WJHL-TV is the CBS-affiliated television station for the Tri-Cities area of Northeastern Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia that is licensed to Johnson City, Tennessee. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on VHF channel 11 from a transmitter on the southwest slope of Holston High Point on Holston Mountain. Owned by Media General, which also owns the The Bristol Herald Courier, the station has studios on East Main Street in downtown Johnson City.
|Johnson City / Kingsport /|
|City of license||Johnson City|
|Branding||11 Connects (general)
NewsChannel 11 Connects (newscasts)
|Channels||Digital: 11 (VHF)|
11.2 local weather
(Media General Communications Holdings, LLC)
|First air date||October 26, 1953|
|Call letters' meaning||John H. Lancaster
(founder of WJHL radio)
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:
11 (VHF, 1953-2009) Digital: 58 (UHF, 1998-2009)
|Former affiliations||DuMont (1953-1956)|
|Transmitter power||34.5 kW|
WJHL-TV is in what the media industry calls a converged newsroom, meaning Media General online print (The Bristol Herald Courier) and broadcast (WJHL) operations work together closely. Herald Courier reporters are trained to occasionally deliver webcasts of Bristol news, conduct TV "talk-backs" with WJHL and gather audio for daily stories. News Channel 11 reporters often have bylined stories that appear in the Herald Courier news pages. Both operations provide content for TriCities.com, a subsidiary of Media General's Digital Media Department.
In 1953, WJHL-TV was on track to be the first television station to sign-on in East Tennessee. The station's original tower was being constructed on Tannery Knob in downtown Johnson City. With just a few weeks before sign-on, the guy wires snapped, sending the 300-foot (91 m) tower and its antenna crashing to the ground. This enabled WROL-TV in Knoxville (now WATE-TV) to beat WJHL-TV to the air by almost a month. Since many advertisers and banks were already skeptical about television's viability (the tower crash did not help), the Lancasters had to scramble for funding. They were able to get the station on-the-air but had to side-mount a much smaller replacement antenna on a wooden power pole the Johnson City Power Board installed at the last minute.WJHL-TV began broadcasting on October 26, 1953. It was owned by Hanes Lancaster, Sr. his son Hanes, Jr. and Jesse W. "Jay" Birdwell along with WJHL radio (910 AM, now WJCW; and FM 101.5, now WQUT). All three stations took their calls from John H. Lancaster, Sr. (Hanes, Sr.'s father and Hanes, Jr.'s grandfather) who had founded WJHL-AM in 1938.
Originally, the station was affiliated with all four television networks of the time—CBS, NBC, ABC, and DuMont. However, its primary affiliation has always been with CBS, due to that network's long-time affiliation with WJHL radio. In 1954, the WJHL-TV transmitter was relocated to Buffalo Mountain southwest of Johnson City, which is 1,200 feet (370 m) higher than Tannery Knob. From that location, the station was able to better reach Bristol, Kingsport and other areas of Eastern Tennessee, Southwestern Virginia, and Western North Carolina. To this day, WQUT-FM (the former WJHL-FM) still broadcasts from WJHL-TV's old tower on Buffalo Mountain. Meanwhile, NBC moved to WCYB-TV in Bristol when that station signed-on in 1956. WJHL lost Dumont soon afterward when that network shut down. WJHL and WCYB shared ABC until 1969 when WKPT-TV in Kingsport signed-on and became the market's ABC affiliate.
In 1956, Birdwell helped launch WBIR-TV, Channel 10 in Knoxville, and was faced with a dilemma. Channels 10 and 11 had a fairly large city-grade signal overlap, mainly in the Morristown and Greeneville areas. At the time, the Federal Communications Commission normally did not allow common ownership of two stations with overlapping signals, and would not even consider a waiver for a city-grade overlap. Birdwell chose to keep his interest in WBIR-TV, and sell his stake in WJHL-TV to the Lancasters.
The Lancasters sold WJHL-AM-FM-TV to Roy H. Park Broadcasting in 1964. Around this time, the station adopted a logo featuring a U.S. highway sign with an "11" inside it, which remained in use until around 1987. The logo was already well known in the area, since U.S. Highway 11 passes through most of the major cities and towns in the market as U.S. 11-E and U.S. 11-W. The shields were, and still are, quite prevalent in the area and became an instant promotional link for the station.
Park Broadcasting was renamed Park Communications in the 1970s, and later sold off both radio stations.
Hanes Lancaster, Jr. had succeeded his father as station manager in 1954, and remained as station manager after the sale to Park. In 1989, Lancaster, Jr. was succeeded by Jack Dempsey, who still holds the post today. To this day, WJHL holds the distinction of being the only station in Tennessee to have only had three General Managers since it began broadcasting. In 1969, WJHL moved its transmitter once again 800 feet (240 m) higher and further east, this time side-by-side with WKPT on the lower end of Holston High Point on Holston Mountain. With an antenna now at 2,224 feet (678 m) above average terrain, it was necessary to reduce full power analog visual to 245,000 watts from the normal 316,000 watts allocated to stations between VHF channel 7 to 13 with antennas below 2,000 feet (610 m) above average terrain.
Many of its employees have stayed on for thirty years or more, which is unusual for a market this size (it is currently the 93rd market—the smallest in the state with three full big threeaffiliates).
Media General acquired Park Communications and WJHL in 1997 and dropped its longtime brand of "TV 11" in favor of "NewsChannel 11". The station began broadcasting a digital signal on UHF channel 58 in 1998. In May 2009, WJHL switched its branding from "NewsChannel 11" to "11 Connects".
