Despite the loss of a prospective anchorman, Anaheim-based TV station KDOC (Channel 56) will proceed with plans to launch "Newswatch," its first locally produced, 30-minute nightly newscast, by the end of the month.
Scheduled to air at 8:30 weeknights beginning Feb. 27, the broadcast will be co-anchored by the station's news director, Michelle Merker, and a male co-anchor yet to be hired.
Station officials had named Dennis Turner, a free-lance producer at Cable News Network, as Merker's on-camera partner. Turner, however, "became unavailable," station spokeswoman Sue Hooper said Friday. "No replacement has been named yet. But we are moving ahead full steam and we hope to name someone next week."
Hooper said she does not know the details of the 11th-hour personnel change. She characterized the problem as "a temporary hitch" that would not delay the "Newswatch" air date. Merker could not be reached for comment "because she is interviewing candidates" to replace Turner, Hooper said.
Merker has anchored KDOC's news updates since 1983. She has also been the host of "Sound Off," a public affairs program, and other news reports at KDOC.
The prime-time, nightly "Newswatch" will be the only commercial TV newscast originating from Orange County. Besides national and foreign coverage, the show will devote time on each broadcast to local stories.
"We used to have 'rip-and-read' inserts," Hooper said, alluding to Merker's headline updates between shows. "This is our first effort at a full-blown competitive newscast."
Asked to define "full-blown," Hooper said the station will hire one field reporter along with the male co-anchor. "We'll add staff as we go," she said. "We want to establish a newsroom."