The Morning Exchange
|The Morning Exchange|
|Also known as||The Alan Douglas Morning Exchange (1972)
Today's Morning Exchange (1998-1999)
|Genre||American Breakfast television|
|Created by||Donald L. Perris
William F. Baker
|Starring||Alan Douglas (1972)
Don Webster (1972)
Fred Griffith (1972-1999)
Liz Richards (1972-1979)
Joel Rose (1972-1984. 1986-1990)
Jan Jones (1979-1983)
Randi Hall (1984-1986)
Lou Maglio (1984-1993)
David Moss (1985-1993)
Lee Jordan (1987-1993)
Jon Loufman (1990-1994)
Liz Claman (1991-1995)
Connie Dieken (1993-1998)
Mark Johnson (1993-1999)
Robin Swoboda (1998-1999)
Danita Harris (1998-1999)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||27|
|Running time||2 hr.|
|Original channel||WEWS (channel 5)|
|Original run||January 3, 1972– September 10, 1999|
The Morning Exchange was a daily morning TV show that aired on WEWS-TV (channel 5) in Cleveland, Ohio from 1972 to 1999. The program is widely regarded as one of the most successful local programs in the history of U.S. television. On a typical day in the 1970s, over 2/3 of all TV sets in the Cleveland market were tuned to The Morning Exchange. In 1975, ABC recognized the show's success and decided to adapt MX for a national audience — creating Good Morning America.
The Morning Exchange changed the face of morning television. It was the first morning show to use a "living room" set and establish the now familiar concept of news and weather at the top and bottom of the hour. The remainder of the time was used for discussing general interest/entertainment topics. In a 2006 interview, Ken Lowe, the CEO of Scripps-Howard Broadcasting said, "The Morning Exchange was a huge risk that Don Perris took at the time. A lot of people thought that he was out of his mind when he suggested a morning show of that nature. Of course, we all know that [the show's format] went on to become [the standard for all of today's network morning shows.]" Fred Griffith, the program's longtime host, talked about the ground-breaking format in a 2006 interview saying, "We talked about death, sexuality, dealing with career choices, how to establish long lasting relationships, we talked about all those kinds of things that are just routine now, but [at the time] we were pioneers."
The show, originally called The Alan Douglas Morning Exchange and first aired on January 3, 1972, was created by Donald L. Perris and William F. Baker as an alternative to the solely news-based morning shows at the time. Originally, when the show debuted, a traditional news desk set was used and the show was hosted by Alan Douglas. Don Webster was the announcer and did some of the show's interviews and Joel Rose read the news. In March 1972, Don Webster briefly left the station and he was replaced by Liz Richards, who became a co-host and the weather presenter. In July, Douglas left the station and was replaced by Fred Griffith, a member of the station's news department since 1966. The choice of Griffith as a co-host of the show was only meant to be temporary, but Griffith remained a co-host throughout the remainder of the program's history.
In August 1972, a decision was made to replace the news desk set with a set that resembled a suburban living room and Griffith, Richards, and Rose would instead recline on couches. Producers felt that this would make viewers feel more relaxed and comfortable. This idea seemed to work, as the format became more relaxed as the hosts developed chemistry on screen. As a result, many viewers felt that the TV set was an extension of their own living room and that the personalities were a part of their families. MX quickly became extremely popular, with an average of 67% of television viewers tuning in each day.
The format was so successful that ABC used The Morning Exchange as the pilot for the nationally broadcast Good Morning America, replacing the struggling A.M. America. The format quickly caught on and soon GMA topped The Today Show on NBC. Soon thereafter, both NBC and CBS adopted the format for their morning shows.
On March 16, 1979 in an emotional episode, a tearful Richards left the show in order to care for her children. This followed years of her personal life and her volatile marriage to Cleveland disc jockey Gary Dee spilling over into other news outlets. She was replaced by Jan Jones. Jones became a consultant for WEWS in 1983 and left the show. In 1984, Rose left WEWS-TV to devote himself full-time to his radio talk show on WJW (AM), and Randi Hall became the new co-host of the show for a year and a half. Rose would return to the show in 1986 and remain until 1990. The news segment updates were now delivered by either Jenny Crimm or Lou Maglio. Unlike Rose, however, Crimm and Maglio simply read the news and were not co-hosts. In 1987, Lee Jordan became the new co-host, filling the void left by Hall's earlier departure.
From 1976–1982 and then again from 1988 through the show's end, Lynda Hirsch provided recaps and previews of television soap operas. She developed such a reputation on the show that she was given her own national syndicated newspaper column.
David Moss (now with Cleveland Fox TV affiliate WJW (TV)) served as entertainment reporter from 1985–1993. In 1990 Jon Loufman (now with Cleveland CBS affiliate WOIO channel 19) joined the show and provided weather reports and a number of live shots. In 1993, both Maglio and Moss left the show for new positions at WJW, while Loufman left for WKYC (and later, WJW). Loufman was replaced by Mark Johnson. Later in 1993, Lee Jordan moved from MX co-host to WEWS evening co-anchor (to replace the departing Wilma Smith) and was replaced by former WKYC anchor Connie Dieken.
