The Comcast-owned Spanish-language station in Philadelphia will launch its news operation on Jan. 6. With the debut, WWSI will join Telemundo’s other 15 stations in offering local news. The new 6 and 11 p.m. broadcasts will enjoy synergies with co-owned NBC O&O WCAU.
The news crew at WWSI Philadelphia goes through the same daily rigmarole as broadcasters around the country — morning editorial meetings, courting sources, prepping those stories so they are ready to go.
The only difference is that the Telemundo O&O in the country’s fourth largest market isn’t putting those stories on-air — yet.
Instead, producing content is part of a great big dress rehearsal currently underway at WWSI, which is prepping to launch two nightly Spanish-language newscasts on Jan. 6.
The station, which NBC/Comcast-owned Telemundo bought in July, is at the tail end of hiring 15 staffers — from reporters and anchors to sales people and engineers — to support the endeavor. The news team includes an assistant news director, anchor, two reporters and two producers.
WWSI has long been a Telemundo affiliate, but did not produce local news under its previous owners, ZGS Communications.
Creating a WWSI news department is part of Philadelphia-based Comcast’s larger effort to upgrade news at the NBC and Telemundo stations the company acquired in 2011. It also reflects a larger industrywide growth in Hispanic TV news.
The newscasts, at 6 and 11 p.m., will bring WWSI in line with the other 15 stations Telemundo owns, which all broadcast local news. They will originate from the same facility that houses WCAU, NBC’s English-language O&O.
Ramos Zayas, who anchored the Telemundo morning show, Un Nuevo Dia, since 2011, will anchor both the evening and latenight broadcasts. They will compete against the newscasts at 6 and 11 p.m. already produced by Philadelphia’s other Spanish-language TV station, Univision-owned WUPV.
The people behind the WWSI endeavor say they are going to be a new kind of voice for the market’s sprawling Hispanic community, which the station plans to reach with help from the more powerful transmitter and stronger antenna recently installed. A heavy focus on local content is a means of doing that, they say.
Zayas says that charge was a motivating factor in his decision to trade a network job for local TV. “My main mission is to serve the community, and I felt detached from that.” The opportunity “to explore what I feel is like an untapped market” made the opportunity even more attractive, he says.
Assistant News Director Claribel Collazo (she reports to Anzio Williams, VP of news for WCAU and WWSI) says the newly christened news team has devoted the last couple of months to doing just that.
Zayas and the two multimedia journalists — Christian Cazares and Iris Delgado — who will be doing most of the reporting have been getting to know the market’s Latino leaders and constituents so they can deliver the kind of newscasts people want to watch, Collazo says.
“We have been walking the streets and having discussions to understand what they need and what they want,” Collazo says. She calls WWSI’s product “news that matters.”
The team, Collazo says, is already preparing stories that respond to what they’re hearing from local Latinos — that they don’t have access to the information they need to navigate life in and around Philadelphia or understand the impact that, say, regulatory, health care or educational changes will have on them.
“Folks out there are always telling me that they are looking for a source to get the information that they need in their language,” says Cazares, the reporter. “That’s what they are looking for and so our goal is to provide that.”
WWSI will be able to air content produced by the other Telemundo-owned stations. But Collazo says she won’t broadcast stories that aren’t relevant to Philadelphia-area viewers, no matter how good they are. The same goes for stories about Latin America.
“It’s good to tell the locals what’s going on in their countries, but tell me what’s being approved at the local schools,” she says.
Zayas says it also is incumbent upon WWSI to produce newscasts that, while targeting Latinos, also reflect the fact that Hispanics, more than ever, are also part of the larger community. “The big challenge we have as journalists is that we have to cover the issues that pertain to the Hispanic community, but we also have the challenge of covering hard news, local events and what’s happening on a daily basis,” he says. “We have to cover sports of interest to Hispanics and the Eagles.”
That’s why WWSI’s sisterhood with WCAU will come in particularly handy.
In operating from WCAU’s fancy new digs, as well as having access to its equipment (you can read about that here), WWSI and WCAU will work cooperatively on content that’s relevant to both stations’ viewers, Collazo says.
WWSI, for instance, will be able to use footage gathered by WCAU, whether that’s on the ground or from the air.
Weather coverage will be a big part of WSSI’s local coverage, thanks in a large part to WCAU’s weather technology, which pinpoints forecasts to particular communities. That kind of spot-on weather reporting is not typically available to Spanish speakers, Collazo says.
At the same time, WSSI will produce content for WCAU. Both Cazares and Delgado, the reporters, are bilingual, and will have microphones with the NBC 10 logo on hand so they can conduct interviews or report live for WCAU.
Two of Cazares’ stories — holiday stories with roots in the Hispanic community — have already aired on WCAU.
Zayas says the concept is taking off in the WCAU-WSSI newsroom in other ways, too. WCAU staffers, for instance, are showing an interest in learning Spanish, with a couple of them stopping by Zayas’ desk daily for a new word or two, he says.
“There is an energy and enthusiasm about having the two news teams,” Zayas says. “It’s going to translate [on-air].”