|Branding||Fox 8 (general)
Fox 8 News (newscasts)
|Slogan||Cleveland's Own (general)
The Most Powerful Name in Local News (news)
|Channels||Digital: 8 (VHF)
Virtual: 8 (PSIP)
|Translators||21 (UHF) Canton
46 (UHF) Austintown, OH
31 (UHF) WI9X3Y Cleveland
(sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group pending)
(WJW License, LLC)
|First air date||December 19, 1949|
|Call letters' meaning||W-"John F. Weimer"
owner of WJW (850 AM)
|Former channel number(s)||
|Transmitter power||WJW: 11 kW
WI9X3Y: 430 kW
|Public license information:||Profile
WJW, channel 8, is a Fox-affiliated television station located in and licensed to Cleveland, Ohio, United States. Subchannel 8.2 serves as the area affiliate for the classic TV network Antenna TV. The station is owned by the Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary of Tribune Media. Its studios are located on Dick Goddard Way (named for the station's longtime weatherman - previously known as South Marginal Road) just northeast of downtown Cleveland near the shore of Lake Erie, and its transmitter is located in suburban Parma, Ohio.
The television station launched on December 19, 1949 on channel 9 as WXEL, owned by the Empire Coil Company, a wartime manufacturer of radio coils and transformers. In its early years, WXEL was a primary DuMont affiliate, and later became a secondary provider of ABC programs, sharing that affiliation with WEWS (channel 5). WXEL also carried a number of CBS programs that WEWS declined to air. Some of the daytime shows originated at Cinecraft on Franklin.
WXEL also carried an affiliation with the short-lived Paramount Television Network, and in fact was one of that network's strongest affiliates. The station aired such Paramount Network programs as Hollywood Wrestling, Bandstand Revue, and Time For Beany. During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network.
Following the 1952 release of the Federal Communications Commission' s Sixth Report and Order, a realignment of VHF channels in the Midwest forced WXEL to move to channel 8 on December 10, 1953. Its former channel 9 allocation was moved to Steubenville and given to a new station, WSTV-TV (now WTOV); the switch took place only two weeks before WSTV-TV went on the air.
In 1954 Empire Coil sold two of its television interests—WXEL and KPTV in Portland, Oregon, the United States' first UHF station—to Storer Broadcasting. George B. Storer, the company's founder and president, was a member of the board of directors of CBS, and used his influence to take the CBS television affiliation from WEWS in March 1955.
Storer changed channel 8's call letters to WJW-TV on April 15, 1956, to complement Cleveland sister stations WJW (850 AM) and WJW-FM (104.1 FM)—now radio stations WKNR and WQAL, respectively. All three stations later moved to the former Esquire Theater building at 1630 Euclid Avenue, near Playhouse Square.
In its early years, the station lagged behind its competitors in producing local programming, perhaps because its studio was located at the transmitter in Parma, while the other stations had studios downtown. A young Alan Freed, previously at WAKR radio in Akron, worked for WXEL starting in 1949. Freed hosted an afternoon movie and performed live commercials for several years before he became the self-titled father of "rock and roll" while as an evening host on WJW radio, before moving on to radio jobs in New York City. Soupy Sales, then known as Soupy Hines, had a weekday variety program called Soup's On where he started his pie-in-the-face routines.
The station also broadcast a popular and unique 11:00 p.m. newscast, The Sohio Reporter, featuring a Western Reserve University speech professor named Warren Guthrie who delivered the entire newscast from memory, speaking directly into the camera long before the days of the teleprompter. In 1961, WJW-TV became the broadcast rights holder of the Cleveland Indians. Channel 8's partnership with the team continued through 1979, when the Indians moved to then-independent station WUAB (channel 43). WJW also carried Indians games that were part of the CBS, and later, Fox network packages of Major League Baseball games.
