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The morning jolt

Channel 25 intends to give a.m. viewers news with attitude

DEDHAM -- Doug Goudie thinks most news is entertainment. Soon the former sidekick on Howie Carr's AM radio show will have a new platform to combine the two -- television.

WFXT-TV (Channel 25), known for its 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts, is launching a weekday morning show Monday from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. that intends to push the boundaries of journalism by offering a format similar to a late-night talk show or a morning radio program.

Comical news clips will be rewound and played again for effect. Anchors will interrupt their colleagues with spontaneous jokes. And Goudie, who uses the nickname "VB," has the go-ahead as the station's official commentator to rip on everything from the Demo-

crats (one of his favorite targets) to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. Goudie said last week that he'd love to tear into rapper Nelly, who is introducing a sports drink this month called, of all things, Pimp Juice. "Where do I start with this one?" he said.

And he took a swipe at the local Democrats who have suggested that bar closing hours be extended during their national convention here next year. "Do the Kennedys need another two hours to drink?" he quipped.

The concept for "Fox25 Morning News" is reminiscent in many ways of "Fox & Friends," the popular national morning show on cable's Fox News Channel. That irreverent show has three opinionated co-hosts, including one female anchor who formerly worked for ABC's "Good Morning America" and one male anchor with a sports-anchor background.

Locally, Jodi Applegate, who has anchored WFXT's evening news since leaving NBC's "Weekend Today" in 2000, will co-host the new show. Sharing the anchor desk will be Gene Lavanchy, the longtime sports director and anchor at WHDH-TV (Channel 7) who left that station in June.

"We've been told to take risks. I'm still here to do the news. But the audience is so savvy that they expect a little spice," said Applegate. "A lot of news is crying out for a sarcastic remark or a joke. There will be moments that we wouldn't have scripted, but if one of us tells a lame joke, the others will give him a hard time. We want to be like morning radio -- loose and edgy."

With his background in sports, where opinionated commentary is expected, Lavanchy thinks his transition will be smooth.

"I like to point out the ridiculous," he said. While he's convinced "we'll take our lumps" from the critics, the anchorman remains optimistic. "It's a blank canvas. We can paint it anyway we want. I think we're going to have a lot of fun."

Goudie, in fact, will probably have the most leeway on this show. The commentator will be given at least six minutes an hour to essentially make fun of something in the news. "I'm the wiseass," he said. "They want me to bring some radio attitude, some opinions with no apologies. I'm Republican, and I love [Governor] Mitt Romney. The station isn't going to endorse Arnold Schwarzenegger. I will."

Goudie has never worked in television, and he said he is still testing the station's limits during rehearsals. "I keep waiting for them to say I've gone too far, but they haven't."

To be sure, the morning show will have a serious side. Applegate said that when the daily news requires them to be sober, they will be. "The trick to having fun on TV is knowing when not to have fun," she said.

The station hired Anqunette Jamison from the NBC affiliate in Las Vegas to read the news. Cindy Fitzgibbon, formerly a WFXT weekend meteorologist, will forecast weather. And Doug Meehan, using a recently purchased station helicopter, will provide traffic updates.

But mixed in between the routine will be irreverent segments such as "Traffic Jerk," in which viewers will be asked to call in with street locations where Boston drivers tend to be at their worst. The helicopter's cameras will later record and broadcast tapes of some offenders in action.

A "Generation Gap" segment will involve families who agree to come to the station and debate on the air the merits of say, allowing children to be picky eaters versus forcing them to eat what's presented. Applegate or Lavanchy will mediate.

WFXT, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., spent three years preparing for the launch. In a multimillion dollar renovation, the station tripled its size to 90,000 square feet. Its newsroom is now contemporary in style, with blue neon lights and flat-screen televisions adorning the walls. The station hired about 40 reporters, producers, editors, and photographers.

And it plans to open on Monday a street-level satellite studio on Beacon Street near the State House where reporters will interview people on the street as well as newsmakers. A lot like the "Today" show, passersby can wave to cameras from the street. This location, where Romney is scheduled to appear on Monday, will be a secondary studio where the show will sometimes be anchored. Most of the time, however, the program will originate in Dedham.

WFXT isn't the first station to deliver local news during a timeslot dominated by network programming. For 11 years, NECN has aired local and regional news in the morning. Last September, WSBK-TV (Channel 38) began broadcasting a weekday show from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.

WBZ-TV (Channel 4), WHDH-TV (Channel 7), and WCVB-TV (Channel 5) all broadcast morning shows from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Ed Goldman, general manager of WSBK and WBZ, said WSBK's morning show has been growing in viewership, particularly among women 25 to 34 years old. Last month, the newscast averaged about 20,000 viewing households, which is comparable to WBZ's 5 a.m. show.

"People love the fact that they can get local information between 7 and 8," he said. Although Goldman "applauds" WFXT's innovative efforts, he said WSBK will continue with its current format of news, traffic, and weather.

Jim Thistle, director of broadcast journalism at Boston University and a former news director at Channels 4, 5, and 7, said it's appropriate for WFXT to try to differentiate itself in a climate "when there's a sameness to so much programming.

"If it's in the bounds of good taste, I don't have a problem with commentary and satire if it's clearly labeled," he said. "It's the morning. I think you can be a little fresh. It doesn't all have to be death and destruction. It doesn't all have to be boring."

Suzanne Ryan can be reached at

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