5 new executives aim to boost WNWO’s profile with Toledo TV viewers

Jim Blue will continue as a co-anchor at WNWO, Channel 24 but will no longer be the station’s news director.
Jim Blue will continue as a co-anchor at WNWO, Channel 24 but will no longer be the station’s news director.

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., owner of Toledo’s NBC television affiliate WNWO, Channel 24, said Monday that it has installed a new management team at the station as part of its plan to beef up the station’s position in the marketplace.

All five of the new managers come from WPTA, Channel 21, an ABC affiliate in Fort Wayne, Ind., which is owned by Malara Broadcast Group of Sarasota, Fla. Sinclair does not own any TV stations in the Fort Wayne market.

Sinclair said John Nizamis has been named the new general manager of Channel 24, replacing Chris Topf. Mr. Nizamis previously was general sales manager at WPTA.

Charity Freeman has been named general sales manager at WNWO, replacing Sena Mourad-Friedman. Ms. Freeman previously was host of the WPTA-produced public affairs program INsight.

Nicole Hahn, a producer at WPTA, has been named news director at WNWO. She replaces Jim Blue, who is a Channel 24 co-anchor. Mr. Blue will continue to co-anchor the news at WNWO and become managing editor, Sinclair said.

Sinclair, of suburban Baltimore, has also created two positions at Channel 24 that have been filled by former WPTA personnel.

Emily Ashmawi is the station’s new digital content manager, a position created to help the station expand the connection between on-air news and content and digital content on its Web site.

Jason Ashmawi has become promotions director at WNWO. The position was created to help the station become more active and visible in the Toledo area and northwest Ohio, Sinclair said.

Dan Hoffman, senior group manager for Sinclair, said all of the changes were effective immediately and that all five of the new managers began their jobs last week.

Mr. Hoffman said the five had spent seven years together working at WPTA, which also provides news programming for Fort Wayne’s NBC affiliate, WISE-TV, Channel 33, and operates three digital sub-channels, a WPTA main channel, the CW Fort Wayne, and a 24-hour digital radar weather channel.

“There’s a lot of history among these people running five stations there in Fort Wayne. It made sense to bring them [to Toledo],” Mr. Hoffman said.

The management changes, he added, are part of Sinclair’s plan to reinvest in and upgrade WNWO. On its Web site, Sinclair has posted openings for nine jobs at WNWO, including a multimedia reporter and an investigative reporter and an investigative producer.

The station also is looking for an additional anchor.

“I think it’s a very positive time at the station, no doubt about it, and there’s a great deal of excitement about it,” Mr. Blue said. “We’re in the process of expansion for our news. I think people will be extremely impressed.”

Another part of the investment by Sinclair includes Mr. Ashmawi’s hiring as promotions director, which Mr. Hoffman said coincides with Sinclair’s plan to have its on-air talent more visible and active in the Toledo area.

“We really want to do what TV stations did back in the ’70s, have their people out in the community, being involved, making personal appearances, and being a part of the community that they live in,” Mr. Hoffman said.

“We are extremely excited about this,” he said. “The plan is to rebuild the news there and make it stronger.”

Sinclair owns or operates 145 television stations in about 60 U.S. markets. It bought WNWO from Barrington Broadcasting Corp. last year.

It is in the process of acquiring another 20 stations.

The company’s strategy is to acquire stations in primarily small to medium-size markets.

After acquiring a station, it likes to reinvest in that station in an effort to raise its competitive profile.

WNWO has been a perennial laggard in the local TV ratings.

In the most recent data available to The Blade — from the November sweeps period — WNWO averaged 3,000 viewers for its weekday 6 p.m. newscast, compared with 73,000 for WTVG, Channel 13, and 62,000 for WTOL, Channel 11.

For the 11 p.m. weekday newscast, WTOL averaged 58,000 viewers, WTVG 36,000, and WNWO 4,000.

WUPW, Channel 36, does not have a 6 p.m. or 11 p.m. newscast.

In the Toledo area, WNWO’s signal is not being carried on the area’s largest cable system, Buckeye CableSystem, because of a retransmission price dispute between Sinclair and Buckeye that halted retransmitting of Channel 24 on the cable system as of Dec. 16. Both Buckeye CableSystem and The Blade are owned by Block Communications Inc.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.