On November 16, 1963, approximately 30 WJW radio and TV personalities went on strike, forcing both stations to use supervisory and production personnel in those roles, many from parent company Storer Broadcasting stations in Atlanta and Miami. The main bargaining point was Storer's attempt to institute a new, drastically reduced fee schedule for performers. On November 20, WJW-TV broadcast a taped panel segment that offered the striking performers the opportunity to state its case, since management had presented its side two nights earlier. After nearly reaching agreement on November 23 before talks collapsed, the two sides finally came to an agreement on November 27.
In September 1963, WJW-TV was one of the first stations to use a two-man news anchor team, Joel Daly and Doug Adair, in the studio together. The newscast was called City Camera News, and reporters were equipped with Polaroid cameras to photograph news events, so that pictures could be quickly broadcast when they returned to the studio. Station programming also featured Adventure Road hosted by Jim Doney, which presented filmed travelogues narrated by the filmmakers. Daly and Adair reigned as Cleveland's top news team until June 1967, when Daly was hired away by WBKB-TV in Chicago. Adair remained at channel 8 through July 1970, when he joined WKYC (channel 3), which was then owned by NBC. Later in 1964, WJW-TV was the first full CBS affiliate in Ohio, and the first Cleveland TV station, to start local color broadcasts.
Following Daly's departure, Martin Ross became Adair's on-air news partner for the next three years, then teamed with Murray Stewart when Adair left. The duo worked together until Ross's death from cancer in April 1973. Jeff Maynor had filled in when Ross was undergoing treatment, and continued in that role for the next four months until Jim Hale teamed with Stewart beginning on September 11, 1973. Just over a year later, Stewart asked to be taken off the broadcast, citing health problems, and was later reassigned to the noon news, with Maynor taking his place on the nightly broadcast. Stewart committed suicide on August 3, 1976, overdosing on Nembutal in a suburban Cleveland motel.
One of the most memorable programs produced by WJW-TV was the Friday late night horror movie hosted by "Ghoulardi", a character created by Ernie Anderson. Wearing a bad fright wig and phony beard and a pair of sunglasses with only one lens, he interacted with the movies and created an ongoing patter and rehearsed skits during the movie breaks. The program began on January 11, 1963 as "Shock Theater" and created a generation of fans who could recite catch phrases such as "Turn Blue", "Stay Sick", "Camera Four" and "Ova Dey." Before Ghoulardi, Anderson had a weekday morning program on channel 8 starting in 1961 called Ernie's Place with sidekick Tim Conway (then credited as "Tom Conway"), that included live skits reminiscent of Bob and Ray.
When Anderson left for lucrative voice-over work in Hollywood in September 1966, the Friday night movie slot was succeeded by The Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show—cohosted by Bob "Hoolihan" Wells, who did the station weather forecasts as "Hoolihan the Weatherman"; and Charles "Big Chuck" Schodowski, a station engineer who had risen to director and had appeared in some of Ghoulardi's skits. After Bob Wells departed channel 8 in September 1979, his position was filled by local jeweler and little person "Lil' John" Rinaldi, who had also previously performed in skits on the show. The program was renamed The Big Chuck and Lil' John Show, and it continued airing on Friday nights before moving to Saturday nights in the early 1990s. The show ended its run on June 16, 2007, as Chuck Schodowski retired after a 47-year career at channel 8. At the time of its conclusion, The Big Chuck and Lil' John Show had been the only locally produced television show in the Cleveland market that was primarily entertainment, that is not news or informational (Big Chuck & Lil' John have since made a comeback of sorts by hosting a new 30 minute program featuring their classic skits that began 9/10/11).
The station moved to its present studios at 5800 South Marginal Road on November 2, 1975. While WJW-FM (104.1 FM) was sold in the late 1960s, Storer kept WJW (850 AM) until late 1976. The AM station's new owners were allowed to keep the WJW call letters, forcing channel 8 to change theirs. At the time, the FCC did not allow radio and television stations with different owners to share the same base call letters—this is not the case today. As a result, channel 8 changed its callsign to WJKW-TV on April 22, 1977. The added "K" did not stand for anything.
