By Hannah Osborne
On Sept. 29, 2023, WSB-TV celebrated 75 years of reporting accurate, local and timely news.
“Seventy-five years, I look back on it and I think how remarkable,” says WSB General Manager, Ray Carter.
WSB-TV was the first licensed television channel in the south. Over the past 75 years the station has proven itself as a trailblazer in technology, civil rights and local journalism.
In 1967, WSB became the first television station in the south to have a black reporter, Lorenzo “Lo” Jelks. Expecting backlash given the time and the market, the station first introduced Jelks by his voice, a year later when he appeared on screen and backlash occurred, the station pointed out that there were no complaints previously despite his presence on the air.
In 1972, Jocelyn Dorsey became a regular anchor and reporter, the first African American woman to hold these roles in Atlanta. Dorsey went on to become WSB’s Director of Editorials and Public Affairs, allowing the station to not just report on the community, but give back in other ways as well. Condace Presley now serves as WSB’s Director of Community and Public Affairs.
A few years later in 1975, broadcasting legend Monica Kaufman Pearson was the first black woman in the deep south to act as anchor during a primetime news hour Monday through Friday.
“That has a huge ripple effect on the community,” says Carter, “when little girls and little boys see people who look like them on television they say, ‘Huh, maybe I could be a reporter, maybe I could go into that.’”
The station’s “obvious” and “right” decision to put people of all colors on television, was a contributing factor in the choices and beliefs of generations that followed.
In addition to the legacy of the station as a trailblazer in numerous aspects, it is devoted to serving its community.
“If we can help affect change, if we can give a platform and a voice to different angles and opinions and report the facts ourselves without inserting opinion, then that’s the role we must play…When we can right a wrong, we do, when we can give a voice to the voiceless, when we can take a camera somewhere where our viewers and users can’t go, that’s what we do,” says Carter.
The station acts in a number of ways, including the Family2Family campaign; WSB’s “Convoys of Care,” collecting supplies for victims of natural disasters; the annual “Stuff the Bus,” back-to-school campaign; and more.
Behind-the-scenes, the station works in the best interest of the community through its investigative reporting team.
When a mortgage company began to take advantage of homeowners through a second mortgage, the team began to investigate and profile the company. What was revealed was a scheme to have these homeowners sign on to a 40-year agreement, in which oftentimes the company was able to seize the property for their own benefit. Since WSB’s investigation revealed these activities, the company has been forced to file for bankruptcy.
“The change we can affect is tremendous. We’ve had laws changed because of stories that we’ve done. That’s an incredible feeling. That’s the power of WSB,” says Carter.
As technology and media continue to advance, and the debate of the sustainability of broadcasting persists, many broadcasting stations, including WSB, have strayed away from the strict label of “television” or “radio” station. The advancement of these technologies has led many stations to gear towards what could be considered a “content house.”
Aside from the traditional television newscast, WSB has a presence across a number of other platforms. The station serves as a “solution finder” for their clients as well through exploring new platforms and navigating new outlets.
“We candidly stopped calling ourselves a television station quite a few years ago because that’s not all we do,” says Carter. “So, yes, we celebrate 75 years as a television station, but the future, the television station part of it is only a portion of what we think about the present and the future.”
WSB continues to be a pioneer in the digital news space, supporting local communities by delivering their news according to their various preferences.
“I watched, in 40 years, all of this accelerate. As a part of that I’ve been able to witness moving off of linear tv, or certainly adding to our portfolio of offerings. How fun is that?” Carter says. “That I’ve got to see the glory years of local television and I’m still around watching the birth, and growing up, of all of these other platforms.”
While the rapidly evolving digital space continues to emerge on the scene, one thing that WSB can envision for their next 75 years is continuing their mission to report relevant, timely and important news to its community.
“We hyper serve our communities,” says Carter. “When you get your news from [cable channels] or [social media], they don’t have boots on the ground in Atlanta or Buford or Dahlonega. We do. We live here, work here, we’re not just embedded in the communities, we raise our families in these communities, so we take invested interest in what happens here.”