On Friday, WHAS in Louisville gave viewers a flashback to a 1976 ‘Action 11’ newscast that included a report on the first day of school, a year into court ordered busing between black and white school districts, a weather report featuring flip chart maps rather than computer-generated ones, and a glimpse of a sign advertising 54-cent gasoline.
The ‘Friday Flashbacks’ feature, with pictures and sound from 59 years of station history, will continue every Friday through the month of November and will also include clips from WHAS-produced shows of the past such as ‘Hay Loft Hoedown.’ In addition to showing clips on air, WHAS is making the full programs available at WHAS11.com.
“From the music to the clothing to the names you remember, we flashback to the WHAS archives,” WHAS’s Doug Proffitt said in his on-air introduction. He took on the job of “blowing the dust off” the film and tapes in the basement that had been sitting, mostly unused, for years.
The idea and much of the archival research came from Chief Photojournalist Dan Chesser, who became fascinated by the wealth of old footage in the basement. “I spent more time looking at old tape than I did doing my job,” he said. In addition to the editorial content, the old newscasts
“It’s kind of an easy thing to do that shows the history of the station and the legacy of the station,” said News Director Genie Garner. The project was planned both as an on-air feature and as something that would play well on the web, since the snippets of programming can entice viewers to see the longer video segments available on the web.
In addition to showing the station’s coverage of some historic events, the flashbacks give viewers a chance to see what some longstanding members of the news team looked like before they had gray hair. If the feature proves popular, she said it may continue beyond the end of the month or possibly be revived for February sweeps.
Proffitt said the idea of creating features around footage from the archives had been kicking around the station for years, but Garner was the first news director to take it seriously. WXYZ in Detroit is doing something similar in conjunction with its 60th anniversary, he noted, but WHAS is doing it just for fun.
“I wanted to do it because I grew up watching this stuff,” Proffitt said. “For the first one, we really wanted to give the full flavor of an era, so we made sure to leave the news open intact, and we showed all these personalities we remembered who were very popular at the time.”
In addition to getting emails on the segment, Proffitt said he found himself stopped in the supermarket by people wanting to tell him how much they liked it.
The next flashback report will feature coverage of a 1978 blizzard that paralyzed the city, and Proffitt is also building one around the station’s 1968 “Open City” hidden camera expose of police corruption. Other gems in the archives include a clip of the station sports director interviewing Muhammad Ali before he was famous and still known as Cassius Clay.