Category Archives: Broadcasting Industry News

The Next National News Network Could be Based in Michigan

First, they launched a 24/7 local news channel covering northern Michigan. Then, they were hired to help build another news network airing on 5 TV stations in Nebraska. Now, the team behind MI News 26 hopes to take their model national with the launch of LNN – billed as a 24/7 news channel without pundits, panels or shout shows, and they’ve taken to crowdsourcing site Kickstarter to do so.

Eric Wotila

“In recent years, we’ve heard more and more complaints about existing 24/7 national news channels,” explained Eric Wotila, Owner of MI News 26 and the driving force behind LNN.

“At the same time, we’ve received constant compliments about the straight-to the-facts, no-nonsense and commentary-free local news coverage we provide on MI News 26. So, we thought, ‘Why not take this model national?’”

For the MI News 26 team, the answer to that question was funding. Launching a national network isn’t cheap, but the team hopes a successful crowdfunding campaign will allow the launch of LNN – or the “Local News Network” – from the existing MI News 26 studio in Cadillac, creating new jobs locally in order to launch the national network.

“Eventually, we want to open bureaus across the country,” explained Wotila, “but at launch, we expect that every single job created by LNN will be based right here in Cadillac, and that’s part of the reason we’re reaching out to Michigan for support of our Kickstarter campaign.”

That campaign aims to raise $100,000 – but there’s less than 50 days to do so, and funding is all-or-nothing. If the campaign succeeds, that money will be used to pay for the new equipment and staff that will be necessary to handle the workload of national broadcasts. If the team behind the new startup doesn’t reach their fundraising goal by mid-November, no pledges will be collected, but the network won’t launch, either.

“It’s a no-risk way for people who support the idea of a news channel free of commentary and opinion to bring the idea to life,” explained Wotila.

Anybody contributing to the crowdfunding campaign for the startup will receive one of several rewards, ranging from their name in the national networks’ credits for several months to their name in the title of a show – but, in the eyes of LNN’s founder, the true reward is access to straight, opinion-free news.

“If people support this project – we truly believe we can bring credibility back to 24-hour national news.”

To support the LNN Kickstarter campaign, you can visit www.YourLNN.com or https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ericwotila/lnn-a-news-channel-without-pundits-panels-or-shout

Al Blinke Announces Retirement

Al Blinke

Al Blinke, Vice-President and General Manager of WNEM-TV (Saginaw) has announced that he will retire, following a 40-year career in television and radio broadcasting.

Blinke told TVNewscheck: “The last 13 years at WNEM TV 5 have been some of the most rewarding of my career. I’ve been blessed to oversee a great station through drastic changes in technology that reshaped the business I grew up in—all while being the market leader in ratings.  Time has flown by, but that’s what happens when you have the opportunity to work with some of the best people in the business. WNEM is the No. 1 station for news and digital because of the amazing staff I’ve had the honor to work with over the years, and I will miss all of them.”

Blinke has led WNEM for the past 13 years.  He started his career in radio as a reporter, writer and producer at WWJ-AM (Detroit). He moved into television as an assignment editor at WJBK-TV (Detroit), then as an assistant news director and assignment manager at WTNH-TV (New Haven, Conn).

He went on to became news director at WPXI-TV (Pittsburgh), and later took on the same role at WSB-TV (Atlanta). He was then a domestic television consultant for Frank N. Magid Associates before returning to news directing at the KDKA-WNPA duopoly in Pittsburgh for three years.

Blinke is a member of the MAB Board of Directors and has served on the board for many years.

No date has been announced yet, but a nationwide search is underway for his replacement.

Regular Television Viewing Up by an Hour

A new study by JD Power shows that while consumers are satisfied with over-the-top streaming TV services compared with traditional cable TV offerings, they also are spending nearly an hour more a week watching regularly scheduled programming than they did two years ago.

The research also found that destination TV viewing has reached a three-year high. Despite growing satisfaction with streaming video services and widespread use of DVR and video on-demand, JD Power discovered that the number of hours spent watching regularly scheduled television programs has increased by nearly an hour between 2015 and 2017.

