Friday, May 30, 2008

Saying Goodbye, And Hello

Today, as scheduled, is the final day of the WKYC/3-produced "Akron/Canton News", which in recent times has been airing on (most of) Time Warner Cable's systems in the Akron/Canton area.

The last two newscasts will air at 6:30 PM and 10 PM on the company's "NEON" local programming channel in the Akron/Canton region (23, or 15 on the former Adelphia systems in Western Summit County).

The newscast moved from WVPX/23, the former ABC-turned-PAX TV affiliate long known for local TV news in the Akron/Canton area in its days as WAKC and WAKR-TV, to TWC's local programming channel - where it says its goodbyes tonight.

But as we learned Thursday, the change means more than the downsizing of the WKYC presence at Main and Market, in downtown Akron's United Building.

With the Akron/Canton operation transitioning to a "two to three person" bureau for the NBC affiliate mothership in Cleveland, that led to quick arrangements to take over the rest of the space.

A Rich Heldenfels story in Thursday's Akron Beacon Journal outlines the details.

As WKYC's presence in the building shrinks, the remaining space will be occupied by two other local media tenants, both based in Kent - PBS affiliate WNEO/45-WEAO/49, and Kent State University NPR outlet WKSU/89.7.

WKSU will use the new digs to establish a downtown Akron news presence, moving at least one regular reporter from Kent. The deal means the station won't have to build out a newsroom expansion in Kent, and gives closer access to Akron newsmakers. It'll also give the NPR outlet a sales, er, underwriting presence in downtown Akron.

"PBS 45 & 49" cite similar reasons for a downtown Akron "home", though it's less clear what the local PBS outlet will do there starting July 1st.

One thing mentioned is the eventual move of the weekly news magazine "NewsNight Akron" - or whatever it becomes - to the United Building. The ABJ story also mentions talks between WNEO/WEAO and WKSU about doing televised "Folk Alley" programming from the facility.

(And speaking of "closer access", the move makes it doubly convenient for WKYC Akron/Canton bureau chief Eric Mansfield, who will still work out of the building - he, of course, is now doubling as "NewsNight Akron's" host.)

The Heldenfels piece reveals some other things we didn't know - the WNEO/WEAO operation is moving away from the "PBS 45 & 49" branding, and will become known as "Western Reserve Public Media" later this year.

The move is apparently an effort to more "regionalize" 45/49's local image, and Heldenfels reports that "NewsNight Akron" will also change name and scope.

Still, whatever efforts "PBS 45 & 49" undertake, they won't replace the loss of Akron/Canton's only nightly TV newscast - again.

Those looking for coverage on this might also take a look at an article by WKYC's Frank Macek on his "Director's Cut" blog, where he echoes some of the reasons we've talked about for the demise of the WKYC-produced "Akron/Canton News"...aside from the obvious, the economy:

At first, we were encouraged that TWC was out to make the cable deal work. But after numerous channel shufflings to accommodate the Indians new network, SportsTime Ohio - the show was surrounded by public access and could not find a permanent home except between the community calendar and the blackness of empty tv space. It didn't work. It couldn't work.

Finally, after Channel 3 threatened to end the show because of bad advertising sales, TWC ramped up their efforts with a new sales staff. There was a big gathering of community leaders from both Akron and Canton who were committed to saving the show. We thought we were back on track, but the little engine that could, would find no more steam.

We should note that Mr. Macek clearly states that the article is his own opinion, and not necessarily that of WKYC, Gannett, et al.

As noted here, TWC has made some recent efforts to turn the local programming channel into more of a "real" channel.

But despite more slickly-produced local efforts, and reasonably high-profile programming like "More Sports And Les Levine", the heart and soul of TWC's "NEON" channel is still a public access channel...and the efforts to spruce up NEON's programming and image came far, far too late to help the "ACN" broadcast.

Over across the WKYC blogosphere, the face of the departing broadcast, anchor Eric Mansfield, has been blogging about its end from time to time. He weighs in on the WNEO/WEAO and WKSU developments and the last week of the show in this entry.

And we'll sure he'll have at least something to say tonight, when the virtual set background at Main and Market is shut down for the last time on cable channel 23, 15 or wherever you happen to watch the final "Akron/Canton News"...

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