Radio-TV Broadcast History

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Grand Rapids, Michigan
Branding WZZM 13 (general)

WZZM 13 News (newscasts)

Slogan On Your Side
Channels Digital: 13 (VHF)
Subchannels 13.1 ABC

13.2 13 Weather Network AccuWX

Affiliations ABC
Owner Gannett Company, Inc.

(Combined Communications Corporation of Oklahoma, Inc.)

First air date November 1, 1962
Call letters' meaning call letters form an ambigram
Former channel number(s) Analog: 13 (1962-2009)

Digital: 39 (2003-2009)

Transmitter power 16.5 kW (digital)
Height 324.3 m (digital)
Facility ID 49713
Transmitter coordinates 43°18′35″N 85°54′45″W / 43.30972°N 85.9125°W / 43.30972; -85.9125

Although WZZM is the primary ABC affiliate in West Michigan, it primarily serves the northern portion of the Grand Rapids - Battle Creek - Kalamazoo media market. Its transmitter is about 40 miles (64 km) north of that of other regional channels, so its signal was unavailable in the two southern tiers of Michigan counties except in Kalamazoo until recently. Since April 2009, however, WZZM has been available on most cable systems in Southwest Michigan[1], although WOTV is the ABC affiliate for that region. Until then, persons living in counties beyond the access of its signal relied upon television stations in the South Bend/Elkhart, Indiana or Lansing areas for the syndicated programs that WZZM offers.


[hide]*1 History

    • 1.1 1960s
    • 1.2 1970s
    • 1.3 1990s
    • 1.4 2000s
  • 2 Digital television
  • 3 Programming
  • 4 News
    • 4.1 News/station presentation
      • 4.1.1 Newscast titles
      • 4.1.2 Station slogans
    • 4.2 Partners
    • 4.3 Awards
  • 5 Weather
    • 5.1 On Target Forecast
    • 5.2 Advance Newspapers
    • 5.3 Weatherball
    • 5.4 Weather Chaser
    • 5.5 Weather deck
  • 6 Sports
  • 7 WZZM 13's Healthy You
  • 8 Take Five & Company
  • 9 On-air staff
    • 9.1 Take Five & Company
    • 9.2 WZZM 13 News
      • 9.2.1 News team
      • 9.2.2 Reporters
      • 9.2.3 Former on-air staff
  • 10 References
  • 11 External links

[edit] History[]

[edit] 1960s[]

A local group known as West Michigan Telecasters received a construction permit for channel 9 in 1961. However, in mid-1962, John Fetzer, owner of WWTV in Cadillac, then on channel 13, persuaded the group to swap channel locations.

The station officially went on the air on November 1, 1962; at 6:30 p.m.. The station went off the air just twenty minutes later, due to transmitter tube failure, returning to the air ten minutes later.

Sometime in late 1964, WZZM-TV opened a satellite station on Channel 12 in Kalamazoo.

[edit] 1970s[]

As a result of the swap with WWTV in 1962, WZZM was now short-spaced to WSPD-TV in Toledo, Ohio (now WTVG). It had to build its transmitter about 40 miles farther north than the other West Michigan stations and conform its signal to protect WSPD-TV. As a result, WZZM's signal barely reached Kalamazoo and just missed Battle Creek. Southwestern Michigan viewers had to rely on WSJV in Elkhart, Indiana, WXYZ-TV in Detroit, or WLS-TV in Chicago for ABC programming until WUHQ-TV (now WOTV) signed on from Battle Creek in 1971.

WZZM certainly had humble beginnings; its first broadcasts were from a banquet room-turned studio at the Pantlind Hotel (now the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel). Live broadcasts included This Morning with Bud Lindeman, Shirley's Show and an evening news program, though the station's most notable show in many minds is The Bozo Show, which was broadcast for more than 30 years. The news program improved in 1971 with the addition of the first weather radar in the West Michigan area, upgraded in 1974 to a computerized color version.

