Digital: 9 (VHF)|
Virtual: 9 (PSIP)
9.2 Bounce TV
9.3 weather radar
Bounce TV (DT2)
(Detroit Free Press, Inc.)
|First air date||January 16, 1949|
|Call letters' meaning||
USA Today (also owned by Gannett)|
United States of America
|Former channel number(s)||
9 (VHF, 1949–2009)
34 (UHF, 1998–2009)
|Transmitter power||52 kW|
|Public license information:||
WUSA, channel 9, is a CBS-affiliated television station located in the American capital of Washington, District of Columbia. The station is owned by the Gannett Company (based in the suburb of McLean, Virginia), which publishes the national newspaper USA Today (from which the station's call letters are derived), and effectively serves as the flagship television property of the company. WUSA's studios and transmitter are located at Broadcast House, in the Tenleytown neighborhood on the northwestern side of Washington.
The station went on the air on January 11, 1949 as WOIC, and began full-time operations on January 16. The fourth-oldest station in the nation's capital, channel 9 was originally owned by the Bamberger Broadcasting Service, a subsidiary of R.H. Macy and Company. Bamberger also owned WOR-AM-FM in New York City, and was working to put WOR-TV (channel 9, now WWOR-TV) on the air at the same time. Nine days later, WOIC broadcast the first televised American presidential inaugural address, given by President Harry S. Truman. WOIC picked up the CBS affiliation upon signing on, replacing WMAL-TV (channel 7, now WJLA-TV) as the network's Washington outlet. However, WOR was a shareholder in the Mutual Radio Network, which had plans to enter television with WOIC and WOR-TV as the flagship stations of its network; these plans never came to fruition. At the start of 1950, Bamberger Broadcasting changed its name to General Teleradio.
In June 1950, a joint venture of CBS and the Washington Post purchased WOIC from Bamberger/Macy's for $1.4 million. The new owners, WTOP Incorporated (the Washington Post owned 55%, with CBS holding the remaining 45% stake), changed the station's call sign to WTOP-TV, after its new sister station WTOP radio (then at 1500 AM). Since WTOP took the callsign from the radio partners at the time, the callsign was a coincidence under ownership of the publisher, since they never stood for "WashingTOn Post". In July 1950, WTOP-TV became the first television station in Washington authorized to broadcast color television in the 405-line field sequential color standard, which was incompatible with the black-and-white 525-line NTSC standard. Color broadcasts continued for nearly 30 months, when regulatory and commercial pressures forced the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to rescind its original color standard and begin the process of adopting the 525-line NTSC-3 standard, developed by RCA to be backwards compatible with the existing black-and-white televisions.
In 1954, the WTOP stations moved into a new facility, known as "Broadcast House", at 40th and Brandywine streets NW in Washington. The building was the first in the country designed as a unified radio and television facility. Its name was in honor of Broadcasting House, home of the BBC in London. The building was well-known to WTOP's president, since he had spent much of World War II assigned to the BBC. Previous to the move to Broadcast House, the radio stations operated out of the Earle Building (now the Warner Building, home of the Warner Theatre), and WTOP-TV had operated out of the small WOIC studios at the same location. When Broadcast House was completed and the new television studios were inaugurated, the old studio became the garage for Broadcast House and the old master control room became both the master control and transmitter room for channel 9, since Broadcast House had been built around the station's original, four-sided tower. The building with the tower remains in the middle at the same location, although it is now an office building and retail store front.
The WTOP-TV tower was known in Washington for two things. First, at Christmas time, the tower was strung with Christmas lights and glowed brightly on top of Mount Reno, the tallest point in the District of Columbia. Second, the tower tended to sway much more than three-sided towers. In a strong wind, the tower could be seen swaying back-and-forth, and during the winter ice from the tower fell quite often on the streets below.
In October 1954, CBS sold its share of WTOP Inc. to the Washington Post to comply with the Federal Communications Commission's new seven-station-per-group ownership rule. CBS's partial ownership of WTOP radio, KQV radio in Pittsburgh and WCCO radio in Minneapolis exceeded the FCC's limit for AM radio stations. CBS opted to sell its share of WTOP, which it had purchased in whole in 1932 before selling controlling interest to the Post in 1949.
