WGN America launches the NewsNation primetime national newscast 8-11 p.m. today (Eastern) in hopes of finding a center lane between the Fox News Channel and MSNBC.
While the other national news channels fill primetime with opinion shows hosted by Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo, Joy Reid and others, WGN America aims to deliver an old school, opinion-free, just-the-facts newscast from Chicago, the way CNN started 40 years ago from Atlanta.
"We've got to make sure that we're not alienating any of our audience, that everyone feels they're getting fair, accurate reporting of the news," Sean Compton, WGN America executive vice president, tells the Chicago Tribune.
Compton, 46, has deep roots in Greater Cincinnati. The son of Dale "Truckin' Bozo" Sommers, he began his broadcasting career at WLW-AM, and rose through Clear Channel to become vice president of radio programming. Compton left Clear Channel in 2008 to join Randy Michaels, WLW-AM alum and former Clear Channel executive, at the Chicago-based Tribune Company.
NewsNation will be broadcast from a new $3.5 million studio formerly used by the local WGN-TV Chicago news team. WGN-TV and Tribune Media were bought last year by Nexstar, a Texas-based company. Nexstar owns 185 TV stations with 5,400 local news employees, according to the Los Angeles Times.
NewsNation will rely on its newsrooms across the nation to cover breaking news. There will also be national correspondents such as Dean Reynolds, a longtime member of CBS News' Chicago bureau.
If the primetime national newscast attracts enough viewers, Nexstar will expand the news format throughout the day to challenge CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.
Compton was named executive vice president of WGN America, WGN Radio and Director of Content Acquisition in September 2019, after the Nexstar purchase. He is responsible for operating WGN America cable, WGN radio, Nexstar programming acquisitions and Antenna TV, which he created in 2011 as head of Tribune's programming department. He also brought back Johnny Carson to late-night TV by airing his Tonight Show reruns on Antenna TV.
Before Tribune, Compton spent 18 years as radio programming vice president for Clear Channel Radio and its Premiere Radio Networks. At Premiere, he created and developed radio programs and features for Donald Trump, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Costas, Casey Kasem and Ryan Seacrest. He also acquired Hannity for Premiere Radio Networks.
Compton produced Trump's nationally syndicated radio commentary called "Trumped" from 2004 to 2008, during his years on NBC's The Apprentice. Compton told the Los Angeles Times that he remains friendly with Trump and noted that the TV savvy president was aware of NewsNation.
"I haven't made a big deal about it when I've talked to him because he's probably not going to like it every night," Compton told the L.A. Times.
Since becoming president, Trump has complained that Fox News was not supporting him enough, and has promoted the conservative One News America Network. Trump's intimate relationship with Fox News is detailed in Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth, a new book by Brian Stelter, CNN's chief media commentator and host of CNN's Reliable Sources.