WSLS-TV

WSLS-TV
Roanoke / Lynchburg, Virginia
BrandingWSLS 10 On Your Side
SloganOn Your Side
ChannelsAnalog: 10 (VHF)
Digital: 30 (UHF)
AffiliationsNBC
OwnerMedia General
FoundedDecember 11, 1952
Call letters meaningShenandoah Life Station
(reference to original owner)
Former affiliationsABC (secondary, 1952-1955)
CBS (secondary, 1952-53)
Websitewsls.com


WSLS-TV is the NBC network affiliate serving the Roanoke / Lynchburg, Virginia television market. Licensed to Roanoke, the station transmits its analog signal on VHF channel 10 and its digital signal on UHF channel 30. WSLS' transmitter is located on Poor Mountain in Roanoke County. The station is owned by Media General who also owns two local newspapers: The News & Advance and Danville Register & Bee. WSLS is known on-air as "WSLS 10 On Your Side" and has their main studios located on Third Street in Roanoke.

WSLS uses an in-house production agency known as "10x MEDIA".

History

WSLS-TV first signed on the air on December 11, 1952. It is the oldest surviving station in the state Virginia west of Richmond. The station was owned by the Shenandoah Life Insurance Company along with WSLS radio (610 AM, now WVBE; and 99.1 FM, now WSLQ).

The station originally carried programming from all three major networks: NBC, CBS and ABC. It lost CBS when WLVA-TV channel 13 (now WSET-TV) signed on from Lynchburg in 1953. WSLS and WLVA shared ABC until WDBJ-TV channel 7 signed on in 1955 and took the CBS affiliation. By the late 1950s, WSLS had fallen to second place behind WDBJ.

Examples of locally produced programming in the late 1960s includes: Echo, Klub Kwiz (a competitor to WDBJ's Klassroom Kwiz), Ebb and Andy, Spectrum, Glen Howell, Cactus Joe, and Profile.

In 1969, the WSLS stations were purchased for $7.5 million by Roy H. Park of Ithaca, New York. The all time high station staff number of 120 began to be reduced to around 50 for "budgetary reasons". However, the station fell further behind WDBJ in the ratings, in part because WDBJ had a larger news department. Park had to sell off the radio stations in 1972 due to FCC restrictions on cross-ownership.

In 1979, disgruntled employees felt the need to unionize with the BRAC (Brotherhood of Railway, Airline and Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express and Station Employees) after the removal of profit sharing plans, medical coverage, personal holidays, and cumulative sick leave. This reflected the first unionization of a television station in the state of Virginia. At the time, 46% of the employees made minimum wage or less while interns were unpaid. Only one individual made over $10,000 annually. By comparison, the other television stations paid their employees an average wage that was 30 to 40% higher and with more benefits. Though the accusations of low morale are unquantifiable and perhaps biased, company policy against socializing with other members of the local media was unpopular with some members of the station.

The feud between employees and management got to the point that long distance telephone calls (inevitably to the union) were prohibited. Only station management was allowed to post material on the bulletin board and an armed guard had to be hired. Inevitably, through union negotiations, the situation between employees and management did improve. Former co-anchor Ed McIntyre quipped, "They’re trying to run a Cadillac operation on a Honda budget. They just don’t have the equipment or the people."

When WSET modernized its news department in 1977, WSLS quickly responded by opening a Lynchburg Bureau. Still, viewership problems worsened when WSET attained the number 2 spot in the late 1970s. In addition, the station's on-air look was somewhat primitive. Videotape was reused very often and the station's transmitter had not been significantly upgraded since sign-on (aside from converting to color from black-and-white). A new transmitter was eventually dedicated in 1981.

Recent History

By the late 1980s, staff numbers rebounded to 75, and viewership began to increase. By 1987, WSLS had regained the runner-up position and has remained there ever since.

