There are more than 200 television “markets” in this country. Ranked by size, New York City is #1, as it is in a lot of things. Glendive, Montana holds down the bottom spot at #210, and Marquette comes in at #180.
180 is pretty deep in the lineup to find a market with three stations that air original, live, local newscasts. But that’s what we have here.
There’s the venerable TV6 and their sister station Fox UP, WJMN-TV, and ABC 10, along with their partner station, CW5 UP. And for good measure, we can add NMU’s Public Eye News to the list.
It takes a lot of ad revenue to keep TV news departments rolling. And when those limited dollars are being split three ways, it makes for a very competitive scene, even… especially, in a small market like ours. If you want to know how your favorite station is doing, and you don’t subscribe to Nielsen, count the ads in their news programs. And don’t include the public service announcements. They’re just filler for unsold time. It’s mostly local advertising that pays the bills.
It’s been a couple months since the shakeup at TV6. Karl Bohnak now has a weekly feature in the Mining Journal, Sarah Blakely works for State Rep. Greg Markkanen, Elyse Chengery has landed an anchor role at a Fort Myers, Florida station, and last we heard, Shawn Householder had returned to his roots in West Virginia and, due to allegations about some inappropriate behavior at work, is still persona non grata around here.
A couple fresh faces have shown up on TV6, including new late news anchor Cody Boyer. So it seems, after the unexpected departures, the rebuild is underway.
Jennifer Perez was elevated to Chief Meteorologist after the controversial exit of Bohnak, and though she was a news reporter during her first run at TV6, apparently doing the weather was always her goal.
“I started off as a news reporter to get my foot in the door. While working in news, I continued my education towards being a scientist. Severe weather is also to blame for my passion for meteorology.”
She grew up in Florida, where they also have “severe weather,” but she has grown to love the U.P. Though, unlike her predecessor, she keeps her weather reports largely free of the deep science stuff, if you want more, she has an in-depth educational series called “What’s Up With The Weather” which can be found at the TV6 website.
We were a little surprised when she kept her slot on the TV6 Morning News rather than take over the evening shows, but she likes the AM team and thinks the early reports are valuable in getting people prepared for the day ahead. “Travel in the U.P. can be treacherous in the mornings, especially in the wintertime.” Point well-taken.
News Director Andrew LaCombe is understandably happy to have an experienced reporter ready to guide the weather department. “She brings leadership to our weather team, and she’s a great mentor for our new meteorologists.”
Otherwise, Steve Asplund is still working the news desk, probably at least until the new folks settle in. It’s likely that his retirement is within sight, but being the TV6 lifer he is, he probably won’t leave until LaCombe has the new regime in place.
Next up in the local news biz is WJMN-TV, the long-standing CBS affiliate with ownership and oversight coming out of Green Bay. It was just about eight years ago when they joined the fray with live broadcasts at six and eleven.
Former TV6 anchor Cynthia Thompson, since retired, gave them instant credibility, and a flashy new set helped set the tone for a good first impression
Currently holding down the home front are experienced weatherman Tom Kippen, Rebecca Bartelme with the news, and local guy Jake Durant with sports. (Pictured at top of page.)
They’re all capable and likable, and even more important… they’re starting to accrue some veteran cred. There’s nothing like staff stability to help make your news team more welcome… in more homes.
New reporters include Haley Schoengart and Tor Thorne. Like the other stations in our small market, pay for newbies is usually pretty modest, but for many it’s just a stepping stone, unless they happen to fall in love with the lifestyle and are willing to sacrifice a little bread for, what… venison and a pasty?
There’s only so much hard news around here… thank goodness, so WJMN has worked to supplement the live casts with special programs like; “A Salute to Veterans on Veterans Day,” “Remarkable Women of Upper Michigan,” “Green UP” and in October, they produced a one-hour special, “What Every Family Needs to Know about Substance Misuse.”
According to News Director Ben Raymond, they’ve recently upgraded the news delivery on their website, and with other tech bells and whistles like live remote capabilities, they’re pretty much competing on a level playing field with the rest of the market.
And then there’s ABC 10. In a previous post here three years ago, the story was that they were working without a news director. Well, local news veteran Lisa Bowers has solidified that position. With a strong journalism background and plenty of local knowledge, she’s well-suited to lead the ABC 10 news team. She also shares anchor desk duties with Neydja Petithomme and newcomer Tone Drew. (That’s pronounced “Tony.” You’re on your own with Neydja Petithomme.)
If you’ve been around here long enough, you might remember the early days of ABC 10. Originally operating out of Calumet, ownership decided to make the move to Marquette in 2001. With a new studio in the old Marquette Mall, they kicked off their inaugural 6 o’clock newscast, not with a bang, but with a bust.
About halfway through their discombobulated first show, the embarrassed anchor admitted they weren’t ready, so they pulled the plug and went to black. Or a test pattern. Hard to remember. Either way, not a great start, but at least you can only go up from there.
They’ve come a long way since then, now with efficient live newscasts daily at six and eleven and a half-hour morning show. With fewer resources, yet still battling the big boys for market share and ad dollars, they frequently rely on outsourced stories to supplement their local reporting. You do what you gotta do.
With a commitment to their brand as a “hometown station,” they run a lot of community interest features like; “Art of the Week,” “Pet of the Week” “Community Spotlight,” and “Ask a Cop.” Not a bad way to work your way into local living rooms.
They’re particularly proud of their coverage of local sports. According to Bowers, “We want to be a station that covers hometown sports like no other station in the area.” Local non-profits have also benefited from their commitment to help promote community oriented agencies and projects.
And finally, there’s Northern’s Public Eye News. This student produced program has been around since at least the mid-70’s, with many familiar faces on our commercial stations having gotten their start there, including program advisor Mike Settles as well as the aforementioned Cody Boyer.
The 15-minute show airs weekdays at 4 o’clock during the fall and winter semesters. According to Settles, it’s great training ground for students hoping to work in the industry. “It’s real-world professional experience that puts them a step ahead.” Students produce the newscast… they direct, handle graphics, audio, camera and run the floor. What a great way to learn the profession!
And finally, there’s this… Aristotle suggested that the only way to avoid criticism is to do nothing. Unlike most jobs, these TV gigs are performed in the public square, subject to ratings and rantings and the ever-watchful eye of the consumer, and that’s something. Something we need to be careful with, because critic is the easiest job in the world.
So kudos to the local flat screen folks. Your commitment to compete in a very ambitious market is respected and appreciated. News at 11.