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The move comes as the top-rated station merges digital with news under one manager.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Kelly Zuber got her start in the news business by reading obituaries at an AM radio station in Wytheville. Now, she is the news director at the television station she grew up watching.
On Tuesday, Zuber was named news director at WDBJ-TV (Channel 7), where she has worked for 31 years as a reporter, producer, assignment editor and most recently as the director of digital media. She succeeds Dan Dennison, who had been news director for two years and will become a roving features reporter for the station, WDBJ president and general manager Jeff Marks said.
The move comes as the top-rated news station in the Roanoke-Lynchburg market merges its digital and news operations under one manager. Zuber, 54, will oversee a staff of about 50 news and online reporters.
“This is kind of a logical evolution,” said Zuber, who was the sole member of the station’s digital media department when it began in 2007.
She said she has long looked forward to the day when digital media would not be seen as a separate entity within the news department.
“There isn’t a ‘television department,’ ” she said. “Now is the time to be combining news and digital. Television is still very strong and is not going away, but digital is the way to serve the next generation of viewers and users.”
Even though Marks calls her a “futurist,” Zuber said that her news training is rooted in a more traditional technology — AM radio, the original wireless.
A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Zuber and her family moved to Wytheville in 1973 when she was in middle school. In high school, she read George Wythe High School’s “Maroon Power” news segments at Wytheville’s WYVE-AM.
She parlayed that prime broadcasting gig into a reporter’s job for legendary station owner Art Gates and his news director Craig Allison. She covered car wrecks and read obituaries, once a programming staple of small-town AM radio.
“The local newspaper only came out twice a week, so it was a public service to read the obituaries,” she said. “It was something that needed to be done.”
She met her husband, Tim Zuber, at the station. WYVE was thick with Zubers. Tim’s father, Ed, was a sales manager there and his brother, Nicky, was a sports broadcaster.
“I learned how to cover local news there,” Kelly Zuber said of her radio days. “I learned more about community news there than anywhere else.”
She interned at WDBJ while a student at James Madison University and went to work at the station in 1982.
“Kelly has strong journalism credentials,” Marks said. “She steered the [station’s] growth into mobile platforms and apps.”
She replaces Dennison, who came to Roanoke from Hawaii in 2011 and has worked in television for nearly 40 years. She will be the third news director at the station since April 2011, when Amy Morris was let go and eventually replaced by Dennison.
Dennison became news director after having been out of the TV business for three years because his news director job was eliminated in Honolulu. Before that, he had worked at five stations as a reporter, bureau chief and news director.
During his time at WDBJ, Dennison, a hiker and outdoors enthusiast, has produced a series of features for the station called “Trail Stories,” which highlight regional hiking and biking opportunities. Dennison was out of the office Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.
Marks said that Dennison will cover a 26-county region, equipped with all the tools of mobile reporting, from portable cameras to cellphones. Marks called Dennison the “reporter of the future.”
“He will have all the tools in the front seat of his car and be able to feed stories from anywhere across all platforms,” Marks said. “He is prolific. We will get good stuff out of him.”
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