The Morning Exchange
|The Morning Exchange|
|Also known as||The Alan Douglas Morning Exchange (1972)
Today's Morning Exchange (1998–1999)
|Genre||Breakfast television program|
|Created by||Donald L. Perris
William F. Baker
|Presented by||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||120 minutes (1972–1998)
60 minutes (1998–1999)
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)|
|Original run||January 3, 1972– September 10, 1999|
The Morning Exchange was a American morning television program 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 two-thirds of all television 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 incorporated many elements that would be used in morning television programs of the present day. It was the first morning show to use a "living room" set and establish the now familiar concept of news and weather segments at the top and bottom of the hour. The remainder of the program time was used to discuss 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 groundbreaking format in another 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 premiering 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 hosted by Alan Douglas, when the show debuted, a traditional news desk set was used. Don Webster served as the announcer and did some of the show's interviews and Joel Rose read the news. In March 1972, Don Webster briefly left WEWS and was replaced by Liz Richards, who became a co-host and the weather presenter. In July of that year, Douglas left the station and was replaced by Fred Griffith, who had been 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, the program's producers decided to replace the news desk set with a set that resembled a suburban living room; 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 on-air 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 its national morning program Good Morning America, which replaced the struggling A.M. America in 1975. The format quickly caught on and soon GMA beat NBC's Today in the ratings. 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 the headlines on other news outlets; she was replaced by Jan Jones. In 1983, Jones became a consultant for WEWS and left the show. Joel Rose left WEWS-TV in 1984, to devote himself full-time to his talk show on radio station WJW (850 AM, now WKNR), 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 to 1982 and then again from 1988 until the show's end, Lynda Hirsch provided recaps and previews of soap operas. She developed such a reputation on the show that she was given her own nationally syndicated newspaper column.
David Moss (now with WJW, channel 8) served as entertainment reporter from 1985 to 1993. In 1990, Jon Loufman (now with 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-TV, while Loufman left for WKYC-TV (channel 3) (and later, WJW-TV). 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
From 1995 to 1996, the program expanded to include Saturday and Sunday editions entitled The Weekend Exchange. The show was hosted solo by Leon Bibb and was broadcast from a set different from the one used for the weekday edition. The Weekend Exchange consisted solely of only interviews conducted by Bibb and did not include any news or weather updates. The format was later reworked into WEWS' weekend public affairs program Kaleidoscope, which is also hosted by Bibb.
WEWS originally chose not to air A.M. America and later Good Morning America, electing to run The Morning Exchange in the 7-9 a.m. timeslot. 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. (the Cleveland market's secondary ABC affiliate at the time, Akron-based WAKR-TV, channel 23 – later WAKC and currently Ion Television owned-and-operated station WVPX-TV – carried Good Morning America in its entirety throughout the 1980s and early 1990s).
On September 12, 1994, WJW-TV, as part of a group-wide deal involving the station's then-owner New World Communications, dropped its CBS affiliation and joined Fox. During the transition period, CBS attempted to negotiate a deal with WEWS owner Scripps-Howard to have WEWS and one-time ABC O&O WXYZ-TV in Detroit, Michigan affiliate with the network (Detroit's then-CBS affiliate WJBK was also involved in Fox's group deal with New World). 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 (and later, merger) with CBS. However, in addition to agreeing to stay with ABC, WEWS also had to agree to broadcast the full two hours of Good Morning America. By 1994, WEWS was the only ABC station remaining among the 25 largest television markets in the country that did not broadcast the full two hours of GMA.
That move proved devastating to The Morning Exchange. Its timeslot was pushed back to 9-11 a.m., missing the commuter rush hour audience. Additionally, the show's original target audience, stay-at-home women, had nearly disappeared since the show's debut, as more females entered the workforce. In addition, other stations also began increasing the amount of local programming it aired in the early morning hours. Most notably, WJW successfully compensated for the loss of CBS This Morning as a result of the Fox switch by expanding its weekday morning newscast until 9 a.m.
In 1997, WEWS began airing Live with Regis and Kathie Lee during the 9 a.m. hour, bumping The Morning Exchange to the 10 a.m. to noon slot (the station had been airing Live from 11 a.m. to noon, two hours later than most stations that carry the program, ever since it debuted in national syndication in 1988). In an unusual move, WEWS slotted the syndicated (and at the time, half-hour) Martha Stewart Living program in the middle of the MX broadcast, making it appear as if it was an extended segment of the show.
In 1998, major changes occurred to the program: it was retitled to Today's Morning Exchange and reduced to one hour, in an attempt to save the declining show, and to accommodate The View – whose broadcast WEWS had delayed to the late night hours from its debut the previous year – at 11 a.m. Fred Griffith was demoted to a field reporter with morning meteorologist Mark Johnson taking his place as co-host, along with former WJW-TV news anchor Robin Swoboda. The resulting show departed significantly from the program viewers were used to and ratings declined even further.
In 1999, WEWS announced that it would be discontinuing The Morning Exchange after a 27-year run. The final week's editions saw Griffith return as host and featured "MX Moments" from throughout the show's run. The last broadcast, 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 on-air staff
- 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: the half-hour 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 WEWS's 6 p.m. newscast in 1999; she later served as a morning host on Cleveland Christian music station WFHM (95.5 FM) from 2002 to 2005, and then hosted a MX-style program on Fox affiliate WJW called The Robin Swoboda Show (originally titled That's Life) from 2007 to 2011. Since 2012, Swoboda serves as co-anchor of WKYC's weeknight 7 p.m. newscast.
- Joel Rose died in 2000 after committing suicide.
- Lee Jordan has been a news anchor at WEWS since 1994; she currently co-anchors the station's 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts.
- David Moss and Lou Maglio remain with WJW to this day respectively as the station's entertainment reporter and 6 p.m. anchor. 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 its weekday morning meteorologist; he then joined WJW in 1999 as weekend meteorologist, before moving to WOIO/WUAB in 2004 as its morning, and eventually, weekend meteorologist.
- Mark Johnson eventually became chief meteorologist at WEWS (and earned the American Meteorological Society Certified Broadcast Meteorologist and National Weather Association Seals of Approval); he currently appears on the station's weeknight 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts.
- Connie Dieken, for a time, was an anchor on WEWS's noon newscasts before becoming a freelance journalist.
- Liz Richards and Jan Jones have both retired from the broadcasting business.
- Liz Claman, who served as anchor of the program from 1991 to 1995, is now an anchor/correspondent for the Fox Business Network.
- 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