Opportunity knocked for WPTZ

WPTZ television, now known as MyNBC5, has finally done what had been predicted for decades — moved its main broadcast studio to Vermont.

The move makes perfect sense for the station, but many locals earnestly hope it doesn’t represent abandonment of its upstate roots.

Many viewers on this side of the lake remember the station’s pioneers — Bird Berdan wearing his Atlantic gasoline station uniform while issuing weather forecasts off a plain, simple map; Al Hill reading national news from the studio; and so many others since.

The station was inaugurated in 1954. In that era, viewers would hear the call letters emanating from Plattsburgh, North Pole, Burlington. North Pole was an anomaly because of its minute size and disappeared after a while from mention.

The station was actually owned by the proprietors of Plattsburgh radio station WIRY. The two were broadcast sisters.

Somewhere along the line, the various people and corporations running WPTZ recognized that a presence in Vermont promised more viewers and more revenue than Northeastern New York.

And that was undeniably true. In terms of both news and income, everything in Vermont sooner or later circulates through Burlington. The state capital may be southward in Montpelier, but the real pulse of the state is in Burlington.

Though only Northern New York’s Public Broadcast Station, Channel 57, operates out of Plattsburgh now, NBC5 will share the Burlington landscape with CBS’s WCAX, Channel 3; ABC’s WVNY, Channel 22; and Fox’s WFFF, Channel 44, among others.

Nevertheless, the WPTZ hierarchy is confident of its standing now as a competitive factor in the search for viewers and advertisers in the larger region.

Its on-air personalities, including longtime news providers Stephanie Gorin, Stewart Ledbetter and Tom Messner, are well established and well regarded as the leaders of a competent news team.

And the network will continue to maintain operations at its 5 Television Drive studio. In fact, renovations are currently being made to that location, General Manager Justin Antoniotti tells us. 

Nevertheless, it’s distressing for many viewers on the New York side of the lake to lose its hold on the only non-public television station it has ever known. Many people have confided to us over the years their fear that WPTZ’s move to Burlington was destined.

They noticed that fewer and fewer news stories originated in New York, which is understandable. While Burlington is the heartbeat of Vermont, Plattsburgh is a small and far less significant part of burgeoning New York state.

And, of course, much more money is available to advertising media in Burlington than in Plattsburgh and neighboring communities.

NBC5 will undoubtedly dispute the notion that it is leaving Northern New York behind, though, nightly, the number of stories out of Plattsburgh has steadily diminished, giving way to news out of Vermont and even New Hampshire.

The Press-Republican is sorry to see a reduced role at the station for Plattsburgh and other area communities, but the paper understands the realities.

And we remind readers what we’ve been saying for years: this newspaper will continue to cover Northern New York with the same dedication and commitment that we have for decades.

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