In a typical week, households have spent an average of 17.4 hours watching regularly scheduled programming this year, up from 16.6 in 2015. Reinforcing this trend, the survey also found that the percentage of customers planning to cut the cord on pay-TV during the next 12 months has declined to 8 percent from 9 percent in 2016.

Read more here.

Cumulus Re-Signs Robby Bridges in Detroit

Robby Bridges

Cumulus Media has announced that it has re-signed Robby Bridges as Director of FM Programming in Detroit.  Bridges oversees WDRQ-FM, WDVD-FM, Classic Country WDRQ-HD2 and is also heard afternoons on WDVD.

Cumulus/Detroit Operations Manager Mike Wheeler told All Access, “Robby is an ideal programming partner. He lives and breathes these radio stations, and that love shows in what comes out of the speakers and in the quality of the team he’s built.”

Bridges said, “These are very special radio stations powered by a very special team of people! It’s kind of crazy to think that this spring, I will mark four years in Detroit, ten with Cumulus and 25 in radio.  What a journey!”

Bar Retires from WXYZ-TV

Glenn Bar

Glenn Bar, Senior Executive Producer at WXYZ-TV (Detroit) has retired.  Bar joined the station in 1985 as an intern and, for the next three decades, steadily rose through the ranks, from production assistant to writer, then producer and, in 2003, he was named Assistant News Director.

In 2010, Bar launched the station’s ambitious project Detroit 2020, a 10-year initiative designed to confront the challenges facing Detroit and shine light on the city’s successes.

In addition to producing hundreds of Detroit 2020 stories, Bar spearheaded long-form pieces, half-hour specials and live town halls that shed light on struggling neighborhoods, race relations and the city’s historic bankruptcy.

Bar is a 1986 graduate from Michigan State University.  His last day at the station was September 29.

Ken Evans Joins WHTS-FM

Ken Evans

Former WSNX-FM (Grand Rapids)  morning host Ken Evans has joined Cumulus Media’s WHTS-FM (Grand Rapids)  as Morning Show co-host.  Evans joins current co-host Rachael Gray.

Jeff Cartwright, Vice President/Market Manager, Cumulus Media-Grand Rapids/Muskegon, MI, said: “We are excited at the direction 105.3 Hot FM will take with Ken now in our Cumulus Grand Rapids family. It’s going to be a lot of fun hearing the new evolution of the Hot FM Morning Show with Ken joining Rachael in the morning.”

Lori Bennett, Operations Manager, Cumulus Media-Grand Rapids/Muskegon, MI, said: “Ken has incredible insight into the lifestyle of the local audience. His wickedly perceptive sense of humor, paired with Rachael’s equally excellent market heritage and genuine, engaging personality will make this ‘live and local’ radio show a must-hear in West Michigan!”

Evans said: “I can’t wait to talk to the West Michigan audience once again here at my new home on Grand Rapids’ 105-3 Hot FM. They have a stellar local management team focused on great content for West Michigan and serving the local audience. It would have been a mistake to pass up an opportunity to work with Rachael Gray, one of the market’s top talents!

Gary Fries Passes

Gary Fries

Following a battle with cancer, former RAB CEO Gary Fries passed away September 22 at the age of 76.

“It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of our friend and colleague, Gary Fries,” said RAB president and CEO, Erica Farber, in a statement. “Gary and I partnered together on many initiatives and I always found a welcoming partner and friend.”

Fries served as head of the RAB for 14 years.

During his tenure, “the RAB increased its membership and introduced and advanced numerous sales training programs. He spearheaded radio to the forefront in media accountability, playing a dominant role in the development of RAEL working with advertisers, agencies and broadcasters to further the industry’s understanding of how radio advertising works. He also encouraged radio to embrace electronic data interchange, urging the industry to adopt electronic invoicing,” Farber said.

Fries spent his entire career in radio—and more than a half-century working in the industry. He held a part-time sales job at Stuart Broadcasting’s KFOR Radio in Lincoln, Neb.,  while still in college. Before he was 25, Fries had propelled himself into radio management at KRGI Grand Island, NE.

