Regional hub for news

WBOC-TV in Salisbury dominates the local TV news race in a diverse DMA that's situated in eastern Maryland, below Annapolis and near the Delaware state line. The CBS affiliate has been doing news for 46 years in the #162 DMA that covers 110,000 television households in four counties, one in Delaware. Its news audience is split roughly 50-50 between both states. But the station doesn't pay too much attention to official DMA boundaries: Its mindset goes well beyond tiny Salisbury and its DMA to the entire Delmarva Peninsula in an area known as the Eastern Shore.

The station got into local news in 1954, and was the only local newscast until 1980. Today, it produces five daily newscasts and it averages about a 50-share for most of them. It also produces weekend morning news and an hour-long program in the unusual time slot of 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Wboc's newsroom is hardly a revolving door of staffers. Most of its anchor team has been with the station 10 to 20 years, along with its upper management.

"Longevity seems to be a relevant part of the equation for success," says wboc General Manager Bill Kenton, who has been at the helm of the station for 15 years. "Our commitment to local news is the most major component. Still, we continue to do more, always try to do better.

In fact, wboc's entire broadcast day enjoys ratings success, with its news product scoring higher than nearly all other programming (including Oprah). Kenton says wboc recently was ranked sixth in the nation from sign-on to sign-off in households, with an overall 8.8 rating/29.6 share.

News Director Marilyn Buerkle says wboc has always considered itself a regional station when it comes to news coverage. Setting priorities between Maryland and Delaware viewers is made easier by the fact that "there are lots of parallel interests and community involvement between both states. Here on the peninsula, the water creates a geographic region. We try to attack things that have a regional perspective."

Buerkle is back at wboc for the second time. She began her career at the station in 1975, when it was owned by a different company.

Wboc's five daily news shows include two-and-a-half hours on weekday mornings; it uses The Early Show for cut-ins, instead of the other way around. The early morning newscast captures a 7 rating/66 share, which Buerkle "finds very remarkable. Morning is proof to me that if you build it, they will come."

During the May ratings book, the 6 p.m. news had an enviable 26 rating/53 share, and the 11 o'clock newscast hovered right around 17/48. Wboc's only main local competition is WMDT(TV), an ABC affiliate, as well as the cable-accessible NBC affiliates WRC(TV) in Washington and WBAL(TV) in Baltimore.

Wboc has a staff of about 40, including part-timers and freelancers, with seven news people and sales staff located about 60 miles away in Dover, Del.