Delmarva's News Leader: How the Co-op Helps Bring You the News

It’s 11:50 a.m. on a Thursday and the WBOC-TV newsroom in Salisbury, Maryland, is a flurry of activity. Last-minute changes are being made to stories, which longtime anchor Steve Hammond will read to tens of thousands of people in just a few minutes.  
Suddenly, CBS News breaks into programming with a special report, meaning the news team has to decide whether to continue airing the network’s coverage or pre-empt the special report for the 12 o’clock news. This type of stressful scene unfolds every day at the station — it’s a way of life for those working in television news. The assistant news director eventually makes the call to air the local broadcast and at exactly noon, a red light on a camera in the Newsplex turns on and Steve Hammond welcomes Delmarva to the station’s second broadcast of the day. 
While many viewers will be watching the station via satellite or cable, thousands of viewers will be watching the newscast through the use of an antenna. Those viewers are able to watch programming through a signal, controlled by WBOC’s transmitter near Laurel. The tower is the tallest man-made object on the Peninsula and is proudly powered by Delaware Electric Cooperative. 
Craig Jahelka, who serves as general manager and vice president of WBOC, said when he was hired by the station in 2008, only 7 percent of viewers were watching WBOC-TV and its sister station, Fox21, using an antenna. That number has now risen to 10 percent, as Delmarva residents cancel their satellite and cable subscriptions. 
WBOC began as a radio station back in the 1940s before adding a television division. John B. Greenberger served as the station’s first news anchor. He was the legendary face and voice of WBOC until retiring in 1975. Tom Draper purchased WBOC-TV, WBOC-AM and WBOC-FM in 1980. He helped make another WBOC legend, Scorchy Tawes, a household name. Tawes’ folksy stories captivated audiences for decades. WBOC-TV has always been the most-watched TV station on Delmarva and is currently one of the highest-rated CBS affiliates in the nation. The station remains locally owned, which sets it apart from most TV stations across the country. 
“It’s all about serving the audience. We have a moral obligation to serve the people of Delmarva. You don’t hear that from companies anymore,” said owner Tom Draper. 
While the media landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade, hundreds of thousands of viewers still tune into WBOC each week. Sensing demand for more locally produced programming, Jahelka said shows like “DelmarvaLife” and “Outdoors Delmarva” were added to the station’s schedule several years ago. They are filmed at the station’s studios in Salisbury and have helped the CBS and Fox affiliate maintain its ratings dominance. 
According to Jahelka, “At six in the morning and again at six in the evening, based on the research, one out of every two television sets that’s turned on is watching us. If you think about that, with the hundreds of choices that people have with cable and satellite, it’s very humbling.”
None of WBOC’s success would be possible without the more than 100 dedicated employees working in Salisbury and news bureaus in Cambridge, Dover and Milton. While many on-air staffers move on to bigger TV markets across the country, some of those working behind the scenes have been employed by WBOC for decades. They are driven by a commitment to Delmarva residents. 
“I hope that, to the community, we are a trusted friend, an organization that you can count on to give you high-quality information and entertainment. We strive to give people what they want, on any device they want,” said Jahelka. 
Retirees and those new to Delmarva often tell WBOC employees that their programming, especially the newscasts, are very different from what they watched on stations in larger cities. The pace of life on Delmarva is much slower, said Jahelka, and segments like “Travels with Charlie” bring the stories of rural Delaware and Maryland into living rooms each week. WBOC is different from other stations because the Delmarva Peninsula is unique, something Tom Draper and the WBOC team wouldn’t have any other way. 

WBOC Images
Control Room
Steve Hammond
Scorchy Tawes