Updated 5:10pm with much more info and a look at the studio. UTICA -- When local news returns to ABC affiliate WUTR following an eight-year hiatus, it'll be making a big splash. Station management today revealed that those newscasts -- on WUTR (Channel 20) and on Fox 33 (WFXV) -- will air in high-definition when they debut on September 12. And viewers will see a familiar face occupying one of the seats at the anchor desk.
When Nexstar first announced plans to revive the old WUTR news operation this spring, observers on various online forums wondered whether the announced $1 Million investment would be enough to cover the costs of launching in HD.
Those speculations were put to rest today with a press release from Nexstar, announcing that "Eyewitness News" will be offered "in full HD" when the newscasts launch on September 12. That'll make the cluster the first to go "all HD" in Utica; currently, longtime market leader WKTV continues to broadcast local news in standard definition, and hasn't (yet) announced any plans to upgrade. Time Warner Cable's YNN offers an HD channel, but programming is still produced in SD, with logos filling the sides of the screen.
As previously reported here, newscasts will air on WUTR at 6:00pm and 11:00pm, as well as on WFXV at 10:00pm. MyNetwork affiliate WPNY-LP will rebroadcast WUTR's 6:00pm newscasts every weeknight at 7:00pm.
Inside today's press release, Fox 33 VP/GM Stephen P. Merren said, "Launching EYEWITNESS NEWS in crystal clear High Definition further defines our commitment to viewers and advertisers in Central New York. We will offer new choices to viewers for their local news, and several 'firsts' in this community in terms of access to local developments."
The release says "significant upgrades" to the studio and control room have been undertaken, and construction should be completed any day now. We've heard unconfirmed reports that the employees have already been doing "dry runs."
Just this past weekend, we first heard a rumor that at least one WKTV staffer had left the NBC affiliate to join the new operation across the street (literally, the two stations are across the street from one another). Today's press release confirms the rumor, and adds a little more detail. The primary members of the Eyewitness News team include:
Joe Parker as News Director and co-anchor of WUTR EYEWITNESS NEWS at 6:00 pm and 11:00 pm. In his years of journalism, Mr. Parker has served as a News Director, Assistant News Director and Anchor in several markets across the country.
Caroline Gable as co-anchor of WUTR EYEWITNESS NEWS at 6:00 pm and 11:00 pm and FOX 33 EYEWITNESS NEWS at 10:00 pm. Ms. Gable calls Utica home where she was a former reporter and part-time anchor at WKTV in Utica.
Jeff Matthews as Chief Meteorologist for EYEWITNESS NEWS. Mr. Matthews brings multiple years of experience to meteorology and broadcasting and holds the seal of approval from both the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and the National Weather Association (NWA).
By pure chance of seeing someone on Facebook "like" her page, we also found Gable has a new WUTR Facebook page. We also found Jeff Matthews also has a Facebook page running, and his page had links to similar pages for several other staffers not mentioned in the press release. Here are those additional names, in no particular order:
From the looks of their photos and status updates, it appears everyone started working on August 1st, and they've been spending their first couple of weeks training on new equipment, visting various major landmarks and introducing themselves to various newsmakers around the area.