As the year's end draws nigh, we meet again to celebrate another year in local Pittsburgh television-news history. (OK. That was a little dramatic. Just keep reading.) The good news is, as the old news year ends, the new news year begins. As we sniff our freshly minted 2009 scenic calendars (courtesy of the local service station), we can only wonder at what may happen. But why do that, when I can just as easily predict what will happen for you? Without further adieu, I present my annual predictions for local TV news.
* In an effort to skew more toward Pittsburgh's aging population, all local network affiliates begin hiring older talent. Soon, the median age of the local news reporter is not a callow 23 -- but a whopping 25.
* KDKA anchor Ken Rice makes a bold, personal statement by shaving his eyebrows -- and insists that everyone refer to him as the ampersand symbol. Confused (and somewhat tongue-tied) family members, coworkers and fans are not sure what to make of this sobriquet, and simply refer to him as "the anchorman formerly known as Rice."
* Weathercaster Julie Bologna decides she doesn't like Pittsburgh after all -- and moves back to Texas, the Lone Mole, er, Star state. Sadly, no one misses her. Just like the first time she left.
* Peggy Finnegan allows herself to go gray. WPXI is flooded with calls wondering why the station is broadcasting from the news desk in black and white.
* WTAE hires a young, extremely good-looking woman.
* Sonni Abatta has her own weather center named after her: The Severe Sonni Weather Center. Sonni does all the teases in the commercials -- but the real weather report is delivered by Dennis Bowman.
* Local blogger Bram Reichbaum, of The Pittsburgh Comet (www.pghcomet.blogspot.com), is given his own one-minute soapbox commentary at the end of each WTAE broadcast. He produces his nightly invective for free, and salaries at all local stations are cut in half. A residual effect is that the reporters at the Post-Gazette must accept food rations in exchange for cutting-edge investigative stories. Feature story writers now receive leftover holiday fruitcakes as compensation.
* After many, many years in broadcasting, local news finally gives up entirely and cedes the airwaves to big-time news-disseminators. The most tragic outcome of all, of course, is that the annual WTAE Day at Kennywood is canceled.
* "This Just In" writer Frances Sansig Monahan tells her editor that local television news just ain't what it used to be. She also predicts in a few years, she may be saying it just ain't ...