By Jane Feehan
Florida’s first and the nation’s 16th television station, WTVJ, began broadcasting with a 25-minute news show March 21, 1949. At the time there were roughly 2,000 TV sets in South Florida.
Key Wester Mitchell Wolfson*, communications pioneer and president of Wometco Enterprises, brought his idea to reality at a studio established at the Capitol Theater on Miami Avenue in Miami. He tapped Ralph Renick*, fresh out of the University of Miami, as the station’s first news director. Renick, who had no one to direct in the first days, remained the news ratings leader in the South Florida market for 35 years. He closed his news broadcasts with “Good night and may the good news be yours,” until he left WTVJ for an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1985.
Bob Weaver*, an early friend of Renick's, joined the staff in 1949 as an intern from the University of Miami and was tasked with a variety of duties. He delivered the station's first weather segment and established himself as “Weaver the Weatherman.” Weaver worked at WTVJ for 54 years until retirement in 2003. Pennsylvanian Chuck Zink* came to WTVJ in 1956 where he became known throughout South Florida as "Skipper Chuck" for the children’s show he headlined for 23 years. He left the station in 1980.
In its TV pioneer days, WTVJ's signal was normally received within a radius of 75 miles. At times during certain atmospheric conditions, television sets as far away as Pennsylvania and New Jersey received WTVJ broadcasts. Television leaped onto center stage of South Florida living rooms within three years. By 1951 Orange Bowl organizers blamed WTVJ for the decline in football game attendance. Today the station, formerly an CBS affiliate, is known as NBC 6 Miami.
* Wolfson died in 1983 at 82.
* Renick died in 1991 at 62.
* Bob Weaver died in 2006 at 77.
* Chuck Zink died in 2006 at 81.
For more on Florida in the 1950s see:
Palm Beach Post, Jan. 29, 1983
Miami News, Sept 1, 1978
Miami News, Dec.22, 1951
Miami News, June 11, 1949
Recollections: a Baby Boomer's Memories of the Fabulous Fifties
Tags: South Florida history, South Florida TV history, first television station in Miami, Miami history, WTVJ, film researcher