AIR CHECK BY DIANA MARSZALEK

WJZY News Takes Local To A New Level

With its first newscast, My Fox Carolinas News @10, the newly acquired Fox O&O in Charlotte, N.C., has set up five suburban bureaus staffed by reporters that live in those communities. With the newscast's casual chatty tone and unconventional look (the entire WJZY facility, from its newsroom to lobby, has been built to be used as a set), the broadcast reflects Fox Television Stations President Jack Abernethy’s determination to come up with some new approaches to local news.

To work at WJZY Charlotte, N.C., reporter Robin Kanady has to live in Concord, N.C., a suburb northeast of the city, which is no hardship. It also happens to be her hometown.

She is one of five reporters that the Fox O&O has “embedded” in outer Charlotte communities to provide regional coverage for an innovative 10 p.m. newscast it launched Jan. 1. The reporters seldom come into the newsroom, which is west of the city.

WJZY GM Karen Adams, who has been building the news department from scratch, says requiring those reporters to live where they work is part of her strategy of making My Fox Carolinas News @10 a newscast with regional appeal. 

“The journalists are far more tied to [their communities] than an assignment manager is,” she says. They tend to cover stories that might otherwise be ignored because of the communities’ distance from the city.

The strategy has yielded stories like the efforts of a small town 50 miles northwest of the city to get its own medical facility (currently patients have to drive a half-hour to a hospital) and Union County’s proposed school redistricting, Adams says.

Snowstorm coverage last month included live reports “from five major counties in two different states because we had people out there already,” adds Geoff Roth, WJZY’s VP of local content

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For Kanady, the arrangement has already paid off. She was able to tap friends and family to find subjects to interview on the personal impact of that snowstorm.

Having perspective helps, too, Kanady says. Her recent story about the opening of an aquarium at a local mall was enhanced by her first-hand knowledge of the area’s evolution into a tourist destination for NASCAR fans.

“I was in college when [the mall] was built. I know what it was back then,” says Kanady, who has worked for several other stations in the Southeast.

David Sentendrey, a reporter who is also embedded in his hometown — Monroe, N.C., southeast of Charlotte — says being a local has helped get his new job off to a good start. “People open up to you more,” he says. “I have been able to get into their neighborhoods and lives because I live there too.”

My Fox Carolinas News @10, which debuted Jan. 1, is WJZY’s first foray into news. Fox bought the former CW affiliate along with MNT affiliate WMYT from Capitol Broadcasting for $18 million last year.

It’s now become what Adams calls a “giant petri dish” for news innovation.

With its casual chatty tone and unconventional look (the entire WJZY facility, from its newsroom to lobby, has been built to be used as a set), the newscast reflects Fox Television Stations President Jack Abernethy’s determination to come up with some new approaches to local news.

Embedding reporters is facilitated by the latest ENG technology. “It’s very easy to establish a lot of bureaus, mainly because we don’t need very expensive equipment to shoot, edit and send back to home base,” Roth says.

Each reporter has his or her own JVC 650 camcorder, which Roth calls “a live truck in a camera.” The camera is capable of streaming live shots via Wi-Fi.

For packaged reports, they have laptop computers, which they can use to edit stories and send them to the station at Wi-Fi hot spots.

The reporters are also outfittted with iPhones with a Vericorder app that allows them to shoot, edit and send stories using only the device, Roth says.

Using the unobtrusive smartphone allow one reporter to get video from inside an apartment complex that houses homeless teens, Roth says. “If a camera crew had shown up, they would never have let us do it.”

The reporters are learning to experiment with their tiny cameras. Sentendrey shot footage of a skateboarding competition using his iPhone — while riding a skateboard himself. Kanady shot pictures of a major highway-widening project by attaching a GoPro to the dashboard of her car.

The station is relying heavily on the Internet and cell networks to gather video. It does not own a microwave truck, and doesn’t plan to get one.

In addition to the JVC camcorders and iPhones, the stations use Dejero gear that can establish links via the cell or satellite, Roth says. The satellite dish is no bigger than the ones satellite TV subscribers have on their homes.

Adams says My Fox Carolinas News @10 is just the start of WJZY’s plans to create a viable alternative news outlet in Charlotte. A four-hour morning show is scheduled to launch this spring. Newscasts at 6 and 7 p.m. will likely debut this summer, she says.

And Adams says the station is determined to set itself apart from its competitors in hopes of attracting viewers that have become disenchanted with the conventional local news or given up on it altogether.

“This is not about just feeling like you have to do something different because you’re the last in,” she says, “It’s because you have the opportunity to do something different.”

Read other Air Check columns here. You can send suggestions for future Air Checks to Diana Marszalek at [email protected].


Comments (12)

Leave a Reply

kendra campbell says:

February 11, 2014 at 11:18 am

Kudos to WJZY, Charlotte. Local TV news not defined by crime, mayhem and constant weather hype! Hopefully they will get big fat ratings.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    February 11, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    They won’t. Look what happened in Atlanta and Birmingham 2 weeks ago when the storm hit without the “weather hype”. And considering the ratings from their first night started with a 1.7/3 and ended with a 0.7/1 – just the kind of performance you love and the audience hates.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    February 11, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    NWS using words to describe the storm in the South as “potentially historic” “crippling” and “historic”. The last exact quote from NWS “Confidence is increasing in an event of historical proportions. Prepare now for this potentially crippling event”. But I guess you and formergm think the NWS is full of Weather Hype and stations are idiots for playing along, lol!

alicia farmer says:

February 11, 2014 at 11:52 am

As a Charlotte market resident I am rooting for WJZY. You will never see more pathetic local TV newscasts than those produced by WSOC, WBTV and WCNC. It’s as if all three come from the same place – by zombies reacting to their police scanners. Any inclement weather is treated like a terrorist attack. News content is that pesky stuff in between commercials.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    February 11, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    Those who forget history (even as recent as 2 weeks ago) are bound to become former gms.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    February 11, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    One only needs to look at their website ( myfoxcarolina.com ) right now to see the BIG story in BIG FONTS dominating the page with the Headline “School Systems to Dismiss early Ahead of Winter Storms” and “Winter Storm Warning Issued” to see that everyone CURRENTLY in the business knows what is important.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    February 11, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    yep…no weather hype. Just look at the last line from the Chief Metrologist latest tweet (but then again I suspect some people here do not know what a tweet is): Rob Eicher @FOX46Rob Still believe 4-6″ total is on target for CLT. Most of that coming Wed PM. Must admit that is a conservative prediction.

Todd Keel says:

February 11, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Having bureau reporters live in the city they report from is not new…all of the stations in the Idaho Falls area have been doing it for a quarter of a century and I’m sure other stations also do it. It is a great way to connect with viewers .

loretta mahoney says:

February 11, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Technology is driving news now! It looks like WJZY is doing it right. No sat truck is a big cost savings – and who needs one anymore with cell service and WiFi? GoPro camera are the rage outside the news biz – and they should be inside the biz as well!

none none says:

February 11, 2014 at 4:26 pm

I wish them luck – last night the news started off with a 1.7 /3 it ended with a 0.7 /1.

Matthew Castonguay says:

February 11, 2014 at 4:27 pm

There are two separate things going on here…new tech/approaches for newsgathering & production, and secondly – a different approach presenting a program. It would be shocking if all of this were not a work in progress for quite some time, especially the latter part…but I think they’ve already made big strides in a short time (you can watch on their website if you’re out of market).

Vicki McRae says:

February 13, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Why not try something new? The current methods of news gathering are pretty staid and in need of a good kick. Besides, its the day of the “citizen-journalist” and WJZY is heading in that direction so we might as well embrace it.


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