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VOL. 125 | NO. 163 | Monday, August 23, 2010

'KNO Tonite to Feature News, Local Programming

By Andy Meek

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Now that WKNO has settled into its new 39,000-square-foot digital media center, the public broadcasting station is moving to the next item it's long had on its to-do list.

The station whose call letters are an abbreviation of the phrase "Window of Knowledge" has been itching to produce and broadcast more local programming. And the production and broadcast capabilities of its new digital media center will allow WKNO to take a big step in that direction next month with the launch of a new week-long series of evening shows.

On Sept. 6, WKNO is premiering 'KNO Tonite, a series of five programs airing Mondays through Fridays at 6:30 p.m. that will provide viewers an eclectic mix of content –everything from local news commentary to local documentaries to sports talk.

Entities partnering with WKNO to produce the shows include The Daily News, whose publisher, Eric Barnes, will host a half-hour program on Fridays called "Behind the Headlines."

That program will include a look at the most important stories from the previous week's mix of news, in addition to a roundtable discussion with other broadcast and print journalists that Barnes will moderate.

The roundtable will function almost like a media outlet's regular editorial meeting, in which the assembled journalists will essentially make the case for why they think certain stories were the most important of the week.

"We cover the core issues of the city – business, politics, and the public interest – so this is a nice fit from that point of view," Barnes said. "The other thing is we've essentially become platform-agnostic. You can get the news in print, for free with our weekly edition, you can get it online, read it on your phone – any way you want. And this is more of that same thing."

On Tuesdays, 'KNO Tonite's feature program will be "Sports Files with Geoff Calkins," a sports talk show hosted by Calkins, a Commercial Appeal sports columnist. The premiere episode on Sept. 7 will feature University of Memphis men's basketball coach Josh Pastner.

WKNO president and CEO Michael LaBonia said the station's research shows its audiences are hungry for locally produced, in-depth programs that are broadcast on a consistent basis.

"More than ever before, TV today is about appointment viewing," LaBonia said. "And there are so many choices.

"So you have to have people familiarize themselves with this is the place they want to schedule themselves to be. And you can't do it once a month or twice a month. It needs to be done on a regular basis."

Mondays will feature "Southern Routes," a series hosted by Bonnie Kourvelas that takes viewers to interesting places in the Mid-South. The series recently introduced a new segment called "Ask Vance," featuring historical shorts by Memphis Magazine's Vance Lauderdale.

Rounding out the week will be, on Wednesday, "A Conversation With ..." which will feature interviews with guests than run the gamut from musicians to artists to actors. Memphis native Hampton Sides, the author of books such as "Hellhound on his Trail," will be the featured guest on Sept. 8. Rebecca Skloot, author of "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," will follow on Sept. 15.

Sept. 22 and 29 will feature jazz musician Breeze Cayolle and actor Chris Ellis, respectively.

A selection of local documentaries will be presented on Thursdays. This month will feature "The Least Among Us: The Paws Prison Project" on Sept. 9, followed by "Generation to Generation" on Sept. 16. Sept. 23 will feature "Pork Chop Day," with "Christ Community: A Ministry of Care" on Sept. 30.

WKNO will add two new series to the lineup on Wednesdays and Thursdays starting in January. On Wednesdays, there will be a new business and finance show, and WKNO will present a weekly arts series on Thursday.

The 'KNO Tonite initiative is made possible by WKNO's new East Memphis media center, which is the first building designed and built specifically for broadcasting in the station's more than 50-year history. The building houses WKNO's offices, production and broadcast operations, TV studios, a high-definition editing suite and digitally equipped FM studios.

"We'll be adding a few more formats as we go, but it will all be under the 'KNO Tonite umbrella," LaBonia said.

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