Sunday, July 29, 2007

Part 4-WJW becomes FOX 8

1980's WJW-TV Logo

This Final part of the WJW-TV 8 History covers about the 1980's to around 2000..When WJW became established as a Fox Owned and operated station..

WJW Becomes FOX 8
Doug Adair: It was never quite the same for me when I got lured to Channel 3. At the time it was run by NBC out of New York; they had their own way of running a local news operation.

Wilma Smith [Anchor]: I used to watch this station as a child — never had a dream of working here. I was baby-sat by the TV. I was a latchkey child; my father worked one shift and I worked another shift. So I was between time reading books. I was a boring child! (laughs) When I first came home to Cleveland TV, I remember thinking, "I hope I don't embarrass my parents." I wanted to make them proud. People I went to school with would say, "Isn't that Wilma? I had algebra with her!"

Kevin Salyer: I grew up in Cleveland watching Channel 8 — Dick Goddard and Big Chuck — and always from the time I was 15 years old, I knew I wanted to work here. When I started, they hired me as a full-time tour guide. The General Manager, Bill Flynn, was fanatical about the station's role in the community. I did four tours a day...Boy Scout troops, Girl Scout troops, and you name it. Today I'm Vice President of Programming and Promotion...but even now when I see a yellow school bus, I react to it.

Dick Goddard: The basics of forecasting are still the same. But when I started in TV, I used chalk...I would chalk four hours a day. I almost had white lung disease by the time I was done. Then I went to Magic Marker in Philadelphia. You could tell which meteorologists used Magic Marker because their shirts all had black ink spots around the pockets. And when I started here at Channel 8, I painted the maps with acrylic paint, which drove the floor crew nuts because they had to clean 'em up every night.

Doug Adair: Goddard was the dearest friend. I lived through all the things he was going through. We played a lot of golf. We would go out for supper together. One time, he couldn't play golf because he was baby-sitting while his wife went bowling. So on the air, we presented him with "Bowling's Baby-sitter of the Year award."

Virgil Dominic: Dick came to me with an idea that we put a feature on the news about animals that were up for adoption. We talked it over and decided we'd try it...and I mean the audience went crazy. Here's Dick, who the audience loves anyway, with these puppies and kittens. Well, some time goes by and my boss, Bill Flynn, gets promoted to run our Detroit station and a new General Manager comes in...sees Dick with these animals and said, "Get rid of that!" I had to tell him, "No, you don't understand!"

Jim Prunty: In the early days, Neil Zurcher was a stringer. He'd send us news film from Amherst before he came aboard as a reporter.

Virgil Dominic: Neil Zurcher is a wonderful guy. When the oil crisis hit in the early '70s and there were long lines at gas stations, we thought about different things we should do. We got this idea for a feature called "One Tank Trip." Even though gas is in short supply, people still have to have recreation time; they can still travel. So Neil starts in on this feature where he visits interesting places that you can get to without using a lot of gasoline. He gets this Nash Rambler and goes to all these places and, over time, the feature became very popular. Well, you know what happens: the gas crisis ends. Me and my wisdom: I took the feature off the air. In no time, we got so many calls from the public — people were saying, "Where's One Tank Trip? We want it back!" So once again, the lesson learned is, you gotta listen to the audience.

Jim Doney: I love it here in Honolulu. I had been here many times while I did "Adventure Road" on WJW. I worked for 23 years here at KGMB, which is the CBS station in Honolulu. I was in charge of Community Affairs and then was the station's human resources manager. I retired in October of 1998.

Howard Hoffmann: When I retired on October 15, 1986, George Forbes, who headed up the City Council, and Mercedes Cotner, the recorder clerk for years, put me in the official city record as the TV voice of Cleveland for 37 years.

Doug Adair: I have been very lucky in my career. I stayed long enough in this business to get gray hair. When I retired in Columbus, I was by 30 years the oldest person in the newsroom. Today I spend winters in Florida. And one of the worst nightmares I have is that someone will offer me an opportunity to go back on the air, I accept it, and then I can't find my contact lenses or I can't find the studio. I guess that's proof that I need to concentrate on enjoying retirement, doing charitable things and working on my golf game.

Jackie Golnick: Of course, we call 'em the good old days. It was harder because we had to do everything by hand. But in a way, it was more fun. Today you've got computers and fax machines and everything is last minute. When I started here in 1963, you got copy through the mail. Now when the computer goes down you're sunk!

Kevin Salyer: We went from being owned by this family company to being owned by a conglomerate when George Gillette's company bought the Storer stations. Gillette came in for the dog and pony show and was very candid with us; he promised to support us, and when one of the employees asked a question he couldn't answer, he would do a tap dance. He was very dynamic.

Mike Renda [General Manager]: I worked here in sales management for 11 years in the 1980s when were CBS — a dominant CBS station. We carried Donahue and CBS News, all the CBS shows. We were one of the strongest CBS stations in the country. I left during the period when George Gillette bought the station. A friend of mine had gone down to the NBC station in Cincinnati and asked me to take over and build the sales department. Leaving WJW meant taking a huge chance, personally, but I had gone about as far here as I could and I wound up learning a lot about people and management down there.

Kevin Salyer: Gillette did the whole junk bond thing — remember this was a time when junk bonds were being used everywhere in business. And Gillette's business got to the point where he had to sell out. Then I got a call at home one Sunday night from Virgil Dominic that FOX was buying us. [The station joined FOX on September 3, 1994. FOX bought the station January 22, 1997.]

Mike Renda: I came back to FOX 8 for the switchover to FOX. The switch from CBS was like closing one book and opening another one. A lot of people thought we'd never be #1 again...but we're on our way.

Kevin Salyer: We had been CBS for all those years and we were stunned. But you know, FOX coming in changed the course of television history. It really did. The big three networks became the big four networks.

Mike Renda: Actually a lot has changed that nobody ever saw coming. During my first tour here, there were really only the three big channels fighting for the audience. All the cable channels, digital television, convergence of the Internet and television have come along since...and our platform has changed. I'm glad we have the FOX brand to help us.

Kevin Salyer: FOX signed up the NFL. And they became such a powerful brand name. I mean, people know what FOX is the same way they know what Coca-Cola is. It's cutting's the willingness to take chances. Of all the networks, FOX has done the best job of branding.

Tim Taylor [Anchor]: It's quite different under FOX. It's been a real transition, but one that I think has left us on the cutting edge because we're combining the integrity and experience of the old team with the cutting edge nuances of FOX, so we have the best of both worlds. We're attracting a younger audience, but one that we can still identify with because we've grown up with them. Now their kids can remember, I remember when I was a little kid, my parents watching these people. It's an interesting marriage and one that leaves us in a very solid position.

Mike Renda: Our goal is to be your preferred supplier. Over time, people are going to have more and more say in what they see on TV...and we want to be a dominant choice. We'll do it with local news...and I think already, when you say "FOX 8 News," people know what it is.

Copyright © 2000 New World Communications of Ohio, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

WJW-TV has remained a strong station under Fox..With recent moves such as the retirements of Chuck Schodowski and Tim Taylor, and the introduction of a new news set as well as the announced sale of the station, WJW-TV will be entering yet another new era as we head into 2008...Again thanks to Richard Warner for contributing the webpages..This history needs to be preserved..

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