TV news students at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism have a cool new tool on which to regularly ply their nascent trade: An actual TV station.
The University of Georgia purchased Toccoa-based WNEG-TV months ago. In November, it began doing its newscasts from a new studio at Grady. Monday, it added an all-student, Athens-oriented newscast to the program schedule. The cable-only newscast once known as “NewsSource 15” is now “UGA NewsSource.” It’s produced live-to-tape at 5pm weekdays, and is transmitted over actual airwaves at 7:30pm following WNEG’s regular local half-hour newscast (which airs at 6 and repeats at 7).
Now, the entire TV station runs from the Grady College. “The last show [from Toccoa], fittingly, was the Billy Dilworth show,” says General Manager Michael Castengera. (Dilworth hosted a local country music variety show on WNEG for a bunch of years. Regrettably, a search of Youtube yields none of Dilworth’s work.)
WNEG has three full-time reporters who function as one-woman bands. It also has full-time anchor talent including Ray Metoyer, late of WGCL (its news director is ex-WSB radio reporter Jeff Dantre). The full time staff provide content for the 6/7pm news; the station will use UGA students to supplement that content. Students will fully drive the “UGA NewsSource” half hour.
Castengera agreed to answer a few questions for LAF.
– How much of your news content will be day-of, and how much will be project based?
Most of the news will be day-of, developing news stories just like any other other news operation. We will be working on features and ‘sweeps specials.’ A group of graduate students recently produced a series of reports dealing with how locally grown food affects health. It was called “harvesting health.”
What’s your live remote capability?
We have a microwave truck with fairly significant coverage range. In addition, we have a unique system of live capable positions spread around the campus, using the backhaul of the local cable service.
How rare is it for universities to have broadcast TV stations at their disposal?
There are only three university-owned commercial television stations in the country — us at WNEG, WVUA at the University of Alabama and KOMU at the University of Missouri. There are a number of universities that have cable-delivered newscasts and a couple, like the University of Florida, that have a news relationship with their local PBS station.
NewsSource 15 was a cable newscast. Why is it an upgrade to put it on a TV station?
We’ve always pushed the idea at Grady that all material needs to be a professional standard. That applied when it was a cable only newscast and maybe even more so now that it is a over-the-air TVv station. The cable channel ‘only’ reached about 60,000 households. The TV station has the potential of reaching seven or eight times that number, upwards of 1.2 million viewers, from Athens to Gainesville to Toccoa as well as parts of South Carolina. That makes it even more “real” for the students [and for the news directors who might hire them after they graduate]. The cable only was distributed in about three counties.
Given the contraction of traditional media, does it make sense to devote this resource to TV news?
The intent all along was for the content delivery to be agnostic, or if you prefer, multi-platform. Part of it is because of the reality of what you say, that there is a movement to new media, and we as a commercial station have to do that, and students have to learn that. But at the same time, television will remain a core component of that delivery system. As you probably know, even with all the hoopla about new media, television is still far and away the dominant media across all demographics. TV viewing in fact is up year to year. So it will remain a strong component for the foreseeable future.