ROCK HILL, S.C. – (Oct. 10, 2012) – Later this month, CN2 News will officially reach its 20th Anniversary of being on the air and providing news, weather and other local programming. In celebration, CN2 is celebrating its milestone during the month of October with a number of prizes for its viewers in York and Lancaster Counties.
“When President Gerald Ford visited Rock Hill, we went out to the mall and videotaped him,” said Comporium’s Bill Beaty, executive vice president of cable TV. “We put that on air, so you can say that was one of our first locally produced programs. City council meetings and other special events followed.”
John Barnes, Jr., who was working for a cable TV company in Texas, returned to the family-owned business to help market cable TV service and bring some fresh ideas for local programming. When Barnes arrived, he found that Channel 2 had the council meetings, a basic set up for showing the local weather conditions and a “crawl” across the screen to provide local announcements.
Quickly, the two men enhanced the weather station, added a character generated community bulletin board, and brought in Westminster Presbyterian’s church services.
“We knew the product had to differentiate us from the satellite companies and be competitive, so our surveys said that having local people on TV would accomplish that,” said Barnes, who is now Comporium’s executive vice president of Marketing and Business Solutions.
To cultivate the local community connection, CN2 expanded and experimented with a variety of local programming that was introduced in a relatively short period. Some of the shows included:
- Road to Hollywood hosted by Cathy McKee
- Shorty’s Birthdays – kids’ show hosted by Shorty the Clown
- County 10-01 – County music/video countdown show
- Jack at Nite – Rock ‘n’ Roll videos
- Both music programs were hosted by Jack Anthony who worked at Fox in Charlotte
- Wrestling – local wrestling league called Southern Wrestling Alliance, produced by Mike Tidwell and announced by Larry Harmon.
- Daybreak with Jay – a live morning show that interviewed local personalities and featured a morning devotional by Shelton Sanford from Westminster
- Local Real Estate Show – hosted by Dale Poston
- City Council Meetings – produced by the City of Rock Hill
- High School Football – produced by Shakrom Nazhari
- Special Programming – for example, a telethon for the Jaycees
At that time, CN2 also had a short segment within CNN’s Headline News to air local news. Dave Burrage, who now resides in Rock Hill and spends most of his time as a primary caregiver for some elderly relatives and a friend, had been drafted by Beaty who was visiting the cable TV station in Hickory, N.C. Burrage had previously worked for Beaty at the local radio station.
“Bill was there to see the station’s computer system, and we ran into each other by accident in the canteen,” Burrage recalled. “I told him I was doing the CNN Headline News local segment. Hickory was one of the first in the nation, and Bill already knew that. So, he called me later and asked if I’d come back to Rock Hill and help get it going for the cable TV system.”
Bethany Kiser, who is now manager of e-communications for American Municipal Power in Columbus, Ohio, anchored the Headline News Local Edition (HNLE). The first newscasts launched in January of 1990.
Barnes and Beaty were pleased with the effort but continued to study how the programming should evolve.
“Local news and weather had the largest demand, and we realized we needed to expand to a 30-minute news show sprinkled around prime time news,” noted Barnes.
Beaty and Barnes went to The Herald to consult with then owner and publisher Wayne Patrick.
“Wayne said to model it like Ted Turner did with CNN, and we liked that idea,” Beaty added. “In the car on the way back from the meeting, John said, ‘Cable News 2 – CN2.’ We had been kicking this around for two months, but John decided it in about a minute after talking to Wayne.”
The two men asked Mike Tidwell to drop one “N” out of CNN and insert the “2” with a little slant; in five minutes, the news station had its logo. They set the launch date for mid-October of 1992 and announced to the Comporium and CN2 employees that all other local programming would be discontinued.
“I remember a lot of preparation and several brainstorming sessions to develop the format, the name, CN2, and the direction for the 30-minute newscast,” said Kiser. “We launched CN2 more than a year and half after HNLE, so at that point we had a good foundation to build upon. Local Edition helped us establish a reputation as a qualified news source which helped give us credibility to expand into a 30-minute format.
“I remember that Bill Beaty and John Barnes were very hands-on in the early stages, such as attending our morning meetings to determine the coverage and lineup of stories,” Kiser added. “It was an exciting time and we were a close-knit group which made it truly a team effort.”
Kiser said she requested to “step away from the anchor desk” to become the lead reporter in the field, and Burrage took on the role as the anchor. The CN2 news team and crew practiced for a couple of weeks before launching the first public newscast on Oct. 26, 1992.
“I was excited to take a different role on CN2,” Kiser recalled. “I wanted to hone my skills as a reporter on the scene. The only ‘rehearsing’ I remember was setting up the two-shot of myself and Dave for my first news story. From what I can remember, the taping of our first newscast ran smoother than anyone expected.”
“We hit a few delays, but we had the first newscast on Oct. 26th,” said Barnes. “I thought it (the first show) was pretty good. Jonathan Courtney was the producer and Steve Warren was the camera man. Everybody pitched in. The show was aired from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and repeated every 30 minutes. We used to try to update it but that was hard,” Barnes added. “It wasn’t digital – we used three-quarter inch tape – it all had to be edited which took a long time.”
Since the early stages in the ‘90s, CN2 News continues to change as it focuses on events from around the area.
“We’re proud to say that we’ve groomed graduates for a lot of the broadcast industry,” Barnes said. “We must have 20 former CN2 reporters working in markets such as Nashville, Charleston, Florence, Charlotte, Columbia, Wilmington, Rochester and beyond.”
By being located near the Charlotte metropolitan area, CN2 is pitted against large network affiliates with indisputably much larger budgets and more extensive resources. The Charlotte TV stations are graded 14th in the nation in terms of quality.
“So, what we do is compared to the top 15 market,” Barnes noted. “I challenge anybody to find local cable news programs as good as CN2 in similar markets, such as Wilmington and Charleston. Not only the talent, but also the intellect today are far superior to the local cable news you find elsewhere. That’s evident by the awards they receive.”
CN2 holds a long string of “Golden Palmetto Awards” for “Excellence in Cable TV Programming” from the South Carolina Cable TV Association, dating back to 1993, which was only one year since its inception. Last May, CN2 received an Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Achievement in Television News Programming Excellence” presented by the Southeast Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
In less than a week before its 20th Anniversary, CN2 will find out if it can add awards for “Best Newscast” and for “Special Report” from the Radio Television Digital News Association of the Carolinas. And, the local news station holds dear the coveted “Buzzie” for “Best Television Station” as selected by The Herald’s Readers Choice awards and hopes to win again for the third year in a row.
“If there was no CN2,” Beaty said with slight frown, “that would be a great loss. It supports so many local causes and organizations like Pilgrim’s Inn, Boys and Girls Club, and the Worthy Boys and Girls Camp, for example.
“Today, I think the programming and personnel are the best that it’s ever been,” said Beaty. “I don’t think there is any question the value that CN2 brings to our citizenry. It may be even more valuable to the community today than when it started.”
CN2 produces six newscasts each week, a biweekly local history program and a biweekly discussion with community members; plus, local churches’ services and classified ads placed by area residents and businesses. Additional seasonal programming includes high school football, Winthrop University basketball, a local holiday shopping guide, and high school graduation ceremonies. For more information, please visit www.CN2.com.