After the sale closed, the Post merged the WTOP stations with its other broadcast property, WMBR-AM-TV in Jacksonville, Florida and changed the name of the licensee from "WTOP Inc." to "Post Stations, Inc." WMBR radio was sold off in 1958, and WMBR-TV became WJXT. The Post renamed its broadcasting group "Post-Newsweek Stations" in 1961 after the Post bought Newsweek magazine. Post-Newsweek acquired its third television station, WLBW-TV (now WPLG) in Miami in 1970 and in 1974 added WTIC-TV (now WFSB) in Hartford, Connecticut to the group. In 1972, WTOP-TV joined with the Evening Star Broadcasting Company (owned by the Post's rival, the now-defunct Washington Star and licensee of WMAL-TV) to build the Joint Tower, a 1,040-foot (320 m), three-sided tower across the alley from Broadcast House at 4010 Chesapeake Street NW. Transmission lines were extended from Broadcast House's transmitter area to the new tower for both WTOP-TV and WHUR-FM (the former WTOP-FM, which had been donated by Post-Newsweek to Howard University in 1971). The old tower continued to serve as the backup antenna for channel 9 until the station sold Broadcast House in 1996.
In 1974, WTOP and the other Post-Newsweek stations adopted the slogan The One and Only. The moniker was part of a trend toward group identification of stations, with each station being The One and Only Channel (channel number). Staff members from the One and Only period usually refer to themselves as "the one and onlies" as a source of pride. The slogan was dropped from active use in the late 1990s and has not been used as part of an image campaign since 1996. The slogan no longer appears on-air, but was revived in a sense when channel 9 adopted its current slogan, First and Only with Local News in HDTV. WTOP was one of the few CBS stations that declined to carry the popular game show The Price is Right during the early years of the program's run.
In July 1978, Post-Newsweek exchanged WTOP-TV with the Evening News Association's WWJ-TV (now WDIV-TV) in Detroit. Upon completion of the swap, WTOP-TV changed its call letters to WDVM-TV, with the new call letters representing the initials of the areas which channel 9 serves: District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland. Post-Newsweek parent The Washington Post Company, and the Evening News Association, which published the Detroit News, decided to swap their stations for fear that the FCC would force them to sell the stations at unfavorable terms or revoke their very valuable licenses because the FCC at the time was considering forbidding ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations in the same market.
In 1985, the Gannett Company purchased the Evening News Association.[nb 1] On July 4, 1986, Gannett changed WDVM's call letters to WUSA both in honor of the station being located in the nation's capital and Gannett's ownership of USA Today (the same connection is noted with Gannett's NBC-affiliated Denver station, KUSA-TV). The WUSA callsign had previously been used by Gannett's station in Minneapolis, which changed its callsign to KARE. While the station's current call sign is commonly printed as "W*USA", particularly in Gannett press releases, the asterisk or star between the "W" and "U" is not officially recognized as part of the call sign, as FCC records list the station as WUSA. The star device was used to denote its connection to USA Today (KUSA-TV employs a similar practice). After the Women's United Soccer Association (the WUSA) was founded in the late 1990s (which also incorporates the star in the same fashion), the star was replaced on-air with the CBS eye.
WUSA moved to a new Broadcast House at 4100 Wisconsin Avenue NW in January 1992. WTOP-FM had left the old Broadcast House in 1971, but kept its transmitter there. WTOP radio departed in 1978; the Post had sold it a year earlier to the Outlet Company. The move to the more modern building was tinged with sadness due to the death from a brain tumor of channel 9's popular sportcaster, Glenn Brenner, just days before the move. In 1998, WUSA launched its website, wusatv9.com, but later removed the "TV" reference in the domain name to become wusa9.com.
During the September 11 attacks in 2001, WUSA made the decision to preempt CBS' national coverage of the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center with its own local coverage; this decision proved controversial. As a local affiliate, WUSA did not possess the resources to cover the attacks as extensively as the national network, and its decision to institute a "CBS blackout" prevented its audience from viewing much of the national reporting anchored by Dan Rather. The Washington Post criticized this decision, writing, "The city was subjected to a CBS blackout by the local affiliate, Gannett-owned Channel 9. The station chose to view this, incredibly enough, as a local story and reported it initially as if it were a winter snow day and school closings were of the utmost importance."  In May 2008, The McLaughlin Group, a nationally syndicated half-hour weekly public affairs television program, moved its production to the WUSA studios.
In July 2007, WUSA launched a second website at baby boomers.
In 2008, Gannett and the MomsLikeMe.com. Like the previous versions, the site features topics related to young moms and includes technology from Ripple 6, which was recently acquired by Gannett. There were MomsLikeMe.com sites in 85 other markets throughout the country. MomsLikeMe was phased out in 2012.
