WRAL-TV is in the middle of major renovations, and the changes aren't limited to fresh wallboard and high-tech touch screens.
The biggest change comes at the anchor desk. Longtime anchor Pam Saulsby is leaving WRAL after 20 years at the station. Her final evening broadcasts will be this week. She will continue to anchor the noon news with Bill Leslie for at least another month.
In a statement announcing her departure, WRAL Vice President and General Manager Steven D. Hammel called her "an essential member of this station's news and community efforts for 20 years."
Reached by phone, Hammel reiterated his respect for Saulsby but would not comment further about her departure.
Debra Morgan will take Saulsby's place with David Crabtree at 5 and 6 p.m. on weeknights, according to a WRAL news release. Morgan has been with WRAL for 18 years.
Morgan will also continue to anchor the 11 p.m. news with Gerald Owens. For the 5:30 p.m. newscast, Owens will co-anchor with newcomer Jackie Hyland. Owens and Hyland will also anchor the 10 p.m. news on Fox 50.
Hyland, who was raised in Ireland, has reported for ABC World News Now, Good Morning America, WCBS in New York and WFAA in Dallas.
She most recently worked as an anchor at WPIX in New York, but her contract was not renewed at the end of March, according to MediaBistro, an online site about the media.
Hammel said a new co-anchor will join Leslie after Saulsby leaves, but that person has not yet been named.
Saulsby could not be reached for comment on her plans. But she launched a part-time singing career a few years back and, in 2010, released an album of jazz standards titled "The Full Measure of a Woman."
In addition to the changes to its anchor lineup, WRAL is also launching an interactive, high-definition weather system with 3-D storm tracking, a FutureCast tracking model and a StormThreat feature.
The new anchor pairings, studio renovations and weather system updates will be revealed on Sept. 27.
The changes come as competition between local TV news outfits intensifies. WRAL has traditionally led in local ratings, but WTVD is in contention for the top spot. According to Nielsen data, WTVD and WRAL are neck-and-neck in morning newscasts in the coveted 25-54 age demographic. WRAL often wins evenings in that group, but WTVD posted higher numbers in May, a key sweeps month. WRAL still leads when measuring total households.
The Nielsen Company recently ranked the Raleigh-Durham DMA the top television market in the Carolinas.