WLAJ is the ABC-affiliated television station for Central Michigan that is licensed to Lansing. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 51 from a transmitter northeast ofTompkins Township on the Jackson and Ingham County line. Owned by Freedom Communications, the station has studios on South Pennsylvania Avenue in Lansing. However, master control and some internal operations are based at the studios of sister station CBSaffiliate WWMT on West Maple Street in Kalamazoo. Syndicated programming on WLAJ includes: The New Adventures of Old Christine, Everybody Loves Raymond, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and Oprah. It is known on-air as ABC 3 based on its channel location on Comcast.
Lansing CW 5 (on DT2)
|Channels||Digital: 51 (UHF)|
(Freedom Broadcasting ofMichigan Licensee, LLC)
|First air date||October 13, 1990|
|Call letters' meaning||We're Lansing
|Former channel number(s)||53 (UHF analog, 1990-2009)|
|Transmitter power||900 kW|
|Virtual Channel||Digital Channel||Video||Aspect||Programming|
|53.1||51.1||720p||16:9||main WLAJ programming / ABC HD|
|53.2||51.2||480i||4:3||WLAJ-DT2 "Lansing CW 5"|
WLAJ began broadcasting on October 13, 1990 from its studios in a former appliance store. The station was originally owned by Joel Ferguson who is the former owner of WFSL-TV (now Foxaffiliate WSYM-TV). Before 1990, Lansing had been one of the biggest markets in the country without a full-time ABC affiliate even though it had been large enough to support three full network affiliates for some time.
WJRT-TV in Flint served as the default station for the area from its 1958 sign-on until WLAJ debuted. Other parts of the market received ABC from WUHQ-TV in Battle Creek and WXYZ-TVin Detroit. As a condition to the station receiving ABC affiliation, its transmitter had to be located so that there was minimum overlap between the WJRT and WLAJ signals.
Ferguson eventually sold a 50% stake of the station to Granite Broadcasting. That company had the option of buying out the rest of WLAJ which it exercised six months later after a brief court battle when the owners of the transmitter site tried to stop the sale from taking place. The station was sold to current owner Freedom Communications in 1999. In 2005, a company-wide consolidation of operations at its stations resulted in the move of WLAJ's master control and most other internal operations to the facilities of sister station WWMT. This left behind a skeleton crew of six people out of what began with eighty staffers in Lansing. Additionally, that station's President and General Manager James Lutton took over the same capacity at WLAJ after the departure of Ross Reardon.
In 1998 with the launch of The WB 100+, WLAJ began operating a cable-only affiliate of The WB which was part of the service. This was available exclusively on Comcast channel 30, had its own logo, and used the "WBL" call sign in a fictional manner. From 2002 until 2006,UPN affiliate WHTV had been housed WLAJ's facilities. The channel relocated to WLNS-TV's studios on East Saginaw Street (Business Loop 69/M-43 eastbound) along U.S. 127. On January 24, 2006, The WB and UPN announced that the networks would end broadcasting and merge. The new combined network would be called The CW. The letters would represent the first initial of its corporate parents: CBS (the parent company of UPN) and the Warner Bros. unit of Time Warner.
On February 22, News Corporation announced that it would start up another new network called MyNetworkTV. This new service, which would be a sister network to Fox, would be operated by Fox Television Stations and its syndication division Twentieth Television. MyNetworkTV was created in order to give UPN and WB stations, not mentioned as becoming CW affiliates, another option besides becoming Independent. It was also created to compete against The CW. MyNetworkTV was launched on September 5 and former UPN affiliate WHTV joined the network. This left WBL to affiliate with The CW via The CW Plus, a service similar to The WB 100+, on September 18. On that date, WLAJ created a new second digital subchannel to simulcast WBL and offer non-cable subscribers access to The CW. That channel then began using the WLAJ-DT2 call sign in an official manner. It also relocated to Comcast channel 5.
On September 24, 2007, WLAJ was re-branded as "ABC 3" since most cable providers carry it on channel 3. The logo introduced at that time, in a concept like WOTV, featured the number "53" but emphasized its cable slot ("3") more than the over-the-air channel. On April 7, 2008, a new image makeover including a new logo, similar to WWMT's but with the hidden "5" like the previous logo, was launched. It eventually dropped the hidden "5". WLAJ shut down its analog signal, on June 12, 2009, as part of the DTV transition. The station remained on its pre-transition channel 51, using PSIP to be displayed as virtual channel 53.
On February 15, 2008, Suzanne Wangler (who anchored under the name "Suzanne Page") resigned as the anchor/producer/News Director of WLAJ. Wangler had cited the "stress" of the job serving in her position leading to her resignation. She previously had a week-long absence due to family problems. Her resignation, however, may have been due to an investigation where Wangler was accused of taking almost $150,000  from an Oakland County man named Les Pingilley. The charges led to an "Investigators" report at WXYZ by Heather Catallo.On February 23, Wangler was found dead in her home by police.
According to Detroit's Fox affiliate WJBK, it was an "apparent suicide" and she "had hanged herself". Also according to that station, she went to a local police department to get her blood alcohol level checked for a previous Driving under the influence charge. Her blood alcohol contenttested at 0.05% (0.08% is legally drunk in Michigan). However due to prior offenses, she was not allowed to have any alcohol in her system. A family member discovered her dead around 3:00 in the afternoon that day and called police.  An autopsy to find the exact cause of death was scheduled. 
