WEWS first went on the air on December 17, 1947, as the first licensed television station in Ohio. The call letters denote the initials of the parent company's founder, Edward Willis Scripps. The station is the oldest in Cleveland to maintain the same channel position, ownership and call letters since their sign-on.
A few weeks before, Scripps launched WEWS-FM (102.1 MHz., now WDOK) as an outlet for the WEWS television personalities to gain on-air experience prior to the launch of the television station. (Scripps sold the radio station by 1950.) Channel 5's first broadcast was of a Christmas pageant run by the station's corporate cousin, The Cleveland Press. In short order, WEWS became the most modern television station in America. Its staff included capable producers Jim Breslin and Betty Cope (the latter of whom would become president of non-commercial WVIZ in 1965).
In October 1948, WEWS, still Cleveland's only television station, broadcast the 1948 World Series games played in Cleveland between the Indians and the Boston Braves. The telecasts were fed to stations throughout the Midwest.
WEWS was originally a CBS affiliate with secondary ABC and DuMont affiliations, but it lost the CBS affiliation to WJW-TV (channel 8) in 1955 after that station's then-owner, Storer Broadcasting, used its influence with CBS to land the affiliation. It lost the DuMont affiliation when that network ceased operations in 1956. WEWS also aired one NBC program during this time as well -- The Tonight Show was preempted by Westinghouse-owned NBC affiliate KYW-TV (channel 3, now WKYC-TV), and WEWS cleared it live until 1965.
Among the local programming offered during the 1950s and 1960s was news analysis from Dorothy Fuldheim, children's programming featuring the "Uncle Jake" character played by Gene Carroll and the "Captain Penny" character played by Ron Penfound, and exercise programs with Paige Palmer.
Alice Weston had the one of first live television cooking shows, and Barbara Plummer was "Miss Barbara" for a generation of young viewers on the local version of Romper Room. The most popular show was the Gene Carroll show which began in the 1950s and ran well into the 1970s. The program aired every Sunday at noon. The show showcased the local talent of Cleveland area.
WEWS also offered a 90-minute afternoon variety show The One O'Clock Club weekdays hosted by Fuldheim and Bill Gordon. The program was so popular that competitor KYW-TV was prompted to organize a competing variety show which was the beginning of The Mike Douglas Show.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, WEWS produced several programs that enjoyed national exposure through syndication. The first program was Upbeat. Considered by some to be one of the most significant early rock and roll TV variety shows, Upbeat featured a live audience, a group of dancers and live (or lip-synched) performances by the big names of the era.
Artists who appeared on Upbeat included Aretha Franklin, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder, among others. In fact, Redding's final appearance ever came on the show on December 9, 1967. The next afternoon, his twin-engine airplane crashed in the icy waters of Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin, killing all but one of the eight passengers on board.
The program began locally as The Big 5 Show, and the name was changed to Upbeat when it went national, altogether running from 1964 to 1971. Among the hosts for this program was Don Webster, who later doubled as the station's lead weather forecaster. At its peak, Upbeat was seen in over 100 television markets.
Another program seen throughout the country was Polka Varieties, an hour-long program of polka music. Polka Varieties ran locally on Sunday afternoons from 1:00 to 2:00 from 1956 into the early 1980's, and was syndicated during its later years to 30 television markets. The program featured various popular bands that played Slovenian-style polka, Polish, Italian and Bohemian-style music. "America's Polka King", Frank Yankovic, was the original band to perform on the show. Other bands included Richie Vadnal, George Staiduhar, Markic-Zagger, and Hank Haller. Original host Tom Fletcher was replaced by Paul Wilcox, whose presence became an indelible part of the show. Uttering the well-known show-opening phrase, "From America's Polka Capital of Cleveland, Ohio, this is Polka Varieties, now in its ___ year on the air!" were several famous voices associated with the station over the years, including Court Stanton, Ralph Gunderman, and David Mark.
Syndicated to several markets was the program "Black On Black," which examined issues of importance to Black communities.
In 1970, WEWS became the broadcast rights holder of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers. Channel 5's partnership with the team continued until 1973, when the Cavaliers moved to then-independent station WUAB (channel 43).
At one time, the Cleveland/Akron market had two ABC affliates: in addition to WEWS, WAKC, channel 23 (now WVPX) served Akron viewers, who could not receive a clear signal from WEWS. WAKC was founded seven years after WEWS, in 1953. ABC gave both WEWS and WAKC rights to broadcast ABC programming, which caused cannibalization of ratings and made WEWS brass angry; they did not want to compete with another station showing the same programming. E.W. Scripps Company, the owners of WEWS, would always petition ABC's decision to allow both stations to carry the same programming. In the 1960s, ABC allowed WEWS to broadcast the better shows, leaving WAKC with the less popular shows and second-rate syndicated programs. The feud ended in December 1996, when WAKC canceled its news operation and dumped ABC in favor of the network now known as ION.
