New Topeka TV news starts Super Sunday

Talk about a lead in.

A new Topeka TV news operation, 49 News, will kick off its coverage Sunday night following the Super Bowl and “Grey’s Anatomy” on KTKA-TV, broadcast channel 49 (Sunflower Broadband channel 12).

By following the country’s most-watched sporting event of the year, and a drama that consistently places in the top 10, 49 News looks to pick up a huge audience for its inaugural newscast, which is expected to begin between 10:15 and 11 p.m.

“We know we’ll have a big audience,” said John Rinkenbaugh, news director. “Hopefully we can put our best foot forward and hit the ground running. It will be exciting.”

Launching the news operation is Free State Communications LLC, a Lawrence-based company that bought the ABC affiliate in September. Free State Communications is owned primarily by The World Company, which publishes the Journal-World and operates Sunflower Broadband, and by individuals involved in The World Company’s operations and management.

49 News meteorologists Matt Miller, left and Blake Smith talk with News Director John Rickenbaugh on the set of the Topeka television station Friday. The station goes on the air Sunday.

The ABC affiliate has been on the air since 1983, but hasn’t had news since 2002. The new 49 News, with a “See the difference” slogan, has assembled a team of 29 anchors, reporters, photographers, producers and others to add a new option to the Topeka TV market.

The Topeka market ranks 136th among the nation’s 230 television markets. It has 170,650 TV homes in an area that includes Topeka, Emporia, Manhattan and Junction City, and stretches as far north as the Nebraska border.

“We will really emphasize covering the area, and not just Topeka,” Rinkenbaugh said.

Here’s a look at the station’s planned news programming:

¢”49 News at 6,” at 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and “49 News at 10” every day. Jana Corrie and Matt Brennan are anchors, Matt Miller is chief meteorologist and Nick Griffith is sports director.

49 News director John Rinkenbaugh, far left, talks with 49 News meteorologists Matt Miller, center and Blake Smith in the station's studio Friday. The station goes on the air Sunday.

¢”Good Morning Kansas,” 5:30 a.m. weekdays. Jessica Lovell is anchor, and Blake Smith is morning meteorologist. The 90-minute show will feature news, weather, health news and “newsmakers” segments.