At the same time, the station hired former WKYC-TV and NBC Radio news anchor Virgil Dominic as its news and public affairs director (a position which he held until 1983 when he became the general manager for WJKW/WJW until his retirement in 1995), and also began to pump considerable money into its news operation. The name of the newscasts even underwent a transition as well, going from City Camera News to Newscenter 8 around the summer of 1977. Within a year, channel 8 had overtaken longtime leader WEWS as the highest-rated news station in Cleveland – a lead it kept for almost 20 years.
Back to WJW
On September 16, 1985, the station reacquired the WJW-TV callsign (eventually shortened to simply WJW), as WJW (850 AM) had changed its callsign following its own transfer of ownership (the above-mentioned call letter rule was still in effect then).
After Storer Broadcasting was bought out by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in 1985, the station underwent a series of ownership changes. KKR sold the stations to Gillett Communications in 1987; shortly thereafter, SCI Television was spun off from Gillett to take over the stations after Gillett's bankruptcy. New World Communications purchased WJW-TV and the other SCI Television stations in 1993. Like most of its sister stations, channel 8 pre-empted portions of the CBS schedule, usually the late morning daytime shows. In the 1990s, WJW-TV and its fellow New World stations prepared to launch their own morning newscasts, and as a result, channel 8 began to pre-empt CBS This Morning as well. The station also gained notoriety in 1993 by being one of the few CBS affiliates to tape-delay the Late Show with David Letterman by half an hour in favor of Murphy Brown reruns. Despite the preemptions, CBS was generally satisfied with WJW, which was one of the network's strongest affiliates.
Switch to Fox
On September 3, 1994, as part of a deal between New World and the News Corporation, WJW-TV swapped affiliations with WOIO (channel 19), taking that station's Fox affiliation (WOIO, in turn, assumed WJW's CBS affiliation). The station initially expanded its news production to over 40 hours a week, and through the years continued expanding, eventually reaching 65½ hours per week as of 2015.
Channel 8 was one of two stations involved in the New World/Fox deal that was home to an NFL team not with the NFC (Kansas City's WDAF-TV, home to the AFC's Chiefs was the other), as the Cleveland Browns are part of the American Football Conference, who were on NBC (and with that, channel 3) at that time. Since 1994 (with exception of a hiatus from 1996-98), channel 8 is given at least two Browns games a year to air (the station had been airing occasional Browns games even when they were with CBS), usually when the team plays host to NFC team at FirstEnergy Stadium; starting in 2014, however, with the institution of the league's 'cross-flex' broadcast rules, any games can be arbitrarily moved from WOIO will be shown on WJW. Later that year, WJW dropped its "Newscenter 8" branding and adopted a hard-hitting format under the phrase "ei8ht is News" for the title of its newscasts (the "ei8ht" logo was itself a revival of an old WJW logo used from 1966 until 1977). Consequently, "Fox is ei8ht" was used by WJW as a generalized branding to promote the station's non-news programming, in particular, those offered through its new Fox affiliation. This accompanied a change in format for harder-edged news; viewers did not respond positively to either the format changes, or the constant branding reinforcement (to the point that a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer was titled "Some viewers squawking that ei8ht is enough, already"). They instead turned to the more traditional WEWS; WKYC was likewise busy trying to find an audience after years of being used as NBC's 'farm' station. The "ei8ht is News" branding ended upon Fox's purchase of the station, after which it was replaced by "Fox 8 News", which remains the current newscast title for the station today.
One triumph for WJW was their morning newscast. Without a national morning show, WJW could produce an all-local 3 1/2 hour morning newscast. Many Cleveland viewers preferred the local show over the other stations' national broadcasts. This was especially true since WEWS' long-standing Morning Exchange was preempted until 9 a.m. around the same time of the Fox/CBS switch. With the exception of a brief period from late 1994 through late 1995 when it was titled Good Day Cleveland, Fox 8 News in the Morning has constantly been Cleveland's top rated morning newscast since the time of its debut. Another advantage of the affiliation switch was the new early start of the late news at 10 p.m. rather than 11; with WUAB's former operation being converted to serve them and WOIO and the balancing act of managing both stations, along with the unproven lead-in of WUAB's new UPN programming, WJW quickly overtook WUAB at 10 p.m. without much issue.
