BRC11 News no more

By on May 30, 2018

It’s the end of a broadcasting era in Lancaster County.

Blue Ridge Communications’ News-11 program aired its last cable news show last Friday, after more than 20 years of local news coverage. The company is re-branding the local Blue Ridge channel as a sports and entertainment station and plans to expand live and local coverage.

“Our viewers in northern Lancaster County are committed to local sports and BRC11 will be working to bring more live events into our viewer’s homes every week,” said Jamie Weachter, BRC11 General Manager.

Weachter, who began with the company in 2004 as the senior sports producer, said BRC11 wants to expand Lancaster-Lebanon League sports coverage.

“We now have seven full-time employees just handling the sports and entertainment productions out of our truck,” he said.

Several part-time employees also remain with BRC11. Employees in the Ephrata office who lost their jobs received severance packages. Parades, school concerts, and coverage of Lititz’s annual 4th of July celebration will remain. Three weekly Ephrata-based church services also remain on the broadcasting schedule. The final newscast occurred Friday evening, May 25, at 5 p.m.

Beginning this summer, BRC11 will televise 32 Lancaster Barnstormers games. The network also plans to add telecasts of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs and the Reading Fightin Phils to the programming schedule.

On Friday May 25, the final news telecast was broadcast from the Blue Ridge Cable-11 studios.

Starting this fall, BRC11 will also increase its schedule to include over 120 high school telecasts from the Lancaster-Lebanon League and PIAA District 3. Classic sports games, or “rewinds” are also planned, many of which date back to 1992.

After the last show aired last week, employees, both current and former, swapped stories and memories in person as well as across hundreds of miles via social media.

“I want to thank the viewers throughout the years for all of the programming we’ve put on,” Weachter added. “We are excited to continue with our expanded high school and college sports.”
Over the weekend, feelings on the ceasing of BRC11’s news weighed heavily on the minds of former employees.Keith Shetter, who started with the company in 1996, helped produce several programs and hosted 5-minute segments on CNN called Headline News Local Edition.

“When our new studio was built, that’s when the idea of news came about,” he said. “This was in place in 1998.”

“The people are what made the job,” Shetter said. “Being engaged with the community, it got us out in the local area. I really appreciated those opportunities. You develop relationships over time, and the residents in the county really embraced us.”

He remained with the company until 2007 and currently serves as director of donations at Water Street Mission. Many also credit the late Ron Reedy, who served as former general manager of the organization. Reedy loved Lititz, and was very instrumental in bringing the town into the spotlight via viewer’s television screens.

“He had confidence in the people around him to be able to lead,” Shetter said. “He had a great heart.”

For many that worked there over the years, it would be their very first job out of college. The benefit of BRC11’s small size afforded employees hands-on training opportunities.

“We transitioned from the six-minute CNN newscast to the 15 while I was there,” says former employee Erin Zebrowksi, who worked there from 2004 to 2010. Eventually, Zebrowski worked her way up to master control supervisor. Zebrowski said she and several others remain in contact with many former co-workers.

“It taught me that work could be a family,” she said. “Learning master control and commercial trafficking helped me get my next position with Comcast, which propelled me into learning more about marketing and achieving my MBA.”

Jamie Weachter, General Manager of BRC11 of Ephrata, readies graphics for an upcoming game.

Former employee Matt Tolk, who now lives and works in California, also appreciated the opportunities Blue Ridge gave him early in his broadcasting career. Tolk accepted his position with the company in 2005, right out of college.

“It was the first place that gave me an opportunity to be behind the camera and help tell stories,” he said. “Back then, the news show was a taped broadcast that a handful of us would produce each night. Most of us were from different areas, so it quickly became a very tight-knit family. I’ve been lucky enough to win a couple of Emmys and am actually nominated for another. I am so thankful that Blue Ridge took a chance on me and gave me my first real job behind the lens.”

And Tolk is just one of countless others who credit the local company for giving them a chance at future success early in their careers.

This list also includes John Brickley, who now calls ESPN home.

“I would not be at ESPN if not for the opportunity to work at Blue Ridge Cable,” said Brickley, who currently serves as a studio anchor and play-by-play commentator on the popular sports network. “It was the foundation for the career that I have,” he added. “The relationships formed at the station still exist to this day.”

John Weit, who worked there from 2002 to 2007, began as a full-time intern and stayed on as a production director. He later moved on as an operations manager and finally assistant general manager.

“My duties over the years included various production responsibilities in the studio and the field,” he said. During his employment there, local news coverage expanded into a half hour live newscast, and he was instrumental in various technical changes that made this idea possible.

“Although I left this position to work on a master’s degree in church music, the experience I had in my time at Blue Ridge Communications has been invaluable,” Weit said. “The management, planning, and human relation skills have been helpful as I have served the church in various capacities including now in a national role that helps other church musicians around the country.”

“Many friendships were built during my tenure there that I still cherish to this day,” Weit added.

Cory Van Brookhoven is a staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your comments at cvanbrookhoven@lnpnews.com or 717-721-4423. 

One Comment

  1. Sandi F Styer

    May 31, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    I believe that their was room for a TV news program AND have more sports coverage. The TV news team did a great job. I watched the news most every evening. I liked that it was local news, weather and events. I am really disappointed that the news was cancelled and for all those who lost their jobs. Blie Ridge Cable has let the county down. If I want to see a sporting event, I’ll go see it in person. Watching a sporting event on TV just is not that great. Blue Ridge can not complete with other sport coverage. This is a very sad decision. Too bad we don’t have to a choice of cable companies. I would change. Very disappointed!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *