We all know Boston can be a parochial city, a place where newcomers are often greeted warily. If the folks at Atlanta-based Cox Media Group didn’t understand that already, they’ve certainly learned it since they took over the Fox 25 TV station in a swap with Fox Broadcasting in October 2014.
We now have a full month of ratings to compare Fox 25’s news operations, year-over-year, since the takeover — and the picture isn’t pretty. The ratings are down for WFXT’s news shows in almost every time period, and most dramatically during the early-morning hours. For example, Fox 25’s ratings fell 27 percent in November from a year ago during the 5 a.m. hour for the 25-54 demographic, and 14 percent in the 6 a.m. hour. One bright spot: the 5 p.m. newscast, where viewership was up 6 percent, year over year. (Cox officials declined to comment about the ratings.)
The Fox 25 management in Dedham – led by general manager Tom Raponi, who came here from a former Cox station in the San Francisco market – made some big changes to the station’s approach to news. Most notably, the station hired a crop of new reporters while significantly scaling back its on-air guests and commentary. But all that banter and opinions were one way to differentiate Fox 25 from the other local stations. An early high-profile result of that shift: Doug “VB” Goudie was out last November, soon after the Cox takeover. Goudie then reunited with Howie Carr to work on Carr’s radio show.
There have been a few other departures since then, including popular anchor Maria Stephanos, who left abruptly in September. Investigative reporter Mike Beaudet also left, and later joined rival WCVB’s team. Their exits prompted Goudie to pen a column in the Boston Herald in September, opining that the local TV news programs are all too similar now.
Fox 25 still has plenty of familiar faces among its on-air talent, such as Mark Ockerbloom, Stephanos’s former co-anchor in the evenings.
But the November ratings decline puts more pressure on the newcomers to win over Boston viewers. It’s not something that happens overnight.Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.