Today, YNN Rochester is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week local news service viewed on Time Warner Cable channel 9 in Rochester, channel 14 elsewhere, but it didn't start out that way.
In February 1990, the local cable television company, then called Greater Rochester Cablevision, hired veteran Rochester television reporter Pete Dobrovitz as news director of its startup local newscast available only to cable customers and not seen over-the-air.
Over the next seven weeks, Pete hired 20 people to staff the news department for the cable company's new independent television station WGRC-TV-5. The group would quickly become a team that produced Rochester's first "Ten O'Clock Report", a 30-minute local newscast featuring in-depth news, weather and sports. We debuted on Earth Day, April 22, 1990, a Sunday night.
Part of the original team News5Rochester, familiar to viewers were local television reporters Warren White, Christine Rogers and local sports anchors Bill Pucko and Mike Hedeen.
New faces Leigh Ann Carlson and Doug Lezette, Diana Palotas and Jim Aroune were brought in as news anchor/reporters. Joseph Hill rounded out the reporting team. Meteorologists Sam Evans and Jim Lytle quickly became known for their "Sam says..." and "Jim says..." weather forecasts and Sam's nightly cartoons. Who could forget the Pucko snowmometer in those first months or our young viewers "giving us five" every night in our newscasts!
Looking back on the news department that he built from scratch, late News Director Pete Dobrovitz said, "It was exceptionally fun to do in your own hometown, in a business where people tend to always be on the go, to be given the opportunity."
Added Pete, "If someone had told me I'd be doing that, I'd never believe it or think it at all possible."
(Note: Pete Dobrovitz left R News in February 1997 after a seven-year tenure as news director. Pete underwent a third, successful kidney transplant in early 2002 when he received a kidney from a live donor, Steve Aman of Wayne County. Both men had attended Bishop Kearney High School. Following the transplant, Pete advocated for the creation of a live-donor registry, a program that was not available locally at the time.) Prior to his death August 17, 2004, he served as the Executive Director of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Greater Rochester.)
The motto of our fledgling station was "A Step Beyond". Little did we know, what big steps we'd be taking in the years ahead.
One of the first steps we took was "up the dial". In 1992, we moved from channel five to channel nine on the cable system and became GRC9News. It was during this period that we moved news production from a traditional news setting into our newsroom where the anchors would walk around and talk to the sports anchors and meteorologists. Remember the bright-colored lockers that were our sports set in the newsroom?
It wasn't too long after this that the idea for calling the station "R News" surfaced. When asked, we explained that the "R is for Rochester", but more importantly, the R stood for "our", as we felt more a part of the community that we all lived in.
By 1993, we had added a 7:00 newscast to our weeknight programming and veteran local news anchor Virginia Butler had joined our team as our early newscast's solo anchor.
What put our station on the map in our early years was the live gavel-to-gavel coverage we provided of the trial of Rochester serial killer Arthur Shawcross. We would go on to televise several high-profile trials and truly provide a first eye into the courtroom for our viewers before New York's cameras in the court legislation was allowed to sunset. We have actively campaigned for news media's access to local, county and state courts ever since.
The next steps we took as an organization wouldn't be so small. As we planned for the future and could see where we were headed, we began producing more and more news programs. By 1994, we were producing newscasts that aired from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m.
"R" motto became "All Ours, All Hours" quite literally when, on Independence Day 1995, we began producing newscasts non-stop. In case you're counting, we have had a continuous signal of local news programming and commercials for more than 113,000 hours and going strong! It takes a lot of hard work to keep the station on the air and the newscasts up to date. We currently employ more than 70 people in the news department, master control and engineering departments. (Several of the original 20 News5ers remain on the YNN staff.)
In 1999, we were first seen in the homes of our Finger Lakes and Genesee system subscribers after our parent company – by then called Time Warner Cable - acquired their business from Cablevision.
Today, YNN Rochester is in 330,000 homes in a 15-county area in upstate New York that stretches from Erie County east to Cayuga County and from Monroe County south to Allegany County. We are consistently local advertisers' top choice when placing commercials on cable networks.
Our station is now able to transmit reports using our two live trucks via satellite and microwave. And, being part of the cable company has definite advantages. From various locations around Monroe County, we use the company's fiber lines (inside the actual cable itself) to transmit our video and audio signals back to YNN Rochester and onto your homes.
When our reporters are "live" from the Monroe County Board of Elections, Bills Camp at St. John Fisher College, LPGA at Locust Hill Country Club, the Rochester Riverside Convention Center, the Hall of Justice and the Blue Cross Arena at the Rochester War Memorial, there's a good bet they are what we call "fiber-live"! These tools help us reach out into the 200-plus towns and villages in our service area to do the best job possible of telling "your stories" in a timely manner while the news is still "new".
Beginning at 5 a.m. on August 4, 2009, R News changed its name to YNN Rochester, Your News Now.
The reason for the change was to make promotion and production consistent in the news division. We recently launched our newest news channel YNN Buffalo on March 25, 2009. Having a consistent brand in both markets in Western New York will also make it easier for customers to identify our news channels.
As our 15th anniversary as a 24-hour news channel for western New York approaches in 2010, YNN Rochester continues to being "Your Newschannel", telling stories that impact your lives. We expect to be right in our reporting, to search the truth and to be the press that our Constitution allows us to be. We are available to you all the time, no appointments necessary. We are YOUR NEWS NOW.
We'd like to thank you for watching us grow from our first days to our place as an established news channel in town. I can't wait to see what the future holds for the station and our community.
Ed Buttaccio, YNN Rochester News Director February, 1997-present.