In August 1971, a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art studio was opened in Walker, with Congressman Gerald Ford presiding over the ceremony. In the following years, WZZM became a formidable force in the Grand Rapids viewing community, gathering high ratings and a reputation as one of the top news programs in the West Michigan area.[citation needed]

In 1978, West Michigan Telecasters sold WZZM to Wometco Enterprises of Miami. Wometco's stations were sold to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) in 1985. KKR sold the station to Price Communications in 1986. A local investor, Richard Appleton, formed Northstar Television in 1989 and bought WZZM. He tried to buy WUHQ in 1991 and turn it into a satellite of WZZM, which would have created a strong combined signal with about 40% overlap. However, the proposed deal fell through at the last minute. Ironically, WUHQ had served as a defacto satellite of WZZM for most of its history; its engineers had to switch to and from WZZM's signal on most occasions before the station was able to buy a network feed from ABC.

[edit] 1990s[]

In 1995, the Northstar Television group (WZZM, plus WNAC-TV in Providence, Rhode Island and WAPT-TV in Jackson, Mississippi) was sold to Argyle Television. Gannett, WZZM's current owner, bought WZZM and sister station WGRZ-TV in Buffalo, New York in January 1997 by swapping WLWT-TV in Cincinnati, Ohio and KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Argyle.

In the 1990s, WZZM made an array of changes with the new millennium looming. New news vehicles were purchased, a new tape format (Beta SP) was introduced to digitize all media, a new radar receiver and new weather cameras were added across the state, and a new set was built, coinciding with WZZM's introduction of a new logo. In 2003, WZZM first started broadcasting in High Definition.

For most of its history, the newscast was called Eyewitness News until the late 1990s when it was replaced by WZZM 13 News.

5:30 Edition was introduced in 1993. It had soft news features in addition to the day's headlines. Many of its features were phased out and it became a standard newscast by 1997. Many of the features returned in 2004 when Take Five Grand Rapids premiered, later shortened to Take Five. Take Five originally aired at 5 p.m. but later moved to 4:30. In late August 2008, it was expanded to an hour, moved to 9 a.m., and renamed Take Five and Company. The Senior Producer of Take Five and Company is Denise Pritchard.

[edit] 2000s[]

In 2005, the station launched the 13 On Target Weather Network, a weather channel broadcast on Channel 13-2; on Comcast and Charter Communications cable systems in West Michigan on channel 247; and on My 13 On Target Weather is a customizable e-mail and website service powered by It features headlines, weather conditions, and severe weather warnings. WZZM's longtime logo, utilized through most of the 1990s until September 2008. In the final years of this logo it was redesigned to feature a glossy finish to match the new ABC 'glass ball' logomark.In early spring of 2006, WZZM finalized a major station over-haul, complete with a new logo, graphics, and promotional campaign, in order to recover from low viewership and to compete with first place West Michigan station WOOD (Channel 8).

In late September 2006, WZZM announced on air through a series of commercials that the morning newscast with Derek Francis, Lauren Stanton, and Hally Vogel beat number one morning newscast "Daybreak" on WOOD-TV8, according to recent Nielsen ratings.

On September 14, 2006, WZZM premiered a local HDTV special Great Lakes Adventure [1]. Lee Van Ameyde and Juliet Dragos host the special about Sleeping Bear Dunes, Mackinac Island, Mackinac Bridge, as well as Michigan's wine country, and charter boats. It re-aired on December 4, 2006, and is available for purchase. The opening sequence can be seen on the show's webpage. [2]

In 2007, WZZM started promoting three websites co-produced with the Gannett newspapers in Michigan: (now,, and

WZZM 13 aired its final Weekend Morning News on June 7, 2009. The change was due to the poor economy. The station had been airing it since late 2006.[2]

[edit] Digital television[]

The station's digital signal, VHF 13, is multiplexed:



Video Aspect Programming
13.1 720p 16:9 Main WZZM programming / ABC HD
13.2 480i 4:3 13 On Target Weather Network

On June 12, 2009, WZZM returned to channel 13 when the analog to digital conversion completed.[3]

[edit] Programming[]

As a Gannett-owned television station WZZM continues to carry the entire ABC television lineup.

Theater 13 is the umbrella title for movies the station airs.

WZZM-13 is one of the first station in Michigan to produce and broadcast local TV commercials and promotions in High Definition. They also are the first station to air segments like their popular high school franchise '13 On Your Sidelines' in High Definition.

On December 15, 2009, WZZM became the third station in Western Michigan to begin airing local newscasts in high definition; WWMT is now the only major station in Western Michigan without high-definition newscasts.

