WJAC-TV (6) announced Wednesday that it will begin producing the 10 p.m. news on Fox affiliate WWCP-TV (8) and will simulcast its own news at 11 p.m. on ABC affiliate WATM-TV (23).
WJAC is an NBC affiliate co-owned with Pittsburgh’s WPXI-TV (11) and Steubenville’s WTOV-TV (9). According to a joint WJAC-WWCP press release, the arrangement begins Jan. 14.
WWCP and WATM are owned by Peak Media of Pennsylvania, which according to FCC documents is controlled by Washington, D.C., area investors Joy Baxt, Colleen Reed and Kathleen Byrnes.
WJAC, like its Pittsburgh and Steubenville sister stations, is owned by Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises, parent company of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Dayton Daily News, and other newspapers.
“We are pleased to undertake this joint venture and are gratified a fellow local broadcaster has put their trust in the Channel 6 News Team to produce their news product,” said Dick Schrott, WJAC vice president and general manager, in a prepared statement. “Similar ventures are taking place in many television markets across the country due to the heavy expense of producing local news and the ongoing large capital investment required.”
In the same statement, Frank Quitoni, WWCP president and general manager, said the station’s news department, though “hard-working” and “professional,” had operated at a financial loss for years, “a loss that is not sustainable.”
The news team includes former Pittsburgh radio sports reporter Jim Penna, who serves as WWCP’s news director and lead weekday news anchor, along with co-anchor Sherry Stalley, sports director Greg Whitmer, and chief meteorologist Travis Koshko.
“Delivering news to our community is extremely important to us,” Quitoni said. “After being approached by WJAC, we decided to partner up and have them provide a news production service for our stations. While we regret the cutback in personnel, it is the only way we can continue to offer a 10 p.m. news for our viewers and clients.”
Penna broke the news to his staff on Tuesday night. “I don’t think the general staff had any indication,” he told the T-D. “This time of year, it’s certainly not something that is top of mind.”
Stalley told the newspaper she was “stunned” by the announcement. “The feedback from the public had been wonderful. But with the way the market is, I shouldnt have been surprised. It completely blindsided me.”
Quitoni said the laid-off employees will have their contracts honored or receive severance payments.