November 29, 2013 -

When 19-year-old Navy-enlisted man Bobby Stout was transferred to Naval Air Station Hutchinson, just south of Yoder in June of 1953, he noticed people were excited about something new that was coming.  There was a TV in the barrack's rec room but no television reception, or pictures.

"July 1st, 1953 was a real red letter day for a lot of folks at the Naval base because KTVH finally arrived," Stout said. He remembers, "in the morning a test pattern with an Indian head would dissolve from the screen and block letters KTVH would appear. Then a voice would say 'KTVH Hutchinson, Kansas signing on in it's first day of operation.'"

Each day the station would announce how many days it had been on air.

With those simple words, the decision made by John P. Harris, owner of the Hutchinson newspaper, Bess Wyse Rickard, who owned KWBW radio and W.D.P. Carey, the director of the Carey Salt Company, brought a local television station called KTVH, now KWCH, to Kansas.

Soon after, in 1955, the Cowles Media Company, who owned a number of news outlets, including the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, purchased the station. But it wasn't until two Kansans, Bob Schmidt and Ross Beach, bought the company in 1983 for $12 million, that Channel 12 turned into the news leader it is today.

"We wanted to localize, to really make the station become a part of the community, not just a megaphone for it," Schmidt said.

In 1989, a company called Smith Broadcasting, based in Birmingham, Mich., made Schmidt and Beech an offer that Schmidt said was "too good to refuse." Later, station general manager Sandy DiPasquali became a part owner along with Smith.

Channel 12 again changed hands in 1994, and was owned by Spartan Radiocasting until it was purchased by Media General in 2000. Channel 12 was sold to Schurz Communications in 2006.

Today, KWCH is part of a larger company called Sunflower Broadcasting, Inc. It is owned by a family company, Schurz Communications, based in South Bend, Ind. The company owns 10 TV stations around the country, publishes 11 daily and eight weekly newspapers, 13 radio stations and three cable companies.

"One of the strengths of the Schurz Communications structure is our reliance on strong local leadership," said Marci Burdick,Vice-President of Broadcasting for Schurz. "In KWCH, we saw a station that had already succeeded with its viewers (it was a STRONG #1!). We knew if we provided some resources and created an environment in which good ideas could be acted on quickly, KWCH could grow and prosper to an even greater degree."

"We were right," Burkick continued, "seven years after buying one CBS station and 12.2, Sunflower Broadcasting, Inc. has grown to include The CW, Entravision, Catch It Kansas, a host of other digital and mobile products and a digital sales service. The future looks even brighter."

Many journalists who are passionate about local news have spent time at KWCH, but few have been at the news desk as long as Roger Cornish and Cindy Klose.

"Even though we've been through a lot of ownership and management changes in the past decades, we've always had some long-time employees who had a commitment to the station and our viewers," Cornish said. "And those viewers have stayed with us through all the changes, and fortunately have been very understanding and even forgiving."

In 1953, Channel 12 would sign off each night with the national anthem. Bobby Stout said he and others at the Naval base would sing along. Sixty years later, KWCH still provides Kansans with important news of the day and the context to better understand our community with 24-hour news coverage on TV, on our app and online at KWCH.com.