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WSLS-TV (Channel 10) anchors Jeff Haniewich, John Carlin, Karen McNew and John Appicello.
Saturday, July 6, 2013
When John Carlin last sat behind an anchor desk, he read the news from a paper script. When he returns to television on Monday, the script will be on an iPad.
That’s one of the changes Carlin will deal with when he comes back to WSLS-TV (Channel 10) on Monday after a five-year absence. Carlin left Channel 10 in 2008 after 21 years as an anchorman in order to work in public relations and other businesses.
One aspect of the newscast that hasn’t changed is his co-anchor. Karen McNew worked with Carlin from 2003 until 2008 and co-anchored alongside Carlin’s successor Jay Warren, who left the station in May and is now a communications and marketing manager for the city of Arlington, Texas.
In fact, McNew gave Carlin his tutorial on the iPad.
“She sat there and flipped through the pages and I thought, ‘Boy, I hope I can trust that,’” Carlin said. “I would write notes on the side of the margin [of a paper script] for ad-libs, but that’s all gone. It’s OK, though. I think I can handle it.”
As long as he turns toward the camera with the red light glowing, he should be fine.
“Just follow the red light and when Karen stops talking, I start,” he said.
WSLS management approached Carlin, 52, about returning to news after Warren’s departure. He said that the offer surprised him, but not nearly as much as the surprise he felt when he decided that he was interested.
“If you had asked me the day Jay Warren left if I would come back to news I would have said I had no interest,” Carlin said. “The station contacted me and, once we started talking, I got more and more excited.”
WSLS news director Melissa Stacey said that “we are elated to have John back in the WSLS family. We have missed him.”
Carlin stayed busy during his time away from TV, which he never truly left. He continued to provide feature stories for the WFXR-TV (Channels 21/27), which partners with WSLS on news coverage.
He left Channel 10 for a public relations job. He also worked as a spokesman for Ferrum College, operated his own public relations company and opened a business that sold tropical fish and provided aquarium maintenance.
He is currently chairman of the YMCA Corporate Board of Directors and Saint Francis Service Dogs, and he helped oversee the installation of the aquariums at the recently re-opened Center in the Square. Carlin also co-founded the highly successful Blue Ridge Marathon.
He plans to remain involved in most of his community projects, but his involvement will not influence Channel 10’s news coverage of any of those organizations or events.
“If there’s a conflict of interest, I will step aside,” Carlin said. “It comes with the territory. No man is an island. You go to church, your kids are in school, you’re in the community ... but if there’s ever a scandal with the church, the school, the PTA, whatever, the responsibility of a journalist is to cover the story. I would step aside and let our people cover a story the way it should be covered.”
Carlin will co-anchor the newscasts at 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. He will do the 11 p.m. news during ratings “sweeps period” when viewership is measured by the Nielsen Company. The summer ratings period began last week, so Carlin will be on at 11 p.m. through most of July.
Channel 10’s evening newscasts have routinely finished third in the Roanoke-Lynchburg market. During Carlin’s early years at the station, from 1987 until the late 1990s, the station’s 6 p.m. newscast occasionally rose to No. 2 among all viewers ages 18 and up.
“I hope I can help,” he said of the possibility of improving the station’s ratings. “I think some of the initial response I have received shows some promise. We will see.”
He said he is both excited and a bit nervous about Monday’s “debut.”
“It felt very natural to walk back in the station and sit behind the desk with Karen, Jeff [Haniewich, the evening weatherman] and John [Appicello, sports anchor],” Carlin said. “It felt like I hadn’t even left.”
The May sweeps for television ratings produced no real shockers in the competition among local newscasts in the Roanoke-Lynchburg market, but total viewership was lower than the same time a year ago. WDBJ-TV (Channel 7) suffered the largest decline, but still stayed on top.
Channel 7 newscasts led in all time slots from early morning until late night. WSET-TV (Channel 13) was second in all periods and WSLS was third.
Channel 7, Roanoke’s CBS affiliate, averaged 70,000 viewers (ages 18-and-up) at 6 p.m., more than 20,000 ahead of Channel 13, Lynchburg’s ABC station. However, WDBJ’s total was down by 34,000 viewers from May 2012. WSET’s 49,000 viewers was down 3,000 from last year. NBC affiliate Channel 10’s 31,000 viewers at 6 p.m. was up 4,000 from a year ago.
The race is closer at 6 p.m. among viewers ages 21-49. In that demographic, WDBJ has 12,000 viewers, WSET 11,000 and WSLS 7,000.
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