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Fairbanks’ Debut Smooth Despite Tech Glitches


Channel 4’s new anchor Diana Fairbanks (see right) had a much smoother debut at 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Wednesday than all the bells and whistles associated with the station’s new high definition set.

At 5 p.m. when Fairbanks was introduced by anchors Don Postles and Jacquie Walker, the camera took a few seconds to find Fairbanks as she spoke her first on-air words.

At 10 p.m., the station’s graphics identified reporter Rachel Kingston as Fairbanks a couple of times.

One supposes those glitches, as well as some early audio problems, are bound to happen on opening day as Channel 4’s off-camera staff gets more familiar with its impressive looking new surroundings and technology.

In a way, it might have been fortunate that some viewers may have joined the 10 p.m. news late because the Buffalo Sabres’ 1-0 shootout loss to the New York Rangers carried on cable’s NBC Sports Network didn’t end until around 10:17 p.m.

The important thing is Fairbanks is very professional, a solid anchor with a strong voice and no-nonsense manner that perfectly suits Channel 4’s format (and she only had one minor pronunciation misstep). She smiles often but didn’t initially seem to be the warmest TV personality. However, everything I’ve heard and read about her days as an anchor in Traverse City, Mich. suggests that viewers will warm up to her as the days and weeks go by.

The station’s other anchors did try to help personalize Fairbanks, noting that she is a marathon runner and skier and has a husband and child who haven’t made it to Buffalo yet.

Amusingly, Channel 4 now has all of its anchors standing up. It would make more sense at Channel 2, which after all has a slogan that shouts it is standing up for you.

Channel 4 certainly has a lot riding on Fairbanks. The station hasn’t indicated it, but she would be the obvious choice to replace Jacquie Walker if Walker rides off into the TV sunset some time in the next decade or so. I’m not trying to rush Walker, just saying that the station’s female anchor bench needed some reinforcements to prepare for the future.

Fairbanks’ performance also is important because her 10 p.m. newscast on sister station WNLO-TV is competing head-to-head with a Channel 2 newscast on WNYO-TV anchored by Melissa Holmes, who Channel 4 could have kept by giving her the 5:30 and 10 anchor jobs. (Holmes also is eventually expected to anchor Channel 2’s 5:30 p.m. news).

In a sense, the 10 p.m. news battle is a nightly referendum on whether Channel 4 made the right choice to give Fairbanks the job over Holmes.    

That said, the Fairbanks-Holmes battle at 10 isn’t a fair fight. Fairbanks is taking over a 10 p.m. newscast whose ratings double or triple that of the one just taken over by Holmes. Channel 2 has never been able to average much more than a 2 rating on WNYO, a station it doesn’t own. It probably would be happy if the 10 p.m. battle just became a little closer.

Holmes also is weighed down by a gimmicky newscast that counts down the Top 10 stories backwards and has its Facebook friends decide what story is No. 1 and should run around 10:17 p.m.

To borrow an old political phrase, voting for Fairbanks or Holmes is a choice, not an echo. As I said before, Fairbanks comes off as a no-nonsense anchor with an assertive style that wouldn’t look out of place on a national newscast,

A decent anchor with a pleasant manner, Holmes is a native Western New Yorker, younger and more prone to smile and to exhibit (or act out) her emotions while reading stories. In Channel 2’s format, she also interacts more with reporters.

The battle is a marathon, not a sprint.

In the short run, I would expect Holmes’ popularity in her hometown to help Channel 2 become somewhat more competitive at 10, especially if it comes to its senses and drops counting down backwards from No. 10 to No. 1 every night. It might also consider having a veto power over the Facebook vote. On Wednesday, the choice of the top story was video of a horrific crash in which no one was injured. (Oh, well, at least Facebook voters didn’t vote the Facebook IPO No.1.).

In the long run, I would expect Fairbanks to settle in quite nicely and keep the 10 p.m. news on WNLO in first place by a significant margin. After all, she is a marathon runner.


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8 responses to "Fairbanks’ Debut Smooth Despite Tech Glitches"

  1. Gman says:

    Watching Ch 4 at noon. Audio problems are rampant . We waited for this?????? Great job,Musial

  2. Bill J. says:

    They really shrunk down the news desk. They look very uncomfortable standing, plus it looks ridiculous. Plus they had poor John Murphy standing in the middle of nowhere at 11 last night, give the poor sports guys a desk!

  3. JFH says:

    She bears a striking resemblence to Flo the Progressive Insurance spokesperson!

  4. DJ says:

    The audio problems have been on Ch 4″s newscasts for weeks, and are still there on the 2nd day of their new HD set. Maybe their control room people are as “wet behind the ears” as their new reporters.

    You mentioned the anchors are now standing. They were standing in that 2 month temporary set, too. The big difference though is that on the temporary set Postles was about 10 inches taller than Walker; now on the new set, the difference is only about 4 inches. I guess either Walker grew or she is standing on several phone books. She appears to be towering over Don Paul in the picture in the Buffalo News on Thursday.

  5. Chi Chi says:

    “impressive looking new surroundings and technology”? I find it distracting and even annoyimg at times. What more needs to be said?

  6. Pergy's friend says:

    Fairbanks is defintely in another league compared to the Kiddie Corps.

    • Bill J. says:

      Wait until Nalina Shapiro anchors this weekend. She stutters and stammers to begin with, she will be like a deer in the headlights

  7. Andy says:

    Fairbanks achieves the basic task of reading copy without too many flubbed lines and some reasonable intonation . Much better than the kiddie group. However, her look of earnest all the time makes her better suited for an Irv Weinstein “pistol packing punks” newscast. The standing routine is annoying and her hand gesticulations are every distracting. A news reader’s hands should not be seen. She also needs to know how to pronounce “Albany”,

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