Believe it or not there was a time when news programming on WPVI-TV(then WFIL) Channel 6 consistenly finished last among the big three. WPVI was known for being the home of Dick Clark's American Bandstand.
That all changed on April 6, 1970 when Larry Kane, Bill White, Francis Davis and the Action News team premiered in Philadelphia. George Koehler, Frank Magid, Mel Kampmann and others put together a news format that would once again change the face of local news.
KYW's Eyewitness News began the revolution in 1965 when former news director Al Primo created a news format that allowed reporters to appear on camera telling us the news from where it was happening, rather than the anchor read news gathered by reporters in the field. WPVI responded to Primo's format by creating a radically restructured news format that was fast paced. A news format that seemed like they were everywhere, more stories from more places with more pictures in less time, they named it Action News.
Action News? Why Action News? In the words of writer Stephen Seplow, "George Koehler was driving across the Ben Franklin Bridge on his way to work in 1970 when he had one of the biggest brainstorms since the bridge's namesake figured out electricity." In an earlier interview, Koehler says "I was trying to think of a title, and it occured to me that Action News would portray what we were trying to do, I came up with the title of of the blue."
The Action News format was rigorously paced for maximum viewer appeal, the number of stories from 8 to as many as 25. Readers were to be 30 seconds, packages no longer than one minute and 30 seconds. Unlike KYW's Eyewitness News, Larry Kane was never on screen for more than a minute at a time, instead as many of the stories as possible had film and were packages, with the name and location of the reporter highlighted to enhance the image of Action News as roaming far and wide across the entire Delaware Valley.
In 1971 led by Kane and newcomers Jim O'Brien and Joe Pellegrino, Action News became the Delaware Valley's #1 news and the name, concept and music was copied in cities around the country, but never equalled.
28 years later, Jim Gardner, Dave Roberts, Gary Papa and the Action News team have not missed a beat. Action News is still the most watched local news in the Delaware Valley and the country, check out the numbers in my Ratings section. There was a few years in the mid 70's when the team of Vince Leonard, Mort Crim, Jessica Savitch, Bill Custer and Big Al Meltzer led KYW to the #1 spot in news. The last time Action News was not #1 was in the spring of 1977.
The key to WPVI's success in the Delaware Valley is their stability and our loyalty. The talent doesn't change much, Action News has always been a well produced and written newscast, the routine is always the same, the opening and ending are always the same, the music is, THANK GOD, still the same and night after night we tune in for the Big Story. The only way Action News will fall is if we change are habits and habits are hard to break.
The following is a list of the members of WPVI's Action News team. They are listed by seniority. Click on their name to find out about them.
Dr. Doron Schneider(11/2000)
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