WLAJ launched a news department and its first local broadcast, called 53 Newsbeat, a month after it began operations. However after fifteen months, station management decided to pull the plug on the show and replaced it with a simulcast of Action News from WXYZ. Due to low ratings, this was eventually replaced by syndicated programming. In 1997, it re-launched its news operation but still found itself with a fraction of viewers competing with established broadcasts at WLNS and WILX-TV. New weeknight 6 and 11 o'clock broadcasts were branded as ABC 53 News Now and featured anchor Joe Parker, sports with Shaun Broyls, and weather from the National Weather Network (now known as WeatherVision). Kirk Montgomery eventually took over as meteorologist.
After Freedom bought the station in 1999, a management change occurred and WWMT Sales Manager Mike King was brought in as the new General Manager at WLAJ. During this time, the news department won several awards including "Best Newscast" from the Associated Press. Initially retaining the ABC 53 News Nowbranding, the shows were eventually relaunched as ABC 53 News Express which consisted of ten minutes of news, weather, and sports followed by an interview segment. Parker left in 2002 to become the main anchor at Freedom's WRGB in Albany, New York and was replaced by Darcy Sullivan. Despite the new format, WLAJ was still unable to make significant increases in viewership.
On September 24, 2007, more changes happened at WLAJ as Suzanne Wangler (using her on-air name "Suzanne Page") from Detroit'sWDIV-TV replaced Darcy Sullivan as producer and news anchor. Cathy Younkin from WWMT replaced Jim Fordyce as News Director and Hondo Carpenter remained Sports Director. The station also dropped the News Express format from its newscasts and returned to a more traditional format while introducing a new set. It also began producing a weeknight 10 o'clock show on CW affiliate WLAJ-DT2 known as ABC 3 News Live at 10 on CW 5. After Suzanne Wangler's resignation, Bill Younkin (a former news anchor for Cleveland, Ohio's WEWS-TV andWOIO) took over as temporary anchor through April 4, 2008. Jessica Wheeler took over for Younkin as a permanent news anchor effective April 7. The newscasts featured Stacia Mullaney and Jon Erickson as reporters based at WLAJ as well as reporters from WWMT on stories that affected the Lansing and Jackson areas.
For weather, this channel used taped forecasts from WWMT Chief Meteorologist Keith Thompson. There were no weekday midday or weekend local broadcasts on the station. It did however reinstate weekday morning cut-ins at :25 and :55 past the hour (from 7 to 9) duringGood Morning America anchored by Jessica Wheeler with weather by WWMT's Ron Boyd. Its weeknight 6 o'clock news was also expanded to an hour which moved ABC World News With Charles Gibson to 7. Sports Director Hondo Carpenter resigned on May 27, 2009 and was replaced by Brent Ashcroft who was former Sports Director at WXMI.
On September 25, 2009, WLAJ discontinued its news department. Its local broadcasts were replaced by syndicated programming. The 10 o'clock news on WLAJ-DT2 was replaced with CW Plus shows. Its weeknight 11 o'clock newscast was replaced with a taped five minute news and weather brief, called ABC 3 News Update, that is produced by WWMT. That station's weeknight anchor Jeff Varner is featured in the news segment and Chief Meteorologist Keith Thompson provides the weather forecast. Regional and state coverage is presented in the broadcast. On weekday mornings, there are local weather cut-ins during Good Morning America featuring WWMT meteorologist Jeff Porter. A live Michigan State University football pre-game show from the Small Planet Sports Bar and Grill in East Lansing continues airing on Saturday mornings at 11 during the season. Like all CW Plus affiliates in the Eastern Time Zone, WLAJ-DT2 airs the nationally syndicated show The Daily Buzz weekday mornings from 6 until 9.
- 53 Newsbeat (1990-1991)
- ABC 53 News Now (1997-2000)
- ABC 53 News Express (2000-2007)
- ABC 3 News (2007-2009)
- "The Most Complete Newscast in Lansing"/"Mid-Michigan's Watching" (1990-1991, the latter was a localized version of an ABC ad campaign)
- "If It's 53, It Must Be ABC" (1992-1993, localized version of ABC ad campaign)
- "Your ABC Connection" (1990s)
- "A Real Difference" (1999-2000)
Former on-air staff
- Joe Parker - anchor
- Darcy Sullivan - anchor and producer
- Suzanne Wangler - anchor and producer
- Bill Younkin - anchor
- Jessica Wheeler - weeknight anchor
- now reporter at WWMT
- Holly Doyle - weeknight anchor
- Kirk Montgomery - weeknight meteorologist
- Ron Boyd - weekday morning weatherman based at WWMT
- Wes Callison - fill-in meteorologist based at WWMT
- Brent Ashcroft - Sports Director seen weeknights
- Steve Bunin - Sports Director seen weeknights
- now at ESPN
- Hondo Carpenter - Sports Director seen weeknights
- Shaun Broyls - weeknight sports
- Scott MacFarlane - reporter
- Stacia Mullaney - reporter and fill-in news anchor
- now at WLNS-TV
- Jon Erickson - reporter
- Darren Haynes - Sports Reporter
- ^ Lansing State Journal, 2/19/2008
- ^ "WXYZ-TV: "INVESTIGATORS: Missing Money"". Retrieved 2008-02-24.
- ^ WXYZ-TV (2008-02-24). "Former TV Anchor Found Dead". Retrieved 2008-02-24.
- ^ "Detroit News: Wangler found dead in her home". Retrieved 2008-02-24.]