Blue Ridge Cable Channel 13 News wrapped up a month-long anniversary celebration this week after spending all of May honoring the newscast's 25 years of commitment to local news, local sports and the locals themselves.
With contests, special segments, and, of course, cake, Channel 13 News remembered its very first newscast aired 25 years ago on May 2, 1988.
The newscast had been the idea of Fred Reinhard, chairman of the board for Pencor Services. Pencor Services owns Blue Ridge Communication and Reinhard felt Blue Ridge customers should be provided with local news stories that the larger networks were not covering.
Since its first newscast, Channel 13 has covered tens of thousands of stories tailored specifically to the northeast Pennsylvania area, reporting on everything from the housing market rebound in the Poconos to a feature story on Memorial Day weekend preparation.
The program provides what general manager of Blue Ridge Communications and TV journalist/talk show host Kim Bell called the most comprehensive local news found anywhere.
"We pride ourselves on covering just local news. We don't worry about national news or state news unless it directly impacts our viewers. We provide more local news than anybody and it's local news that people want to actually hear about," said Bell.
In 1988, Channel 13 aired only one newscast. Now, Monday through Friday, the channel airs three: "The Pocono Report," "The Valley Report" and "The Night Report." All of the reports are aired live and then replayed a second time later in the day.
"The Pocono Report" covers Monroe, Pike and Wayne County. "The Valley Report" covers Carbon County and sections of Schuylkill, Lehigh and Northampton County, and "The Night Report" encompasses all of the local news from the entire northeast Pennsylvania viewing area.
While the newscast has changed and grown over the years, five original employees involved in its first airing still work at Channel 13. Making up what the staff in the studio has nicknamed the "Fab Five," senior news anchor, George Roberts; assistant general manager and director of technical operations, Frank Stanek; station engineer, Andrew Lesisko; news director, Donna Kistler; and chief videographer, Tom MacIntire; said they are proud to still be a part of the BRC TV13 family.
The "Fab Five" and other Channel 13 employees were commemorated last month in a special nightly segment, "Blasts from the Past," which profiled members of BRC TV13's staff over the years.
One "Blast from the Past" featured footage from the May 2, 1988 newscast. The segment explained that Channel 13 News used to be called Eye Watch News 13. There were no reporters and no weatherman and the tiny newsroom looked unrecognizable from the large, high-tech room it is today.
Profiled in the segment were original news anchors, George Roberts and Maureen Cassidy, as well as sports anchor, Chris Worley.
News anchor, Marie Johns introduced the special segment and said, "Since the beginning, our philosophy has been to report local news and only local news. Most of us live right here where we work so we know the region, know the people. We know what's going on."
In an interview after the month-long celebration, Roberts spoke about his time in Channel 13's newsroom.
"It's been exciting. It has certainly been a fun job because you never know what you are going to do everyday. There is always some new excitement, some one new to interview and something new to put on TV," said Roberts.
Robert's background had been in radio. Back then, reporting and anchoring were new territories for him.
"This was my first opportunity to be on television. I have to say … we all were probably a little nervous," said Roberts.
In addition to the "Blasts from the Pasts," in each newscast during the month of May, "Flash Back" segments were aired. The special feature highlighted some of the program's more historic or interesting stories, such as stories on the second Lehigh Tunnel on the Pa. Turnpike and the fire at Country Junction.
The news program involved viewers in its 25th anniversary celebration with a contest. The news teams of all three newscasts gave away 25 dollar gift cards everyday and one grand prize winner received one of each of the contest's prizes.
Mike Amerman, owner of Mike's Home Improvements in Albrightsville and a self-described "avid" Channel 13 fan, was the grand prize winner.
"… We were watching the news and (Mike Amerman) looked at the screen when they announced the winner and he saw in plain black and white letters his name, but it took a while for it to sink in. When he realized it was his name, he started screaming, 'Oh my god, babe, babe, babe, we won! We are the grand prize winners," said Amerman's wife, Sandy Amerman.
The Amerman's are just one example of how Channel 13 News makes its viewers happy with what they see on their TV screens. By spending the past 25 years covering the news that affects us most, TV13 has made grand prize winners of us all.