YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – When we said Thursday was a big day at WKBN, we were not exaggerating.
WKBN debuted its new set on Thursday, making it the most technologically-advanced news station in the Mahoning Valley.
“It is going to be like having a baby, I think,” WKBN chief engineer Tom Zocolo said.
“A little nerve-wracking. It will be fun. It is like anything new and challenging. It is always very interesting and fun to get into it and start doing it. So we have been waiting, been practicing, getting ready. We are just kind of excited to get started and make it work,” WKBN director Jeff Necko said.
The initial design of the set began in March 2014 and continued through the summer and fall with design and construction. On-air talent has been preparing for the February launch of the set since December.
“I am so happy that our company has decided to roll out this concept and new technology in Youngstown. It’s a huge commitment. WKBN had always been a leader in new technology, going back to the early 1950s, as Youngstown’s first TV station, and that tradition is continuing today,” WKBN General Manager Dave Coy said. “I am confident the Valley’s news viewers will like what they see. It’s a demonstration of how committed our company is to news and to the future of WKBN-TV.”
The new set will include additional virtual and augmented reality pieces mixed in with real elements to create a layout that is both visually appealing and functional.
“We know our viewers are busy. We know in the morning, our viewers are getting their families ready to go out to work or school. We know in the evening, they are getting dinner together. We know they are busy and they have a lot of distractions, so we want to make it where a viewer can take a quick glance at the screen and understand what our story is about,” WKBN News Director Mitch Davis said.
The focus is on getting the information viewers want to them faster and clearer, especially when it comes to weather. That includes a deeper view of what the weather is going to do, not just in their area, but down to their street.
“We have literally taken weather and put it up front. They will be standing in front of our anchor desk. So every night, every morning, our viewers are going to see our weather team in front,” Davis said.
The set includes both virtual and augmented reality aspects, which means sometimes what viewers see is not really there. And WKBN can continue to improve.
“It is neat that you can change things because it is not locked. It is not there. It is not solid. So you can adapt it. You can change it. So that is what is really nice about the new set,” Necko said.
“We can do new things over the next three months, six months, year or two years. As you know with technology, a lot of the changes are limitless,” Coy said.
The WKBN staff has taken painstaking preparations to use these capabilities to their fullest extent.
It is a groundbreaking idea and something new not just to the Valley, but local news across the country.
“The parent company of WKBN 27 has the resources to invest in something like this because it is really quite a big commitment,” Media General Manager of On-Air Image and Design Kathryn Mosher-Boule’ said.
“What we are seeing is the benefit of 27 First News being a a part of a major media corporation and a major leader in the broadcast industry. And this is something other stations just can’t bring to viewers of the Valley,” Davis said.