In 1959 Dorothy Fuldheim, who had been with the station before it even went on air, began to formulate her own newscast in response to the new 30-minute newscast on KYW-TV, the first half-hour newscast in the country. Fuldheim utterly hated hard-hitting newscasts such as the one KYW-TV had created. Instead, she centered her newscast around her interviews, a general overview of the news, and her commentaries (the very opinionated Fuldheim frequently inserted her own opinions about the stories). Fuldheim was the first female in the United States to have her own television news analysis program.
Twenty-seven year-old John Hambrick took over as lead anchor on WEWS' evening newscasts in late December 1967, with Fuldheim staying on as a commentator. Don Webster presented the weather and Gib Shanley was the sports anchor. With the arrival of the 1970s, WEWS changed the format of its newscasts slightly to a version of Eyewitness News. In 1970, Dave Patterson joined Hambrick on the early newscast and then became co-anchor on the 11:00 p.m. newscast in 1971. Ted Henry, who joined WEWS in 1972 as a behind-the-scenes producer, got his start on the air later in the '70s as a weekend weatherman. (In later years, Henry would admit that he, not knowing the slightest about forecasting, simply made up the forecast every day.)
Nineteen seventy-two was also the year that Bill Jacocks, said to be Cleveland's first regularly scheduled African-American anchorman, joined WEWS. Jacocks started as assistant public affairs director, and became weekend anchor in January 1975. For a solid decade (until 1985) Jacocks remained the one constant weekend anchor while many co-anchors came and went. Among those doing their first Cleveland co-anchor stints with Jacocks were Tim Taylor and Wilma Smith.
Hambrick and Patterson continued to anchor the newscasts until Hambrick left for San Francisco in 1975. At that time, Ted Henry became the weekend anchor, and then a year later in 1976, co-anchor on the weekday evening newscasts with Patterson. Henry continues to be lead anchor to this day. This era marked the start of dominance for the WEWS news programs that lasted until well into the 1980s. In 1977 weekend co-anchor Tim Taylor left WEWS for weeknight anchor duties at WJW-TV. Fuldheim’s role decreased as she only presented her interviews and commentaries on the air.
WEWS's news department underwent another major change in 1982. Previously, the 5-6 p.m. spot was occupied by The Afternoon Exchange, the afternoon companion to The Morning Exchange. That year, the program adopted a new format, and was renamed to Live on Five. The broadcast was originally hosted by Wilma Smith and Don Webster, and retained many elements from The Afternoon Exchange, such as interviews, movie reviews, health reports, and some cooking segments. Added to the mix were news updates from Ted Henry.
As WJW's news programs became more and more successful during the 1980s, (as well as CBS having better ratings than ABC during most of the 1980's) channel 5 began facing competition for the first time in years. According to Ted Henry, towards the end of the 1980s, management felt that the station could produce a better newscast and overcome WJW by using a format other than Eyewitness News. An outside source was brought in and concurred that the station could do a better job in news production by adapting a new format. The analysis added that the Eyewitness News format gave nothing to viewers which suggested that its news was any better than the other stations'. With this in mind, WEWS began developing a format which would involve the production of full newscasts at the regular time slots, and in addition, mini-newscasts at the top of every hour, even overnight. This concept was dubbed “The 24 Hour NewsSource” as a way to suggest that WEWS was better than other stations since it produced a newscast every hour. In 1990, the new format was put into place and the station began identifying itself as NewsChannel 5.
From 1990 until 1993, WEWS and WJW continued battling for the top rated spot. In 1993, WEWS launched a successful campaign called "Together" which reminded viewers of the station's commitment to Cleveland through news and programming since its 1947 launch and that that same commitment was present today. The campaign also slightly toned down the newscasts by making them less hard-hitting (and more family-friendly, as ABC had been seen as a "family network" in the early to mid '90s). As a result, WEWS once again emerged as the market leader in news. In 1994, WJW became a Fox affiliate and adopted a more hard-hitting format for its newscasts, going with Fox's "edgier" reputation and style, leading to many of its viewers changing channels to WEWS. Meanwhile, WKYC-TV and WOIO (channel 19, the new CBS affiliate) failed to present much substantial competition at all. However, WJW soon began regaining viewers due to the fact that it was able to produce longer local newscasts since Fox had less programming than the other networks. In response, WEWS began promoting its news division as "The most-watched news team in Ohio" in hope that the bandwagon effect would keep viewers tuned to its newscasts. In 1997, WEWS began to lose more viewers, this time to WKYC, when former WUAB anchor Romona Robinson moved to WKYC. At this time WEWS discontinued its hourly “24 Hour NewsSource” updates.