In 1989, the station debuted "First News at 5:30". The program was solo-anchored by John Carlin and included live feature segments from a field reporter. The newscast did not catch on with viewers at first but the ratings took off when it moved to 5 PM in 1992. This prompted WDBJ to launch a 5 PM newscast of its own in 1993. Initially, WSLS beat WDBJ at 5 PM which was the first time that WSLS had beaten WDBJ in any timeslot in decades. However, as WDBJ built an audience, it overtook WSLS for the lead at 5 PM. "First News" remained at 5 PM on WSLS until September 21, 1998, when it moved back to 5:30. Yet another shift came in February of 2002 when the 5:30 newscast was once again moved back to 5 PM. In August of 2004, WSLS added a 5:30 newscast to the existing 5 and 6 PM newscasts, creating the first 90 minute evening news block in the market.

In 1992, WSLS launched "The Spirit of Virginia" campaign. The centerpiece of the campaign was a music video-style commercial that featured WSLS news anchors interacting with the community as a country music themed "Spirit of Virginia" song played in the background. The commercial ended with an unidentified man singing and playing a guitar on a mountaintop. The unidentified man was presumed to be the person singing the "Spirit of Virginia" theme but was actually a janitor at the station. The actual "Spirit of Virginia" theme was composed by a commercial music company and included a customized news music theme, which the station used during its newscasts. During the "Spirit of Virginia" period, the station subscribed to a more "down home" news philosophy that included more features and a stronger emphasis on soft, community oriented news.

WSLS dropped "The Spirit of Virginia" song and news music in September of 1995. That fall, the station revamped the look and focus of the station, shedding the "down home" philosophy in favor of a more hard-news approach. "The Spirit of Virginia" slogan was retained for several years afterward but the phrase "Leading the Way" was added to various promotional efforts.

In 1996, WSLS was approached by Grant Broadcasting System II, the owners of Roanoke’s FOX affiliates WFXR / WWCW, on the topic of a "news sharing agreement". The deal would allow WSLS to produce a 10 PM newscast for WFXR / WWCW. The FOX stations originally attempted to form a news partnership with WDBJ, but a deal was never formed. "The FOX 10 O'Clock News" with Frances Scott and John Carlin premiered on October 28, 1996

A new chapter in the life of WSLS began on January 1, 1997, when Media General acquired Park Communications and became the station’s new owner. Changes began immediately as Media General executives charted a new course for WSLS. A new look and philosophy for WSLS was adopted from a successful model at WFLA-TV, Media General’s flagship station in Tampa, Florida. The launch of the new Media General version of WSLS began during the week of April 7-13, 1997, as the station aired commercials stating: "On April 14, Channel 10 will go off the air forever." WSLS re-launched itself as "News Channel 10", during the 5 PM newscast on April 14, 1997.

While the new "News Channel 10" maintained "The Spirit of Virginia" as its slogan, a new campaign called "10 Listens" was launched. Viewers were encouraged to set up a "10 Listens Community Forum". The idea was to give viewers a chance to speak directly to WSLS news anchors and management about concerns facing their community. The forums yielded exclusive story ideas for WSLS and gave the station a chance to improve its image within the market. A combination of factors caused the station to eventually abandon the forum concept.

The launch of “News Channel 10” coincided with the debut of “Storm Team 10.” Media General’s idea for the “Storm Team” was to give weather a stronger emphasis in the larger news product. It was also believed that a “team” concept would make Robin Reed on WDBJ look like a solo-act and thereby less credible. Under the “team” concept, no one weather anchor was to be more important than the other. The title of “chief meteorologist” was dropped and multiple weather anchors would often be seen presenting forecasts during the same newscast. The title of "chief meteorologist" was brought back with the addition of weathercaster Ros Runner in 2007.

Media General made a significant investment in resources after purchasing WSLS. The first major investment was the purchase of a Satellite News Gathering (SNG) truck in 1997. Prior to 1997, WSLS was forced to rent or borrow equipment from other stations for satellite live shots.

