I don’t know why, but as each passing year draws to a close, I get a little verklempt.
For me, one of the saddest things this year was learning that WDAZ-TV newscasts would no longer originate from Grand Forks but rather from WDAY in Fargo. No surprise, but still very sad.
I suppose because I worked at Channel 8 for so many years, I’m asked for my take on it, just about everywhere I go, just about all of the time.
I’ve also been asked to write about it. So, here goes. This won’t take long, and it will likely be the last word you’ll hear from me about it.
When WDAZ went on the air in 1967, it was meant to augment the ratings of WDAY in the northern valley, the lake region of Devils Lake and northwestern Minnesota. It did that and much more. Maybe that was part of the problem. From the beginning, viewers were more than accepting of the station and especially its newscasts. And they got a lot more than news from the station, including live sports events and other kinds of special programming.
Times change. Business is business. Both are clichés and both are true.
From the beginning, WDAZ had its own identity, separate from WDAY. Until lately, when viewers began seeing an odd blurring of WDAZ and WDAY images. No longer “Your Home Team,” now suddenly WDAZ was “Your News Leader,” WDAY’s longtime slogan. Logos changed. Promos changed. All of it meant to make for a more seamless transition, I guess. It didn’t work. In fact, it backfired, raising even more questions about the station.
Management tried to sell it as a merger of newscasts. It’s not. Already viewers are seeing much less “northern” content in newscasts than they are used to and they know it.
One of my biggest disappointments in all of this is that nothing was said on air about the final Grand Forks newscast on Dec. 21. Nothing to thank people, especially viewers. A planned story about the final Grand Forks newscast in the Grand Forks Herald was “killed.”
Some people will continue to work in the WDAZ newsroom and other areas of the building, but it’s unlikely the station will ever be what it once was, a plucky, little outfit that accomplished much more than it should have, especially considering the resources it had to work with. And much more than it was given credit for.
It’s easy to place the blame for what’s happened. But there’s no need. Also, I found out a long time ago, it’s not my television station.
These are difficult times for journalism just about everywhere. We’ve all seen major changes in the Herald as well. There is a great deal of concern about what will happen to it.
Again, times change. Nothing is easy. And not to be overly dramatic of anything, but losing a daily newscast feels a little bit like a death in the family.