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Olney to Anchor Channel 13 Newscast

In an effort to jump-start the credibility of its low-rated newscast and lure viewers searching for a familiar and trusted face, KCOP-TV Channel 13 has hired veteran Los Angeles television reporter Warren Olney to anchor its nightly newscast.

Olney, 51, who dropped out of the television news business last January when he left his position as weekend anchor and political reporter at KCBS-TV Channel 2, will jump back into the fray Monday on KCOP’s 10 p.m. news.

“I was looking at some other possibilities and thinking seriously of staying out of local news,” Olney said Thursday of his four months away from the rigors of TV news reporting--the first significant break he’s had since coming to this market in 1969. “But this job appealed to me because it is a chance to (front) a five-day-a-week show that is flexible enough so that I could still be a reporter.

“Certainly the resources here (at an independent station) are not as great as at the network-owned stations, but all the resources we have are devoted to news. At the network stations (which air a higher percentage of feature stories), there is a lot of competition for those resources. During my time off, I came to the conclusion that I could still make a contribution to local news and that I could make a bigger one at this independent than at one of the network stations.”

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In the past 20 years, Olney has worked at all of the three local network-owned stations. He started as Channel 2’s Sacramento bureau chief in 1969 and then moved on to report on politics for KNBC from 1975-1981, KABC from 1981-86 and then back to KCBS until early this year.

Coghlan said Thursday that he hired Olney to replace Tim Malloy, who was fired last week after four years behind Channel 13’s anchor desk, to give his newscast some instant respectability. Olney will team with current KCOP anchor Wendy Rutledge.

“We felt that over the last few years our product has matured to the point where it is as good as anyone’s,” Coghlan said. “What was missing was a credible, respected anchor. We needed someone who would make a statement to the city of Los Angeles that this is a serious guy and this is a serious news operation.”

With Rutledge and Malloy fronting the news for the past four years, Channel 13 has been trailing far behind Hal Fishman and KTLA-TV Channel 5 in the 10 p.m. news ratings race. The station has also been feeling the heat from KTTV Channel 11, which has been making a concerted effort of its own the last two years to capture the 10 p.m. news audience.

In teaming Olney, the veteran local face, with Rutledge, a younger, pretty face, KCOP seems to be taking a page out of its arch-rival’s book. The gray-haired Fishman has been at Channel 5 for three decades, dominating the independent ratings alongside a series of younger female co-anchors, including current partner Jan Carl.

“I don’t have a sense of myself as the white knight riding in to save the day,” Olney said. “As far as the other stations are concerned, the chips will fall where they may, but it would be gratifying to me if people watch.”

Olney said he is looking forward to working in an operation where news is the operative word. He said he left Channel 2 by mutual agreement with the station in part because he was tired of the news business and in part because the station “had found other people they wanted to feature.”

Within the past six months, Channel 2 has revamped its news team to give it a younger look, firing veterans such as John Schubeck in favor of Jim Lampley and Bree Walker. Olney, who sources say had wanted a full-time anchor position for a long time, was shut out.

Olney said he expects more of an opportunity to do news and analysis at Channel 13 than at the network stations.


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