On Sept. 30, the CBS affiliate in Atlanta owned by Gray went on the air branded as “Atlanta News First,” changing its call letters from WGCL to WANF. But living that brand has been going on since Gray took over the station in December, 2021.
At noon on Friday, Sept. 30, the CBS affiliate in Atlanta owned by Gray Television, went on the air branded as “Atlanta News First,” and changing its call letters from WGCL to WANF.
It’s a move that’s been in the making since December 1, 2021 when Gray took over the station, says Erik Schrader, WANF’s GM.
“This station did not have a brand when Gray acquired it,” Schrader says. “We are not rebranding, we are branding.”
What viewers saw when they tuned in at noon was just the visual punctuation — new studio, new set and new graphics.
The look may be different, but the beginning of being the brand “Atlanta News First” started months ago.
“The thought process about how we choose stories and the filters we use to define what to cover and how to cover it has been part of the conversation for months,” says Kim Saxon, WANF’s news director.
And the amount of news has increased dramatically.
“We have added almost 30 hours of news,” Schrader says.
In order to staff all the added news content, you have to grow the newsroom, Schrader says. “You can’t add all that news and not add people.”
Schrader says the station is in the process of hiring 50 people, a staggering number.
“We have about 30-35 of those people hired, so we are deep in it,” he says.
The new hires are a combination of on-air talent and behind-the-scenes positions in news and creative services, Schrader says.
From the beginning, the staff was involved in the development of “Atlanta News First,” Saxon says.
“We didn’t have a brand, so we didn’t have to undo very much,” Saxon says. “We just had to find a philosophy that we believe in and own.”
So, it has a new slate, nothing to unlearn, more news and more people with a new look and name, but how is the brand different?
It starts with weather.
“We launched First Alert Weather in March with a weather app that has exceptional tools for them to use wherever they live. It’s a big part of our first alert brand,” says Joshua Morey, WANF’s creative services diretor. “Being a digital leader in this market is important to us.”
Another element of the Atlanta News First brand identity is the fact that Gray’s headquarters are in Atlanta, making WANF locally owned.
“We are the only locally owned station in Atlanta,” Schrader says. “That means a lot. We want to remind people and make sure people know Gray is an Atlanta company.”
“Our CEO [Hilton H. Howell Jr.] watches our newscasts because he loves local news, he wants to know what’s going on,” Saxon says. “All the way to the top of this company we believe in local news.”
Morey says while the introduction of the brand has been fun, the proof will happen over time.
“We get to say this is what we are about,” Morey says. “Hold us accountable. We want to be Atlanta’s newscast of record, a news team you can count on and that is where this brand is going.”
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