NEWS- Rookie's year: New TV station seizes key award

When WCAV CBS19 first went on the air in November 2004, there were a few snickers around town, as the new station, like a toddling child, lurched onto the local broadcast scene– complete with awkward pauses and an anchor team that promptly disappeared.

WCAV is the one laughing now. Before even reaching the terrible twos, the station has snared a prestigious award from the Virginia Association of Broadcasters .

CBS19 was runner up for "outstanding newscast," following Richmond powerhouse WWBT NBC12, which took first place. In the news category, the new station edged out another Richmond biggie, WRIC, local stalwart NBC29– and CBS19's own Grey Television sister station, WVAW ABC16.

Entrants didn't get to choose their best broadcasts– they were given specific dates to submit the news from that day. 

Television stations across the state entered more than 200 entries to the Virginia Association of Broadcasters in categories such as best commercial or best sportscast. The tapes were sent to a Pennsylvania broadcasting association for judging, and the awards presented at the broadcasters' convention June 15-17 at Virginia Beach.

CBS19's win is "a big deal because they're recognized by their peers," says the VAB's Vicki Stec, who cites the tough competition. "That says a lot for them that they came in second. They went up against the big guns."

Roger Burchett, general manager for the Newsplex, which includes CBS19, ABC16 and WAHU Fox27, is "ecstatic" with the award.

"You bust your tail every day to get people to watch," he says. "To have your peers recognize what you're doing is very gratifying. You have impartial people agreeing what an outstanding news product looks like."

 Ric Barrick was there when CBS19 first went on the air November 20, 2004. "We had technical challenges, to say the least," recalls Barrick, who was news director for the start-up stations and is now spokesman for the city of Charlottesville.

He describes a "phenomenally challenging situation" getting on the air–  studios still under construction in the Frank Ix building, people doing the news who were straight out of college, and a new technology to learn.

And there was GM Burchett himself. A successful marketing exec with Pepsi who then headed a new division of Rawlings Sporting Goods, he had never run a television station before, much less started up three.

"At the start of the discussion, it was, 'Here comes the guy who doesn't have television experience,'" says Barrick. "He embraced the fact he didn't have television experience, and surrounded himself with people who did."

Adds Barrick, "To Roger's credit... I don't know how I would have reacted in the same situation."

While the Newsplex is still struggling in the ratings,"You get recognition in more ways than ratings," notes Barrick. "This is a feather in their cap."

Proud papa Roger Burchett has steered still-in-its-infancy CBS19 to a state broadcasting award.