To try to prevent more viewers from leaving, WEWS got a new set and a new newsroom in 1998 and adopted "On Your Side" as its slogan (which it currently still uses). More noticeable, however, was the dropping of the station's longtime Circle 5 logo. That year, WEWS also became the first TV station in Cleveland to launch a website NewsNet5
WEWS retained the top spot until 2001, when WJW began resurfacing as the leader once again. Additionally, Live on Five, which dominated the 5 p.m. hour for years, suffered dramatically because at the end of WEWS's 4 p.m. broadcast of The Oprah Winfrey Show many viewers switched to WKYC-TV's 5 p.m. broadcast of Dr. Phil. This in turn resulted in many viewers watching WKYC's 6 p.m. newscast, which caused further ratings declines at WEWS. It should be noted that WEWS had the chance to broadcast Dr. Phil (as WEWS is loyal to the show's syndicator, King World, now known as CBS Television Distribution.) but turned it down in order to keep Live on Five on the air. WEWS decided once again to change its format to compete. In September 2002, WEWS adopted a harder-hitting format that mimicked many of the elements of WJW’s newscasts. It also dropped its weekend morning and weekend noon newscasts. When the station failed to regain viewers, WEWS saw that an even bigger change was needed.
In January 2004, a completely different NewsChannel 5 debuted to compete with WJW. The format was unlike any previous Cleveland newscast. Rather than staying at the main anchor desk, the anchors moved around the set reporting stories while standing, sitting at small tables, or in front of a “video wall.” This was all complemented by a set made up mostly of flat screen TVs flashing the new NewsChannel 5 logo. On screen, stories would transition with flashy graphics and swooshing sounds. By this time, however, WJW had lost its number one spot to the more traditional WKYC. Therefore, the newscast WEWS created to compete with WJW now was competing against a completely different type of broadcast.
Due to the new style, WEWS experienced sharp ratings declines. As a result, in June 2004, Lynn Heider, WEWS's news director since 1998, resigned. She was replaced by John Butte who by that August eliminated many of the flashy graphics, swoosh sounds, and anchor movement from the newscasts. Butte also significantly expanded the length and content of the sports segments on all of the newscasts. Slowly, WEWS began to regain some viewers. In May 2005, WKYC lost its market dominance in the ratings and thus WEWS's ratings improved. In August 2005, Ric Harris, station general manager and vice president since 2001, left WEWS and was replaced six months later by John Butte. Scripps cited the growth of the news department under Butte as part of the reason for their decision.
On January 7, 2007, WEWS began broadcasting newscasts in high-definition, becoming the third Cleveland television station to do so. On December 17, 2007, channel 5 reached a major milestone -- the station celebrated its sixtieth anniversary on the air.
In the February 2008 sweeps period, WEWS' noon newscast placed first in its timeslot, while its afternoon and evening newscasts finished in second place. Its 11 p.m. newscast finished second in its timeslot (and third among all late-night newscasts). Mornings were a different story, however: WEWS finished in last place at 5 a.m. (behind even perennial morning basement dweller WOIO) and in third place at 6 a.m.
|5.1 / 15.1||WEWS-DT|
After the analog television shutdown and digital conversion, which is tentatively scheduled to take place on February 17, 2009, WEWS will continue digital broadcasts on its current pre-transition channel number, 15. However, through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers will display WEWS' virtual channel as 5.
From sometime in the late 1960s until 1998, WEWS' logo was known as the Circle 5, a variant of the Circle 7 logo associated mainly with the original five ABC owned-and-operated stations (such as WXYZ-TV in Detroit, now owned by E.W. Scripps). The only real change to the logo came in 1995, when it was slightly tilted to the right. Initially sister station WPTV (TV) also used the same logo, but they too recently have modified theirs from the original.
In the early 1970s, the station commissioned musician Frank Gari to create a promotional campaign song. Catch 5, as it was known, caught on in Cleveland. The Catch 5 promo was first used to highlight the then-new John Hambrick/Dave Patterson anchor team on Eyewitness News. ()
WEWS kept Catch 5 as its official slogan into the early 1980s. The station then transitioned towards a localized version of Gari's "Hello News" campaign ("Hello Cleveland") for its on-air imaging, and as the theme for Live on Five. By the mid-1980s, only the Eyewitness News broadcasts kept the Catch 5 theme music. In 1986, WEWS dropped the Catch 5 musical theme altogether and adopted another Gari music package, "Good News". Finally, in 1987, the "Hello" news theme and image campaign were dropped and replaced with an upbeat version of "Good News".
In January 2007, to coincide with their debut of high-definition newscasts, WEWS returned to a slightly modified, more angular version of the old Circle 5. () Channel 5 also now uses Frank Gari's Eyewitness News theme music on its newscasts, promos in a manner similar to ABC-owned stations. In addition to this, WEWS and other ABC stations (such as WABC-TV in New York City and KABC-TV in Los Angeles) all share the same graphics, idents and news introduction sequences.
This harmonizing of station imaging is not necessarily new, as WEWS once incorporated various ABC promotional slogans, such as "Still the One", into their own Catch 5 campaign. In addition, Ernie Anderson, one of ABC-TV's promotional voices and a legendary figure in Cleveland television, was WEWS' imaging voice for the opening sequences of Eyewitness News.
In addition to the Catch 5 campaign, WEWS also had several customized versions of the ABC campaigns from the 1970s and 1980s, as well as other localized campaigns.
Here are the past WEWS slogans as followed: