MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A very special birthday celebration! WREG-TV is 60 years old.
Our station officially signed on the air January 1, 1956.
We’ve been going strong ever since, covering news events impacting our nation and our own community.
Technology has changed the way we do our job, bringing you information in a way never thought possible 60 years ago.
It was Hoyt Wooten’s dream to start the TV station and name it WREC Channel 3.
From the basement of the Peabody Hotel, reporters and film crews covered news events like the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The technology of that era was 16-millimeter film.
And as former chief photographer Roy Dickerson (deceased) told us, for the our 50th anniversary special in 2005, getting “set up” for the story was usually half the job.
“When we got the first cameras, the amplifier weighed 40 pounds, the tripod weighed 40 pounds. And then we had to have other equipment to go along with it.
“It was manual work…it wasn’t running around with a camera on your shoulder like it is now,” said Roy Dickerson.
In 1971 the station’s call letters changed and so did its home.
WREG-TV began broadcasting from its new studios overlooking the Mississippi River in 1975.
In 2010, our signal went high definition.
Ron Walter has been president and general manager of WREG for 11 years.
“For the past 60 years the station has been quite strong. From the visionary of Hoyt Wooten who actually founded it, who got the license and everything else. Charlie Brakefield, who followed him. Frank Roberts. Olin Morris. Bob Eoff. And here I am.”
Walter said the station’s commitment to covering news is what made WREG the undisputed leader in the Memphis market.
“It’s the people. It’s the WREG people who really give it its flavor, who give it its strength. It’s not just a management team. It’s the entire body of people who come together, who really are dedicated to community service,” he said.
From the death of Elvis Presley to the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, 2001.
We have more live capability, more crews on the streets and have made our presence on social media, a top priority.
“We have our desktop website. Then we have the website you can access on your mobile device. We also have apps for Apple and Android. We also have a specific web app…then we have our Facebook page and our Twitter page and our Instagram and Snapchat. So there’s so many ways out there to get your news and for us to get to you,” said George Brown, the web content manager.
In today’s fast-paced world, social media allows viewers an important option for getting information when they need it and to give us their feedback.
Social media also plays a key role in how quickly WREG’s weather team keeps viewers alert to changing conditions.
“The information comes in, and I’m able to get it right there on the screen. If somebody sends me a picture of three or four inches of snow, I’m able to put that on the air within seconds now,” said Todd Demers.
Demers said state-of-the-art computers, coupled with WREG’s Weather App gave viewers advanced warning of December’s killer tornadoes.
“So the technology has really ramped up our ability to get very pertinent information out to you as quickly as possible,” said Demers.
WREG sets the standard for locally produced programs and features like Bright Spot, Memphis On A Mission, Knowledge Bowl, Informed Sources and Pass It On.
“Take Memphis On A Mission. We were nominated for an Emmy award for this. We’ve had two programs so far where we’ve taken time out, a full hour, no commercials to explore what we can do to make our community a better place to live. No other TV station does that,” said WREG’s Richard Ransom.
And our sports department is the best at covering the Grizzlies, Tigers and everything in between.
It’s the kind of teamwork that makes our viewers feel welcomed day after day, year after year.
“We’re doing things that people respond to and that the people like. And constantly when I’m out on stories or out in the community I here that…’You are my number one station,” said WREG’s April Thompson.
WREG’s Marybeth Conley said it’s the station’s commitment to the needs of our viewers that makes WREG stronger after 60 years.
“To me, the importance of a television station is to really become a part of the community. Not just report the bad news, but report it all. To show the good things that are going on in the community. That’s what makes us part of the family,” she said.