By Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist Published Feb 26, 2013 at 2:57 PM

At 10 a.m. today, WMCS-AM 1290 changed formats and informed staffers of a change in direction.

Known as the "Talk of the Town," the station has been a community mainstay, serving African-American listeners with news, information, talk and music programs for the better part of 30 years. The station is a part of the Milwaukee Radio Alliance, sharing ownership with former Green Bay Packers player Willie Davis and Times Shamrock Inc.

"As I left the station they were playing Elvis' 'It's Now or Never'," said Eric Von, host of the station's morning "Milwaukee Magazine" show.

"We were notified that we were going to have a staff meeting last week. When we met, they read from a prepared statement."

At this time it is unclear what the new format will be. Von said that the station will keep four members of the current staff, but he was unsure what roles they would play at the station. He did say there was no word from Davis at this time.

As far as the Elvis music, it is a pretty well-used tactic to use stunt programming to gain awareness of the change and also keep competitors in the dark on what the station will transition to.

SWEEPS: Well, time to hang up the brooms, the sweeps are almost over.

With just a couple of nights to go, local TV newsrooms will be putting the finishing touches on the enterprise reporting to cap off the February ratings period. Each of the local news departments and the stations as a whole make a push to get the most viewers in four weeks.

Networks step up their games too, offering specials and launching new shows that will carry us through to the end of spring. Traditionally in this market the top sweeps months are February, May, October and November. So, that’s why we see the Super Bowl, Grammys, NASCAR races, investigative reporting and watch-to-win contests as they all fight to get the most eyeballs.

Sometimes the promotions and timing of certain broadcasts are smart and well used as a platform to promote other efforts. Sometimes they just irk TV watchers. Here’s a smattering of sweeps examples:

  • The Business Journal took WTMJ-TV Ch. 4 to task with using anchors Mike Jacobs and Carole Meekins in a promotion spot in a Mequon Sendik’s store for the "Groceries 4 a Year" contest. Using the station’s Facebook page, viewers could enter to win the chance for $100 worth of groceries each week, and the $5,200 grand prize.
  • NBC’s "Saturday Night Live" took to task the crew at CBS Sports and how they handled the power outage and promotions during the Super Bowl broadcast. The skit for the show’s opening even noted how many times the host Jim Brown mentioned watching "2 Broke Girls." WDJT-TV CBS 58 produced spots featuring legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. Lee E. Ernst, who played Lombardi in Milwaukee Rep.’s performances of "Lombardi" played the character commenting on knowing good teams, just like the crew that brings you Milwaukee’s news.
  • ABC’s "Good Morning America" used the return of host Robin Roberts for a ratings gain in the last week of the sweep. The network program, that appears locally on WISN-TV Ch. 12, also tapped ABC News’ Diane Sawyer to produce a primetime special on Robert’s medical battles that ran last Friday night.
  • WITI-TV Fox 6 finished construction of its new set. Despite making a few updates, the old set remained the same since about 1998, so the change was welcome. The interesting part about the new news set was how transparent the station was going through the transition. With videos and still photos, the staff made updates on its website. I even found a forum site, one I’d call very inside baseball, that GM Chuck Steinmetz participated in throughout the set building. It was great to see that type of interaction to a process that at other outlets usually kept very close to the vest.


Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist

Media is bombarding us everywhere.

Instead of sheltering his brain from the onslaught, Steve embraces the news stories, entertainment, billboards, blogs, talk shows and everything in between.

The former writer, editor and producer in TV, radio, Web and newspapers, will be talking about what media does in our community and how it shapes who we are and what we do.