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Channel 7 makes some smart newsworthy tweaks to new morning program

As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

And Channel 7’s laughable weather-centric morning newscast, didn’t make much of one when it made its debut on Sept. 29.

But I gave it a second chance this week and noticed the station has quietly made some smart tweaks to the program.

It still is carrying a large dose of weather from two meteorologists -- Andy Parker and Autumn Lewandowski -- when only one is needed and it still has traffic reporter Desiree Wiley repeatedly telling viewers that there is no traffic.

But now it also is allowing news anchor Laura Gray to deliver some news a few minutes into the newscast and throughout it with the aid of three news reporters.

Not that there is much new news to talk about some mornings.

This morning, reporter Jaclyn Asztalos was on the scene of an early morning fire in which a cat named Oscar was rescued and reporter Rachel Elzufon was at the Outlet Mall reporting about 35 new stores there.

However, Gray also read stories about Wednesday night’s gubernatorial debate here and the shootings in Ottawa.

In other words, there actually is some news to go along with the constant hyperactive reports on the weather.

The question now is whether viewers will give 7 Eyewitness News at 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. a second chance as I did.

There are some indications that Western New Yorkers are doing just that. The station remains deep in third place in the morning but it averaged a 3.2 rating for the 6:30 a.m. half hour on Tuesday, which is about 50 percent higher than it often gets. And it averaged a 2.9 on Wednesday, which still is much higher than normal.

Those figures could rise even further with more promotion.

Channel 7 General Manager Mike Nurse confirmed that the station tweaked the newscast from its Sept. 29th premiere.

“Where we are today is more where we should have been on Day 1,” said Nurse. “We tweaked it to provide more balance.”

But he wouldn’t characterize the earlier version as a mistake.

“We had to get an actual product on the air to make some refinements,” said Nurse.

“We also needed to get Andy Parker on the air to tell people he wasn’t in the Witness Protection Program,” cracked Nurse.

He was alluding to the fact that Parker spent several weeks off the air after coming over from Channel 2’s top-rated morning program, “Daybreak.”

Nurse did admit to one early mistake – the infatuation with the hand-held camera.

“It was supposed to be a tool, not a go-to,” said Nurse. “It was too herky-jerky as the main camera.”

It still is being used, but to a much smaller degree.

Nurse is looking forward to a long-range forecast for the new program.

“We haven’t had the opportunity to showcase what we will do when breaking weather and breaking news come about,” he said. “We have the ability to expand the coverage unlike anyone else.”

By that, he means the station is the only morning newscast with two full-time meteorologists and three reporters around if there is something to cover besides cat rescues and store openings.

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