The Weekend Exchange
For a brief period in 1995 and 1996 the program expanded to a Saturday and Sunday edition entitled The Weekend Exchange. The show was hosted solely by Leon Bibb and was broadcast from a set other than the one used for the weekday edition. The Weekend Exchange consisted solely of Bibb interviewing guests and did not include news and weather updates. The format was later reworked into WEWS' weekend public affairs program Kaleidoscope, which is also hosted by Leon Bibb.
Morning Exchange's Decline
Originally, WEWS elected to air neither A.M. America nor Good Morning America, instead using that time-slot for The Morning Exchange. In 1978, WEWS began airing one hour of Good Morning America from 7 to 8 a.m. and then The Morning Exchange from 8 to 10 a.m. (It should be noted that a secondary ABC affiliate for the Cleveland market proper, Akron-based WAKR-TV — later WAKC and currently ion O&O WVPX — did carry Good Morning America in its entirety throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.)
In September of 1994, Cleveland station WJW, as part of a group-wide deal involving the station's then-owner, dropped its CBS affiliation and joined the Fox network. During the transition period, CBS attempted to negotiate with WEWS owner Scripps-Howard on having WEWS and onetime ABC O&O WXYZ in Detroit become CBS affiliates (Detroit's then-CBS affiliate was also involved in the same group deal with Fox). Instead, the company informed ABC of CBS's intentions and convinced ABC to increase the affiliation fee it paid to WEWS, which resulted in a group-wide affiliation pact with the network that triggered, among other deals, Westinghouse's affiliation pact-turned-merger with CBS. However, in addition to agreeing not to switch to a CBS affiliation, WEWS also had to agree to broadcast the full two hours of Good Morning America. By 1994, WEWS was the only station remaining in the top 25 TV markets in the country that did not broadcast the full two hours of GMA.
That move was devastating to The Morning Exchange. It was pushed back to 9-11 a.m., missing the commuter rush hour crowd. Additionally, the show's original target audience, stay-at-home women, had nearly disappeared since the show's debut, as more women entered the workforce. In addition, other stations also began increasing local programming in the early morning hours. Most notably, WJW successfully compensated for the loss of CBS' morning show by extending their morning newscast until 9 a.m.
In 1997, WEWS began to air Live with Regis and Kathie Lee live from 9-10 a.m. and The Morning Exchange from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. (Channel 5 had been airing Regis and Kathie Lee from 11 a.m. - noon since its debut in 1988). In an unusual move, WEWS inserted the syndicated and at the time 30 minute Martha Stewart Living program in the middle of the MX broadcast, playing it off as an extended segment of the show.
In 1998, major changes occurred when the show's title was changed to Today's Morning Exchange and reduced to one hour, in an attempt to save the declining show, and to accommodate The View — which WEWS had been airing on delay in the late night hours — at 11 a.m. Fred Griffith was demoted to a simple field reporter with morning weatherman Mark Johnson taking his place as co-host, along with former WJW news anchor Robin Swoboda. The resulting show departed significantly from the program viewers were used to and ratings suffered even more.
In 1999, WEWS announced that after 27 years, The Morning Exchange would come to an end. The last week's programs had Griffith return as host and featured "MX Moments" from over the years. The last program, which aired on September 10, 1999, included live interviews with some of the hosts of morning shows that used the MX format, including Good Morning America. All of the other program's hosts praised the MX for being the pioneer in establishing the format used by nearly all morning interview programs.
Former staff members
- Fred Griffith moved to rival station WKYC in 2000 to become a commentator on a daily segment, "15 minutes with Fred." Eventually, he became the co-host of two successive MX style shows: 30-minute long Studio 3, which then became the hour-long Good Company. Fred retired from the television business in 2012. (Good Company was later reformatted into Live on Lakeside, incorporating the station's existing noon newscast.)
- Robin Swoboda became anchor of the 6 p.m. newscasts on WEWS in 1999, was a morning host on Cleveland Christian music station WFHM FM 95.5 from 2002-2005, and hosted a MX style show on Fox affiliate WJW called The Robin Swoboda Show (originally That's Life) from 2007-2011. She's now co-anchor of the 7 p.m. newscasts on WKYC.
- Joel Rose died in 2000 after committing suicide.
- Lee Jordan has been a news anchor at WEWS since 1994 (currently co-anchoring the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. newscasts).
- David Moss and Lou Maglio remain with WJW to this day as both the station's entertainment reporter and lead 6 p.m. anchor, respectively. Since 2011, David has also served as co-host of New Day Cleveland, an MX style show that replaced The Robin Swoboda Show.
- Jon Loufman would join WKYC as their morning meteorologist, joined WJW in 1999 for weekend duty, and moved to WOIO/WUAB in 2004 for mornings, and eventually, weekends.
- Mark Johnson worked his way up to chief meteorologist (scoring the AMS Certified and NWA seals of approval along the way) at WEWS, and appears on all weeknight newscasts.
- Connie Dieken, for a time, was an anchor on WEWS' noon newscasts before going into freelance work.
- Liz Richards and Jan Jones have both retired from the broadcasting business.
- Morning Exchange To Go Off The Air Sept. 10 - NewsNet5.com, June 29, 1999 - Archived announcement of the program's cancellation
-  - Archived section of The Morning Exchange from NewsNet5.com
-  - Funny Boxing Kangaroo on The Morning Exchange