In September 2008, WUSA's fifth website was launched, called HighSchoolSports.net. The site features, among other things, high school sports rankings, schedules, and scores for high school football, soccer, basketball and baseball games around the United States. The site is also a Gannett-owned property that was launched in many markets throughout the country.
In June 2010, Gannett Broadcasting and DataSphere Technologies announced a partnership to create community-focused websites in 10 of their television station markets. WUSA was one of the first to launch these sites in August 2010. The sites are integrated within the existing website and feature hyperlocal news and user-generated content about area happenings and events. In addition to powering the community websites, DataSphere provides enhanced functionality, including market-leading site search, coupons, a business directory and ad targeting. WUSA created 53 different neighborhood sites in the Metro D.C. area.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|9.1||1080i||16:9||WUSA-HD||Main WUSA programming / CBS|
|9.3||9 Radar||Doppler 9000 HD Weather Radar|
WUSA shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 2, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally-mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 34 to VHF channel 9.
On April 20, 2009, it was announced that Washington, D.C. would become the first market to receive free mobile digital television signals via cell phones and other mobile devices. In July 2009, Washington, D.C.'s television stations became a test market for Mobile DTV, and WUSA was one of the participating stations. Like all of the D.C.-area Mobile DTV broadcasters, WUSA-TV commenced full-time ATSC-M/H broadcasting on February 27, 2011. WUSA's Mobile DTV feed of subchannel 9.1, labelled "WUSA 9", broadcasts at 3.67 Mbit/s.
Syndicated programs broadcast by WUSA include Inside Edition, Right This Minute, The Doctors, Criminal Minds, omg! Insider and Dr. Phil. As the network's Washington, D.C. affiliate, WUSA generally clears the entire CBS network programming schedule. It is one of several CBS affiliates that broadcast Let's Make a Deal earlier than the network's recommended 3 p.m. timeslot, with the program airing at 10 a.m. weekdays.
WUSA-TV presently broadcasts 29½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with 5½ hours on weekdays and one hour each on Saturdays and Sundays); in addition, the station produces a sports highlight program called Game On!, which airs Sunday evenings after the 11 p.m. newscast. WUSA was the launchpad for several well-known news anchors. Sam Donaldson and Warner Wolf are among WUSA's most successful alumni. Max Robinson was co-anchor of Eyewitness News with Gordon Peterson from 1969 to 1978 before he became the first black anchorman on network television and one of the original anchors of ABC's World News Tonight. James Brown of CBS Sports was a sports anchor at the station in the 1980s.
In 1989, WUSA debuted an hour-long newscast at 4 p.m. (replacing The Oprah Winfrey Show, which the station chose not to continue carrying to the program's licensing fees, it then moved to WJLA-TV), which created a three-hour local news block from 4 to 7 p.m., resulting in the move of the CBS Evening News to 7 p.m. The 4 p.m. newscast was dropped in 2000, with WUSA also cutting a half-hour off the end of its 4–7 news block, moving the CBS Evening News to 6:30 p.m., the recommended timeslot for the network newscast for CBS stations located in the Eastern Time Zone.
On May 2, 2005, WUSA became the first television station in the Washington market to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. In February 2012, WUSA launched its investigative unit with investigative reporter Russ Ptacek. Ptacek's investigations have led to reform after uncovering millions in unreported government bonuses, a utility allowed to charge customers during disconnections caused by storms, taxis refusing passengers based upon race, and potentially deadly restaurant food safety risks.
Beginning with the noon newscast on January 17, 2013, WUSA unveiled a new graphics package for the station's newscasts designed for Gannett's news-producing stations by design firm The Mill; the new graphics are designed to reduce on-screen clutter, which viewers complained about prior to the change to the new standardized graphics. With the change, WUSA began using the AFD #10 broadcast flag to present their newscasts in letterboxed widescreen for viewers watching on cable television through 4:3 television sets. Additionally, the station unveiled its new logo, which is now stylized as "wusa⋆9", in lower-case lettering.
Current on-air staff
- Lesli Foster (weeknights at 6 p.m.; also "Living Smart" consumer reporter)
- J.C. Hayward (weekdays at noon)(As of October 1, 2013 - on indefinite leave)
- Mike Hydeck (weekday mornings from 4:30-7 a.m.)
- Jan Jeffcoat (weeknights at 5, 7 and 11 p.m.)
