut. Hence, the current shuffle, in which anchor Wagner and longtime traffic specialist Lynn Carey will be teamed with former weekend anchor Alan Gionet and meteorologist Jennifer Zeppelin.

As for previous anchor Tom Mustin, he's trading places with Gionet; he'll anchor the weekend evening newscasts and report three days a week. And Gloria Neal, who had become a morning regular, was shifted to a nightly role on 6 p.m. newscasts a few weeks back. She hosts segments devoted to the station's interactive help center.

Wieland, who told us last week about a weather experiment (moving Ed Greene's forecast into the first segment of the 10 p.m. news), touts the morning-show shakeup, slated to debut in March.

"I'm very excited about the team," he says. "I think Alan and Brooke and Jennifer are going to have a new energy and a new chemistry, and I'm excited by how well they've been working together."

Will the format be freshened up as well?

"The changes won't be revolutionary," Wieland maintains. "But we're going to get back to offering morning news viewers say they want the most when they wake up in the morning: what's happening right now, what's new this morning, and what's going to be happening later today. We'll be taking out the lighter fare to some degree -- not that there won't be light moments, because this is a fun team. But the content will be focused on important news and information as well as weather and traffic."

All presented by staffers whose contracts are more manageable than Donaldson's apparently was.

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