HAZARD—The age-old adage, “Practice makes perfect,” seems to be what the staff at WYMT News in Hazard have lived by since the beginning of the year to prepare for their switch from standard definition broadcasting to high definition (HD), which officially happened last week.
WYMT General Manager Neil Middleton said this was one of the biggest things to happen to the station since it first went on the air nearly 30 years ago in 1985.
“This is just the first of what we consider to be three phases of our upgrade,” Middleton said.
Middleton explained that as of right now all cameras in the studio are HD cameras and operate on a fully automated system—meaning no camera person is needed for a newscast. The second phase will hit this summer, with a second channel for more local programming and a fully automated master control room for the station. The third and final phase will send the station into the digital era as the newsroom will eventually be completely tapeless.
“A lot of other stations are already HD, not everyone but a lot are, and this is just one way that we can better serve the viewers of Eastern Kentucky. They deserve the best and we want to give them the best,” he said.
The best, though, is rarely easy to come by as has been illustrated by the months of practice the newsroom had gone through to ensure they would be prepared for anything.
Executive Producer Kyle Collier said the news team had been researching HD switch overs long before the launch date for their switch over.
“From the stories we’d heard from other stations who made the jump to HD in the past, we had heard really bad stories of cameras just spinning like by themselves just in circles, and people just weren’t prepared, the newsroom wasn’t prepared, the producers weren’t prepared, so that really helped us out because that’s one reason we’d been practicing since January,” Collier said.
WYMT News Director and lead anchor Steve Hensley said the news team had been practicing nearly every day since January to prepare for the switch over. He explained that the move to HD was really a whole image change for the station.
“People at home don’t realize what goes into an HD transition. I’ve been working on stuff since I became news director … I picked out our new music probably a year ago,” Hensley said. “The quality—from what we had to what we’ve gone to now—is amazing the difference. The maps, I mean we can zoom in right on a street. We had nothing like that before.”
Middleton said another thing that will be noticeably different, though maybe only to those at the station, is the number of bodies it will take to put on a newscast now.This does not, however, mean that the station will be letting any personnel go.
“We have always done more with less. Basically, what this is going to allow us to do is those people that were tied up—we have people that were editing commercials or other things and they had to stop what they were doing to go do the newscast—now they’re going to be able to continue what they were doing to begin with,” Middleton said. “We’re restructuring, we’re not losing anybody.”
WYMT will always strive to make the perfect product for its customers, Middleton said, even if perfection is unattainable.
“The majority of the people who work here are from Eastern Kentucky, and we take a lot of pride … in what we do,” he said, adding that he knew the region deserved the quality product his station would now be able to deliver.
Hensley said on Tuesday of last week, after the first HD 6 p.m. newscast, the the station had taken a giant leap forward into the 21st Century.
“We always like to say we’re a small market station but we don’t act small market. Now, we don’t look small market,” he said. “There’s no way we could have done this overnight; it’s just impossible. I think all the practice we’ve done has really helped.”
Amelia Holliday can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.