Later this month, CN2 News will officially reach its 20th Anniversary of being on the air and providing news, weather and other local programming. In celebration, CN2 is celebrating its milestone during the month of October with a number of prizes for its viewers in York and Lancaster Counties.
“When President Gerald Ford visited Rock Hill, we went out to the mall and videotaped him,” said Comporium’s Bill Beaty, executive vice president of cable TV. “We put that on air, so you can say that was one of our first locally produced programs. City council meetings and other special events followed.”
John Barnes, Jr., who was working for a cable TV company in Texas, returned to the family-owned business to help market cable TV service and bring some fresh ideas for local programming. When Barnes arrived, he found that Channel 2 had the council meetings, a basic set up for showing the local weather and a “crawl” across the screen to provide local announcements.
At that time, CN2 also had a short segment within CNN’s Headline News to air local news. Dave Burrage, who now resides in Rock Hill and spends most of his time as a primary caregiver for some elderly relatives and a friend, had been drafted by Beaty who was visiting the cable TV station in Hickory, N.C. Burrage had previously worked for Beaty at the WRHI.
“Bill was there to see the station’s computer system, and we ran into each other by accident in the canteen,” Burrage recalled. “I told him I was doing the CNN Headline News local segment. Hickory was one of the first in the nation, and Bill already knew that. So, he called me later and asked if I’d come back to Rock Hill and help get it going for the cable TV system.”
Bethany Kiser, who is now manager of e-communications for American Municipal Power in Columbus, Ohio, anchored the Headline News Local Edition. The first newscasts launched in January of 1990.
Barnes and Beaty were pleased with the effort but continued to study how the programming should evolve.
“Local news and weather had the largest demand, and we realized we needed to expand to a 30-minute news show sprinkled around prime time news,” noted Barnes.
Beaty and Barnes went to The Herald to consult with then owner and publisher Wayne Patrick.
“Wayne said to model it like Ted Turner did with CNN, and we liked that idea,” Beaty added. “In the car on the way back from the meeting, John said, ‘Cable News 2 – CN2.’ We had been kicking this around for two months, but John decided it in about a minute after talking to Wayne.”
The two men asked Mike Tidwell to drop one “N” out of CNN and insert the “2” with a little slant; in five minutes, the news station had its logo. They set the launch date for mid-October of 1992 and announced to the Comporium and CN2 employees that all other local programming would be discontinued.
“I remember a lot of preparation and several brainstorming sessions to develop the format, the name, CN2, and the direction for the 30-minute newscast,” said Kiser. “We launched CN2 more than a year and half after HNLE, so at that point we had a good foundation to build upon. Local Edition helped us establish a reputation as a qualified news source which helped give us credibility to expand into a 30-minute format.
“I remember that Bill Beaty and John Barnes were very hands-on in the early stages, such as attending our morning meetings to determine the coverage and lineup of stories,” Kiser added. “It was an exciting time and we were a close-knit group which made it truly a team effort.”
Kiser said she requested to “step away from the anchor desk” to become the lead reporter in the field, and Burrage took on the role as the anchor. The CN2 news team and crew practiced for a couple of weeks before launching the first public newscast on Oct. 26, 1992.
“I was excited to take a different role on CN2,” Kiser recalled. “I wanted to hone my skills as a reporter on the scene. The only ‘rehearsing’ I remember was setting up the two-shot of myself and Dave for my first news story. From what I can remember, the taping of our first newscast ran smoother than anyone expected.”
“We hit a few delays, but we had the first newscast on Oct. 26th,” said Barnes. “I thought it (the first show) was pretty good. Jonathan Courtney was the producer and Steve Warren was the camera man. Everybody pitched in. The show was aired from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and repeated every 30 minutes. We used to try to update it but that was hard,” Barnes added. “It wasn’t digital – we used three-quarter inch tape – it all had to be edited which took a long time.”
Since the early stages in the ‘90s, CN2 News continues to change as it focuses on events from around the area.
“We’re proud to say that we’ve groomed graduates for a lot of the broadcast industry,” Barnes said. “We must have 20 former CN2 reporters working in markets such as Nashville, Charleston, Florence, Charlotte, Columbia, Wilmington, Rochester and beyond.”