Media General also began the process of renovating the WSLS studios in Downtown Roanoke. The original WSLS building housed Shenandoah Life and the WSLS radio stations. Shenandoah Life had moved out in 1969, the radio stations followed in 1972, but the building retained its original setup and many spaces were not being used. Plans were drawn up and the building was renovated in stages beginning in 1999. The renovation moved the station’s news department to a larger newsroom on the first floor adjacent to the news studio, while the old newsroom space on the second floor was remodeled for other uses by the station.

While improvements were being made by Media General, trouble behind the scenes prevented WSLS from making traction in the Roanoke / Lynchburg television ratings. The late 1990s saw a continuous change of management, which led to competing philosophies and general unrest among employees. In 1998, longtime morning news anchor Dave Mellon was fired and replaced by current evening co-anchor, Karen McNew. Chief Meteorologist Chuck Bell was dismissed later in the year as longtime Sports Director Greg Roberts resigned. In 2000, popular evening co-anchor Barbara Gibbs was also dismissed for reasons that were never specified. The departures generated a great deal of negative publicity for the station.

A renewed emphasis was placed on local news in the early part of the 21st century, particularly in the eastern and southern portions of the Roanoke/Lynchburg market. In the spring of 2001, two additional news bureaus were established: one in Martinsville and one in Bedford. The Martinsville bureau was intended to cover Henry County, Pittsylvania County, Halifax County, and the independent cities that lied within those areas. The Bedford Bureau covered Bedford County, Campbell County, Amherst County, and the independent cities of Lynchburg and Bedford. Both bureaus were manned by an individual reporter/photographer. In 2004, personnel from the two bureaus were moved to the offices of the Lynchburg News and Advance and the Danville Register and Bee respectively. The move came as part of a Media General effort to converge its newspaper and television properties as a single newsgathering entity. Today, a single WSLS reporter, Aimee Norton, is responsible for covering the Lynchburg, Bedford and Southside areas from the offices of the Lynchburg News and Advance.

WSLS was the home of talented but troubled meteorologist Marc Lamarre from 1998 to 2006. In December of 2005, both Lamarre and fellow meteorologist Jamey Singleton seemingly disappeared from view, while a cavalcade of temporary personalities (WSNV-FM host Larry Dowdy, free lancer Josh Marthers, and eventual WSLS hire Patrick McKee) filled in for weeks. Though both returned to the station, Lamarre again disappeared in February of 2006. At the same time, local rumors swirled about a drug overdose, and possible death of Lamarre. After some outcry and much speculation, the public officially became aware of his heroin dependency issue through a series of news releases by station administration. Though Lamarre has completed rehabilitation, it was stated that he would not return to the station. It is not clear whether or not any criminal charges will ever be filed over Lamarre himself. Jamey Singleton also publicly admitted to using heroin, but remained for a time at the station after successfully avoiding further substance abuse. In November of 2006, Lamarre's heroin dealer was sentenced to 30 months in prison. In court, Lamarre testified against him.

On November 16, 2006, Jamey Singleton was terminated after a nude photo of him surfaced on the social networking website, MySpace.com. Singleton had the picture removed within an hour of its surfacing although several copies were e-mailed to associates at the station. According to a station press release, the picture violated a morals clause in Singleton's contract. [1] [2]

Until 2005, WSLS also operates Roanoke's "Ion" network affiliate WPXR-TV.

In 2007 the on-air branding was changed to "WSLS On Your Side," dropping the NewsChannel name, to reflect a greater emphasis on non-news programming while continuing to reflect the spirit of community involvement that has been fostered.

Digital Subchannel

The second digital subchannel (10-2) was recently relaunched as the "24 Hour VIPIR Weather Channel." It provides 24 hours of current conditions, forecasts, and specialty segments. Previously, 10-2 aired a continuous image of "Live VIPIR 10."

