Was working on a twitter thread about this, but it got derailed due to some household drama, so I'll type everything here.
Ed Ansin, in my mind, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Al Primo, Roone Arledge, and Ted Turner. His stations were that revolutionary and influential, and a lot of people don't know it.
In my opinion, local news has three "mother formats". The first is Primo's Eyewitness News (specifically the version perfected at WABC New York). The second is the WPVI Action News format. The third was Ansin's "News Station" format pioneered in Miami then Boston. EVERY local television station incorporates elements of these three newscast formats. You can probably see parts of WSVN's DNA in the newscast that airs in your market, even the most conservative one.
People forget how risky WSVN's format actually was. Sure, it joined Fox, but "joining Fox" meant something a hell of a lot different in 1989 than it did even in 1994 when New World shocked the industry. Fox didn't have the NFL. "The Simpsons" wasn't even a half-hour show yet. Fox was five hours of primetime on weekends, that was it. Even if you were a Fox affiliate at that point, for all intents and purposes you were an independent station. In fact, WSVN didn't mince words - in its promotion and reporting for its post-switch plans, it referred to its new status as becoming an "independent station".
And if you were an independent station, you were what I would call a "Great Entertainer". Your programming day would consist of cartoons, sitcom repeats, a movie in primetime, sports if you were lucky to have a contract with a team. Maybe, maybe, maybe you had a half hour or an hour of news at 10pm. Even ideas like a local morning show from 7am-9am were novel: Good Day New York had been on the air for only a few months at the time of WSVN's switch.
You did not do seven hours of news each weekday. Even if you were a network affiliate this was madness. Doing it without a net(work) - that was suicide. This idea was ridiculed in the press. Ansin might not have had much of a choice here, admittedly - CBS had announced its plans to move to WCIX at the beginning of August. Four months is not a lot of time to get the inventory you needed to be a conventional independent. WSVN likely became "South Florida's News Station" out of necessity. Still doesn't negate how ballsy the plan was.
The tone of the newscasts was also wildly different from anything the market - perhaps the nation - had yet seen. His new news director, Joel Cheatwood, moved the newscasts out of the traditional studio and into the newsroom and control room. The presentation was also something different - bold graphics filled the screen. Discordant music opened the newscast and penetrated the proceedings. Even the station announcer, Scott Chapin, was menacing!
It's here that I am going to say it: Ansin's stations were not paragons of journalism. Tabloid TV was the order of the day. "If it bleeds, it leads" was the motto. One WSVN newscast I have footage of proudly beamed about featuring "THREE BLOODY CRIME SCENES" as the top story. This was not Peter Jennings soberly reporting on the latest goings on in the Soviet Union. That wasn't the point. The point wasn't to just inform, but entertain as well - thus the flashy graphics, the catchy headlines. This was, I would argue, the first News Product on a TV station - something not as just public service but calling card.
It's not wrong to call WSVN the first true "Fox affiliate". It ran cartoons - Fox Kids was there for a few years - and out of necessity movies were programmed on nights Fox had not yet colonized. You certainly could not mistake it for a Big Three affiliate. But the look and feel was not that of an independent/Fox station up to that point.
I don't think anyone saw that station lasting more than maybe two years with the News Station format. Certainly nobody saw the station not only surviving the switch, but thriving - rising to the top spot among English language stations in that market. The competitors noticed. In 1988-89 WTVJ had a handsome art deco look lavished on it by its new owners at NBC. By 1992 that was replaced by cold banks of monitors and theme music straight out of Miami Vice.
So did other stations. Scott Chapin started picking up station after station starting in the early 90s. One of my early news memories is of him blaring out "NEIGHBORS FROM HELLLLLLL" in a sweeps promo for WCAU, which he was voicing by the mid-90s. Other tricks took longer to get to my market - 1997 saw the arrival of "Breaking News" stings and Larry Mendte to WCAU. In a market where the leading station used magnet boards for weather and a blue background set, the added flash stood out. Mendte got notice because he would stand up on set for some stories - if you read the local papers you'd think some massive scandal was taking place. In contrast, I'm usually not sure if Jim Gardner wears pants most nights.
Even nationally, the idea of a flashier newscast gained traction. Before it embraced its conservative bent, you could well argue that Fox News Channel was the WSVN formula applied to cable news. Even the network newscasts changed. Brokaw started doing more tabloidy feature stories. Jennings' newscast open went from a simple text overlay to a flashy animation.
1993 saw Ansin spread his wings and add WHDH in Boston. By this point his tactics were well-known. Boston didn't quite get the massive tone overhaul that WSVN got, but it did get the flashy graphics, discordant music, and menacing announcer. WHDH might not have exploded like Miami did but what was a perennial doormat became quite competitive. Moreso when WHDH lost CBS to WBZ and gained NBC's stronger programming.
Ansin had to have been a pain in the ass to work with on the network side. He pre-empted quite a bit when WSVN was with NBC. The 1989 switch negotiations were so protracted with CBS that instead of that network agreeing to move to WSVN it instead chose to purchase an independent station with substantial signal issues as its new home. And let's not forget the Jay Leno at 10pm debacle of 2009-2010. Ansin made the announcement that he was pre-empting Leno and moving his CW 10pm newscast over to the main station. NBC threatened to revoke his affiliation and he relented - but when that late night arrangement collapsed in flames months later, it was obvious that his concerns were genuinely warranted. Again, I think it says something that NBC chose to build its own station essentially from scratch over continuing to deal with Ansin.
The survival of WHDH post-NBC was his last great accomplishment. It was the WSVN playbook all over again - news, news, and more news. It seems to be working, four years into the experiment.
Like I said, Ansin was a giant figure in the television business. Few single stations have been as influential as his were. He is as major a figure as Ted Turner and should be honored as such. May he rest in peace.