[edit] News[]

[edit] News/station presentation[]

[edit] Newscast titles[]

  • Area 13 Eyewitness News (1975–1984)
  • Eyewitness News 13 (1984–1995)
  • 13 Eyewitness News (1995-1997)
  • WZZM 13 News (1997–present)

[edit] Station slogans[]

  • WZZM-TV 13, Your Eyewitness News Station (1970–1990)
  • WZZM-TV 13, Grand Rapids, an Advertiser Supported, Free Television Station (1983–1986; this was as the "top of the hour" legal ID)
  • Working for You (1987–1997)
  • 13 Works for You (1996–1997)
  • Feel the Difference (1998–2003)
  • WZZM Means Business (2003)
  • The WZZM 13 News Difference (2003–2004)
  • People Make the Difference (2004–2009)
  • The Breaking News Leader (2006)
  • The Severe Weather Leader (2006)
  • West Michigan's Most Trusted Information Center (2008–present)
  • On Your Side (2009–present)

[edit] Partners[]

  • ABC
  • USA Today
  • Gannett
  • Careerbuilder
  • Captivate Networks
  • Grand Haven Tribune
  • The Daily News (Greenville)

[edit] Awards[]

Over the years, WZZM has received numerous awards for journalistic excellence. Some of these include:

  • Emmy Sickle Cell Anemia: Paradox of Neglect, Station Award, 1971.[4]
  • Michigan Associated Press Sickle Cell Anemia: Paradox of Neglect, Best Documentary, 1971.[5]
  • United Press International's Michigan News Station of the Year, 1980-1985.
  • Michigan Association of Broadcasters' Best Newscast and Best Coverage of Spot News awards, 1998
  • Michigan Association of Broadcasters' Station of the Year award, 2002.
  • Michigan Television News Photographers Association' Station of the Year award, 2002.

[edit] Weather[]

[edit] On Target Forecast[]

The WZZM 13 team of meteorologists holds themselves accountable with a well-known target. The meteorologist reviews his or her forecast every day from the previous day in comparison to the actual weather. If they were exactly right, an arrow shoots and hits the bulls eye. If they were only a degree or two off, it is called a "Very Close" forecast. If they were 3-5 degrees off or if they were wrong in their prediction of sunlight or precipitation, it is called a "Close" forecast. If they were more incorrect than that, it is called a "Try Again," and the arrow shoots past the target completely.

The WZZM 13 weather radar is often called "13 X-RAD 3D". It combines the power of 3 National Weather Service Doppler radars to produce a 3D radar image.

[edit] Advance Newspapers[]

Meteorologist George Lessens writes a weekly column for Advance Newspapers. The column includes the forecast for the upcoming week, as of February 2006. It originally had a review of the previous week.

[edit] Weatherball[]

The WZZM 13 Weatherball.The original weatherball was perched on top of the Michigan National Bank building in downtown Grand Rapids. The colors it displayed were representative of the coming weather pattern. A poem was written about the weatherball's colors:

Weatherball red, warmer weather ahead.
Weatherball blue, cooler weather in view.
Weatherball green, no change foreseen.
Colors blinking bright, rain or snow in sight.

However, due to questions about its stability, it was removed in 1987, after 20 years of existence. WZZM located the weatherball, which had resided in a Kalamazoo junkyard since its removal, and purchased it in 1999. In 2002, plans were announced to refurbish the stainless steel ball, and add new neon lights. The weatherball was perched on a 100-foot (30 m) monopole, and was lit on May 7, 2003. It is visible from both Interstate 96 and U.S. Highway 131, the two major freeways in the area.

Shortly after the reintroduction of the WZZM 13 Weatherball, a contest was held where viewers submitted video recordings of songs to coincide with the meanings of the weatherball. The winner chosen had their song on a new commercial that aired to inform the viewership of the significance of the colors. The winners were Dale Ray Schumaker and Allison Rae Schumaker of Holland, MI with their jingle, "Know Before You Go". "DJ Dale" Schumaker and Allison Rae Schumaker are prominent hit songwriters.

On June 5, 2008, the Weatherball was struck by lightning for the first time in its history. The lightning scrambled the electronics of the Weatherball, causing it to glow in a rainbow of colors. The Weatherball was temporarily turned off for repairs.

