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Back in the 1980s, when the Michigan tourism board’s “Pure Michigan” program was just a snuffle in the back of Tim Allen’s honeyed voice, the Great Lake State’s PR machine was trying to get the rest of the country to check out its woods, dunes and coastlines with its “Say Yes to Michigan” movement. Lansing-based Fox affiliate WSYM-TV takes its call letters from that crusade. But the letters could just as easily stand for “Say Yes to Mornings” as the station makes its newest foray into the a.m. slot. On Monday, the station launched its first morning news show: “Fox 47 Morning News at 7.”
“We’re keeping with that ‘say yes’ (mentality) with a positive theme,” said Gary Baxter, vice president and general manger at WSYM. “Positive things are happening in Lansing. We’re saying yes to celebrating life in mid-Michigan. When you think of ‘yes,’ we want it to be synonymous with (WSYM).”
The show runs 7-9 a.m. weekdays. Baxter said that the show will have no set format — by intention — but feature a traditional blend of news segments and live interviews. The show will feature Lansing newcomers Kristen Beat, the show’s anchor, and Beverly Perry, a meteorologist.
“We’re very lucky to have them launching this with us,” Baxter said. “This is a new market for both of them, and they’re so great at what they do. They’ve got a perfect energy for morning news, which can be tough.”
Baxter said that besides breaking news, sports and weather, the show will include community-based items, such as recognizing local organizations. Thanks to Lansing’s location as the seat of statewide politics, Baxter expects plenty of Capitol coverage as well. But mostly, he said the show’s goal is to serve as a counterprogramming of sorts for morning TV viewers.
“When (ABC, NBC and CBS) go to their national newscasts from 7 to 9, we’ll be switching to local news,” Baxter said.
For the last five years, the station had been broadcasting the televised version of Michael Patrick Shiels’ weekday talk radio program “Michigan’s Big Show” in that time slot.
“We were proud of that partnership, but we felt it was more important to shift our focus to news,” Baxter said. “The‘Big Show’ will continue, of course, but it just won’t be televised locally anymore.”
The show will be produced by Larry Lynch at WILX-TV’s studio on the city’s south side. WILX is mid- Michigan’s NBC affiliate, and has allowed WSYM to utilize its studio space for the past 13 years.
“We’re network agnostic,” Baxter explained. “These are brand new news sets that we’re sharing (with the WILX news team) and they’re beautiful. We use digital curtains that change color depending on which show is using them. Our newscast is red.”
But that doesn’t mean the reporting will be red state-centric, for which its parent network’s flagship news network takes some heat.
“This is a Fox station, and we’re a little more fun and fast-paced than other networks,” Baxter said. “We provide personality-driven content that makes you want to stick around. We’re utilizing more video, and are more social media and Web savvy. This is meant to be an interactive show, with lots of Facebooking and Tweeting. That’s going to help us stand out.”
“This network is great because we don’t have to fit in a box,” Beat said. “(The‘Fox 47 Morning News at 7’) team is young and we have a young approach to news. I think this is going to appeal to everyone from young professionals to stay-at-home moms.”
Beat, 25, is a California native who started her news career covering NASCAR. She visited Michigan a couple of times and said she liked its down-to-earth vibe.
“I grew up in a small town with avocados growing in my yard and a dirt bike track in back,” she said. “I’m a country girl at heart. Lansing really made me feel like home.”
Beat also studied law, but her main, um, beat is sports, and she’ll be doing the show’s sports segments. She said she was the first person in her family to go to college, which fuels another of her passions: helping girls pursue education. She intends to dig in here by volunteering with local groups and getting to know the community to start a dialogue.
“We’re definitely looking to hear from (viewers who have) story ideas and news tips,” Beat said. “Twitter is one of the best things that happened to news coverage and I use it constantly. And I have a genuine desire to connect with viewers. I want to talk to people and let them voice their stories. That’s what this is about: local stories. This is a developing broadcast, and it’s going to be exciting to watch it grow.”
"Fox 47 Morning News at 7" 7-9 a.m. Monday-Friday WSYM-TV, Fox 47 fox47news.com Story ideas and news tips: @Kristen_Beat on Twitter, firstname.lastname@example.org