N.C. broadcaster celebrates 15 years on-air

News outlet looks back on 15 years of "feeding the beast"

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
Master control operators Allen Kishpaugh

RALEIGH — North Carolina’s statewide television news station celebrated 15 years on the air this week. Recently rebranded as Spectrum News Raleigh after a recent merger with Charter Communications, the former Time Warner Cable News 14 launched in 2004 as the only statewide broadcaster to cover the N.C. 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”It’s been a great ride so far,” said news director Rick Willis. “Things have certainly changed in the marketplace. We’ve had a major influence in the way people watch TV news in that people no longer have to wait for an appointment at 5, 6 and 11 to watch local news.”I felt like I was born to do this job,” he added. “It’s so liberating not to have to worry about begging permission to interrupt regular programming, to be able to come on with a news story when it’s happening rather than having to wait until the prescribed time.”Like with most news outlets, the 2016 elections proved to be a game-changer for Willis and his team. North Carolina was at the eye of the storm as both presidential candidates crisscrossed the state nearly every week. Capital Tonight anchor Tim Boyum, who’s been there since the beginning, was covering the state right along with the candidates as he has for past elections, but this year was different.”This year has been a culmination of our entire journey here for 15 years,” said Boyum. “Look at the presidential campaign. Back in 2004 I couldn’t get anybody to figure out who we were and to return phone calls. In 2008 they returned phone calls but I had to beg them for interviews. In 2012 we felt like we were sort of on the par, and in 2016 we had presidential candidates calling us and asking us to meet with them.”The crew here has come along way since the “on-air” light first turned on. The biggest shift in the news landscape in general over the last 15 years has certainly been the power of social media as a driver of news. Now, with the dawn of around-the-clock access to news online, the crew only had to incorporated web. Rather than change their mindset and deadlines to a 24-hour cycle, instead of the morning, noon and evening time slots that used to dictate broadcast news.”The other challenge of course is just feeding the beast; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said assistant director Walker Campbell. “To this day when I look at the picture in master control taken when Alan Mason flipped the switch to turn us on, everybody smiled and everybody applauded. And I think it was our operations manager who turned to me and said, ‘Well, we’ve turned it on and now we can never turn it off.'”And they haven’t. The crew did make a shift lately, merging Charter Communications, the second largest cable operator in the U.S. In fact Mason, who helped launch News 14, is back as part of the merger, heading up the Southern channels for the Spectrum networks.Charter systems in western N.C. started carrying Spectrum News Charlotte last week, expanding their coverage area, but also their ability to get stories from all corners of the state. From H.B. 2 to the John Edwards trial to the 2016 election, having multiple newsrooms around the state has given their team an edge.”We talk about the challenges of coordinating the four newsrooms in statewide coverage, but the times that it has been so beneficial to have the newsrooms spread across the state when the big stories come up, when Tim’s gotten interviews with presidential candidates, all of our coverage areas benefit,” said Willis.