WSOC (Channel 9) unveils its new set on Sunday, a sleek, roomy newsplex that appears to be a not-too-distant cousin of Captain Kirks bridge aboard Starship Enterprise.
With the anchor desk at center, the set arcs, left to right, through various spaces for interviews, stand-ups and ultimately weather. At intervals, huge screens loom in the background waiting to be fed graphics or video.
A professional photographer shot the uptown skyline and the result is spread on a 7-by-21 foot mural. Frosted glass panes in front of the image, perpetually set to dusk, blur it softly to give depth in the cameras eye, says Craig Davenport, Channel 9s creative services director.
It is the first upgrade of the stations news set since tinkers were made in 2006 in preparation for high-definition broadcasts. No longer will there be a view of activity on the assignment desk behind the anchors; the set is built in a studio away from the newsroom.
Far roomier than the old space, the studio has been little used in recent years, but has a vivid history to long-time viewers. They may remember Jimmy Kilgos weekly dance show, patterned on American Bandstand, which originated there.
But the studios heyday Clown Carnival, which starred Brooks Lindsay as Joey the Clown. Between 1959 and 1970, when the show was canceled, an estimated 100,000 children were drawn to the studio to sing his song: Clap hands, here comes Joey.
Lucky kids would get a spin on Joeys carousel, which was built atop on old turntable originally installed to film car commercials.
In Charlotte broadcast history, Joey and Eyewitness News had an unusual bond. His show was wildly popular among children, and because TVs were already set to the channel, it provided a decade-long boost to the stations fledging evening newscast, targeted at grown-ups. Channel 9, which signed on in 1957, had long struggled to overcome Channel 3s dominance and Joeys antics were the key to opening the gate.
Lindsay died in 2003 and even the old turntable is long gone from the studio, which has been transformed to a modern set. Overhead, efficient LED lights illuminate the space. They tend to last for 100,000 hours, are 80 percent cheaper and dont roast the newscasters like hot incandescent lighting, Davenport says.
There will be some other changes beginning Sunday. New theme music for newscasts has been devised by the television branding company Gari Music and Channel 9s logo will be polished up using deeper golds and blues, says news director Julie Szulczewski.
Sitting in for the debut newscast at 6 p.m. Sunday will be weekday anchors Erica Bryant and Scott Wickersham with Steve Udelson on weather. Co-anchor Blair Miller will be reporting from the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Sports director Greg Bailey signed off Sunday on WCNC (Channel 36). Hes returning to his native Texas for a job at the ABC affiliate in Houston. Former WKQC (K 104.7) midday personality Robin Marshall moves to Dallas as production manager for Cumulus Sound Solutions. Erica Parkerson, former morning host at WRCM-FM (New Life 91.9), launches an inspirational website, butterflyhugs.org.
Tasnim Shamma starts at WFAE-FM (90.7) as reporter. Shamma has just finished the year-long Kroc fellowship at NPR, which included working in Washington as a web producer, blogger and reporter at NPRs digital news desk, then as a show producer at weekend All Things Considered. She also did a rotation at the Miami NPR affiliate. GSNs new show The American Bible Challenge, which airs 8 p.m. Thursdays on GSN, will feature a team from Charlotte: Team Gospel Geezers playing for Samaritans Purse are retired fire captain Roger Tench, real estate agent Bill Henderson and nuclear security specialist Chris Kidd.