Station Firsts

  • WSLS was Southwest Virginia's first television station.
  • The first full color broadcast in Roanoke on March 1st 1967.
  • The first station with remote broadcast in Roanoke.
  • WSLS was first to use video tape in Roanoke.
  • First station to "Feed Network" (distribute live, locally produced programming that aired over the entire NBC network).
  • First station to stream online live during the Virginia Tech Massacre.
  • Will be first to launch a High Definition newscast in late 2007.

News Team

Anchors
  • Juliet Bickford - Weekday mornings and Noon (also consumer reporter)
  • John Carlin - Managing Editor seen weeknights at 5, 6, and 11 PM (also at 10 PM on WFXR / WWCW)
  • Jay Warren - weeknights at 5:30 PM (also Senior Political Correspondent)
  • Karen McNew - weeknights at 5, 5:30, 6, and 11 PM (also health reporter)
  • Dawn Jefferies - weekends
Storm Team 10
  • Ros Runner - Chief seen weeknights at 5, 5:30, 6, and 11 PM (also at 10 PM on WFXR / WWCW)
  • Jeff Haniewich - weekday mornings and Noon
  • Patrick McKee - weekends
  • Johanna Calfee - anchor and reporter
Sports
  • John Appicello - Director seen weeknights at 6 and 11 PM (also at 10 PM on WFXR / WWCW)
  • Chris Whitley - Weekends
Reporters
  • Jeremy Crider
  • Bob Denton - Political Analyst
  • Rosa Duarte - New River Valley reporter
  • Angela Hatcher
  • Scott Leamon
  • Candice Nelson
  • Aimee Norton - Lynchburg / Southside reporter
  • Ashley Roberts - New River Valley Reporter
  • Lindsay Henley

