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The first thing you notice is the weather. That’s because on KSTP-TV’s Nightcast, it actually is first. Every night, “Forecast First” — there’s no anchor intro, just a meteorologist who pops up out of prime time to do what meteorologists do — appears even before the headlines on the Minneapolis station’s 10 p.m. news program. It’s a familiar segment in an unfamiliar spot and a fitting introduction to a broadcast that’s not afraid to reshuffle the standard formulas. Because what follows is not business as usual, but rather an evolving experiment in reimagining the late news.
KSTP’s bet is that in-depth and investigative reporting, longer stories and interviews, and a focus on issues with broad community impact rather than just the latest “breaking news” will appeal to viewers who already know the day’s headlines and want more substance. Perhaps it will even attract new ones who may have given up on local TV news altogether.
The idea for Nightcast germinated last April, when News Director Kirk Varner and his colleagues considered devoting the entire late news, which was struggling compared to the station’s other newscasts, to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, they opted for a more permanent transformation. The new format, inspired in part by ABC News Nightline, builds on two of KSTP’s strengths: its seven-person investigative team and its reputation for strong storytelling. “And so the idea was, can we create a broadcast that would really speak to those strengths and be different, really try to take a