The station also has a costumed character mascot of the Weatherball named "Blinkie". A similar weatherball is also located on the Citizen's Bank building in Flint.

[edit] Weather Chaser[]

The Weather Chaser.The Weather Chaser was introduced in 2001. It is a mobile version of the in-studio weather office capable of live broadcasts from anywhere in the broadcast area. During severe weather, the meteorologist using the Chaser can track and report storm conditions on location. It has not been mentioned on air in recent months but as late as August 2006 was spotted at the Unity Christian Music Festival in Muskegon, Michigan being used as a live shot vehicle for the meteorologist.

[edit] Weather deck[]

The weather deck is a deck set up for weather reports. Most weather reports are done outside, except when the weather makes it unsafe for the meteorologist to go outside, such as severe weather situations. The weather deck was introduced in 1999. From 1995 to 1999, the evening meteorologist reported from the parking lot. Recently, as of Spring 2009, the Weather Deck has been absent from many of the newscasts because lighting for the deck became too expensive for WZZM 13 to continue operation. Instead, these weather reports are done from in the studio. Occasionally the noon newscast has a "Weather Deck Guest" segment - a live interview from the deck, but as with the regular weather reports, this has not been seen in 2009. On 28 August 2009, the weather deck was seen on air in a weather report starting with the 5:30 news.

[edit] Sports[]

WZZM started expanded coverage of high school football in 1995 with Friday Night Football. A few years later, the name was changed to 13 On Your Sidelines.

During the 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. newscasts, a meteorologist does a weather report from the "Game of the Week" location with Blinkie the Weatherball mascot. During the 6:00 p.m. newscast, the "Game of the Week" is previewed.

The 11:00 p.m. newscast is shortened to one news segment and one weather segment. During the weather segment, cheerleaders join the meteorologist on the weather deck.

The current format for 13 On Your Sidelines is:

  • "Game of the Week"
  • Reports on 12 other games, giving a total of 13.
  • The in-studio audience is composed of cheerleaders and marching bands.
  • Scoreboard segments announcing the results of all other games.
  • Commentary on the 13 games.
  • Ticker showing scores from all sports, not just high school football.
  • Other sports news.

[edit] WZZM 13's Healthy You[]

WZZM 13's Healthy You debuted on Sunday June 24, 2007.

The show airs every Sunday at 11:00am and is hosted by weekend anchor and health reporter Valerie Lego. In September 2008, it began airing Saturdays at 7:30pm in addition to the Sunday morning time slot [3]

[edit] Take Five & Company[]

Take Five & Company, originally named Take Five Grand Rapids, is a live talk and entertainment show on WZZM weekdays at 9:00 a.m. (from its premiere in early 2004 to September 2005, it originally aired at 5:00 p.m.). It is hosted by Catherine Behrendt, Stephanie Webb, and Tara Kuhnlein.

Its slogan is "Learn a little. Live a little. Have some fun." It has some of the same soft news features that were on 5:30 Edition in the 1990s, such as m|movie reviews and cooking segments.

A key segment of this series is "Rescue My Home", which is similar to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Several times a year, a house is chosen for the makeover of a specific room. In early 2005, there was an "Extreme Mini-Makeover," which is similar to Extreme Makeover. In addition to a week's worth of segments about the project, they air primetime "Rescue My Home" specials. Past projects included the living room, bedroom, and the yard.

In addition to segments about gardening, cooking, being a mother, healthy lifestyle, movies, restaurants, money management, and auto maintenance, the show features celebrity interviews and performances by local artists and national artists who are visiting Grand Rapids.

In 2008, Take Five begun a new segment, called the "Take Five Book Club". Each month a book is revealed. Then, on the first Monday of the next month, there is a discussion about the book. Take Five teamed up with the Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to work on the book club.

On August 25, 2008, when Take Five moved to its new 9:00 am time slot following Good Morning America the show expanded from a half hour to one hour, displacing Live With Regis And Kelly, which had held the 9:00 am time slot at WZZM for more than 20 years. However, Live With Regis and Kelly was picked up by WWMT. [4].