Former Personalities

Anchors and Reporters

  • George Chernault - 6PM anchor (1960s)
  • Charles Fishburne - anchor (1960s)
  • Terry Leedom - anchor (1960s)
  • Ted Stone - anchor (1970s, now Satellite Feed Coordinator and Special Projects Editor for WDBJ-TV)
  • Tom Hughes - anchor (1960s)
  • Lee Garrett - reporter (1960s)
  • Glenn Howell - reporter (1960s)
  • Ed McIntyre – co-anchor (late 1970s)
  • Gayle Converse – co-anchor (late 1970s)
  • Mike Fuller – (late 1980s)
  • Mark Chambers – (late 1980s)
  • Jeff Gillan - (late 1980s)
  • Peter Morrison - (late 1980s)
  • Ira Quillen - (NRV Reporter - Late 1980s)
  • Stefan Schetselaar - (Late 1980s)
  • Tom Gill - (Late 1980s)
  • L. A. Mollinary – co-anchor
  • Sean Hennessey - reporter (1991-1993, now at WCBS-TV)
  • David Schifter - reporter (late 1980s, now a casting director based in Wilmington, North Carolina)
  • Greta Evans - "Datebook" and "Reaching Out" Host, also Public Affairs Director (1990s, died February 22, 2004)
  • Monica Shuman – 6 and 11 PM co-anchor (1984-1989)
  • Mary Jo McClelland – 6 and 11 PM co-anchor (1989-1991)
  • Kalley King – 5, 6, and 11 PM co-anchor (1991-1994)
  • Lee Ann Necessary - 5, 6, and 11 PM co-anchor (1995-1997), returned as 6 and 11 PM co-anchor (2001-2003)
  • Andrew Colton - reporter (early 1990s, now at KTLK-FM)
  • Helene Kramer - weekend anchor / reporter (late 1980s-1992, now at Louisville Metro Police Department)
  • Nola Woods - weekend anchor / reporter (1992-1995)
  • Vicki Damico - "Spirit of Virginia" reporter (1993)
  • Rucks Russell - reporter (Early 1990's, now at KHOU-TV)
  • Ed Reams - New River Bureau Chief (1992-1993, now News Director at WHSV-TV)
  • Peter Cook - weekend anchor / reporter (1995-1996)
  • Dave Mellon - morning anchor (1980s-1998)
  • Barbara Gibbs – 6 and 11 PM co-anchor (1998-2000, now at WTVD-TV)
  • Julie Bragg - weekend anchor / health reporter (1996-1998) then 5:30 PM co-anchor / health reporter (1998-1999), now at WTVR-TV
  • Kelly Stern - New River Valley reporter (1995-1997)
  • Barron Johnson - reporter (1995-1997)
  • Tracy McKinney - reporter (1995-1997)
  • Kris Lloyd - reporter (1995-1998)
  • Ted Oberg - reporter (1996-1998, now at KTRK-TV)
  • Jamie Holmes - reporter (1996-1998, now at WPTV-TV)
  • Scott Bryan - reporter (1996-1998)
  • Tiffany Bradbury - entertainment reporter (1997-2003, now Roanoke Fire / EMS Education Information Specialist)
  • Ann Hillenbrand - reporter (1997-1999, now in Office of University Relations at Radford University)
  • Sade Baderinwa - reporter (1997-1999, now at WABC-TV)
  • Samara Sodos - reporter (1998-2000, now at WFLA-TV)
  • Mary Frances Bragiel - Reporter (1998-2001, now at WBBM-AM)
  • David Tate - New River Valley reporter (1998-1999)
  • Shae Crisson - anchor / reporter (1999-2001, now at WTVD-TV)
  • Rebecca Stewart - morning anchor / reporter (1999-2003, now at WTIC-TV)
  • Jamie Muro - reporter and sports anchor (now at WTNH-TV)
  • Dawn Pellas - reporter (1999-2003, now at WFTS-TV)
  • Erin Barnhart - reporter (2000-2003)
  • Alicia Dean - reporter (2000-2005, now PIO for Roanoke City Police Department as Aisha Johnson)
  • Robin Lindner - New River Valley reporter (2000-2004)
  • John Adams - reporter (2001-2004)
  • Heidi Coy - reporter (2001-2005)
  • Ann Howard - reporter (2001-2003)
  • Karen Reese - Bedford / Lynchburg reporter (2002)
  • Tim Gehret - Southside reporter (2002-2005 now at WCBD Charleston, SC)
  • Dan Reany - Lynchburg reporter (2003-2005, now at CBN)
  • Melissa Martin - reporter (2003-2006, now at WCNC-TV)
  • Kerry McQuone - reporter (2003-2005)
  • Tameika Hawkins - reporter (2004-2005)
  • Frances Scott - reporter (1995), weekend anchor (1996), WFXR / WWCW 10pm co-anchor (1996-1999, now at WSET-TV)
  • Jennifer Waddell - WFXR / WWCW 10pm co-anchor (1999-2005, now at KGUN-TV)
  • Natalie Faunce - WFXR / WWCW 10pm co-anchor (2005-2007, now at Ferrum College)
  • Manny Fantis - New River Valley Reporter (2006)
  • Britt Conway - reporter (2005-2007)
  • Denise Eck - reporter (2004-2007, now executive producer at KTKA-TV)

Meteorologists

  • Marty Hall - weather (late 1960s)
  • Jane Gardner - weather (mid 1970s, whoever was anchor also presented the weather)
  • Bobby Knight – weather (1970s-1980s)
  • Stan Sweet – weather (late 1980s)
  • Jon Cash – weather (until 1989, now at WAVY-TV)
  • Lisa Fenderson - weekend weather (late 1980s-1991)
  • Cindy Farmer - weather (mid 1980s-1990, now at WGHP-TV)
  • Dave Parker - weather (1990-1992)
  • Terry Tucker - weekend / morning weather (1991-1997)
  • Bill Meck – Chief Meteorologist (1992-1995, now at WLEX-TV)
  • Chuck Bell - Chief Meteorologist (1995-1998, now at WRC-TV)
  • Sean Sublette – weekend and morning meteorologist (1995-2003, now at WSET-TV)
  • Marc Lamarre - meteorologist (1998-2006)
  • Jamey Singleton - meteorologist (1998-2006)