- Bruce Johnson (Saturdays at 6, Sundays at 6:30 and weekends at 11 p.m.; also weekday reporter)
- Derek McGinty (weeknights at 5, 7 and 11 p.m.)
- Andrea Roane (weekday mornings from 4:30-7 a.m.; also "Buddy Check" reporter).
- Topper Shutt chief meteorologist (AMS Seal of Approval; weeknights at 5, 6, 7 and 11 p.m.),
- Howard Bernstein meteorologist (AMS Seal of Approval; weekday mornings from 4:30-7 a.m. and weekdays at noon)
- Erica Grow (AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist Seal of Approval; Saturdays at 6, Sundays at 6:30 and weekends at 11 p.m.; also general assignment reporter and weeknight fill-in meteorologist). All of WUSA's meteorologists provide weather updates for WNEW-FM (99.1).
- Kristin Berset (Saturdays at 6, Sundays at 6:30 and weekends at 11 p.m.; also sports reporter and fill-in weeknight sports anchor)
- Dave Owens sports reporter (also fill-in sports anchor)
- Kevin Jones sports blogger .
- The weeknight sports anchor/sports director position (weeknights at 6, 7 and 11 p.m.) is currently vacant.
- Scott Broom (general assignment reporter)
- Surae Chinn (general assignment reporter)
- Jessica Doyle (business/consumer reporter; also fill-in weekday morning anchor)
- Kristin Fisher (general assignment reporter)
- Delia Goncalves (weekday morning reporter)
- Ko Im (general assignment reporter and weekend overnight producer/anchor)
- Andrea McCarren (general assignment reporter; previously with WUSA from 1992–1995)
- Ken Molestina (general assignment reporter)
- Bruce Leshan (general assignment reporter)
- Russ Ptacek (investigative reporter)
- Monika Samtani (weekday morning traffic anchor).
The station's investigative unit includes
- Russ Ptacek (investigative reporter)
- Felix Ortiz (investigative photographer)
- Erin Van der Bellen (investigative producer)
- Samantha Martin-Ewing (investigative and special projects executive producer).
Notable former on-air staff
- Louis Allen - weather 1970's (after many years at WMAL-TV)
- Jess Atkinson - sports anchor (2000–2002, now works with the Maryland Terrapins)
- Patranya Bhoolsuwan - evening traffic anchor (?-2010; now at KLAS-TV in Las Vegas)
- Anita Brikman - evening anchor/health reporter (2007-13; now Senior Vice President of Strategic Communications for National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in Alexandria, Virginia)
- Maureen Bunyan - anchor/reporter (1973–1995; now at WJLA-TV)
- Glenn Brenner - sports director (1977–1992) [D]
- James Brown - sports anchor (1984–1990; now at CBS Sports)
- Walter Cronkite - Channel 9's first anchorman (1950–1954; died in July 2009)[D]
- Bob Dalton - anchor (1960s through mid 1980s)
- Sam Donaldson - anchor/reporter (1961–1967)
- Brett Haber - sports director (2004–2011; becoming editor-at-large at Washingtonian (magazine) and Tennis Channel play-by-play commentator)
- Frank Herzog - sports anchor and reporter (1969–1983 and 1992–2004, retired)
- Hillary Howard (Statter) - meteorologist (2000–2004; now at WTOP radio)
- Doug Llewelyn - anchor/reporter (1970–1976)
- Davey Marlin-Jones - film critic and entertainment reporter (1970–1987) [D]
- Todd McDermott - anchor (2004–2008, now at WPXI in Pittsburgh)
- Andrea Mitchell - reporter (1976–1978)
- Ralph Penza - reporter (1979–1980) [D]
- Gordon Peterson - anchor/reporter (1969–2004; now at WJLA)
- Levan Reid - sports reporter/weekend sports anchor (2003–2008)
- Max Robinson - anchor/reporter (1969–1978) [D]
- Bob Strickland - anchor/reporter (1969–1996) [D]
- Ruth Todd - meteorologist/anchor (1991–1992)
- Warner Wolf - sports anchor (1968–1976 and 1992–1996)
- Eun Yang - reporter/anchor (1995–2001, now at WRC-TV)
^[D] – Indicates person is deceased.
Footnotes and references
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WUSA
- Query the FCC's TV station database for W50BD-D
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WUSA-TV
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on W50BD-TV
- Wayback Machine (archived October 28, 2005)
- Wayback Machine (archived September 8, 2006)