Randy Smith, former General Manager at WPHL-TV, had visions of creating a primetime newscast in 1985. WTXF-TV (than known as WTAF-TV) was a strong independent stations that carried re-runs and movies. New York and other big cities already had primetime newscasts, Smith knew it was Philadelphia's turn.
Smith started by hiring Roger LaMay as News Director, currently General Manager of WTXF. The next step was to hire talent that would give the newscast visibility. LaMay hired sportsman Howard Eskin, a "tell it like it is" kind of guy, away from KYW-TV. At the time, LaMay said despite his million dollar contract, it was the best publicity money could buy, everybody was talking about Eskin's defection. Next, LaMay wanted to hire an anchor that would give the newscast credibility. Lee McCarthy, a veteran of NBC News, was hired to be the solo anchor. McCarthy was a very experienced journalist with connections, more importantly he brought authority to the newscast. Marie Michelini was hired as a meteorologist to round out the on-air team. LaMay needed a seasoned and well-respected reporter, Charles Thomas was hired away from WCAU-TV, other reporters were hired as well.
On February 17, 1986, The Ten O'Clock News premiered on WTXF-TV beginning a new era in Philadelphia tv news. In September of that year, the newscast expanded to weekends and eventually to an hour in 1990. Jill Chernekoff, than a weekend anchor and reporter, joined McCarthy as co-anchor. The Ten O'Clock News was accepted by the Delaware Valley and a ratings success. The Ten O'Clock News established itself as the place to turn for in-depth and serious local news at an earlier hour.
Three years under their belt, it seemed like WTXF was following WPVI's "if it isn't broke, don't fix" approach. With the exception of a few reporters, their was no turn over on the anchor desk. That all changed in 1989. Michelini's contract was not renewed and replaced by Bill Elias. In 1990, LaMay felt the Ten O'Clock News and his bottom line needed a little tweaking. LaMay announced that Eskin's contract would not be renewed, he felt the price was too high. Eskin was replaced by Carl Cherkin. Jill Chernekoff, than a weekend anchor and reporter, joined McCarthy as co-anchor. Chernekoff's addition immediately gave the newscast a new look and feel.
Major tweaking in 1993, in a shocker, McCarthy was let go for the same reason, money. Others felt it was his age, WTXF with a young FOX audience, were trying to change their image and attract a younger audience, LaMay denied it, he said he wanted to go in a different direction. McCarthy was replaced by a younger and more energetic Rich Noonan. Despite these changes the Delaware Valley continued to tune in.
In 1994, WTXF got some early news competition from WPHL-TV, they tried unsuccessfully to copy WTXF's indepth style with help from the Philadelphia Inquirer. In 1995, LaMay launched a two hour morning news program called GOOD DAY PHILADELPHIA. Ala, The Ten O'Clock News launch in 1986, LaMay brought in a popular personality to launch the program. This time it was fromer WPVI-TV sportsman Don Tollefson, now a newsman.
In 1997, The Ten O'Clock News added the word "FOX" to it's title and announced they are putting together an investigative unit. Philadelphia hasn't really had one since KYW's I-Team in the late 70's-early 80's.
Years later, The FOX Ten O'Clock News remains Philadelphia's first choice for primetime news.
The following is a list of the members of WTXF's Fox Philadelphia news team. They are listed by seniority. Click on their name to find out about them.
Dr. Brian McDonough
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