WJAL to offer local broadcast

August 14, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Beginning next month, Tri-State area residents will have a second local television news source.

WJAL, Channel 68, in Chambersburg, Pa., plans to launch a 6 p.m. news broadcast on Sept. 14.

The station is one of four affiliates that have signed on to the new Mountain News Network, a Charleston, W.Va.-based operation that will provide state and national news to complement local stories.

"We will be an alternative," said Al Arz, executive producer/news director at the station, which has a market of 340,000 households from Chambersburg to Winchester, Va.

The broadcast will consist of four segments, the first of which will include a lead local story, a local hard news story and a local feature.


Anchors in Charleston will provide West Virginia state and regional news during the second segment.

The third segment will feature weather for the Eastern Panhandle and national and local sports.

The final segment will include a second local story and a wrap-up.

Arz said he hopes to add a 30-minute broadcast at 10 p.m. in November and hire additional reporters.

He said he will start with three reporters who will gather news in Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania, Washington County in Maryland and West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle.

At first, Arz said his focus will be on Franklin and Fulton counties, since that is where the station is located. He said Pennsylvania provides a better opportunity to crack into the local market since NBC-25 has a strong presence in Washington County.

"We want to walk before we run," he said. "It doesn't make a lot of sense to go directly after Washington County."

The Mountain News Network has affiliates in Clarksburg and Wheeling, W.Va., and Ashland, Ky., and is looking for more, said company President Tim Sharp.

Sharp said statewide news coverage sets the network apart from other local competitors.

"In a way, it's really a different product," he said.

WJAL is ending its affiliation with the WB network and will be independent, Arz said.

He said his station's emphasis on family-oriented fare did not always jibe with WB programming.

"We're not really upset in any way," he said.

The news program will be the first competition for NBC-25 since a news program at WYVN-TV in Martinsburg, W.Va., ceased broadcasting in 1994.

NBC-25 News Director Glen Fortinberry said the competition will give the area the feel of a major television market.

"I welcome it personally, as a journalist, because it will keep us sharper. It's always good to have competition," Fortinberry said.

Staff writer Guy Fletcher contributed to this story.

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