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Proud of its local voice

Last among Nielsen Media Research markets alphabetically, Zanesville, Ohio, comes in nearly last among TV markets both in revenue rank—at DMA No. 206—and in population—at No. 202. The flip side of that is a much smaller number: one. The market covers one county, and it includes only one full-power commercial station: WHIZ-TV.

Vice President Marion "Van" Vanelli has been with the station since he was its main news anchor in the late 1960s and began running the operation earlier this year at the retirement of 50-year veteran Allan Land.

The station and its ownership are proud of its localism and its commitment, Vanelli says. "When you have 75% cable penetration, with at least 65 channels, what we're selling is localism. We're the guys who report what the United Way is doing, what the Boy Scout camp is doing. Do you think the stations in the bigger markets care about those things? Not a chance. And we do all the hard news, too. We report on all the governments and all the elections in all those counties that surround us.

"This past year," he adds, "for the first time in the history of the station, we hired a full-time meteorologist, a Penn State grad." In the past, Vanelli says, the station used a weather service and satellite photo feeds from NBC. "It helped that an NBC-owned station was so close by," he says of WCMH-TV Columbus, Ohio.

The local economy is fairly stable. "We don't count on a lot of factories with 3,000 and 4,000 people for employment," says Vanelli. "One company, Longaburger Basket, employs about 7,000 people. If that went out of business, that could have an effect. But the economy is pretty diversified here. Our big advertisers are automotive, fast food, financial and—here we don't say 'retail,' we say 'Wal-Mart.'"

He's not enthusiastic about digital transition. "If we've got 75% cable penetration and 13% satellite, why are we spending $4 million to go digital?" he asks.