Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
We’re back once again from a whole bunch of travel that you’ll see eventually in this space – a Big Trip that took us all over the eastern half of Texas and filled in some big holes on our travel bucket list.
But before we start digging through those pictures and writing up those stories (and getting busy with Photoshop because the image sensor in our camera got dirty somehow – ugh!), we need to finish up the last installment from our Georgia/Florida trip a year ago.
When we left off in our previous installment, we were driving around the south side of Savannah looking at the spot where ABC affiliate WJCL-TV (Channel 22) used to make its home. A few years ago, though, WJCL made an interesting move over to the west side of town, sharing a building (but not ownership) with two other media outlets, the Savannah Morning News and Fox affiliate WTGS (Channel 28).
The paper moved first, leaving behind a historic facility downtown that dated back to 1870, then leased out the third floor of its building to WJCL and WTGS, which moved in in 2011. Along the way, everyone involved has changed hands: the paper from Morris Communications to GateHouse, the TV stations from New Vision to LIN and then to Hearst for WJCL and Sinclair for WTGS. There’s still a content-sharing agreement between the paper and WJCL, I believe; WTGS, for its part, now has local reporters of its own in Savannah but anchors and produces its newscasts from WPDE up in Florence, S.C.
As for the oldest TV station in town, CBS affiliate WTOC-TV (Channel 11), it started in historic downtown quarters, too. In 1939, WTOC radio bought the Hartridge mansion at 516 Abercorn Street for its studios, expanding them and building a tower next door when WTOC-TV signed on in 1954. The mansion still stands, but since 1995, it’s belonged to the Savannah College of Arts and Design, where it’s now known as Keys Hall and houses the communications department. WTOC-TV had by then moved to a purpose-built facility out in the same Chatham Center development where WJCL and the Morning News are located, and that’s where it sits today, now owned by Tegna.
What became of WTOC radio? In 1978, it was spun off from the TV station, moving from the old Abercorn Street mansion out to a new building at the AM 1290 transmitter site in the Garden City area, a few miles west of downtown Savannah. It became WWSA, WCHY, and then in 2000 was sold to Clear Channel and flipped to a talk format as WTKS, the calls it still uses today.
WTOC-FM on 94.1 became WCHY-FM with country, WSCA (“Cat Country”) and eventually went urban as WQBT, “The Beat.” Today, it and WTKS share these Alfred Street studios as part of a larger iHeart cluster that also includes gospel WSOK (1230, plus a 103.5 translator), top-40 “Kiss” WAEV (97.3), AC “River” WYKZ (98.7 Beaufort SC) and urban AC “Love” WLVH (101.1 Hardeeville SC).
For our final Savannah stops, we head a few miles southwest from Garden City, out past where I-16 (the east-west route that connects Savannah to Atlanta) meets I-95, to see the tall TV and FM towers that serve the region. WSAV’s 450-meter tower is the easternmost of the bunch, out by itself on Little Neck Road; back in the day, the channel 3 signal from here occasionally made it north to us via e-skip, but now WSAV’s on UHF RF 16 from the top here.
WJCL’s 451-meter tower is a little ways to the west, part of a cluster of tall towers behind the pines off Fort Argyle Road, and it holds WJCL’s channel 22 antenna, as well as Cumulus’ WJCL-FM on 96.5, WIXV on 95.1 and WZAT on 102.1 (WZAT has since been sold to EMF and is now WKZV with K-Love.)
And two more tall towers sit across Fort Argyle Road to round out the set: WTOC’s 467-meter tower has just WTOC-TV on it, still on VHF RF channel 11. Just down the road to the east is the WTGS tower, home to WTGS on RF 28 (moving to 26 in the repack) as well as independent WGSA on RF 35 and three FM stations: iHeart’s WQBT (94.1) and WAEV (97.3) and Cumulus’ WEAS (93.1).
We have a great lineup of podcasts here on our site. While you’re catching up with your summer reading, don’t forget about your summer listening. Now is the time to make sure you’re up to date with Top of the Tower.
Our latest one features Donna Halper discussing her life in radio, from her time at WMMS when she helped Rush get US airplay, to what she learned from Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg.
Don’t forget you can still visit our store to check out our other great products. We’ll be taking preorders for the 2021 calendar soon. Stay tuned!
And don’t miss a big batch of Georgia IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: A few stops around Albany, New York