WFLD dumps Mike Barz

Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 has dumped morning news anchor Mike Barz after just two years amid allegations he acted at a off-site party.

The former WGN-TV morning sports anchor joined the station in 2007 from ABC’s Good Morning America, and fronted Good Day Chicago alongside Jan Jeffcoat. He was suspended from WFLD shortly after he joined the station, after allegations he acted inappropriately toward a company party at a off-site company party, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The latest incident came July 10 at a going away party for Margaret Shortridge, who left the station a few weeks ago.

No word on a replacement for Barz, but David Novarro is one of the names circulating around. Novarro currently co-anchors WFLD’s 10 p.m. newscast, but that program is ending September 18. Novarro was expected to leave, but given the circumstances, he may be asked to stay. Good Day Chicago has often been criticized for the lack of chemistry been Barz and Jeffcoat, on the show – not to mention Barz’s smug persona.

This move is the latest of a string of setbacks for the Fox O&O, which has struggled for years to gain parity with Chicago’s other news operations. The morning newscast has never really been a player in the ratings game, which is soundly beaten by newscasts on other stations.

The station’s low-rated 10 p.m. newscast was recently canceled, and a whole number of people were recently laid off from the station.

There is no doubt WFLD has the weakest news operation in the entire Fox O&O chain. For example, WAGA-TV in Atlanta finishes a strong second in morning news and often tops late news (at 10 p.m.) WFXT in Boston often beats one or two competing Big Three affiliated stations at 10 p.m. WNYW in New York and KTTV in Los Angeles dominate local morning newscasts and beat their Tribune-owned rivals easily at 10. KMSP in Minneapolis beats ABC affiliate KSTP’s newscast head-to-head at 10 p.m.

In Chicago, WGN easily beats WFLD in most news time periods and has a large margin of victory over the Fox O&O at 9 p.m., despite weak lead-ins from CW network programming. Like CBS (whose WBBM-TV is another struggling news operation), Fox underperforms nationally in Chicago, as witnessed by the lackluster ratings for the American Idol finale.

Plus, their “Asking the Questions” campaign during their newscasts – which they claim they’re getting us answers – is doing anything but. The investigate reports are an embarrassment – while the phrase is being lampooned and parodied.

And don’t ask about its sister station, My Network TV affiliate WPWR.

Given the parade of GMs that have come and gone from the Fox O&O in the last several years, it may take exactly that long for the station to become competitive in a market with only two successful news operations.

WFLD may be “Asking the Questions”, as their annoying promos tout. But the answers from them on why the station’s news operation can’t gain a foothold in the ratings may be a longtime in coming.


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