A new newscast will soon hit the airwaves in Missoula.

A staff of reporters and anchors at Max Media of Montana is already gathering news around Missoula, and will launch a half-hour news broadcast in the coming weeks on the Fox channel.

“It’s going to be heavy local news at 9 p.m.,” said Linda Gray, president of Max Media of Montana. “It will give people an alternative (to 10 p.m. news broadcasts). ... We’ve been talking about it for a number of years and we’re just at that stage of growth where we saw a need in the marketplace for a 9 o’clock news. The timing seems right.”

Max Media of Montana already produces three half-hour nightly news broadcasts in Billings and Great Falls, as well as morning news shows.

The company also produces and will continue to air a “10@10” ABC program, a 10-minute statewide weather and sports report and broadcast nightly in Missoula.

“We’re kind of catching Missoula up,” Gray said. “It’s kind of fun to put together a news department from scratch.”

The Fox channels in Missoula include Channel 2 on basic cable and Channel 23 for noncable viewers.

Former Billings NBC anchor, producer and reporter Sarah Gravlee will anchor the broadcast and act as station manager. Gravlee has worked in Billings since 2006, and jumped at a chance to “create something from nothing.”

“We’ll be covering the same news, but we’ll be doing it better. I want the show to feel very thoughtful. I think the term I keep telling my reporters is, ‘Make me care.’ ... The viewers will be able to know if they tune in for our newscast, they’ll get stories.”

The broadcast will also included a sports director, Dominic Shelden, and chief meteorologist, Dave Cochran.

“I think people will be really drawn to our personalities,” Gravlee said. “The sports director was picked because he told me during the interview he’s absolutely going to be covering the scores and highlights, but he wants a sportscast his grandmother is interested in, he’s telling stories.”

Gravlee declined to say how many reporters have been hired, but several reporters are already out in the community gathering stories and posting new content to the station’s website, www.abcmontana.com, and at the ABC Fox Montana’s Facebook page.

The station’s studio on Stephens Avenue is under construction in preparation for the broadcast. A firm launch date hasn’t been set, but the station plans to debut the half-hour broadcast sometime in late August or early September.

“We don’t want to publicize a date. We want to make sure we’re ready to go when we’re ready to go. ... It’s going to be a solid newscast from the very beginning,” Gravlee said.

Max Media is headquartered in Missoula.

According to its website, Max Media purchased the ABC affiliates in Missoula and Kalispell in 2001. It added the abbreviated, seven-day “10@10” newscast in 2006.

Reporter Jenna Cederberg can be reached at 523-5241 or at jenna.cederberg@missoulian.com.

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