By FRANK SWERTLOW
An earthquake has hit the KCBS-TV Channel 2 newsroom and the tremors are likely to be felt for months.
Sixty days after his arrival as the new boss of the CBS flagship in the West, John Severino fired two anchors, dumped his news director and scrambled his schedule in an effort to energize one of L.A.'s poorest-performing TV stations.
Gone are anchors Michael Tuck and Linda Alvarez. Roger Bell, a former news director at KABC-TV Channel 7, is the new boss of the Channel 2 newsroom.
"One of the big problems this station has had over the years is, they keep bringing in news directors from out of town," Severino said. "It takes them two years to learn the city, buy a house, get the kids in school and learn the difference between East L.A. and Beverly Hills. By then they are ready to be fired."
Severino said Bell will have a shorter learning curve.
"We are much better off with someone who has worked in the market and can be up to speed in a week rather than a couple of years," he said.
Bell replaces the departing Larry Perret, who held the post since 1994. Bell has been a news producer at WNBC in New York and previously worked for Severino in the late '70s and early '90s, when Severino guided the local ABC-owned station into the top spots in the 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news ratings.
Severino had been wooing Tom Snyder to join KCBS as an anchorman. But talks broke down when Snyder decided against returning to TV news. "He said he was not interested," Severino said.
The KCBS general manager is still trying to bring on veteran anchorwoman Kelly Lange, who recently left KNBC-TV Channel 4. Other personnel changes are expected.
In the current shake-up, Jonathan Elias emerged as the top anchorman at Channel 2 and will co-anchor the 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts. Ann Martin remains the No. 1 female anchor, doing broadcasts at 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Also emerging as a top player is Gretchen Carr, who will co-anchor the 5 p.m. news and do special reports for the 11 p.m. broadcast.
As part of the programming changes, the station will launch a new hour-long newscast at 4 p.m. that marks an unusual turn in the L.A. market. Starting on Sept. 13, the program, titled "Women 2 Women," will be principally aimed at women viewers, the main audience between 4 and 5 for news in Los Angeles.
Ann Martin and Catherine Anaya will anchor the show, which also will be produced by a woman and feature a woman weathercaster. The new program is the first time in many years that two women have co-anchored an L.A. newscast.
"It will deal with topics like health, fashion, children and entertainment," said Severino, who joined KCBS on July 6.
In another programming shift that begins Sept. 13, the "CBS Evening News," anchored by Dan Rather, will start at 6:30 p.m., one hour later than it currently airs. Rather has campaigned for the move for years. The time change means CBS will compete directly against the network news broadcasts by NBC and ABC.
"(Rather) talked to (President of CBS Television) Les Moonves and wanted to compete head to head against (Peter) Jennings and (Tom) Brokaw," said Severino, who reports to Moonves.
Rather will kick off the changes by anchoring the network news from Los Angeles on Sept. 13 and Sept. 14.
Although CBS does not break out revenues for individual stations, Severino estimated that KCBS was No. 6 in terms of profitability among the seven major stations in the L.A. market.
In addition to his duties at Channel 2, Severino runs 15 other CBS-owned stations in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and other major markets.
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