[edit] On-air staff[]

[edit] Take Five & Company[]

  • Catherine Behrendt - Host of Take Five. She joined the station in 1987. During the 1990s, she anchored the news in the morning and noon. She is also the head of the Community and Local Programming Department.
  • Tara Kuhnlein - Co-Host of Take Five. Former intern in the Local Programming Department.
  • Stephanie Webb - Co-Host and reporter for Take Five. She does many interviews with celebrities and other famous people. She formerly worked at WGRD and FOX 17 in Grand Rapids.

[edit] WZZM 13 News[]

[edit] News team[]


  • Juliet Dragos - Weeknights at 5:30, 6pm, and 11pm
  • Derek Francis - Weekdays Morning News and Super Saver Reporter.
  • Valerie Lego - Sundays 6:30pm and 11pm, Health Reporter, Host of WZZM 13's Healthy You
  • Jennifer Pascua - Saturdays 6pm and 11pm, morning reporter
  • Lauren Stanton - Weekdays Morning News and Noon. Also Try It Before You Buy It Reporter
  • Lee VanAmeyde - Weeknights at 5:30, 6pm, and 11pm

WZZM 13 On Target Weather Team

  • George Lessens - Chief Meteorologist Weeknights 6pm and 11pm and Sunday 6:30pm and 11pm
  • Joe Kopecek - Meteorologist Weeknights 5:30 and Saturdays at 6pm and 11pm. Fills in for George on occasion.
  • Hally Vogel - Meteorologist for the Morning News and Noon.

WZZM 13 Sports Team

  • Tom Clyde - Sports Director Weeknights at 6pm and 11pm.
  • Dan Harland - Weekend at 6pm and 11pm.Sports reporter/fill in anchor

WZZM 13 Traffic Time

  • Dave Kaechele - Traffic

13 On Your Sidelines

  • Fridays at 11:15pm during high school football season.
  • Jeff White - Producer
  • Tom Clyde - Sports Director
  • Dan Harland - Anchor

[edit] Reporters[]

  • Angela Cunningham
  • Phil Dawson
  • Amy Fox
  • Lambrini Lukidis
  • Jon Mills
  • Steve Patterson
  • Peter Ross
  • Sarah Sell

[edit] Former on-air staff[]

  • Scott Cohn - was at WZZM in the 1980s, and now is with CNBC.
  • Patrice Formby - a former anchor at CNN, also was at WZZM in the 1990s.
  • Kathy Fountain - was host of PM Magazine in the early 1980s, retired from WTVT in 2010.
  • Tom Helmer - host of BCS Breakdown and The Official BCS Ratings Show on Fox Sports Net, worked at WZZM in the 1990s as the sports director.
  • Jack Hogan (news director and original evening anchor) - from 1961–1988, now a city commissioner in Clermont, Florida.
  • John Keating - a sportscaster for FSN Detroit. Keating was known on air as "Steve Knight".
  • Nick Monacelli - Worked at WZZM from November 2003 to September 2009. Currently at KXTV in Sacramento, Calif.
  • Linda Paige - Former Meteorologist. She had previously worked at WZZM 13 and left. Then she came back to the station in 2004 and left again after the Weekend Morning News concluded in June 2009.
  • Dick Richards (Bozo The Clown) - from 1968-1999. (From 1975-1986, he co-anchored EYEWITNESS AT NOON with Jack Hogan).
  • Jay Schadler - worked at WZZM during the 1970s. He currently works at ABC News.
  • Anne Schieber - Worked at WZZM in the 1990s. Now works at WOOD-TV.
  • Bill Seidman (died 2009) - former FDIC chairman and president of WZZM at one time[6]
  • Bill Steffen - former longtime meteorologist from 1975–2001, including chief meterologist from 1985. Now chief meteorologist at WOOD-TV.
  • David Solano - Weekend Sports Anchor/Reporter & Multimedia Journalist from June 2006-Dec. 2009. Currently at KIAH-TV in Houston.
  • Henry Wofford - Sports Director from 2003-2005 at WZZM-TV. Now working as a Sports Anchor/Reporter at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area in San Francisco.

[edit] References[]

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ I, John L. Bailey, have photos of the statuette awarded by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the certificate with my name imprinted. The statuette itself is displayed by WZZM.
  5. ^ I, John L. Bailey, have a copy of the certificate awarded by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.
  6. ^

[edit] External links[]