WJHL is received on many cable systems in Western North Carolina. In the Charlotte DMA, it can be received on cable in Banner Elk, Blowing Rock, Boone, Creston, and Linville. In the Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville market, WJHL can be received on cable channel 11 in Bakersville, Burnsville, and Spruce Pine. It is also carried on Country Cablevision in Burnsville on channel 211 making it the only cable system in North Carolina that carries WJHL in high definition. Under federal must-carry rules, broadcasters can either allow cable systems in their market to carry their signals for free or charge a fee under retransmission consent provisions. On December 3, 2008, it was announced that Inter Mountain Cable (IMC), a cable provider serving parts of Eastern Kentucky, announced that it would drop WJHL from its lineup unless an agreement was reached over retransmission consent. According to The Mountain Eagle, this dispute has caused concern among officials in the city of Fleming-Neon where IMC holds the cable television franchise there. The city council in Fleming-Neon have stated that the removal of WJHL will violate IMC's franchise agreement.
WJHL's newscasts were simulcast on WKPT for four years. That station shut down its news department in February 2002. The simulcasts ceased in September 2006. In late-2006, this station launched a 24-hour cable weather channel. It can be seen on most cable outlets in the area via digital cable and on digital channel 11.2. On August 11, 2008, Channel 11 debuted a new daytime show, Daytime Tri-Cities. The show is hosted by Morgan King (a former weatherman at WKPT and WCYB) and Amy Lynn (who was an anchor at WCYB). In the November 2008 ratings period, WJHL's 11 P.M. news took over the ratings lead from WCYB for the first time in thirty years.
On April 21, 2010, WJHL management announced that the station will convert Channel 11 newscasts to high definition. On October 4, 2010, WJHL became the third station in the Tri-Cities market to convert its newscast in high definition.
- The Tri-Cities Report (1953–1960)
- The TV-11 Report (1960–1967)
- TV-11 News (1967–1985)
- TV-11 Eyewitness News (1985–1989)
- Eyewitness News 11 (1989–1997)
- NewsChannel 11 (1997–2009 & 2012-present)
- 11 Connects News (2009–2012)
- We've Got the Touch, You and TV-11 (1983–1984; localized version of CBS ad campaign)
- You and TV-11, We've Got the Touch (1984–1985; localized version of CBS ad campaign)
- "The Tri-Cities First Source" (1989–1998)
- "Your Tri-Cities News Source" (1998–present)
- Josh Smith - weekday mornings and Noon
- Tim Cable - Cable Country" segment producer
- Jim Bailey - Managing Editor seen weeknights at 6 and 11
- Sara Diamond - weeknights at 5,5:30 & 6
- medical reporter
- Bill Christian - weeknights 5 & 5:30
- Education Reporter
- Morgan King - Daytime Tri-Cities host
- Amy Lynn - Daytime Tri-Cities host
Storm Team 11 Meteorologists
- Mark Reynolds (Certified Broadcast Meteorologist) - Chief seen weeknights and on WJHL-DT2
- "Tails and Paws" segment producer
- Rob Williams - weekday mornings and Noon
Nathan Scott-Weekend Metorologist
- Kenny Hawkins - Sports Director, weeknights at 6 and 11
- heard on WXSM-AM 640
- Kasey Marler - weekends and sports reporter & News Anchor
- Chris McIntosh - Chief Photojournalist
- David Crigger - Bristol Herald Courier Chief Photographer
- Dana Wachter - Unicoi County digital journalist and Bristol Herald Courier contributor
- Melissa Hipolit - digital journalist
- David McAvoy - digital journalist
- Phillip Murrell - digital journalist
- Ted Overbay - digital journalist
- Earl Neikirk - photographer
- Andre Teague - photographer
- George Jackson - producer
- Nate Morabito- reporter
Past on-air staff
- Bob Lewis - anchor and News Director (now retired as of 2007) 
- Marcus Lynch - meteorologist (now with WCYB-TV, Bristol, VA)
- Jay Siltzer - reporter (now with WLOS-TV, Asheville, NC)
- Erica Estep - reporter (now with WATE-TV, Knoxville, TN)
- Tom Wachs - meteorologist (now with KCTV, Kansas City, MO)
- Darius Radzius - reporter (Now with FiOS1 News, Long Island, NY)
- Selena Wiles - anchor (now with WJET-TV, Erie, PA)
- Nicki Mayo - reporter (Now with YNN Buffalo)
- Patrick Sammon - reporter (now President of Log Cabin Republicans)
- Lisa Kaplan - anchor and medical reporter (now at WLEX-TV, Lexington,KY)
- Jason Boyer - meteorologist (now Chief Meteorologist at WLOS-TV, Asheville, NC)
- Don Bagwell - News Director and later a founding partner of WKXT-TV (now WVLT-TV, Knoxville, TN)
- Mallory Nicholls - weekend meteorologist (Now weekend meteorologist at WPDE-TV Myrtle Beach, SC)
- Scott Draper - Reporter (now at ((WFTS-TV)), Tampa, FL)
- ^ Television Factbook #49, 1980 Edition, page 787-B, WJHL-TV
- ^ "WKPT, WCYB & WJHL Possible Programming Issue For 2009". Inter Mountain Cable. 2008-12-03. Retrieved 2009-01-15.[dead link]
- ^ a b Farley, William (2009-01-14). "Neon council upset by threat of TV changes". The Mountain Eagle. pp. 2. Retrieved 2009-01-15.
- ^ "11 Connects first to announce local news to be telecast in HD for viewing area". Tricities.com. 2010-04-21.
- ^ http://www2.tricities.com/news/2010/oct/04/wjhl-tv-11-connects-launch-high-def-newscasts-debu-ar-539066/
- ^ http://www.tricitiesblogs.com/news/comments/wjhl_tvs_bob_lewis_announces_retirement_shares_medical_challenges/