As usually happens when we don't update for a few days, items are piling up in the OMW Warehouse. That's odd, since we didn't know we actually owned a warehouse...
CHOPPER DOWN: No, that's not a literal use of the phrase, thank goodness.
But in the Cleveland TV news wars, OMW hears that yet another station has decided to abandon its aerial news firepower...leaving the sighting of a TV news helicopter as a rare event in Northeast Ohio.
The latest grounding is of Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8's SkyFox HD.
OMW hears that "Fox 8" did not renew its leasing contract for the helicopter, which expired last week, and that veteran helicopter reporter Pat Brady is out as well.
We don't know the business arrangement 1oo%, but we believe she's part of the company operating the helicopter for WJW. Of course, Ms. Brady was a long-time part of Baron Aviation, though we know if that extended to the current form of the company leasting out the copters.
We believe the exit of "SkyFox HD" leaves just one semi-regularly operating helicopter in Cleveland TV news - the one used by a certain alleged CBS affiliate broadcasting from the basement of the Reserve Square building in downtown Cleveland.
But even the Shaker Heights/Lorain TV Empire does not use its (presumably leased) copter on a regular basis these days. More often than not, its traffic reporter is sporting his jumpsuit standing on the station's news set in that aforementioned basement. Its use of the helicopter is described by most as "very occasional".
As for the market's other two major news operations, we believe both Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 and Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 have basically grounded their copters for some time.
All of this started due to economic conditions.
Helicopters can sometimes provide a decided advantage to a newsroom in covering breaking news.
We noted here that when Cleveland TV newsrooms were faced with two major breaking news stories at the exact same time, WKYC was able to use its helicopter to cover one of the stories from the air - a train derailment in Painesville - while devoting just about everyone in the building to cover the SuccessTech school shooting incident literally across the street from WKYC's 13th and Lakeside studios.
But when local newsrooms started laying off staff every other week, or announcing furloughs or other cuts, spending money on a helicopter took a very quick back seat.
And back when gas prices were nudging up into the stratosphere...well, fuel costs for one of those things make your own fill-ups look amazingly inexpensive. Even now, after prices nudged down into the "merely expensive" category, it's still costly to fuel a helicopter.
The days of helicopter-covered TV news seem assigned to history now, particularly in non-major markets....and in the future, stations are more likely to turn to viewer cell phone video to reach places they used to reach by air...
SPEAKING OF PAINESVILLE: It's been on for a while, but OMW hasn't yet noted it.
A new non-commercial radio station has become Northeast Ohio's second Spanish-language radio outlet.
WHWN/88.3 Painesville "La Nueva Mia" signed on a month or two back, with a transmitter site putting out 700 watts (Class A) on the southern edge of Painesville.
The station is owned by La Cadena Mundial Hispana, Inc. (Hispanic World Network), which itself is fully owned by one Nelson Cintron, Jr..
News junkies in the Cleveland area...no, your ears are not perking up for no reason.
Cintron (as far as we can determine from extensive research) is the former Cleveland City Council member who mounted a campaign to recall the man who replaced him as a ward councilman, as a result of a previous election.
But it's not the politics at play here. Cintron has a history in Spanish-language media in Cleveland, so he's no stranger to the work he's now doing out of WHWN.
He's apparently also showed up in a thread about the station on Radio-Info.com's Cleveland board.
WHWN puts out a pretty good signal.
On a recent trip in the I-271 corridor in Cuyahoga County, we got a listenable signal out of "La Nueva Mia" from just north of the 271/Chagrin interchange all the way to just past Ashtabula. (Well, "listenable" aside from the fact that your Primary Editorial Voice[tm] doesn't speak Spanish.)
But that's led to some grumbling by fans of the area's other station on 88.3, Baldwin-Wallace College's WBWC Berea "The Sting".
The presence of WHWN has effectively cut off any listenership that WBWC had east of I-77, and there's flutter affecting it from the new Painesville outlet as close to Berea as Brooklyn.
There are some questioning that, and we don't know enough about the engineering to tell if that's to be expected.
But it seems possible that any East Side coverage WBWC had before was basically by default, since there was no 88.3 operation in the eastern suburbs to interfere.
WBWC, as noted, is licensed to Berea...home of Baldwin-Wallace.
Its 4,000 watt class A signal is somewhat directional, in part to protect stations like first-adjacent WZIP/88.1 at the University of Akron.
A quick look at its FCC FM Service Area Map shows the primary WBWC signal area does not reach places like Parma, Seven Hills or Cleveland itself. But we're sure "The Sting" had listeners over there...before WHWN took to the airwaves.
Assuming all is up to snuff and legal with "La Nueva Mia"'s new operation, the only way WBWC would be able to regain those listeners is to move to a new frequency...and we're pretty sure that after all the shuffling in the non-comm band in Northeast Ohio over the years, there probably isn't much more room to move.
The other (legal) Spanish-language radio operation in Northeast Ohio is another non-comm, WNZN/89.1 Lorain, which rimshots its own city of license from a transmitter site in Berlin Heights...
AND A NOTE: We are starting to "go long" here, so we have some other items for later...including that long-promised story of the retirement of a long-time Cleveland TV personality, written by one of our regular readers...