In 1997 Fox bought New World Communications, making WJW a Fox owned-and-operated station. Fox added stronger syndicated shows as well as stronger off-network sitcoms to the programming mix.
In news programming, the station retook the top position from WEWS in 2001. By mid-2002, all of WJW's newscasts placed first. This continued until January 2004, when viewers began turning away from WJW's hard-hitting style to the more traditional WKYC-TV. Even Fox 8 in the Morning lost its top spot to WKYC's morning newscast for about two months. As a result of the overall decline, WJW replaced long time 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. lead anchors Wilma Smith and Tim Taylor with Bill Martin and Stacy Bell at 10 p.m., hoping the two would attract a younger audience to the program. The change paid off for channel 8, and today its newscasts frequently rank number-one in the ratings.
On December 22, 2007, the News Corporation announced that it had entered into an agreement to sell WJW-TV and seven other Fox-owned stations to Local TV LLC, a subsidiary of private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners. The sale was closed on July 14, 2008.
On February 1, 2012, WJW redesigned and relaunched its Web site using a format that's also used by the recently redesigned Web sites of its sister stations WDAF-TV in Kansas City and WITI in Milwaukee. The new Local TV sites are hosted by WordPress.com instead of Tribune Digital (renamed from Tribune Interactive). On July 1, 2013, Local TV announced that its stations would be acquired by Tribune Broadcasting. The sale was completed on December 27.
During Fox ownership, WJW was the only (fully) network owned-and-operated station among the "Big 4" networks in the Cleveland area, and was the only Fox-owned station to carry a historic 1920s three-letter call sign. It remains the only Fox television affiliate in existence, as well as one of three current Tribune-owned television stations (alongside Tribune flagship and independent station WGN-TV in Chicago, and NBC station WHO-TV in Des Moines), to carry such a three-letter call sign.
On May 8, 2017, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced that it would acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt held by Tribune. If the deal receives regulatory approval by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, the proposed sale would give Sinclair ownership or operational management of television stations in six of Ohio's nine television markets, with Lima and Zanesville (both markets with only one news operation) and Youngstown (locked up by Nexstar Media Group and the locally-based Maag family) becoming the only remaining markets in the state where it does not have a presence (Sinclair already owns ABC affiliates WSYX in Columbus and WKEF in Dayton, NBC affiliates WTOV-TV in Steubenville and WNWO-TV in Toledo, and the Cincinnati duopoly of CBS affiliate WKRC-TV and MyNetworkTV affiliate WSTR-TV; through shared services agreements, it also operates Fox affiliate WTTE and CW affiliate WWHO in Columbus, and Fox affiliate WRGT-TV in Dayton).
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|8.1||720p||16:9||WJWDT-1||Main WJW programming / Fox|
WJW shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 8, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 31 to VHF channel 8.
The former temporary channel 31 transmitter has remained in a functional, though dormant state since the transition, and Tribune has donated the transmitter to the National Association of Broadcasters, which will be used to test the "Futurecast" ATSC 3.0 standard advanced by LG Corporation and GatesAir beginning in May 2015, and continuing on for six months, as WI9X3Y. The transmitter remained active for the duration of the 2016 World Series (which the Indians played in), broadcasting in 4K UHD to the Cleveland area using the ATSC 3.0 standard with Dolby AC-4 Audio (though the audio standard has not been completely finalized yet, with AC-4 and competitor MPEG-H as the remaining options for audio). This station also broadcasts brief, intermittent ATSC 1.0-compatible signals during parts of the day for reception comparisons under the callsign of WI9XJY.
WJW presently broadcasts 68 hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 11½ hours on weekdays, 5 hours on Saturdays and 5½ hours on Sundays).
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