Chicago station adds three digital only newscasts

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Chicago’s WGN, which already produces over 70 hours of local news a week, has upped that number with the launch of digital only newscasts, reports Roger Feder.

Dubbed “WGN News Now,” the new newscasts are scheduled to air at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. local time on the station’s website, mobile apps and social media platforms.

WGN, which was purchased by Nexstar Media Group as part of its acquisition of Tribune’s broadcasting assets in 2019, has also transformed the cable channel formerly known as WGN America (also part of the Tribune deal) as NewsNation — which uses the “Now” branding in the form of “NewsNation Now” for its digital offerings and website address.

Fronting the new digital news effort for WGN proper are Chip Brewster and Christine Flores. Flores is bilingual and will deliver the 2 p.m. newscast in Spanish.

WGN News Now also plans to carry live coverage of breaking news and special events throughout the day, much like “NewsNation Now” does.

Also like “NewsNation Now,” the digital newscasts are mostly self produced and run, with Brewster and Flores seated in front of equipment that allows them to control the content and output of the broadcast.

The afternoon is one of the notable gaps in local news coverage on WGN — it already airs news weekdays from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. before picking up at 4 p.m. and running through 7 p.m. and then again from 9 to 10:30 p.m., followed by “GN Sports,” which is produced by the station’s local sports team, from 10:30 to 11 p.m.

That output puts it significantly ahead of any other Chicago area station and also makes it one of the biggest producers of news by a local station in the country.

WGN is an independent station and fills the rest of its day with syndicated programming, mostly off network reruns with shows such as “Maury” and “DailyMailTV” mixed in as well. Overnight hours are typically filled with paid programming.

It’s possible WGN News Now could be a test or laying the groundwork for similar ventures at other stations the company owns with a goal of filling in hours between linear TV newscasts.

Many of these stations do not air nearly as much local news, so the gaps are more significant, including mornings and primetime when non-independent stations are committed to airing network feeds.