A Tale of Three Cities

Illinois towns have their own profiles—and viewers

Why This Matters

WAND Gets Personal With Editorials

Count WAND among the handful of stations that offer general manager editorials on their air. Block Communications’ NBC affi liate features a one-minute editorial once a week. A board meets to discuss local topics that would make for a good entry, and then President/ General Manager Ron Pulera delivers the message to viewers.

“We’ve taken a page from print,” Pulera says. “Print has been doing it since the beginning of time.”

Once a staple of local television, general manager editorials are uncommon these days. Raycom, for one, demands that its general managers present substantive, fluff-free editorials on their stations, a task that most GMs seem to relish. Recent editorials saw Pulera question a rally that sought to preserve a budget but would also raise taxes, and offer a plea for civility among Tea Party members and their opponents. He signs off with, “I’m Ron Pulera and that’s my opinion,” and invites viewers to share theirs, too.

As Pulera says: “It’s another thing that sets us apart in the market.”—Michael Malone

Champaign-Springfield-Decatur is a classic tri-city market,
with three distinct communities that may not have quite as
much interest in a house fire or school-board meeting on the other side of the DMA. Champaign has the University
of Illinois, Springfield’s got the government,
and Decatur has a manufacturing base.

What Nielsen calls a market might not be seen
that way by residents. “It’s a very provincial market,”
says WICS-WICD General Manager Tim
Mathis. “People in the small cities might not see
themselves as the same community as people in
other parts.”

You might need a scorecard to keep the
various stations and owners straight. Sinclair
owns WICS-WICD, ABC affiliates based in
Springfield and Champaign, respectively, with
separate newscasts. GoCom Media’s WRSP
and WCCU offer a split Fox signal and separate
weather reports in the stations’ newscasts.
GoCom also owns CW outlet WBUI.

Nexstar owns a CBS-MyNetworkTV duopoly,
WCIA-WCFN; and Block Communications
has NBC affiliate WAND.

WICS-WICD and WCIA virtually tied in evening news households in February, while WCIA
won tight morning and late news races; its 8.0
household rating/17 share at 10 p.m. outgunned
WICS’ 7.0 rating/14 share. WICS is stronger in
the demo and was tops in 2009 revenue; its
$11.1 million topped WCIA’s $10.8 million, according
to BIA/Kelsey. WAND rode the Olympics
to prime and total-day household wins.

Mathis believes his ABC duo does the best
job of covering the vast market’s happenings.
The dual news operations share content when
appropriate, but each is focused on its home
sub-market. “Viewers can count on news that is
more relevant to them,” he says.

The market is a stepping stone for news talent.
WCIA-WCFN VP/General Manager Russ Hamilton
says the stations’ success comes from keeping
the popular personalities in Nexstar’s fold.
“A lot of talent comes and goes, but we succeed
because of all the talent here,” he points out.

Everyone’s pushing to be more local. GoCom’s
Foxes put on a 9 p.m. news that’s produced by
the Sinclair newsroom, and VP/General Manager
Peter O’Brien has localized the CW outlet with
“Cmore Weather,” which involves 30-second
weather updates every hour.

WAND, which launches a 4:30 p.m. news
the first week of June, seeks to own the weather
category with a local weather outlet on its
.2 channel. “With the top meteorological team
and state-of-the-art weather data, we’re branded
as the ones to tune to in severe weather,”
says President/General Manager
Ron Pulera. “That’s our calling,
and clearly the viewers identify
with it.”

General managers anticipate
a lively political season, with
governor and senator jobs up
for grabs. That will help offset
concerns about the economy. By
BIA’s count, while the market is
the No. 84 DMA, it’s only No. 96
in terms of revenue. All eyes are
on Springfield to see how many
more state jobs are eliminated.

But bad news from the capital is buffered by
the diversity of the tri-cities’ collective portfolio.
“We don’t have the high highs and low lows
other markets do,” O’Brien says. “We’re a little
more protected.”

E-mail comments to
and follow him on Twitter: @StationBiz