Chasing News (formerly Chasing New Jersey) is a news and public affairs program broadcast by WWOR-TV, a MyNetworkTV O&O based in Secaucus, New Jersey, and sister to Fox flagship station WNYW-TV. The program airs nightly at 10 PM on WWOR and is rerun on WNYW and its sister station, WTXF-TV.
|Created by||Dennis Bianchi|
|Presented by||Bill Spadea|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Location(s)||Trenton, New Jersey|
|Production company(s)||Fairfax Productions|
|Original release||July 8, 2013|
|Preceded by||The 10 O'Clock News|
Premiering on July 8, 2013, the program replaced the more conventional newscasts that were previously broadcast by the station. The program features various segments and stories focusing on headlines and issues affecting the New Jersey area, featuring reports by a group of correspondents known as "chasers".
The program was met with mixed reception upon its premiere for its visually intensive and tabloid-like format, but was praised for how it targeted younger viewers through social engagement. However, the closure of WWOR's news department as part of the changes led to concerns from politicians over whether Fox Television Stations was still in compliance with a mandate to provide news programming for the New Jersey area.
WWOR-TV had aired a conventional, daily newscast since 1971; most recently, it took the form of a 35-minute newscast, The 10 O'Clock News (previously known as My9 News and UPN 9 News), broadcast on weeknights at 10:00 p.m. On July 3, 2013, Fox announced the immediate cancellation of The 10 O'Clock News, and the July 8, 2013 premiere of Chasing New Jersey. The new program, hosted by local politician Bill Spadea, was billed as a "fast-paced, unpredictable ride across the state of New Jersey" that would feature reports on issues affecting the region by correspondents known as "chasers". The program is produced from a studio in Trenton, New Jersey by Fairfax Productions, a production company owned by Dennis Bianchi—general manager of Philadelphia's Fox O&O WTXF-TV (which also airs Chasing New Jersey at 12:30 a.m.) Fox also registered a series of trademarks for Chasing programs in other cities (and for a national version, Chasing America), indicating that Fox planned to implement the format to its other markets as well.
The transition to Chasing New Jersey resulted in layoffs and reassignments for WWOR staff and personalities; in particular, anchor Brenda Blackmon will host and produce news specials for the station, while co-anchor Harry Martin, meteorologist Audrey Puente, and sportscaster Russ Salzberg were offered on-air positions at sister station WNYW.
Diana Marszalek of TVNewsCheck felt that Chasing New Jersey was trying too hard to target itself towards younger viewers with a fast-paced, informal, and visually intensive infotainment format drawing comparisons to programs such as TMZ, but suggested that "with time, Chasing New Jersey could settle down, get its groove and connect with the young viewers that local broadcasters so desperately want. And you have to hand it to the folks behind Chasing New Jersey for doing what they set out to [do]: giving viewers something different." By contrast, fellow writer Harry A. Jessell praised Chasing for being "just the kind of fresh, provocative approach to news that local television is in dire need of", but criticized its production style for being too "frenetic" and "[seeming] scripted and staged" as opposed to TMZ, which he believed felt more "authentic".
Audra Schroeder of The Daily Dot showed similar concerns surrounding its presentation, but noted the show's use of social networking (such as an interview conducted via Google Hangouts, and active social media presences for its personalities) helped to encourage viewer interaction. In comparison to conventional news programming, Schroeder believed that "the TMZ-style approach to hard news might seem like devolution to some, but this shift could actually work. It might actually be necessary."
The replacement of WWOR's traditional newscast with Chasing refueled discussions over whether WWOR was adequately serving the New Jersey market as required by its license. When WWOR's past owner RKO General was faced with the possible revocation of the station's license due a corporate scandal, it successfully lobbied for legislation requiring that the license of any VHF station which moved into a state without one (such as New Jersey) be automatically renewed. Ever since the station moved to Secaucus in 1982 under the provisions, WWOR has been subject to expanded public service obligations by the Federal Communications Commission, which require the station to serve the New Jersey market with a "higher degree of service" than normally required.
Under the ownership of Fox Television Stations, WWOR came under scrutiny for the quality of its news operation; the renewal of the station's license has been pending since 2007. Senator Frank Lautenberg accused the station of failing to meet its public service obligations, misrepresenting the amount of New Jersey-centric programming it airs, and misrepresenting the number of employees who work for the station. The station was also criticized by the media watchdog group Voices of New Jersey for similar reasons, claiming that Fox was making too many budget and staff cuts at the station, and also accusing the company of misrepresenting the amount of staff it employs. However, Fox argued that the cutbacks were an economic measure in response to a recent economic downturn.
After Lautenberg's June 3, 2013 death, fellow New Jersey senator Robert "Bob" Menendez took up the cause; following the announcement of Chasing New Jersey, Mernendez sent a complaint to the FCC, asking it to review WWOR's license. In the complaint, Mernendez stated that "rather than add much-needed New Jersey specific programming to their lineup, WWOR instead [chose] to supplant its nightly news segment with a show referred to in news reports as ‘like TMZ'.'" Rep. Frank Pallone, who was then in the special election to fill Lautenberg's seat, also called for the revocation of WWOR's license .
WWOR was also criticized for similar reasons by the trade union Writers Guild of America, East (WGA East). Its executive director, Lowell Peterson. stated that "the people of New Jersey deserve a television station that will honor its responsibility to provide thoughtful, professional coverage of the issues facing the state. WWOR should add news programming, not chase it off the airwaves." Seven writers who were members of WGA East were dismissed after the cancellation of WWOR's newscast.
- Knox, Merrill (July 3, 2013). "WWOR Replacing Evening Newscast With Show on New Jersey Politics, Issues". TVSpy. Retrieved July 3, 2013.
- Friedman, Alexi (July 3, 2013). "Fox ends MY9 News, will replace it with an interview show". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved July 4, 2013.
- "'Chasing New Jersey' Is One High-Speed Ride". TVNewsCheck. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
- "This Jersey Boy Applauds WWOR's 'Chasing'". TVNewsCheck. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
- ""Chasing New Jersey" is the Garden State's answer to TMZ". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
- Tollin, Andrew L., "The Battle for Portland, Maine," Federal Communications Law Journal vol. 52, no. 1 (available online).
- "Fox Station Challenged on Renewal of License". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
- Donald, Terrence (February 18, 2011). "FCC investigating 'truthfulness' of WWOR's license renewal application.". The Jersey Journal.
- Rambay, Adriana (August 28, 2011), "Getting enough local TV?", Hudson Reporter, retrieved 2011-10-06
- Stelter, Brian (The New York Times). "Senator Seeks F.C.C. Review of WWOR-TV’s License". 10 July 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2013. Check date values in:
- Bichao, Sergio (9 July 2013). "'Chasing New Jersey' news show fails to win over Channel 9 critics". Courier News. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
- "Criticism continues over WWOR's cancellation of N.J. newscast". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
- "Guild alleging violation of FCC rules". Variety. Retrieved 20 July 2013.