Sports

  • Bill Walker - sports (late 1960s)
  • Greg Roberts – Sports Director (1987-1998)
  • Pat Frizzell - weekend sports anchor (Early 1990s)
  • Justin Ditmore – weekend sports anchor (1992-1998) and Sports Director (1998-2006)
  • Darren Triplett - sports reporter (late 1990s)
  • Tom Booth - sports reporter (1998-2000)
  • Eric Haubert - weekend sports anchor (1999-2000, now at WNWO-TV)
  • J.J. Davis - weekend sports anchor (2000-2001, now at KPTM-TV)
  • Jeanette Leftwich - weekend sports anchor (2001-2005)
  • Gary Cope - sports reporter (1999)

Station Profile

Newscast Titles

Image Campaigns / Slogans

  • 1980s - "Roanoke's First Television Station"
  • 1985 - "The Switch is On To...WSLS"
  • Late 1980s - "Hello"
  • 1989 to 1991 "Where the News Comes First"
  • 1992 to 2003 - "The Spirit of Virginia"
  • Early 2000s - "Working For You"
  • 2003 to present - "On Your Side"

Station Logos


Logo possibly used during the 1950s.

Logo possibly used during the 1960s.

Logo used during 1964.

Logo used from the late 1960s until 1974.

Logo used from 1974 through the mid 1980s, and intermittently from 1986-1988.

Logo used from the mid 1980s to 1986.

"Mountain 10" Logo used from 1988 to 1995.

"Spirit of Virginia" image campaign used throughout the early 1990s.

Logo used from 1995 to 1997.

Logo used from 1997 to 2003 after being purchased by Media General.

Logo used from 2003 to 2007.

Current logo, since 2007

Logo for "10x MEDIA".


News Set Images


WSLS news set in 1975.

The Appearance of the WSLS set in 2005. This is taken from the same angle as the 1975 photograph.


Weather Broadcast Images


1950s-era weather presenter.

1960s-era weather presenter.

Former meteorologist Chuck Bell in 1996.

Former meteorologist Marc Lamarre in 2000 during a snow storm.


Personalities Through the Years


WSLS News Team in 1969.

WSLS News Team in 1975 (unidentified talent).

WSLS News Team in 1987.


Test Patterns


WSLS original test pattern from the early 1950s.

WSLS test pattern from 1993.


References

  • p26 May / June 1975 issue of the Roanoker Magazine
  • "Channel 10's Decade of Decline" p18 Holiday 1979 issue of the Roanoker Magazine
  • "Lights, Camera, News!" p32 March / April 1980 issue of the Roanoker Magazine
  • "Roanoke Media Comparison" p19 February 1988 issue of the Roanoke Magazine
  • Page C-4, Roanoke Times & World-News on Thursday, April 27, 1978

External Links



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Roanoke, Virginia
Roanoke, Virginia as seen at night from the Mill Mountain Star.

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Nickname: The Star City
Location in Virginia
Coordinates:
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Lynchburg, Virginia

Location in Virginia
Coordinates:
Country United States
State Virginia
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Very high frequency (VHF) is the radio frequency range from 30 MHz to 300 MHz. It is also known as the meter band or meter wave as the wavelengths range from ten to one meters.
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Cycles per second: 300 MHz to 3 GHz
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Roanoke County is a county located in the U.S. state of the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2000 census, the population was 85,778. The 2005 census estimate placed the population at 88,172.
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Media General, Inc. NYSE:  MEG is a media company based in the Southeastern United States. Its major properties include newspapers such as The Tampa Tribune, the Winston-Salem Journal, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch
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December 11 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining.

Events

  • 359 - The first known Prefect of the City of Constantinople, Honoratus, took office.

..... Click the link for more information.
19th century - 20th century - 21st century
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1949 1950 1951 - 1952 - 1953 1954 1955

Year 1952 (MCMLII
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