68 years: News Channel 11 remembers TV trailblazers in Tri-Cities

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(WJHL) — As News Channel 11 celebrates 68 years of bringing the Tri-Cities news, it’s impossible to forget the television trailblazers who paved the way and set the high standards for the journalists who continue providing the region with stories.

Ed Jones spent nearly half a century at WJHL from 1969 until 2016 — 47 years. The retired jack-of-all-trades is one of a handful of regional veteran journalists who played a hand in stories introduced to the community throughout the years.

“Did some film editing, master control work, satellite truck operator back to master control,” Jones said, recalling the many roles he took on during his time at WJHL. “Just different things through the years.”

A former WJHL sales manager remembers the team he worked with for years.

“They were special,” said Ed Herbert, who worked within the station’s sales department. “Bob Lewis was like a celebrity. It was neat to take people out, let people meet them, understand who they were. TV still has that power — that invisible power to communicate.”

Another former WJHL worker went so far as to describe the station as the heart of Johnson City.

“”JHL is Johnson City,” Lewis Brown said. “We were the first station in the market, and we were in Johnson City. We were over on the hill.”

Whether behind-the-scenes or on-air, dozens of journalists and workers dedicated years to produce news the community can trust. While doing just that, colleagues turned into friends.

“WJHL was like family, and I still see some of my old colleagues,” said former anchor Mary Ellen Miller, whom the community knows as Mary Ellen Plubell. “We used to work together, and several of them are still here. It’s instantly that bond like brothers and sisters.”

Working at the station even taught former anchor Amy Kaufeldt a thing or two about a sacred sport she wasn’t familiar with before moving to the Tri-Cities.

“I said, ‘Everyone’s got a number on the back of their car — 24, 48,'” Kaufeldt said. “And I was like, ‘Why does everyone have a sticker with a number on the back of their car?’ And he looked at me like I was crazy, and he said, ‘Amy, that’s NASCAR. How do you not know about NASCAR? Everyone around here has a favorite driver. You need a favorite driver if you’re going to live in East Tennessee.'”

Throughout the last 68 years, it’s been about the stories, the community and the people who made WJHL the station is it in 2021.

“I’ve got friends that were here the day I started that are still friends,” Jones said. “I still keep in contact with them.”

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