Call me a geek, but when I was about 12 years old, I sent a letter to 6ABC Action News and asked where I could get a copy of their signature soundtrack. They sent me a 45 vinyl record of the jingle, along with an 8-by-10 signed glossy of Larry Kane. I don’t tell that humorous, slightly embarrassing story to many, but I just want to prove how I’ve been an Action News fan from way back in the day. So last week, when the opportunity presented itself to take a tour of their newly unveiled state-of-the-art broadcast studio, I jumped on it. Through the years, I’ve toured the other major channels in Philly more than once, but never 6ABC, so I was psyched about getting to visit the king of the hill and its brand new multifunctional studio with its slick, new graphics and high-tech look and design.
In case you haven’t heard the buzz, on June 28, Channel 6 debuted its elaborate new, technologically advanced studio set, designed to modernize and bring the Action News team visually more up-to-date. The new set took two years of planning and constructing, and the end result is a gift to all viewers.
I’m not sure what their old set looked like, but during the tour, I heard that the old Action News set took about a week to tear down and the new eye-popping, visually stimulating set was constructed and ready to go two weeks after that. The upgraded set is awesome, with 52 monitors spread over three massive video walls, new LED automatic lighting, robotic cameras and a cutting-edge graphics system that allows anchors to report the weather forecast in 3D. Nine high-definition cameras will now shoot each broadcast, so viewers can expect the news in the highest-possible picture quality each time they tune in.
The tour was not solely focused on the Action News set, although, that was the obvious pride and joy. Ben Susser, our well-versed intern tour guide, also gave us sneak peaks at other parts of the building. We viewed the editing department, the room where Sunday morning Mass and other special programs are televised, the room where the telethons take place (lots of phone lines), the traffic headquarters (again, high-tech) and the huge room that is strictly used for the months leading up to the 6ABC Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade room has a “wall of fame” with photos of all the past mascots, officials and celebs who were featured in the parade through the years.
In fact, one of the features of our tour that I found really enjoyable was the other wall compilations and tributes throughout the building, beginning in the lobby, of well-known people who have made an impact on our Philadelphia area culture through their affiliation with 6ABC. Like the parade wall of fame, all of the other tributes were also a definite walk down memory lane. There were tributes to legendary never-to-be-forgotten weatherman Jim O’Brien, Captain Noah, Sally Starr, Larry Ferrari and many other Channel 6 Philly icons. Additionally, there were photos of the anchors, newscasters and reporters through the years, some who have come and gone and others who are still highly visible. Philly residents treat their newscasters like celebrities, and we are endeared to their lives. After all, they come into our homes daily, so no wonder we get attached. Maybe, that’s why so many of us were excited for the Action News team to get this new studio. It was like being happy when something good happens to our friends and family. If Jim, Cecily, Monica, Matt and the others seemed genuinely impressed and pleased with the new studio set, then that’s good enough for us — we are, too.
The tour also included stops at other departments, like graphic design, programming, engineering, creative/production and digital sales. We were told there are about 200 people who work at the station, and about 50 of those are on at any given time. The 6ABC building on City Line is, in itself, relatively not that old, and the former building, that round one that was always visible from the road, is now used to house all those famous Action News vans.
My behind-the-scenes tour was made possible by The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia. However, I was told that area groups can arrange a tour for 6ABC and any of the major Philadelphia stations through their websites. I know my son and his class went to tour the Action News set when he was in eighth grade as a field trip and the kids really enjoyed it. If you are looking for something interesting, educational and, in my opinion, fun to do, check into booking a tour.
And speaking of fun, I also had the opportunity last week to dine at Springfield’s Dining on Saxer event and, the week before that, at Media’s Dining Under the Stars. Both events were fabulous. I can’t wait to go back to them again before the summer ends. I heard the Moonlight Dining on The Boulevard in Havertown earlier this month was fabulous, too.
People seem to eat out more than ever before, but they are also in air conditioning more than ever before, too. Sometimes people have said to me that they don’t want to go to these outside dining events because it’s just too hot to eat outside. Well, I am here to tell you that on both nights, as scorching hot as it was, there was a small evening breeze, “no skeeters,” and the nights were delightful experiences, even without AC.
In addition to supporting local business, the events are really unique and fun and feel like a celebration of some sort because you’re dining with neighbors and a bunch of family and friends. While at the Saxer Avenue event, I overheard many people talking to neighbors and others from their hometown whom they haven’t seen or run into for a while. I felt like I was surrounded by re-connections. Although the food was yummy at both events, these Wednesday evenings are way more about the community connections and socialization with old and new friends and neighbors than they are about mere dining. These dining events seemed to me to be more like neighborhood block parties.
The next Dining On Saxer event in Springfield is slated for 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16. No reservations are taken for the BYOB affair, but there is plenty of seating available. The August event will be the township’s fourth such event, the third this summer, and its success is snowballing with each one. About half a dozen Saxer Avenue restaurants participate, as well as multiple food trucks and other vendors.
The Dining Under the Stars event in Media, now in its 10th year, takes place every single hump day from 5 to 11 p.m. and will continue until the end of September. State Street, from Jackson to Orange, is barricaded off for the evening. About 25 restaurants in Media participate; some have entertainment, and some have special menu and drink items just for the occasion. Many retail stores are also open in Media during the five-month-long alfresco dining event to encourage diners to stroll the town and support the local businesses. Spearheaded by the Media Business Authority, Dining Under the Stars seems to grow in popularity with every passing summer.
If you haven’t checked out these summer restaurant events in some of Delco’s hometowns, be sure to mark the dates — summer is flying by! Just like Rose Tree Park summer concerts and local Fourth of July parades and fireworks, the hometown outside dining events have become a “must do” staple on Delaware County residents’ summer calendars. As the summer goes on, I hope to see you on State or Saxer!