Experience is the emphasis at 29
Story by Chris Graham
Bureau chief is a sexy job title, but being the bureau chief means you end up doing things like spending the morning at a middle school making sure the station can do live web-streaming of a House of Delegates debate scheduled for the next night.
WVIR-NBC29 veteran Ken Slack eventually got around to doing some reporting work, setting up an interview with Augusta County Board of Supervisors Chairman Larry Howdyshell to discuss county emergency services, and editing an interview with another Board of Supervisors member, Nancy Sorrells, for a report for the news at noon.
Slack is a key member of the NBC29 news team, a fixture at the station since the mid-1990s. Stability is sort of the name of the game at 29, as is the station’s decision to use its newscasts to bridge the Rockfish Gap, so to speak, linking the Valley to Central Virginia.
“A lot of people in Rockingham and Augusta County might work in Charlottesville or Greene, and a lot of people that live in Albemarle County will shop in Waynesboro or Staunton. I think you have a lot of common interests in this region. Charlottesville and Harrisonburg are similar cities in that they’re large university communities, and things that affect one affect the other,” said Neal Bennett, the news director at WVIR since 2004.
Bennett said the station doesn’t consider itself to be in competition to Gray Television-owned stations in Harrisonburg and Charlottesville, which don’t provide cross-coverage of the Charlottesville-Harrisonburg region, but rather treat each region as separate entities.
“Our biggest competition is the wide availability of information,” Bennett said.
“There’s so much information out there on the Internet that we’re looking at competition from all sides. If we’re not the best, people are going to go elsewhere for their news, whether it’s a competing TV station or to the Internet or cable or whomever,” Bennett said.
Interesting, then, that WVIR has had a successful longstanding partnership relationship with The News Virginian, sharing a newsroom and broadcasting live from the NV building on West Main Street in Downtown Waynesboro.
“That relationship and our experienced reporters, like Ken Slack and Matt Talhelm, gives us the opportunity to get a lot of news out there in Augusta County and into Rockingham as well,” Bennett said.