WGN America has set the anchor team for the nightly three-hour newscast that is coming to the primetime lineup of Nexstar Media Group’s cable network as of Sept. 1.
WGN America is set for a radical primetime makeover from a focus on scripted entertainment series to three hours of a nationally focused news. “News Nation” has been billed as a traditional just-the-facts newscast that will be fueled by the news resources of 110 Nexstar TV newsrooms around the country. Nexstar has hired about 130 additional journalists to produce the “News Nation” block that will originate from WGN-TV in Chicago.
The primary Monday-Friday anchor duo will be Joe Donlon, a WGN Chicago veteran, and Marni Hughes, who signs on after an eight-year run as an evening news anchor at Fox affiliate KCPQ-TV Seattle. ABC News and WABC-TV New york alum Rob Nelson will serve as breaking news anchor. Albert Ramon, formerly of KVUE-TV Austin, Texas, has been named chief meteorologist.
The weekend anchor team is Rudabeh Shahbazi, formerly of CBS affiliate WFOR-TV Miami, and Nichole Berlie, from Boston’s WCVB. “News Nation” also has named regional correspondents in New York (Tom Negovan), Los Angeles (Nancy Loo), Dallas (Markie Martin) and Miami (Brian Entin).
“News Nation” marks the first overhaul of WGN America since Nexstar acquired its parent company Tribune Media in September 2019. The move to primetime news marks a big bet that Nexstar can leverage the reach and resources of its nearly 200 TV stations around the country. WGN America in recent years has served up low-cost drama imports and acquired programming. “News Nation” is a bid to counter all of the opinion and personality-driven programming on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC in primetime with a newscast that blends breaking news headlines with human interest, how-to and local color segments drawn from local markets.
“We’re adding more than 130 ‘News Nation’ staff members to the 5,400 Nexstar journalists already reporting from local communities across the U.S.,” said Jennifer Lyons, who is spearheading the effort as WGN America’s VP of news. “We have assembled extraordinary teams both in front of and behind the cameras… I think you’re going to learn so much about our country through them.”
Nexstar president-CEO Perry Sook reinforced the company’s pledge to deliver an straightforward newscast without partisan leanings.
“We have an opportunity, a mission, and the resources nationwide to bring Americans breaking news stories and live coverage delivered by reporters who know the local community and can provide unbiased coverage of events from coast to coast and deep in the heartland,” Sook said. “We will be presenting news in a way that is free of any particular point of view as we debut ‘News Nation’ on September 1 and we are confident that there are more Americans than ever who are seeking just that.”
(Pictured: Joe Donlon, Rob Nelson and Marni Hughes)