Other executive stops include president/COO of Transtar Radio Network, president of Unistar Radio Networks, president/COO of Sunbelt Communications’ Radio Division, VP of ITC Communications and VP of Multimedia Broadcasting.

Up until his death, Fries retained the title of president emeritus and held a seat on the RAB board of directors.  Fries also served as Arbitron’s liaison to small markets, where he helped lead efforts to update and improve its radio diary service. He also served as board chairman of the Bayliss Foundation. In 2006, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois Broadcasters Association. Fries had been living in Phoenix.

Jamie Sherrod Joins WNEM-TV

Jamie Sherrod

Jamie Sherrod has joined WNEM-TV (Saginaw) as News Anchor and Reporter. Originally from the Detroit area, Sherrod began her career at WBKB-TV in Alpena, where she served in multiple roles from shooting, producing, reporting and anchoring.

Sherrod is a graduate of the University of Michigan- Flint where she studied Communications with a focus in Media Studies and Political Science and interned with WJBK-TV in Detroit while attending the university.

Sherrod joined WNEM on September 18.

Friends Remember Glenn Haege

Glenn Haege at his 2011 induction into the Michigan Broadcasting Hall of Fame. 

Many visitors turned out from 12 to 8 p.m. on Sunday at E. J. Mandziuk & Son Funeral Home in Sterling Heights to pay their repects to  Glenn Haege, America’s Master Handyman® and host of “The Handyman Show with Glenn Haege” on Detroit radio for 34 years.

Haege passed away September 11, 2017 after a short battle with cancer. He was 70.

“Glenn was like everybody’s favorite uncle, brother or father,” Mike Kearns of Kearns Brothers in Dearborn and Plymouth told The Detroit News in a story published Sunday. “He was a warm and caring, intelligent man who had a certain connectivity with his listeners.”

Haege, a Detroit radio icon, started his broadcast career on WXYT-AM 1270 in 1983 and for the past 11 years he was heard weekends on NewsTalk 760 WJR-AM. His radio show was also nationally syndicated in 135 radio markets. It is estimated that he had answered more than 85,000 home improvement questions during his time on the air.

For 22 years he was also a Detroit News columnist writing a weekly feature on home improvement. He authored 11 books on the subject. Haege was inducted into the Michigan Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2011.

Glenn Haege

“Whether through his Detroit News columns, many books, home show appearances or his long running ‘Handyman Show’ on WJR, chances are, you too were helped out of a household bind through his incredible knowledge and limitless contacts who could help you fix the seemingly unfixable,” wrote Paul W. Smith, host of The Paul W. Smith Show on WJR-AM, in a Sunday column in The Detroit News. “Glenn’s long time producer, Rob David, the man behind the ‘clear and concise, how to advice’ reminded me of many ‘Glenn-isms.’

“My two favorites, ‘The most important tool in your toolbox is your checkbook,’ and, when it comes to water in the basement, ‘Water always wins.’”

A Warren, Michigan native, Haege attended Northern Michigan University and then worked for the Sherwin Williams Paint Company and for ACO Hardware prior to launching his award-winning radio career. He is survived by his mother, Marion; sister, Sharon; brother, Robert; wife, Barbara; their children Eric and Heather; and six grandchildren.

A private memorial service is planned for family. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity.

 

WSMH-TV Presents Annual Fall Festival

On September 17, WSMH-TV (Flint) presented its 13th annual Fall Festival at Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center.

The free family event, which featured the Pink Panther and superheroes to the thrill of BMX racing as well as an acre of vendor and community service organizations. The station declared it a huge success.

For thousands of mid-Michigan families, it was strictly a day of free family fun with something for the kids, beginning with a visit to our “Kids Click,” an area set aside just for kids.

Named after the block of morning cartoons on the station, the younger set could meet their favorite cartoon character, color and get their faces painted.

And while the kids were having fun, there was plenty to keep the adults engaged too.

The fall fest was also a chance for our anchors, reporters and staff members to spend some quality time getting to know their viewers.