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Johnstown-Altoona-State College

Pennsylvania Station Uses Drone for Traffic Shot During Newscast

After an off-duty photographer for Hartford’s WFSB ran into trouble with local police and sparked an FAA investigation for using a drone to shoot a police investigation, you’d think stations would reconsider using the unmanned vehicles for newsgathering.

Wednesday, Altoona, PA, CBS affiliate WTAJ aired footage from its “WTAJ Drone” to show the aftermath of a traffic accident on a local interstate during its 5:00 p.m. news and posted the footage on its facebook page.

WTAJ’s viewers seemed unimpressed regardless of the FAA’s position against using drones for commercial purposes, “Why even post this video?” one viewer commented on the station’s facebook page. “This sucked. I wish I had those 35 seconds of my life back.”

TVSpy asked WTAJ for comment. We have not heard back.

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Sinclair Names James Doty GM of WJAC

WJAC_6_NewsJames Doty has been named general manager of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Johnstown, PA, station WJAC.

We are pleased to have Jim join the team at WJAC,” Steve Pruett, co-chief operating officer at Sinclair, said in a statement. “Jim brings a long career in sales management, leading local and national sales teams. We believe his experience will be a valuable contribution to this market.”

Doty comes to the NBC affiliate from KPTM-KXVO in Omaha, NE, where he was the GSM. Before that he was the director of sales for Nexstar’s WCIA in Champaign, IL. He has also held various sales positions in Memphis and Jackson, TN, Houston, TX, and Harrisburg, PA.

KC Kantz Promoted to Sports Director at WTAJ

KC Kantz has been promoted to sports director at WTAJ, Nexstar’s CBS affiliate in Altoona, Pa.

“KC has been an important part of our sports team and the television station for some years now.  His dedication to local, college and professional sports has been outstanding,” WTAJ VP-GM Phil Dubrow said in a statement. “Now he will elevate WTAJ’s sports even further as he carries on a strong tradition of Nittany Nation and Steeler Nation coverage as well as our award winning High School sports coverage.”

Kantz joined the station in 2010 as weekend sports anchor. He has previously worked at WSEE, the CBS affiliate in Erie, Pa.

Altoona’s WTAJ Converting to HD

Newscasts at WTAJ will soon be in high definition, according to The Altoona Mirror.

“We are re-doing the entire set,” Phil Dubrow, VP-GM at the Altoona CBS affiliate, told the Mirror. “The clarity will be much better. Everything is getting upgraded from the studio cameras, set, graphics and logo. We are adding a new weather lab and adding weather cameras around the viewing area.”

Dubrow said Nexstar is in the process of upgrading many of their stations, and that WTAJ is the first to get a makeover this year.

“It will change the way people see things. The clarity will be better,” he said. “Everybody is jazzed up; there is a lot going on here.”

John Mecham Returns to TV News as WTAJ ND

WTAJ, the CBS-affiliate in the Johnstown-Altoona-State College, PA market, has hired John Mecham as its new news director. His first day is set for July 2nd.

After stints as executive producer/managing editor at KDKA in Pittsburgh and as content management center supervisor at KVOA in Tucson, Mecham has spent the past year working in public relations.

“News is my first love,” Mecham wrote on his LinkedIn page, announcing the move. “Most of us got into this business to make a difference. I’d like to think that is still vital to what we do as journalists. I look forward to working with the staff at WTAJ.” Read more

Reporters Will Be Able to Live-Tweet Sandusky Trial

Journalists won’t be allowed to record the sex-abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky but they will be able to live-tweet it.

According to a court order issued on Wednesday, journalists will be allowed to tweet and blog as they attend the trial, which is set to begin next week.

Local news stations WJAC and WTAJ will each have one reserved seat in the courtroom, and will be able to use smart phones and laptops during the trial, although they will not be allowed to record or broadcast “any verbatim account of the proceedings while court is in session.” Read more

Police Hunting Down Penn State Rioters Responsible for Destroying WTAJ News Van

The State College police department is working with the public to identify the protestors that destroyed a WTAJ news van during last month’s riot at Penn State.

On November 9th, thousands of Penn State students gathered in downtown State College to protest the firing of beloved football coach Joe Paterno.  The demonstration quickly escalated into a riot with angry students targeting the media for their presumed role in Paterno’s dismissal.

State College police have so far identified 33 people who caused havoc during the riot, according to WTAJ.  There is now a photo gallery on the State College city website with images of unruly protestors, including students who were responsible for tipping the WTAJ news van over.  The department is urging the public to come forward with tips and information about those involved.

WJAC Reporter Gary Sinderson On The Penn State Cover-Up: ‘Some In This Biz Are Lazy’

Gary Sinderson, a reporter at WJAC in Johnstown, PA, writes about reporting on the Penn State Scandal on TVNewsCheck. Sinderson, who is a Penn State alum, says he “began hearing whispers about Jerry Sandusky several years ago”:

Why couldn’t I report it? I didn’t have the time to get the needed verification to move the story ahead or to convince my bosses it’s not a rumor, but a real story. It’s just the nature of my particular job. I’m a one-man band, expected to crank out several stories a day. I may get a day or two to work on a large story, but not the time afforded to [Harrisburg Patriot-News reporter Sara] Ganim.

[...] Some in this biz are lazy, just repeating and reporting on what a few others have uncovered. We have a lot of commentators and not enough folks on the front lines finding the stories for everybody else to talk about. Corporate downsizing has cut those positions.  Read more

Amy Mearkle Will Leave WTAJ After 12 Years

Amy Mearkle, who has been with Altoona CBS-affiliate WTAJ since 1999, is leaving television for a job as the director of marketing for a local amusement park.

Mearkle, an Altoona native, joined the station as the Bedford County reporter. In 2001, she was promoted to morning and noon anchor, where she has been ever since.

“When I hear breaking news, I will miss that,” she told the Altoona Mirror. “I won’t miss the early alarm clock in the morning.”

The station is undergoing a search for Mearkle’s replacement. Her last day will be November 23. Read more

Gas From Overturned WTAJ News Van Could Have Set State College Ablaze

Last night’s riot at Penn State could have erupted into a massive bonfire after demonstrators overturned a WTAJ news van.

According to WTAE sports anchor John Meyer, who covered the riot last night, a stream of gasoline leaked from the overturned van into the streets of State College, where thousands of students had gathered.

“This unsafe situation could have been a whole lot worse,” Meyer told viewers this morning, referring to the riot, “as gasoline started to spill from that live truck and go all the way down the street for about half a block.  If anyone had struck a match all of a sudden, you know what would’ve happened after that.  So thankfully that did not happen.”

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